Bonnie Paine, Elephant Revival

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Deep within in our skins and bones resides the pervading need to be moved in a collective direction, driven by unity and purpose as we take a step towards one another and all inhabitants of this planet. While we have constructed the world divided and defined by unnatural walls to keep us from experiencing our natural selves, the separation between us simply serves as a reminder of how much we need one another, and the environment which provides our ability to be, at all.

In a world that wages war with words and weapons, it doesn’t quite understand the pervading effect of, music offers hope in the form of genuine expression, vulnerability, and truth. Moved by rhythms, soothed by songs, the music shines light upon the revelry of a song, the spontaneity of dance, and the possibility of healing through harmony.

Last night The Parliament Room at Otus Supply was gently caressed and blessed by the soothing sound, sight, soul, and “grace of a woman.”

Mother to this earth; mother to this life; mother to the creative force which pulsates through my veins: Elephant Revival and Dead Horses served as a satellite to the Full Moon, beaming its most exhilarating and climatic energy to cleanse the emotional burdens buried beneath our skin. Despite our unalienable differences, each and every one of us is a unique expression of the same beautiful thing; and the sooner we let go of pain and suffering we will recognize ourselves in all living things.

Here’s my conversation with the lead lady of the Nederland, Colorado quintet, Bonnie Paine. You will find her in the pocket of a groove, on washboard, djembe, musical saw, and stompbox with the gypsy, Celtic, Americana, and folk howling Elephant Revival. Enjoy the read below as well as some photos sprinkled throughout captured at Otus Supply.

You guys express how music connects us in ways that no other medium can, and that’s your guy’s reason for being; do you believe that we are given gifts to encourage and empower others?

Yes, absolutely. I think that’ the purpose of making art is to inspire and awaken and connect us, for sure.

What are some songs you turn to when you need to be soothed?

There’s a few… Gregory Alan Isakov is a friend of mine and I love, a lot of his songs are very calming to me. One song I actually recorded on my iPhone one night, “Honey, It’s Alright.” We were in Europe and I heard him singing it really sweetly and I recorded it. So that’s one! Jose Gonzalez “Stay Alive” song, I love that. It’s always encouraging, and Yo-Yo Ma I love [laughing].

I really love “Stable Song” by Gregory Alan Isakov.

Me too! That’s a good one, for sure.

I really love your guy’s commitment to, as you put it, a responsible stewardship of the planet and its inhabitants. Can you elaborate on your work with organizations like Conscious Alliance?

Yeah! Conscious Alliance is an awesome organization. We do a lot of, they’ll table at some our shows and we’ll raise funds for food or awareness for Native Americans at shows with limited edition poster with proceeds going to Conscious Alliance and we work with Conservation Colorado, and Outdoor ColoradoRock The EarthWilderness Society… those groups bring a lot of awareness to protect areas and raise money to set aside land so it can stay protected, not be polluted, go on hikes with politicians and help [raise] their awareness to those areas.

We’re about to do this hike, before the Red Rocks show, we’re kind of utilizing the energy that gets brought when there’s a big show coming up, and channeling into this hike where we clean up the hiking trail, where there will be Clean Canteen and a lot of companies who try to reduce the amount of waste we will represent there and give away some kind of raffle at the end of the hike, for Red Rocks tickets, camping gear, and sustainable, reusable containers, Osprey Packs and all that.

I have a whole list actually [laughing]. I had to write this down. Calling All Crows is an awesome organization as well, they do a lot of women’s rights work and helping feed the hungry. I did a tour with Chad Stokes and we called it the Calling All Crows Tour and we raised money for clean water. That’s one of the things we seek out on tour. We try to find the clean water that inspires our music and relaxes our mind; it’s a joyful thing to get to be around clean wilderness [laughing].

That’s beautiful. Us Michiganders care very much about clean and fresh water as well. The very name Elephant Revival has empathetic origins, can you share with us the story of how it came to be, and how it came to your attention?

Yeah… We are all kind of scattered, living in different parts of the country when we started making music together. I had met Daniel Rodriguez, the guitar player in Connecticut, first, and we played music on the rooftop until the sun came up and I went to Winfield Bluegrass Festival where I met Bridget and all the rest of the band actually, besides the guy who is playing drums for us now, Darren Garvey, our new member. But anyways, we were scattered around different parts of the country, wishing could be closer together, making music, and our bass player was busking at the Lincoln Park Zoo in front of the elephant cage where three elephants had been together for 16 years I think, and the Salt Lake City Zoo bought one or two of the elephants so they were separated, and one of them died shortly after that, and the other two I guess passed away shortly after also; so, he was busking in front of an empty elephant cage and saw that as kind of a sign that they’re really tribal creatures, like we are, and he felt like we were kind of a tribe that was scattered, and wanted us to come together through our music; so, he sent me a text that said “Elephant Revival concept?” And a list of dates with venues, kind of like, would you want to play these places on these dates with me? And I was like “sure!”.

[Collective laughter]

Can you describe a particularly difficult time in your life where words failed, and music spoke?

Yeah… Oh, yeah. I think we all have lots of those. I think a particularly potent time would be… my brother had died in a room in our house when I was 10, and my sisters and I were living there and my dad kind of transformed the energy of that room. He went to a pawn shop and got a lot of instruments, basically, and filled the room with instruments, and it hadn’t been something we could really talk about, it was a pretty traumatic chain of events so instead, that was kind of our way of communicating. We started off all on drum sets, playing drums, then we slowly brought in a guitar, then an amp and a guitar, then a bass, so we started making music together to communicate through things. We had a broke down Greyhound bus in our front yard that a band, our oldest sister was a drummer, and her boyfriend at the time became kind of our mentor, and that’s how we all started playing music together pretty much… was to get through that.

That’s beautiful. Do you feel like you’re connected to your brother every time you play?

I do. I feel like it’s been… anybody really, no matter what age that’s passed on becoming your ancestor, even if they were younger than you when they died, it’s an interesting thing, and music connects you with everybody that’s been before, it’s part of what we don’t recognize exactly what the patterns are or why they make sense but I think that they are some kind of representation of things that have been that we still resonate with.

Absolutely. Are you hopeful that the harmony in music can help heal the hurt in the world?

I am hopeful. I am hopeful. Because, there’s a lot of work we have to do together as a species and the way we are in relation to this planet, and it’s not the kind of work we can try and tell each other how to try and be as human beings, or chastise or reprimand each other into conforming to some kind of harmony with this thing that we’re a part of. I think what will bring us there if we’re able to do it, is a sense that music brings and art brings. That we are inextricably a part of this beautiful thing and we are all expressions of the same thing; so, we’re affecting ourselves when we affect anything else that’s in it. It’s what we are.

That’s awesome. Thank you very much. We’re excited to have you and Dead Horses at Otus Supply.

Stoked, awesome! We’re excited for Dead Horses opening up! They’re amazing, and they’ve become one of our favorite bands.


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