Bridget Law, fiddle player and member of the band Elephant Revival, sees music as something more than playing songs.
The band will play on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 2:15 p.m., as part of the FreshGrass Festival at Mass MoCA.
Elephant Revival is based in Colorado, although Law is the only native. The band met through a series of musical gatherings and festivals and found enough commonality that they wanted to go beyond these special events.
“After awhile, it became obvious that there was a really good music scene in Colorado, so everybody migrated out here, and we began playing together and eventually it got real official,” Law said.
The band comes from multi-instrumentalist Dango Rose and an experience he had playing at a zoo in his hometown of Chicago.
“He was playing music outside an empty elephant cage at the zoo,” said Law. “The cage was empty because, at one point, they had two elephants who had lived there together for 16 years, and they decided to separate them, and sent one to a different zoo. The elephant in transport died the same night as the one in the zoo, for unexplained reasons.”
“The idea was born to Dango that we are tribal creatures and we should be together, and travel together and live together, and so he booked a bunch of gigs and called it Elephant Revival Concept. At the time, it brought us all together, it drew us all to Colorado, it gave us something we could focus on and channel our musical energy through. That was how we started. That was seven years ago.”
What drew them to each other was a gentle approach to making music, one that involved listening as much as playing, with the goal of making music that they saw as different from anything else.
“All of us were writing songs, and really working to be original and unique, and not copying anything too much, and also just making songs naturally, things that just came out,” Law said. “Everybody was making their own music, and so it was like we were able to come together and support each other in that hope for originality.”
Law says that when they first got together, they came from so many different musical backgrounds and had studied so many different genres, that the evolution of the band has been to bring all those parts together as its own sound.
“We were actually, I believe, more eclectic when we first started, because we were all bringing different elements to the table. Over time, it’s all sunk in and become our sound. We were playing a lot of bluegrass and old-time music when we first started, a lot of rock and roll and old country backgrounds that came out of Oklahoma. Dan was from the East Coast and Connecticut. He played a lot of reggae and hip-hop, so when we all first came together we were such a mixed bag really.”
“You can hear that through our repertoire on our albums, the way that our records go. The earlier ones are more eclectic and go all over the place, and the later ones sink into this sound that I believe is the sound we’ve always felt like we were trying for, that was the intersection of all those sounds to us, and now it’s become its own unique Elephant Revival sound.”
An important aspect of the band is its social conscious, particularly in regard to environmental issues. This comes out in their music and also in their work with organizations like Conscious Alliance, Calling All Crows, Trees Water and People and other humanitarian groups and non-profits, and was a big part of their early musical attraction to each other.
“Everybody had an awareness of their messages,” Law said, “a lot of concepts about nature and land, big picture things, those were qualities that we all shared.
“There is definitely a sense of purpose with the music making and the purpose is just raising awareness and helping us feel connected. The music is just this medicine that creates this space that we can all really feel connected in, and I think that’s part of what we feel like is a part of the solution to positive change and growing in good healthy ways, and aligning with good causes and good non-profits and people that could use a little bit more awareness of their projects, to me especially but I know for everybody, it’s really part of why we’re doing this.”
Law says that their place as a touring band, and the connections they make with people in the audience, are part of how they see their mission of advocacy, as well.
“We’re here, we’re on the move, we’re the messengers, we’re traveling all over the country, we’re meeting all sorts of amazing people doing amazing things,” said Law. “It’s almost like we’re carrying the good word with us of what people are doing out there. Whether we talk about it or sing about it, we’re carrying all of those experiences with us and aligning where we can to help support each other and other active groups that are working on behalf of the environment and on behalf of good causes.”
The band’s new album, “These Changing Skies,” came out this month, and Law feels its the ultimate result of their musical evolution together — the best representation of the Elephant Revival sound yet.
“I feel like it’s what, when we all got together, we heard the sound, we felt this record on some level,” she said. “Over the last couple years, and even when we made the previous record, we held back certain material because we could feel the shape of this record. It’s really neat to get to put it out there, because I do feel like it was a very conscience process even long before we started recording.”
“I feel like on this new record, the songs are all unique in themselves, none of them sound a whole lot like anything else. They’re unclassifiable type songs and then really welcoming, nothing too jarring. Everything’s soothing, though they definitely have a lot of upbeats, good driving beats, but still manages to stay in that appealing soothing realm.”
Law says that the album was crafted in such a way that it is meant as a complete work, not one merely of components. She compares it to a series of emotions that people go through, complete and connected, meticulously thought out as a whole body and one that fully reflects the people playing it.
“I feel like we’re not trying to surprise anybody or jar anybody,” she said. “We want the music to be inviting and take you places in an intimate kind of way. We want it to move you and really stir your emotions without surprising you or jolting you, just gently taking you there.”