Elephant Gun firing up the Midwest
Uplifting and unusual, with haunting and fast-paced whimsical numbers you just can’t help moving to, Elephant Gun may be one of the most authentic and promising bands coming out of the Chicagoland area. Not only does the band write its own music, a good majority of the members play multiple instruments and incorporate their talents into the lively show.
Most of the nine-piece band hail from the wilds of McHenry County, though some of the herd has relocated to Chicago.
Elephant Gun originally consisted of four people – the brothers Jared and Jon Olson, bassist Paul Chivari and drummer Ryan Wizniak, but became a nine-person crew in 2009. They wanted to do something different, original – something the current music industry is sorely in need of.
Jared Olson, guitarist and lead vocals, grew up in Cary and lived in Woodstock for three years.
“A lot of us have been friends since junior high,” he said.
“We [try] not to play with less than eight people because of how we write our songs … less people wouldn’t do justice to the arrangement.”
Woodstock resident Jim Drake – guitarist, lead vocals and occasional tuba player, agreed.
“What I like most is the potential to orchestrate a song pretty much any way we want to, to [bring] many different ideas and textures to a song.”
Influenced by their varying tastes and artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Wilco and Nirvana, the band’s sound has been labeled as hippie-punk, metal-influenced folk-pop, rootsy, Americana, punk country-esque and gypsy-rock. The influences from varying generations and genres hold appeal for people of all ages.
One might think being in a nine-person band would cause a clash of personalities, but the Elephant Gun clan seems pretty tight.
“We’re really close friends … everyone is always in a good mood,” said Zach LaBomascus, piano, organ and guitar player.
“Having this many people fosters the creative process. There’s not really any fighting … the best part of it, we’re like a big school family with a lot of kids. Katie’s like a mom, we have crazy uncles, everybody.”
Katie Bendorf, the band’s only female member, joined Elephant Gun after being asked repeatedly [and saying yes repeatedly] to fill in for the band’s previous violinist. She has lived in Harvard for 25 years and said her bandmates are gentlemanly and treat her like a lady.
“I’m a mother of three … a lot of times the two things compete [being in a band and being a mother], but the guys are really understanding.”
Though they may seem like one big happy family, coming together for performances is not always easy.
“It’s hard to get the whole band together to go on tour,” said Drake.
With varying jobs such as paralegal, bartender and music teacher, playing in other bands and living in scattered locales around the Chicago suburbs, meeting up for practice can sometimes be a challenge.
But it’s clear all nine are passionate about getting the music out there.
Though he admitted he once was ‘super shy,’ pianist LaBomascus said performing in the group has been a confidence booster, and he enjoys watching how Elephant Gun grows in popularity.
“When people actually come out to the shows ... it freaks us out, especially in Chicago.”
“One of the most exciting performances we’ve had was at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago when we opened for Those Darlins,” said Drake.
“It’s great to look out and see the sheer numbers in the audience, packed with people.”
The band looks forward to unleashing a new album, gaining new fans and hopefully going on tour again.
“We enjoy the fact that we get out and play as much as we can and people have a great time,” said Olson.
“We’ll put on a show for you, create a party environment … we’re not your normal rock band, we’re aiming to do something weird and different.”
After achieving success at numerous venues, the members of the Elephant Gun crew have high hopes for the future and said they plan to stay together for as long as possible.
“I’d like to see us making music until we’re really old and drop out, knowing that we’re too old to play anymore,” said Bendorf.
For more information, and to check out songs from their most recent album, “Kid Scissors,” visit www.elephantgun.bandcamp.com.