I am back with another interview, this time with the Montreal indie-pop band What If Elephants. The band discussed via email their history, their inspirations, their future plans, as well as their new single “Sugar Daddy”. How is the meaning of relationships in hard times a key theme in What If Elephants’ new song? Find the answer below!
Make sure to check out “Sugar Daddy” by What If Elephants featuring Maya Malkin down below and let me know what you think in the comments!
First of all, please introduce yourself. How did you all come together to form What If Elephants?
Hi! We are Joey, Alanna, Justin, and Collin, and we are What If Elephants! Joey and Justin met back in 2011 studying music production in Montreal and started recording and playing music together. Not long after, they decided a keyboard player would be a great addition to the project and found Alanna who joined in the fun. In 2014 the group started to collaborate more in the songwriting process and bass player Eric Letourneau formed What If Elephants.
After a few years of writing, recording, and touring Eric decided to leave the group to pursue other adventures. We’d known Collin for a few years at this point and really loved the energy he brought to music. After he played a few shows with us, we asked if he’d be interested in joining the band and he was down!
What artists and musical genres inspire you?
We’re big fans of artists like Maggie Rogers, Julia Michaels, Tim Baker, and MisterWives. What we really love about all of these innovative creators is their ability to inventively tell a story all while holding their audiences captive with alluring music. The combination of the two makes for some pretty epic listening experiences! The list could go on and on, across many different genres and it is continually evolving.
You have been on many TV shows and toured alongside many bands and artists. What was that like? What was the most important thing you learned from these shows and/or artists?
We’ve done a couple of T.V. performances, and what that confirmed for us is that you want to be over-prepared and also have very specific technical details confirmed. Live recordings and broadcasts are unforgiving, so hearing yourself, and being well recorded is something you have to ensure to the best of your ability – is being well taken care of.
From touring, I think the main takeaway is to really invest in relationships. That goes for fans as with contacts in the industry and other artists. As Michael Scott (from the show The Office) once said “People will never go out of business.”. The whole band loves that show.
What are everyone’s favorite tracks in the What If Elephants discography?
Joey – Elastic Band
Alanna – Iris
Justin – Getaway
Collin – Elastic Band
Let’s talk about your newest release “Sugar Daddy”. What is that about?
“Sugar Daddy” tells the story of two people in a relationship who are battling the strains of financial stress. Throughout the song, you catch glimpses of hard times (broke after groceries, sweaters covered in holes), but the two characters are always coming back to the idea that as long as they’re together, they have everything they need. The relationship is what grounds them through challenging situations and I think acts as a reminder to us all that our lives can lose meaning when we’re not intentionally connecting with those closest to us.
What was it like producing the song? What came naturally for the band: the lyrics, the melodies, collaborating with Maya Malkin and Tokyo Spiers, or something else?
Speaking about production, it’s important to note that Lucas Liberatore is really the key guy who brought this song to the finish line! We had the bones of it recorded, and after a lot of searching and creative tangents, I had kind of run out of steam on the track. Lucas generously offered to grab the torch to see if he could bring it somewhere that would help us get over the barrier and he nailed it! He passed the baton back for us to lay down some last-minute vocals and wrap up the mix and the rest is history.
Maya is such a talented artist and long time friend. We knew she would augment the personality in this track as soon as it was written. Mike Bilenki and Tokyo Speirs, both awesome producers and writers, made significant polishing adjustments to the song before getting into final production. It’s the littlest decisions that can make all the difference, and a song is just a sum of thousands of them.
Was there a certain sound, melody, or artist that inspired this song?
Not really. The idea and glamorous idea of a sugar daddy inspired the energetic movement of the melody and the high tempo. Beyond that, often a song naturally calls out something from each of us in the band, and we refine those contributions together to blend into one united interpretation of the message or idea.
What do you want listeners to listen to when listening to your music?
As a group we find inspiration in the positive impact music can have on people in a multitude of ways, and we hope that in some way our music can do the same. For some people lyrics play an important role, or for some it’s more melodies, or rhythmic elements that steal the ear and bring enjoyment.
We recognize this and work hard to find creative and interesting textures and sounds to play with. Sometimes what might sound like a bass drum was created out of layering sounds of hitting a box with a chopstick and a real bass drum. We impose no sonic restrictions when creating our music and we hope listeners can appreciate how all of these small elements come together to create a full sounding track.
I heard you will be releasing your new EP soon! How exciting! Do you know when you will release it? What should listeners expect from this EP?
Thank you! We are really excited to be able to release new music. This EP depicts a newer and more evolved sound, which we’re really excited about! After so many years of working together, it feels like we’ve really settled into our sound as a band.
This EP is made up of captivating melodies and snappy hooks, with an emphasis on driving percussion and bass rhythms. The songs tell stories that we think will resonate with a lot of people and our hope is that listeners will feel like their stories are validated by the significance of a shared narrative. We’re aiming to release the EP at the end of Spring 2021!
Do you have any messages for the readers of ai love music?
Be kind to one another, and to yourself! We’re dealing with a lot these days and we all have biases. What we need most is the generosity and power of kindness to be extended, not out of response, but pro-actively initiated towards those who may not have done anything to deserve the kindness.
About the Artist: What If Elephants
Montreal indie-pop group, What If Elephants, strikes a delicate balance with their elegant and rousing sound – between accessible pop and deeper, introspective lyrics that lie just below the surface. The four friends put a positive perspective on adversity and find inspiration in the impact music can have on people.
Four times semifinalists in CBC Searchlight, winners in Canada’s Walk of Fame RBC Emerging Musician Program 2018, and featured both on Canada Destinations and Parcs Canada for promotional campaigns, they’ve resonated with fans across the country. They’ve recently performed with fellow Canadian acts such as Milk & Bone, The Royal Foundry, Port Cities, and Birds of Bellwoods, on tour at summer festivals and showcases such Canadian Music Week, POP Montreal, and Festival Artefact – and tag on Beau’s Oktoberfest with an opening for Neon Dreams.
Following the pre-pandemic release of their single, “ETA”, they’ve worked in collaboration with producers, Tokyo Speirs (Walk Off The Earth), and rising hitmaker, Lucas Liberatore (Corneille, Roch Voisine) to deliver their lolly-pop sweet and emotionally evocative sophomore EP, Relationship Status. The EP showcases their hometown co-emerging artists; Bayla, Maya Malkin, Flara K, as well as Swedish pop force, Namelle – promising a series of insta-catchy, the 80s sprinkled treats for hungry fans.
Make sure to What If Elephants on the following sites: