Bio: Elephants of Scotland are a four piece progressive rock band from the Burlington, Vermont, USA area consisting of Adam Rabin – synthesizers/vocals, John “Lefty” Whyte – guitars/vocals, Dan MacDonald – bass/vocals and Ornan McLean – drums.
EOS was formed in 2010 and the back story goes something like this:
Ornan was playing in a rock/fusion band and was introduced to Lefty who had his own one-man Rush cover band “Lefty and the Leftouts.” Ornan didn’t think anyone could really cover Rush alone until he saw Lefty play and they’ve been friends ever since. Ornan then joined an 80’s New Wave cover band that included Adam on keyboards and vocals.
After a few successful years together the 80’s guitar player decided to move on and they immediately hired Lefty as the replacement. A few years after that, Adam decided he wanted to start an original progressive rock project and asked Ornan to join who was hesitant only because he was busy in other bands. So Adam went and recruited the guitar player from the fusion band Ornan was playing in.
That trio spent the better part of a year writing and working on the material that would become the first Elephants of Scotland album, without a bass player. When it eventually became clear that that guitar player wanted to go in another direction, Adam and Ornan pondered the year plus of hard work that might not go any further.
It took about a week to recruit Lefty as the new replacement. But this time Adam was determined to find a bass player and a few weeks later he found Dan online, playing some outstanding Rush covers and the band knew they had their man, they just had to convince Dan first. Dan had not played in a band in many years but was getting back into it through online collaborations with people all around the world.
The new incarnation of Elephants of Scotland spent the next year reworking and re-envisioning the material, finding a new sound and developing a chemistry. They knew they had a great line-up of talent and some great songs on their hands and just wanted to get them recorded. After that there were no real expectations.
Genre: Adam intentionally set out to create and write old school progressive rock music but with a modern edge because as far as he and the rest of us knew, no one else was really doing it anymore. We also wanted to take a hard left turn from the music we had been playing, toward the music that we grew up loving which might collectively include bands like Yes, Genesis, Rush, Zeppelin, King Crimson, Brand X, Marillion, Kansas, Tull, Styx, Saga, Queen, ELP, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Supertramp, etc.
Evolution of musical and thematic elements: We knew that what we wanted to do wouldn’t be commercially popular and that no one might ever hear it and that we might never even get out of the rehearsal studio but we decided to go for it anyway and play what we wanted. The intention was to attempt to write strong songs however we turned out and not try to play highly technical parts all stuck together just because we could. The song would dictate what we needed to play and what it sounded like and because it was prog we could write about anything.
It is also important to mention that we had no idea that there was a huge international underground progressive rock movement out there. Other than the bands mentioned above, we weren’t paying attention to modern neo-symphonic-metal- prog and didn’t know what else was going on until we started to break onto the scene. So we created our sound completely in our own bubble, not really influenced by anything current.
Composers: Adam is the principle songwriter, producer and engineer of the band’s sound, bringing a wealth of writing, arranging and recording experience to the project. But the whole band contributes musical and lyrical ideas and the evolution of the songs is a very collaborative process.
Ideas about the album: We worked hard on the songs until we felt we had them fleshed out as much as we could and in late 2012 we booked some studio time and recorded our debut album Home Away from Home which was self-produced and released in early 2013.
While mostly ignored in our home state, that has been made up for by the overwhelmingly positive response that we have received internationally, by far exceeding our expectations. It amazes us to see our name being compared to the bands that influenced us and to even be considered in the same company.
Reception: Home Away from Home has been very positively received, between the prog rock websites, online radio stations and the prog community as a whole who have embraced our music. The album continues to steadily sell and the band continues to gain new fans around the world every day.
Cater to Audience or Music: We completely cater to the music. Our mantra is to trust our instincts and if we like what we are writing and playing, someone else out there will as well. It’s just a matter of finding them and vice versa..
Next step, Live or Studio: Both. We recently finished writing our second album and are working out the bugs and final arrangements in preparation to record before the end of 2013. Then we plan to go into live rehearsals and start playing out again. It is too much of an interruption in our writing process to continue gigging so we try to focus on one thing at a time. We have been enjoying writing and arranging but we are also looking forward to taking our music to the people.
Inspirations: Every band has a limited amount of time and creativity to do their best work and a lot of other factors go into whether it will all come together and whether anyone will even care. All of us dreamed of being in a great prog rock band when we were going to concerts in the 80’s as teenagers but it didn’t happen. Now we are all in our 40’s and it is happening so we are cognisant not to squander this opportunity.
As Dan likes to say, if you build it they will come. We are extremely enthusiastic about our new material and think it’s going to be even better and bigger than our first album. But our dreams are modest. We may never get to go on tour or play Madison Square Garden but to know that someone in the Ukraine or Poland digs our music enough to buy a CD and pay for shipping puts a smile on our faces.
Greatest accomplishment: Getting as far as we have and knowing we haven’t reached our greatest accomplishment yet. We are completely self-produced, unrepresented and unfunded. Just four working guys doing this on the side and the rhythm section has to drive 60 miles round trip to get to rehearsals.
The biggest accomplishment yet to be realized has been getting invited to play the 2014 RoSfest prog rock festival four months after releasing our debut album and barely playing any live shows.
As a completely unknown band we are all still stunned by the invitation and incredibly grateful. And that helped boost our confidence and redefine our goals because we now have a following, a date and a time-line to work toward realizing
Future Plans: We plan to release our second album by March 2014, prior to the RoSfest show so that we can give our fans some brand new material and build on the momentum that we are gaining. After that we want to spend 2014 focusing on playing out and honing our chops as a live band and maybe even get a Live Album out of that.
Anything Else: To anyone taking the time to read this, we hope that you will also check out our music and let us know what you think.
And thanks to Nem for supporting us.