Q&A: The Elephant Trees

Manchester-based duo The Elephant Trees release their debut EP this week. Undefined by genre, the pair have cleverly crafted an EP that captures their fiery nature and packages it into a small (yet sonically huge) body of work. We spoke to Martha Phillips ahead of the release to speak all things Monachopsis, their upcoming Depressed Kids Disco Tour and creating safe spaces at gigs.

Hey Martha, your debut EP “Monachopsis” is out this Friday and it’s a culmination of 4 years work for The Elephant Trees. Are you excited for it to finally be out in the world?

Definitely excited, but terrified in equal amounts! I’m really proud of the work we’ve put into this over the last few months of recording, it’s been a lot of late nights hunched over my laptop and I’m definitely excited for people to hear what we’ve been up to, but it’s been a deeply personal experience and it feels like I’m sending my baby off into the wilderness! I hope people take care of her!

What does Monachopsis even mean!?

“The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place” – first time I read the definition was life changing, I didn’t know other people felt like that or that there was even a word for it.

I love the combination of sounds weaved into this EP, what inspired you to put together these particular tracks for your debut? 

The track listing wasn’t the hard part really. We’ve been playing these songs a lot over the past year of gigs. The hard part was convincing people that they are all part of the same genre, when really, they’re not. The interludes on the EP are important to bridge the gap in a way, and show that they do all work together, but I suppose each of these tracks next to each other share their own kind of monachopsis and that is the genre.

You’re also going off on a headline tour very soon, do you enjoy touring or are you a more studio lover?

I’ve always loved the writing side of music, it’s where I feel most at home I guess. But the feeling of losing your shit in front of a load of strangers every night is the most uniquely cathartic experience, and is the reason Sam and I work so well together.  We both see gigging as a type of therapy that nothing else in the world comes close to.

So the tour is called the “Depressed Kids Disco Tour” – what can we expect from a tour with a name as bold as that?

A lot of sweaty dancing instead of crying.

A place to let go of everything and friendly faces that just want to party.

It is a statement of intent, and it may have put some people off attending. Depression being such a buzz word. But we want to break down these barriers or try to. Basically no one is cool here, we are all just humans that feel or don’t feel very intense emotions. Let’s just embrace that and turn negative energy into positive energy.

You’ve also really promoted the tour as a safe place for everyone, which is amazing. Tell us more about creating safe spaces at gigs.

As I mentioned earlier, gigs are an outlet for Sam and I. 21st Century life is weird as hell, we’re always online being pumped full of information at an unprecedented level. I always felt like I was the only one overwhelmed by life, but when I started going to gigs and sharing my music, I realised everyone feels it on some level. We really want these gigs to be spaces where people can let out these feelings in a safe and healthy way, whether that means standing at the back and listening, or getting sweaty and throwing shapes at the front. these are gigs for everyone, gay, straight, trans, young, old, everything goes here.

I think it can be hard for some people to go to gigs that feel isolated. So I guess we are saying come to one of our shows and we will do our best to make you feel safe. And if you don’t well that’s okay, because we will have an area you can stand away from the action. Signs at the merch stand will designate where to go.

Our manager usually scans the audience checking everyone’s okay – we had a show at Jimmy’s and she saw a guy in a wheel chair right at the back. So during the set she cleared a path so he could get to the front. That’s a unique case, but the team we have around us are conscious of the environment we want to promote at our shows. When you are on stage sometimes you can’t see anything so it’s good to know you have people on the floor that care.

Do you think venues/other artists do enough to ensure that gigs are “safe places” for all gig goers?

Not always, and I think we’ve still got a long way to go ourselves. As a woman, I’ve often felt uncomfortable at gigs with a predominantly male audience, I think gig etiquette needs to be spoken about more for sure.

We have struggled to find venues with step free access for this tour and is something we’re wanting to improve on the next tour, as well as accessibility for people with visual or hearing impairments.

What I would LOVE to see in the future is accommodation for all kinds of people, maybe a safe room in venues for people that get overwhelmed in crowded spaces and need time out, but with the gig still being live streamed into that room, so no one misses out. I think it’s easy not to think about this when planning a tour but if we want to live in a progressive society that works for everyone, these seemingly small steps are so important.

I know there are already a lot of organisations pushing this and we’d love to work with them more closely. Anyone that can educate us further, please do get in touch.

You’ve also played a few festivals including Isle of Wight Festival and The Great Escape; what’s been your favourite festival to play so far?

Isle of Wight was a major milestone for us, no doubt. However, I think my personal favourite is Camper Calling, it is super friendly and we always feel so welcome and looked after when we rock up.

And finally, what’s one venue you’re hoping to play in the future?

I really want to play Manchester Albert Hall with the band, it’s stunning and would be a dream come true in our own back yard. Aaaaah one day.

Keep your eyes peeled for The Elephant Trees “Monochopsis” EP out this Friday.

Catch The Elephant Trees on their upcoming tour:

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Q&A: The Elephant Trees
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