Japonize Elephants’ inimitable take on the modern American experience

By on October 17, 2012

Japonize Elephants announce their new album, Mélodie Fantastique, today.  Street date for the album, which was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign, is November 15th, 2012. It will be available as digipak CD, download and LP pressed on black vinyl, with eco-friendly recycled content jacket and black and white two-sided insert. This collectable vinyl release is strictly limited to a single pressing of 250 pieces.  The album is dedicated to bandmate and friend, Evan Farrell, who tragically died in a house fire in Oakland, California on December 23, 2007.
Recording and producing the album began in 2007 and was completed on June 11th, 2012.  It was produced by Sylvain Carton (also main recording engineer) and the Japonize Elephants.  Carton explains “This album was only supposed to take two months to produce but due to the tragic death of Evan Farrell (longtime friend/bassist, singer in the band) the entire project was postponed.  This terrible event changed the importance we all placed on the album and it became an album in loving memory of our dear friend.”  Mostly recorded in various locations (credited as TZME Studios) and also at The House of Cubes, Stephen Barncard’s studio (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Grateful Dead). Carton elaborates “it was recorded in our living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, stairwells, kitchens, bathrooms, closets, and in various ballet studios.  As a result the album is a true reflection of the friendships and relationships that have been the foundation of the group all along.”
The Japonize Elephants (founded in Bloomington, Indiana in 1994) explore cinematic melodies, surf guitar, spy soundtracks, Appalachian fiddling, lush string arrangements, knee-slapping banjo, country ballads, eastern modes, 4-part vocal harmonies, Mariachi flair and jazz.  They site influences as varied as their sound including Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Del McCoury, Mingus, Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Willie Nelson, Taraif de Haidouks, Hank Williams, Malicorne, Metallica, Sepultura, Bartok, Stravinsky, Bach, circuses, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Guy Viseur, Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, Los Lobos, Latin Playboys, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, Andrès Segovia, The Red Clay Ramblers, Spike Jones, Danny Elfman, Ween and Duke Ellington.
Band members all possess highly developed melodic and harmonic vocabularies which they utilize playing with other bands in addition to Japonize Elephants.  Sylvain Carton plays with Beats Antique and has toured with John Vanderslice.  Michael Mellender played with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.  Jason Slota tours with John Vanderslice and plays for Radio Lab’s live shows and Beach Blanket Babylon. Dina Maccabee plays with RVSQ and has played and recorded with FEIST. Mitch Marcus plays with Donovan and Aaron Freeman (Ween). Megan Gould has performed with David Byrne, John Mellencamp, Sean Lennon, Donovan, Fabian Almazan, Wayne Horvitz, Jenny Sheinman and recorded on the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration.  She is also the Assistant Musical Director of the NYC Arabic Orchestra.
Billboard Magazine says the band is “like the Marx Brothers crossed with a gypsy band.”  SF Weekly calls them an “avant-bluegrass band.” And the Bloomington Voice opines “…the music of the Japonize Elephants…blends heavy doses of bluegrass with influences from the instrumentation style of Charles Mingus and the compositional concepts of Igor Stravinsky and Bela Bartok…at once brutally pretty and startlingly scary…”
Japonize Elephants and Mélodie Fantastique features the following musicians: Sylvain Carton on guitar, vocals, alto sax, bass clarinet, bari sax, tenor sax (9, 17), flute (2, 3, 5); David Gantz on junk percussion, vocals; Michael Mellender on bass, vocals, trumpet (2, 16), percussion (16), typewriter banjo (10); Jason Slota on vibraphone, glockenspiel, vocals; Dina Maccabee on violin, vocals; Mitch Marcus on tenor sax, piano, vocals (13); Megan Gould on violin; Jeremy Baron on banjo; Charles Ferris on trumpet (3, 5, 6, 10, 13, 17); Chris Hiatt on flute, tin whistle, slide flute (4, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18); Marié Abe on accordion (2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 13, 16, 17), phone conversation; Isabel Douglass on accordion (3, 5, 9, 18); George Ban-Weiss on upright bass (3, 9, 12, 14); Evan Farrell on bass (7, 18), vocals (18, 19); David Phillips on pedal steel (3, 7, 12); Michael Abraham on electric guitar (5); Jean-Paul Carton on hurdy-gurdy (17); Mouzhan Yousefi-Carton on vocals (1); Sarah Marcus on whistles (10); Hill Peopre Choir: choir vocals, special guest Josh Jacobson. 
The twenty tracks on the record are 1. “The Giant Value,” 2. “Eye Wrote This,” 3. “Mélodie fantastique,” 4. “The Ancient Mariner’s Boat Show,” 5. “End Times, the Theme from Bat Boy,” 6. “Call the Zagorsky,” 7. “Breusters” 8. “The Tinsel Town Toner Boys,” 9. “The Publisher’s Clearing House Special,” 10. “Lord Crin Crin,” 11. “An Evening with Mitch Marcus,” 12. “Whiskey Willie II,” 13. “La Vida callejón rápida,” 14. “Fiddle Three,” 15. “Sing Along with Mitch…Marcus,” 16. “Swimming Upstairs,” 17. “This Zorlockian Anthem,” 18. “Stardust,” 19. “The New Birthday Song”  and 20. “Hi, I’m Mitch Marcus.” Visit Japonize Elephants online at thejaponizeelephants.com on Facebook and YouTube under the band’s name and on Twitter.
Japonize Elephants has three previous full length albums including, 40 Years of Our Family (2002, TZME Productions), Le Fête du Cloune-Pirate (1998, Secretly Canadian Records), Bob’s Bacon Barn(1997, Secretly Canadian Records) and are featured on numerous compilations. They have toured and shared the stage with artists like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Devotchka, Tin Hat, Faun Fables, Bindlestiff Family Circus and many others.  They perform regularly in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and parts in between.


Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.