By Mark Allard-Will
photos courtesy of Elephant Seal
Progressive Lounge Rock may sound like an overly intricate moniker, but it makes perfect sense upon hearing Saskatoon's Elephant Seal and their debut album "The Elephant Seal Song Company"; the Lounge Rock part of their genre title referring to the laid back Soft Rock with its subtle Bluesy overtones and the Progressive prefix giving rise to the more playful, experimental moments in the overall soundscape that come from either spatial sounds or moments that get closer - but never fully commit - to a Hard Rock bite.
It's an impressive debut from a relatively new band, but it feels like a given when you discover that Elephant Seal is a local super group of sorts, comprised of ex-members of bands such as Cue The Chase, Fisticuffs/Dream Country, Sonitus and many more.
Saskatoon's Elephant Seal
And that collective pool of indie music industry experience came to be indispensible as they released their debut album, The Elephant Seal Song Company, in Fall of 2019. Their first gig to support the album's release, however, did not come until Valentine's Day 2020; just three weeks before the pandemic spiralled out of control and the first lockdown measures were implemented. Trying to navigate what would follow would call upon their industry experience and the ingenuity of lateral thinking.
As you'll recall, during the strictest moments of the lockdown of spring and early summer of 2020, we were not allowed to gather with individuals outside of our own household; so practicing new material for what would become their recent single, Fear To Fly, and an upcoming EP that single is attached to, the musicians had to find creative ways to unite for band practices, eschew the virus and be respectful of the commonality of the restrictions in equal measure. They did this by practicing outside, which lead to a fully versed band entering the studio, under new virus-limited measurings, in the summer of 2020 to record the EP that will release in 2022.
Fear To Fly, however, released in the equally uncertain times of May of this year (2021); so the band once again put on their lateral thinking caps and released the single Fear To Fly as a digital-only release to not just grow their fanbase in anticipation of the upcoming EP release, but to help maintain interest in the band during these times of limited concerts.
Speaking to why they chose to go full-steam ahead and release their latest single in such worrying times, Seth Peters (vocals, guitar) said: "I don't know if there was any driving force behind releasing during the lockdowns, Fear To Fly was supposed to be on the album before the pandemic started, so we were just tying up that loose end from my point of view. Happened to be during the pandemic! Since Fear To Fly is sort of a dark song about insecurities and uncertainty there's some ironic sense of appropriateness surrounding the timing."
Seth Peters laying down guitar tracking in the studio
Things took a decidedly more cheerier tone once the COVID-19 restrictions eased in mid-summer in Saskatchewan, as the band was invited to provide two special acoustic sets at Saskatoon distillery Stumbletown in July of this year. To cap that off, the aforementioned late spring release of Fear To Fly captured the attention of Danny Fournier of Oddball Productions, who is now working with the band to help expand their airplay on radio stations.
Elephant Seal at their Stumbletune concert at Saskatoon's Stumbletown Distillery
And this is just the beginning for the band, with a project in the pipelines is a fundraising Vinyl record recording project under the stewardship of Stumbletown Distillery and Shipwreck Enterprises. The charitable album, entitled How Flat Sounds, is in the final stages of mixing, mastering and Vinyl record production before its scheduled release later in Fall and sees Stumbletown bring together thirteen Saskatchewan musicians, all of whom played at their Stumbletunes outdoors gigs throughout summer, to record exclusive material for the album. 100% of proceeds from the album's sales will go toward musicians who've suffered financially through the loss of gigs and merchandise sales throughout the pandemic via the SaskMusic Emergency Financial Relief Fund. For information on the release of How Flat Sounds, featuring exclusive music from Elephant Seal, follow Stumbletown Distillery on Facebook and Instagram or Elephant Seal on Facebook and Instagram.
Physical CD copies of The Elephant Seal Song Company are available now in Saskatoon at Collector's Edge Comics and Games. Digital downloads of the album can be purchased directly from band via their Bandcamp.