Hailing from Zorlock, Land of the Lost, The Japonize Elephants began their musical career as music and art students in Bloomington, Indiana in 1994. Currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, this eclectic ensemble plays its own brand of well-honed “hardcore-gypsy-circusgrass-pirate-clown madness.” The Japonize Elephants have arrived at their totally unique sound through the use of innovative arranging techniques using an extremely varied instrumentation featuring glockenspiel, junk percussion, vibraphone, accordion, guitar, bass, flute, saxophones, trumpet, violin, banjo, and vocals.
As diverse as the instrumentation is, so is the talented cast of musicians that makes it up. Together for the past 13 years, the steadfast original members - Sylvain Carton (Aphrodesia, Mitch Marcus Quintet, Mega-Mousse) – guitar/vocals; David Gantz (Mega-Mousse) – junk/vocals; Mitch Marcus (Donovan, Aphrodesia, Mitch Marcus Quintet, Mega-Mousse) – tenor saxophone; Jason Slota (Aphrodesia) – vibraphone/glockenspiel - are now joined by Dena Maccabee on violin and Michael Mellender (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) on bass and vocals for their live shows. On recordings as well as at some live shows this six-piece madhouse inflates to a twelve-piece ensemble with the addition of Megan Weeder (Monika Jalili: NoorSaaz, Stereofan, Mavrothis Kontanis, Smadar) on fiddle, Jeremy Baron on banjo, Charles Ferris on trumpet, Chris Hiatt (Mega-Mousse) on flute, Isabel Douglass (Rupa and the April Fishes) on accordion, and Evan Farrell (Rogue Wave) on bass, guitar, and vocals. The energy harnessed by this diverse ensemble is at once absurd and profound; their musical tastes and influences merge and diverge—the Stanley Brothers meet Zappa, the tenor sax meets the glockenspiel.
The Japonize Elephants’ first two albums, Bob’s Bacon Barn (1996) and La Fete du Cloune Pirate (1997), showcase the group’s entirely unique music. In Bob's Bacon Barn, the Elephants blend the sounds of Appalachia with European circus tunes and ‘Eastern-honk’: “Bob’s Bacon Barn is a jumbled aural dish taken from a smorgasbord of musical genres, including styles borrowed from the Far East and southern Kentucky…just when the flutes and violins hint at an Asian influence, the song changes to a bluegrass hoe-down and then it's all smashed together.” – CMJ Jackpot
With the release of La Fete du Cloune-Pirate, the ensemble begins to refine its approach—incorporating classical and jazz compositions with their original hoe-down sound. This transitional album shows the Elephants integrating their influences into a mature, distinct style. “Listening to The Japonize Elephants is like being at a supersonic hillbilly hoedown that has mysteriously been transplanted into a Transylvanian cartoon.”—Denver Post
In 1999, The Japonize Elephants left their Bloomington label, Secretly Canadian, and relocated to Oakland, California. In their self-released 2002 album, 40 Years of Our Family, the entire jazz canon melds with symphonic arrangements in sixteen tracks of mind-bending music. The album is replete with tall tales of West Oakland, circussy melodies, swank tangos, lush harmonies, as well as a wide range of vocal stylings, with a smidgen of Dixieland and ragtime thrown in. Blink and you’ll think you’re back in the orchestra of a French circus, with Mingus and Willie Nelson sitting in. Their songs fuse Appalachia with Romania, Vegas with Marrakesh.
The Japonize Elephants have spent 13 years developing their sound. They have been invited to play at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and the High Sierra Music Festival among other venues. In addition to national tours and recordings, their music is featured on several animation shorts and independent films and can be heard on NPR’s Fresh Air. With traditional sensibilities, a sophisticated approach to composing, and a hair-raising, over-the-top live show, The Japonize Elephants redefine the avant-garde.
firstname.lastname@example.org - www.sylvaincarton.com