An interview with LOWRIDER and ELEPHANT TREE about the stoner rock collab we all ever wanted.

Written by Featured, Interview

It’s the kind of encounter that only happens at Desertfest London, the mecca for all heavy and fuzzy music lovers. We gather here like a big family and commune with each other through the Holy Riff. This is a place where our scene’s entire musical spectrum meets, blends and mingles. It was a sunny Sunday at Desertfest when we made this top-level and far-fetched interview of Lowrider and Elephant Tree a reality, standing in some tiny backstage space between beer kegs and the tailgate of a truck. At first glance, Swedish stoner rock pioneers Lowrider and London genre-benders Elephant Tree might have little in common. AND YET. Rewind to 2020: Lowrider established a new Stoner Rock standard with their first record in 20 years “Refractions” on Blues Funeral Recordings, while Elephant Tree delightfully blurred genre boundaries with their new album “Habits”. Both reached the top of end-of-year lists: one for its stylistic focus, the other for its openness. Both were acclaimed by all… and got suddenly mowed down by the pandemic, preventing us from experiencing these two masterpieces live for two long years.

But this impromptu interview made sense. It’s no secret that Blues Funeral Recordings will release a special album involving both Lowrider and Elephant Tree as part of their Postwax series — an unlikely union that will result in the most eagerly awaited split record in the known universe. The Heavy Chronicles brings you an exceptional line-up of affable Elephant Treez and voluble Lowriderz, served on a slightly less exceptional platter (the truck’s tailgate). In between jokes, we took a look at two emblematic releases of recent years and (perhaps) unlocked the scene’s best-kept secret. (PHOTO: The Heavy Chronicles)

Our mission as a blog is to stick to the latest news. This interview was done in 2022 and we have purposedly saved it until the split release would be imminent. Of course, nothing went according to plan and expecting Lowrider to stick with deadlines is like trying to master the curvature of space-time… Other unfortunate events altered the trajectory of this interview, just like the release of the record. At some point, we even wondered if both bands had delayed the release of this EP just because the interview wasn’t published yet… Guys, if you’re reading this, now is the time. Let your hair down. The world is worse than before, and it needs you and your music more than ever now.

First of all, I wanted to thank you all for the music. I think both Lowrider and Elephant Tree put out the best albums of 2020. It was a shitty year and your releases literally saved it.

Peder Bergstrand (bass & vocals, Lowrider): We tried to “unshit” 2020 but I think we lost. Do you do PR? Because you would say that on a press release, “We try to unshit the entire year but all we got is this record”. (laughs) But yeah, it seems like a long time ago now. It was February 2020 when we released it and we were supposed to play two months later. We were waiting for that and now that it happens we are like, “Was it really two years though?”.

Jack Townley (guitar & vocals, Elephant Tree): The last four weeks have just been fast forward.

PB: It’s just been so much of the same thing… It’s at least how my brain works, you need a lot of different things for it to feel like a long time. I was home, so it could have been a week or two years. It’s probably two years because I’ve seen my face. And it’s different. (laughs)

JT: He has aged since that first Zoom! (laughs) But yeah, today was a long time coming and there is some relief now too. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable, but it was a hell of a fucking pressure. I mean I’m sure you guys feel the same too.

Peter Holland (bass & vocals, Elephant Tree): It’s like, okay, two years… You don’t have many gigs, you play one which is the actual launch for the album that came out two years ago, and then you’re playing the Roundhouse! It was like: nothing, nothing… then the biggest venue we’ve ever played! The sound was wicked, the crowd was cool.

JT: Was it round? Because I feel it wasn’t fully round. More like oblong.

PB: There’s a box there where you can leave complaints… (laughs)

You hyped the whole scene when you announced the release of a Lowrider x Elephant Tree split album as part of Blues Funeral Recordings’ PostWax series. What do you particularly like about each other?

PB: I pretty much discovered you guys with your last album “Habits”. Because I’ve known about this band called Elephant Tree that people say are really good. I’m not really a cratedigger, especially since we were so focused on our own record and I’ve tried to shut most other music out, especially the similar one. And then I heard “Sails” and got literally fanboying out… I have a couple of records that I hold very high, and this one sounds like it’s older, like I know it from somewhere before. It’s like new but also familiar.

JT: It was the same with me and “Ode to Ganymede”. That track in particular… You don’t get that much of me because I’m fucking jaded and we’ve toured for ages. But I fell in love instantly, which doesn’t happen that much for me in heavy music anymore.

PH: You even shared it with us and were like “Oh man, if you listen to this…” (Jack starts telling how he got in awe when listening to the song while drunk). Everything about it was wicked, so there was totally a mutual respect for that. Banging songs just kicking out.

JT: We all have actual jobs, which is what pays our mortgages and feeds our children… My kids can’t just drink Camden Hells, so I have to have a real job. Doing gigs is hard. The idea of hopefully playing something together with Lowrider in the future, some gigs when we can all make it and not have to worry about family and stuff. To me it would be ideal, it would be fantastic.

“We thought that maybe we should not be on Postwax’s second year with Lowrider again, so why not do a joint thing? We had 2 or 3 songs I felt weren’t going on “Refractions”, I had just discovered Elephant Tree so I was like “Maybe if I just ask them?” Peder Bergstrand, Lowrider

Tell us how this collaboration finally happened. This mutual desire to create together…

PB: Long story short. I’ve done the first year of the PostWax subscription thing with my friend Jadd at Blues Funeral Recordings and we were going into that state where we forgot how extremely energy-consuming the first year was. We went “Maybe we should do it again, it was fun!”. We thought about doing a second year but came off doing the Lowrider album and then Covid… We thought that maybe we should not be on the second year with Lowrider again, so why not do a joint thing? We had 2 or 3 songs I felt weren’t going on the record anyway, because they were just a bit different worlds. I had just discovered Elephant Tree, so I was like “Maybe if I just ask them?” 

JT: And separate to that, Jadd had emailed me anyway and I said we would do it… if we did a split with Lowrider. (laughs)

PB: I didn’t know that!

JT: We are currently writing it. It’s a long time coming but I think it’s gonna be really cool. Next year is next year…

What can we expect? Will it be a real split with new songs from each other? Or will you collaborate on some songs?

PB: We just now start to play again within our own bands. This is not really a problem for Lowrider because much of “Refractions” was done sending stuff to one another as we live in four different cities, so we were actually doing a Corona record before everyone else! (laughs) But the main idea is to do a couple of tracks each that are our own, then do at least one that is fully collaborative.

JT: It’s only even two! We’ve got that “Wet Shitty Pavement” as one of the tracks, it’s the demo that we said we should be calling “How The Fuck Did We Get Here”, which is not anything we’ve done before. It’s really fucking bizarre. It’s like trip-hop, as in not electronic drums but like something we’re getting weirder. Peder is a bit of a genius in terms of workflow, whereas we can find it hard to get around off drinks… He can send ideas through and I know that the collaborative aspect will be very fruitful.

PB: I would love to be in the same room with the Lowrider guys at all times and play because we know it becomes better. But we realize if we don’t want to take another 20 years to record another album, we need to do the “meat & potatoes” stuff: we do that on our own like the background stuff on the record: the second guitar, the regular drums thing, then we do all the spicing and glow up thing all together.

JT: I’m just fucking really excited about it. Without blowing smoke up their ass, it’s fucking Lowrider. To us lowly simps, it’s a big deal. (laughs)

“We just didn’t want to do the same old bullshit. It’s so overdone, what’s the point in doing it again? If you want to make ripples, don’t do the same thing.” Jack Townley, Elephant Tree

This collaboration seems almost paradoxical as each band’s approach is pretty different. On one hand, Elephant Tree is inspired by the codes of a genre while constantly pushing back the boundaries. On the other hand, Lowrider reminds us that we can still release a fucking great stoner album by redefining the fundamentals. What do you think?

PB: What was relieving about both of you guys loving “Ode To Ganymede” along with a lot of other people is that the sort of safe card songs we thought sounded like what we’ve done before… But the stuff I was worried about was the 2-3 songs that might be too “out there” for people because it’s too big of a leap, those are the ones that people gravitate towards the most. And those are the ones that have the most kinship with Elephant Tree, and that sort of revisioning of what this kind of music can be: sure, it could be harmonies, lots of melodies, keys and synths… Since it’s kind of formulaic, I’m not saying it’s starting to get old but it has to be done in a VERY good way to not feel like we’ve seen this before.

JT: There’s a lot of that “it’s getting old” feel for sure, so when we were doing “Habits”, we were so fucking bored of the usual bullshit of weed and testosterone fuel, you know? The point was to make a record that I felt I related to. And the Lowrider stuff just disregards that, that’s what we were trying to do as well. We just didn’t want to do the same old bullshit. It’s so overdone, what’s the point in doing it again? If you want to make ripples, don’t do the same thing.

PB: After having a lot of pressure just from ourselves like “Oh, people really seem to enjoy our old record now”, it sort of came out of the blue in 2013 how much of a snowball it grew into. It did that on its own and with the help of fans. You have the pressure to deliver on this new thing and think that people want the same thing again. But we realized “Wait we’re making this record for ourselves”. You need to come out of the studio and say “I really like this”, it needs to mean something.

JT: It’s the same with us. When we were recording “Habits”, we thought that this wasn’t what people might want. The songs are about things like working a desk office, mental issues or having kids rather than the usual lyrics of smoking weed and fuckin having a good time. We came from the same place where we didn’t want to play the safe card and that was worrying to us.

Peter Holland: You have to dig it and be 100% behind with everything you do, down to the lyrics, down to the tune, as long as it vibes. Like you say, you make it for yourself. To hell with everyone else because we’re the ones that’s gonna be playing it for the next ten years!

Jack Townley: Always push the bar a little bit. There’s no point in making a record if you don’t push the bar.

Peder Bergstrand: The last track on our album “Pipe Rider” has the opening lyric “Gimme something new, something that feels true”. That was sort of talking to yourself in a mirror. It’s just a statement for the whole record. It needs to feel something I’ve never heard before and it needs to resonate.  If it doesn’t do that then we are not putting it on the record.

“The way the scene is loving the bands and welcoming them back… It’s not just an overnight thing. It’s a blessing to be part of it.” Peder Bergstrand, Lowrider

Lowrider at Hellfest 2022 (Credit: Sylvain Golvet)

It’s been a great love story between you and Desertfest. Could we say that the Desertfest in 2013 somehow saved Lowrider?

PB: 100! We wouldn’t be here talking and playing if it wasn’t for the guys doing Desertfest nine years ago. I got an email from Reece (Tee, founder of the Desertfest franchise) and I gave all a call five minutes later like “Hey these guys in London want us to play. How many dogs do you have by the way?“. We live in different cities, we’re really good friends but if we didn’t see each other for a year or two, it wasn’t weird back then. When we had the first rehearsal for Desertfest then, having the same four people standing in the same room hadn’t happened for like 7 years or something… And we’re just deeply grateful for that because I love these three boneheads. (laughs) It’s just a family reunion whenever we see each other and get an opportunity to play, especially coming back here. It’s a little bit like a sacred ground… like coming home!

Looking back, if you could change something about this extraordinary trajectory, would you do it?

PB: Back in 2003-2004, when we started not to rehearse that much, to me it happened for a reason. Everything does. We are very much the fruit of the Internet and the whole scene… Something needs to snowball slowly. I don’t think we could have rushed it in any way. The sort of love that we see coming here is mutual, it can only happen over time. The way the scene is loving the bands and welcoming them back… It’s not just an overnight thing. It’s a blessing to be part of it.

Everyone remained speechless after that final statement, so this is when we decided to end this massive and enlightening interview. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we had fun doing it. Big thanks to the lovely Lowrider and Elephant Tree guys for their warm welcome as always, stay tuned for their upcoming collaborative EP coming soon on Blues Funeral Recordings!

Lowrider on Facebook and Instagram // Elephant Tree on Facebook and Instagram // Get the latest updates from Blues Funeral Recordings on their official website.

Last modified: 10 October 2023