I Have Been Floated

An Oral History of the Elephant 6 Collective

by Brian Heater

23 June 2006


III. 2005-present: All Tomorrow's Parties

III. 2005-present         Click here for artist bios

Andrew Reiger: It’s not like Olivia Tremor Control ever hated each other, and I don’t think they ever officially broke the band up, Will and Bill just wanted to do albums on their own. I believe it was the offer to play in London at All Tomorrow’s Parties. Then when they started playing, from what they all said, it came back pretty easy, and they all enjoyed it a lot.

Will Cullen Hart: Somebody asked us to play, and kept asking. For the first time, we were all like, “That would be fun, let’s do it.”

John Fernandes: When we got the offer to play [All Tomorrow’s Parties] we were thinking about playing a few shows here and there, because everybody still lives here in town. This seemed like a good opportunity to go and see a few cool bands. That went so well that we decided to do a few more.

Andrew Reiger: It was pretty amazing. It seemed like all of the old energy was still there. The songs sounded amazingly fresh, and it didn’t sound like a nostalgia act at all. It was really great.

Scott Spillane: I hear people talking about songs that they wanted to record but never got around to, and I would hope some new stuff could come out of it, but at this point we want to see how things work out—put our toes in the water before we dive in.

Will Cullen Hart: To start to play a song and everyone claps because they know it—how weird. I mean, we didn’t have that before.

Jeremy Barnes: Even though I’m excited to see them play together, I think it’s important that they work on what they’re doing.

Will Cullen Hart: We’re going to play, it’s cool, let’s leave it at that. You talk about it too much, and the whole thing falls apart.

Where You’ll Find Me Now

Jeremy Barnes: I know that Jeff Mangum could write another wonderful record, but if he doesn’t want to do it, he won’t do it. He’ll focus that energy elsewhere. He’s done it, and if he does it again, that’s great. I just want him to be happy, and I think he’s a lot happier than when we were a band. He’s a lot more grounded.

Laura Carter: Jeff has matured a whole lot in the last few years. I think we all have. You hit 30, and you start to change your life a bit. He was never crazy. He was an excellent leader of the band, and as a far as a motivator and someone who made us feel as though we all contributed to the project, he always did that.

Kevin Barnes: He’s a super-sweet guy. He’s not like Howard Hughes or anything like that.

Laura Carter: In some ways I think that Jeff is a genius who knew that the mystery of dropping out. Like Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt, who waited another 10 years to make an album. That is cooler than seeing a band grind into the ground playing the same songs and traveling around the country. Part of me thinks that the attitude of the fans was overwhelming. People were like, “I was going to kill myself, and you saved my life.” That’s a hard act live up to, and if your next album sucks, what are they going to do, go kill themselves?

Will Cullen Hart: I keep telling him, “You should just sit down with an acoustic guitar like Nick Drake and do Pink Moon. A simple, just lyrical thing.

Lauren Carter: Jeff was fearful that he had poured all of these ideas that he had had since he was 13 into that album. I had heard these recordings that he did when he was 20, and the melodies he had in the album that he wrote when he was 28 were already developing then, so this was not something that he could whip out one a year. It was everything that he had been working on since he was very young had blossomed into this album, and there was no way to follow it up without spending 10 years of your lifetime of experience waiting for something to erupt. When he did write songs, it was very much like that, a little eruption of an idea where he would be like, “I’ve got a song,” and then he would run to the bathroom and just start singing it out. The parts were already constructed, and it just didn’t come out quite right until it all clicked.

Will Cullen Hart: He’s doing a lot of sound collage. The last thing he sent: a rooster, a door, a balloon blowing up, door creak cutups, fireworks, shortwave radios, kids and birds, balloons and planes. We trade tapes back and forth.

Jeremy Barnes: I still think that after all of that, it was still four kids from Louisiana working on tapes to impress each other, and that’s what it still is. And now some of them could care less if the world knows what they’re doing, but they still care what their friends think.

Scott Spillane: Would I say Elephant 6 is still going? Of course it is, but now we’re trading tapes.

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