I Have Been Floated

An Oral History of the Elephant 6 Collective

by Brian Heater

23 June 2006


The Interviewees:

Jeremy Barnes: Played drums for the post-On Avery Island Neutral Milk Hotel lineup. Appeared on Oliva Tremor Control’s Dusk at Cubist Castle, played with the Gerbils and has subsequently worked with Bright Eyes. Currently performing as A Hawk and a Handsaw alongside violinist/girlfriend Heather Trost. Opened for Olivia Tremor Control on select reunion dates. Plays a mean bell-hat, and currently has the longest beard in the collective.

Kevin Barnes: Longtime Of Montreal singer, songwriter, guitarist and all around ridiculously prolific mastermind. The group’s 11th LP in eight years, The Sunlandic Twins, was released last year on Polyvinyl Records.

Ross Beach: Enjoyed a brief interaction with the collective while attending Louisiana Tech. Founding member of the Gerbils and the Clay Bears, along with Mangum, Spillane and fellow Gerbil Will Westbrook, helped to record Jeff Mangum’s demos for what would later become the first Neutral Milk Hotel record, On Avery Island, in his dining room. Currently lives in Portland, moonlights as the lead singer of the Hellpets.

Laura Carter: A founding member of Elf Power, Carter played with Neutral Milk Hotel, The Instruments and any other E6 band that need a keyboards, clarinet or a zanzithophone. Currently runs Orange Twin Records with longtime Elf Power partner Andrew Reiger and heads up the Orange Twin Conservation Community, 100 acres of forest outside of Athens, which she hopes will prove a model of self-sustainable living, where hippies and trial lawyers can peacefully coexist.

John Fernandes: Member of Olivia Tremor Control and the Circulatory System, as well as having performed just about every other band in the collective. Currently runs Athens’s Cloud Recordings, which has issued records by A Hawk and a Handsaw, The Circulatory System, Pipes You See Pipes You Don’t (OTC keyboardist, Pete Erchick’s solo project) and Olivia Tremor Control reissues, as well Homemade Recordings, a series of limited-run CD-Rs with heavy experimental leanings. Also works at Athens-centric record shop Wuxtry, and will wink at you if you buy Black Foliage, or so we are told.

Will Cullen Hart: The creative force behind Olivia Tremor Control, along with songwriting partner and current Sunshine Fix leader, Bill Doss. Hart is generally acknowledged as being the more experimentally-leaning of the two, as well as being an amazing painter, and the band member who suggested that the cover of Dusk be edible. Currently heads the Circulatory System, which released its eponymous debut in 2001, featuring Fernandes, Erchick, Jeff Mangum and a slew of other E6 alumni.

Jeff Mangum: The leader of Neutral Milk Hotel. In 1998, Mangum released In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, one of the most acclaimed records of the decade, before falling completely off of the indie-rock radar. Despite scattered appearances on other projects, like the Circulatory System (including a full east coast tour with the band), Major Organ and the Adding Machine and the Orange Twin release Field Recordings Vol. 1, a collage of recordings made in Bulgaria, Mangum is generally considered to a bit of a recluse.

Pat Noel: Pianist for Beulah, Elephant 6’s one true West Coast representative, and one of the few bands to release an LP on the Elephant 6 Recording Company’s proper record label. The band played their final show in August 2004 at Battery Park in New York City. Noel currently helps run San Francisco record/distribution company Future Farmer, which has released recordings by, among others, E6 satellite group (via. Denver) the Minders.

Andrew Reicher: Started Elf Power in ‘93 as a series of 4-track recordings. The band released their first LP in 1995, Vainly Clutching at Phantom Limbs, complete with E6 logo on the back. Their latest record, Walking With the Beggar Boys was released on Orange Twin Records, the Athens-based label that he helps run with Reicher, which has also released recordings by Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeff Mangum, Major Organ and the Adding Machine, Pipes You See Pipes You Don’t and the Gerbils.

Robert Schneider: The man behind Apples in Stereo, Marbles and Ulysses. Recorded many Elephant 6 releases at his Denver studio, Pet Sounds, including both Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control LPs. Schneider is currently studying advanced calculus in his spare time.

Scott Spillane: Member of the Gerbils and Neutral Milk Hotel, Spillane was also spotted sporting a big white sousaphone during the Olivia Tremor reunion shows. Lives in Athens where he complains at length about post-Olympics zoning ordinances.

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