Photo by Bowen Stead
Thanks to George Harrison, the sitar and psychedelic music seem as natural together as salt and pepper. There was a time in the late ’60s when the Indian instrument appeared everywhere, from pop records to hard rock. It’s still seen as sonic shorthand for that particular time period, but Elephant Stone are looking to change that.
Montreal native Rishi Dhir picked up the sitar after the dissolution of his power pop band the High Dials, diving deep in Indian classical music. In 2009, he formed Elephant Stone with the sitar in tow, but he wanted to explore new musical avenues with the instrument. On this year’s self-titled album–the quartet’s second to date–Dhir cloaks the sitar in reverb and distortion, trading squalling solos with the lead guitarist Gabriel Lambert. The result is a sound that sits somewhere between the past and present. Dhir’s plaintive croon only heightens the emotional power, drawing a firm line from Elliott Smith’s dreamy pop to Tame Impala’s psychedelic experimentation.
Since its inception, Elephant Stone has amassed a heady resume. Their 2011 debut earned them a Polaris Music Prize nomination in their native Canada, and Dhir has lent his sitar skills to Beck. The group has toured with the reunited Zombies, the Black Angels, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and they’re currently supporting fellow Canadian psych rockers the Besnard Lakes. The tour winds its way to Red 7 on Friday, November 22, and “Setting Sun” will get you ready.