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Elephant instrument: Montreal rock band puts sitar front and center

Elephant in the room: Montreal band Elephant Stone will play its sitar-rock at Trans Pecos on Oct. 22.
for Brooklyn Paper
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It’s a sound you’ll never forget!

Very few rock bands feature the sitar as a primary instrument, but for Montreal’s Elephant Stone, playing at Trans Pecos in Bushwick on Oct. 22, the classical Indian instrument blends right into its modern sound. The 18-plus stringed sitar is most associated with 1960s tunes, including “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles, but Elephant Stone’s leader and songwriter Rhisi Dhir said that using the instrument does not limit the band’s options.

“I only use sitar when I feel a song can benefit from it,” he said. “It’s just another tool in my palette.”

And while the band’s first three albums had a definite 1960s texture, its latest, “Ship of Fools,” has a more beat-focused, dance-oriented style. Dhir said that the experience of regular touring has influenced the band’s sound.

“As you get older,” Dhir said, “different influences come through. The beat and the rhythm becomes more of a focus point. That’s definitely where my head is now, and on the new record.”

The flexibility of his chosen string instrument comes through on one of the highlights of the new record, the song “Silence Can Say So Much.” Dhir describes it as “the most fusion-y song I’ve ever done. And it was all written on the sitar.”

And another standout track, “Love is Like a Spinning Wheel,” updates the acoustic instrument slightly, using an electric sitar as its centerpiece.

Though Elephant Stone — which also includes guitarist Jean-Gabriel Lambert and drummer Miles Dupire-Gagon — enjoys touring, Dhir is unabashed about his love of writing and recording.

“From the moment I get the inspiration for a melody to the final product,” he said, “the whole process of making a record is joyful for me.”

Elephant Stone at Trans Pecos (915 Wyckoff Ave. between Hancock and Weirfield streets in Bushwick, www.thetranspecos.com). Oct. 22 at 8 pm. $10.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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