Elephant Revival
Elephant Revival. Photo by Athena Delene Photography

Q&A with Elephant Revival


Bonnie Paine believes art is drawn from your surroundings. You can hear a little bit of Boulder County in her songs.

Paine is a member of the folk-and-so-much-more band Elephant Revival, which played its first performance in Nederland 11 years ago this fall. Paine lived in Nederland at the time: sleeping on friend’s couches, in a teepee, on the pool table or stage at a local club and in her truck. She moved here on a whim when her band got booked for a series of opening acts for established bands.

She stayed. In fact, every musician who performs with Elephant Revival today lives in Boulder County.

They’re currently on a tour that will drop them back in BoCo later this fall. Their local shows start Nov. 25 with members of the Fort Collins Symphony at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. On Nov. 30, Elephant Revival heads to the Boulder Theater, playing with The Deer.

After that, the band will play at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride Dec. 29 and 30 and end the year Dec. 31 in Colorado Springs at the Stargazers Theatre.

Expect tickets to the Boulder show to sell out. Elephant Revival is a homegrown band with a loyal fan base.

Elephant Revival performing. Photo by Lisa Siciliano

Paine’s early days in Boulder County were serendipitous and adventurous in only-in-Boulder ways, like impromptu costume parades through Nederland. And quirky Boulder County, from the natural surroundings to the other artists here, has continued to inspire her work.

“The land is so alive,” she says. “To be submerged in a place as vibrant and alive and healthy as dramatic as this — with the Flatirons and the rivers and mountains jutting up from the rivers and lakes cradled in the middle of those mountains and the sky always shifting and being so clear and beautiful and so colorful — those are things that inspire great art. It’s naturally a place an artist would be drawn to create it.”

Paine performs vocals, the stompbox, washboard, djembe and musical saw. Yeah, not your ordinary instrument list. But then Elephant Revival is far from an ordinary band. Their music is a bit folk, mixed with Celtic, gypsy and Americana.

We chatted with Paine on the first day of Elephant Revival’s northeast tour, right after they landed in Michigan. We wanted to learn more about what the band is up to, as well as some of their favorite ways to experience Boulder like a local. Here’s how it went down.

How is it different to perform in Colorado than other states?

It’s always amazing to play in Colorado. We have such a sweet family group there. It’s a good, fun place to try out different things because people are really accepting of us on our home base, so we can kind of have some creative freedom, which is fun. It’s usually where we try out a lot of our new songs.

And the land is so cared for. We get to play in a lot of amazing outdoor venues: atop a ski mountain pass in Beaver Creek, the Botanic Gardens, Chautauqua, Red Rocks. All of these venues cater to the magnificent natural beauty of the outdoors of Colorado. And there are people working hard to try to preserve that beauty.

What are you excited about?

We’re gearing up for another album recording in Nashville at Studio A of RCA Studios, where Elvis and a lot of good old Motown albums were recorded. As soon as we walked in the room, you could tell a lot of magic has been made there.

Our producer wants to get everything as raw as possible, which I like. It’s hard to have a producer be into that and trust the nakedness and build around the vocals being as animal as possible, just standing in a circle live without headphones on.

I’m also working on a “song story” I’ve been writing with my mom for most of my life. A lot of the songs I write are part of this story. There are 26 songs, not completed but pretty close, and they all make up the story I hope to perform with video projection and eventually a symphony and acrobatic ballet. It’s starting to become a reality.

Also, I’ve always wanted to throw a festival that I’d like to call Art of All Forms, where we represent as many forms of art as we possibly can: the art of homeopathic healing, live painting, aerial performances, acrobatics, making wine. And have everyone represent their craft as an art form. I don’t want to put on a gigantic festival. Just a really good conscious gathering.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

The first thing that comes to mind is I got to go on this American ambassadorship through music with Della Mae and we played at an orphanage. To be submerged outside of the Amazon rainforest and make music with kids who have had a difficult upbringing — music can mean so much to people in those situations. I think about it a lot, feeling really lucky I got to experience something that had a lot of depth to it.

And playing in Colorado at Red Rocks is an incredible accomplishment. You don’t even have to add any reverb. You have the natural resonance of the rocks, and the rocks are singing with you in that they’re vibrating with the music; they are actually a part of the participation in the music. It was such a dream.

And to play with the Colorado Symphony was a humongous dream. We played with the full symphony, and the way a song can continue to unfurl and expand and blossom with all of these different tones is such a cool thing to feel.

Elephant Revival performing. Photo by Lisa Siciliano

What is a big misconception people have about you or would be surprised to learn?

We have had two band member switches. People might expect there are hard feelings or some kind of drama, but I think the more surprising aspect of that is it has been one of the most amiable, graceful transitions you could ever hope for.

What is your favorite thing to do in Boulder?

I love to jump into the Boulder Creek because it’s clean and beautiful. There are so many gorgeous spots. Then, the hiking that’s along the canyon along the creek. You can go down into the river and climb up into the Flatirons and look out over Boulder and the Continental Divide.

Also, I did the Thursday bike parade a couple months ago and it was hilarious. It’s so beautiful to see people so free in their expression. Different areas of the country are more rigid in what is acceptable as self-expression. Here, there are people in Superman onesies and robot costumes and welding Dr. Seuss-like bikes. I fell more in love with Boulder going on that bike parade and seeing all the gorgeous places we have access to.

What do you want visitors to know about Boulder?

Seek out the art that inspires you, because you’ll find it there.

What is your favorite restaurant in Boulder?

I like Leaf. But I usually go to a co-op and get food, picnic style, and go eat by the river or outdoors.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

To help everybody realize how inextricably connected we are and how beautiful that can be. The way we treat other people and mis-utilize our resources wouldn’t be an issue if people understood that. That’s at the very heart of all of our dis-ease, all of the harm that’s done to the planet and people; we’ve forgotten that we’re part of the same thing. I’d love to facilitate an instant reconnecting of that. That’s what music can do; it’s a form of that, I hope.

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october, 2023

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