Elephants in Paradise – Beware of Black WidowsThursday, 23rd June 2022
Probably one of the quirkiest monikers in the music field, Elephants in Paradise are an Austrian act who develop a mix of alternative and progressive hard rock/metal, with pop, melodic, and modern sensibilities. Coming to this scribe’s attention through their debut album Wake Up in 2018, they’ve since released three EP’s that now receive a full-length product output for Extinction. It’s not common to hear names like Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Lacuna Coil, No Doubt, gothic and industrial textures thrown into the mix all for the same group – but that’s what you can get, and so much more from these musicians.
We talked to vocalist Cara Cole who brought us up to speed on the latest album, the choice to release separate EP’s before coming together in this second full-length, thoughts on the Austrian music scene, her own personal influences, lots of fun video shoot memories, plus insight into what is to come for the group.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you make the decision to want to sing, and then eventually develop your work in band(s)?
Cara Cole: The earliest memories surrounding music. We have some very different backgrounds when it comes to getting to music. Rupert (Traxler) for example, he learned guitar and violin during school, so he had a lot of school bands already at a younger age. For myself, my dad had his own band, and still has his own band – when I saw him up there on the stage, starting to glow, I was there as a little girl, so I wanted that too. Music in our families has been a very big topic.
For me singing it was quite late, as I was shy as a kid. It was always a dream of mine, but I didn’t dare to ask if I’m allowed to – it was more about learning an instrument, and I did not think singing would be enough. I started back in a choir in school, I already had some solos. To get into the pop/rock scene it was in 2006 when I had my first cover band – we played a lot of parties and weddings. And then through a colleague I got into a new project with my own music – I got to know Rupert through that band, Circle of Illusion. It was very prog rock opera, with a huge story. And then after that Rupert asked me if I wanted to join Elephants in Paradise as a singer, and I gave it a try. Over time I grew into the metal scene, as a child I only heard a little bit, but now I am totally into it! (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: Your latest album for Elephants in Paradise is Extinction – a compilation of three previously released digital EP’s entitled Destruction, Ignorance, and Appetite. Why did the band decide after your debut album Wake Up to concentrate on shorter releases, did it make more sense to continue to build up the following through more consistent releases until you had enough quality material to issue a second album?
Cole: Yes. There are two or three reasons why we did it. First, at the end of 2019, Rainer our drummer left Elephants in Paradise, so it was three of us that made the decision whether we were going to continue or not. Somehow out of this, it was more a coincidence that fit at the end. We had these three releases with three songs each. Each one of us was on the cover of the releases. We wanted to try in early 2020 to do a tour of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, which we know unfortunately was going to be postponed. We thought last year in autumn we could do this – just to be more present, for one year you did not hear from us, but we decided to build it up. And it was a lot of fun – you may know on our YouTube channel; we have a lot of videos. Christoph our bassist, he is the brains behind a lot of the videos, everything is self-made, and he writes the plots for the treatments. The album should tell a story – what we did not know for example with the song “Mother”, this is about war, and Earth has been too heavy, so the final people on earth flew in with a spaceship. It’s a little bit more realistic now, and we have to take care of the Earth for the next album, the songs that we write.
We want to make people aware of what’s going on in the world. We want to make people think, reflect more upon this stuff. It was a good thing to release these EP’s separately, we liked this a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the greatest differences or growth when it comes to the approach, songwriting, or sound of the band on this latest set of material versus Wake Up?
Cole: The difference is on the first album the mix was done by Rainer. The songwriting and the compositions were done by Rupert, Chrisoph and me, there hasn’t been a change with that, we are just much closer as musicians and people. We have more understanding for each other, Rupert this time handled the pre-production and the mix. We gave the mastering outside to Norbert Leitner, and we did not have a drummer then, so we had to look out for someone else. We had contact with Borka Hess, from the Circle of Illusion time. He is a drummer from Estonia, he did all the drums for the album. Max joined us earlier this year, and he is now in the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the differences in his playing and personality versus Rainer Lidauer, and why did Rainer step away from the group?
Cole: Rainer had a lot of things going on at that time, and he also has several music projects. I guess we have been one too much in terms of projects in the end. And Max is quite young still. Rainer studied the drums and is now teaching drums; Max is still learning. He has a sense of juvenile lightness that he brings to the band. And also, he drops the average age (laughs). He is a really good fit; we have in the short time together a real good team building aspect together. He is a fun guy, different than with Rainer but it fits really good now. And we still have contact with Rainer, which is good.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the importance of your stage wear, costumes, and imagery relating to the overall atmosphere and vibe that the band wishes to put across to your followers? Is that why you also really put a lot of thoughts into the videos you’ve released to date for the band?
Cole: Yes. We started with steampunk outfits a little bit. We felt very comfortable with that style, even though it doesn’t fit the style of music directly. But we liked it a lot. Over time we have tried a lot of different things, and for the upcoming tour there will be some new outfits too. That’s how we feel with the music, and that’s why we wear these outfits on stage. We also want to transport the mood of the songs, electricity, and what’s going on there. That’s why we change, vary, and see what fits us. We feel comfortable and see how the fans react, some outfits are a little bit smaller for me and a little bit sexier. You play with the energy in other things.
Being on stage with the videos, it’s like Rupert says sort of a metamorphosis we take. You step into clothes, you are the singer, you are the guitarist, and you are the main character of the video. The first video “Breaking Bad” is an over 18 video on YouTube because it’s quite bloody. That was really hard, it was the first video we did together. We had a huge script that we needed to follow, with makeup, and they put me near the blood. I didn’t think I could do this, I’m not an actress. We did the sequence in March/April, it was really quite cold in Austria. We had been in this cellar, with low heating from the side. I was tied to this bench, and I sat there, I couldn’t move, I was freezing. Sebastian who played the villain, he dropped the plastic bag over my head, and it was way out of my comfort zone. With other videos, there have been so many fun stories. With “Cage of Glass” we went to a quite big place in Vienna. I had to go down the stairs and what I did not know is at the end of the stairs on the other side of the building, there was a conference. Forty men sitting in there, I don’t know what they had – but nobody listened to the moderator anymore! (laughs). Everyone looked outside to see what was going on.
You go there, you are in open space, everyone sees you with full makeup with all the chains and whatever, everyone wants to know what is going on. I admire actors who can switch between roles, and blend within everything that should not be there.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Elephants in Paradise on stage versus what people hear on the records? What makes for a fantastic show in your eyes, and what have been the most memorable moments so far in that regard with the band?
Cole: I think a huge difference is when you see and when you hear Rupert on his eight-string guitar, playing his insanely fast riffs. I have seen him so many times, also in rehearsals I am fascinated. The fans are too, the guitarists after the shows always come to him and ask how he does this (laughs). They are standing there amazed. Memorable moments – also some fun stories, I was singing some high scream that was at the beginning of a song, it was a huge festival we were playing. And then my cable drops (laughs). They all played, and I sang without the microphone until I put it in again. Also with the fans, it’s always great if they jump with you, or start a mosh pit. There are some great memories. The energy, we always want to make a strong and dominant sound that’s different from the CD. I think live, when you have this pounding, aggressive, dominant sound you want to transport that as a different experience.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important albums that helped define your outlook on great music – and can you think of an underrated band (metal or otherwise) that people need to dig deeper into and gain appreciation for their work?
Cole: We have some different influences. I also come from a soul direction a little bit. Rupert is also a good jazz musician. We all say it’s very important to dig into the other musical sides, they influence us and form our sound. We always have this range between hard rock, the ballads, and progressive rock/metal sound. Rupert he always brings new bands to us… I would say Dream Theater is an influence. Steve Vai- Passion and Warfare, Billy Cobham – Spectrum. Iron Maiden my colleagues and I grew up with.
I felt at home when singing Pink or Kelly Clarkson. I started singing with Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston songs at home. I loved the ballads, for sure I am not the typical metal singer. I loved singing Roxette for the cover band. Also, for training my voice.
Dead Rhetoric: How does the band balance the music/live responsibilities along with families, friends, and careers – as I would imagine you are not quite at the point to make a living sole from the work of Elephants in Paradise, correct?
Cole: We all have some other businesses going on. Rupert teaches guitar, and Christoph and I have our own businesses. How do we manage it? Yes, it’s a lot of organization, and I also have kids at home. We have to be really clear on the organization with our partners, all of us. They know that the music is a priority for us, and they support us a lot. When it is possible, they are with us at the concerts, give us huge support for us. And that’s also what keeps us going. We know that they think of us.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the importance of social media, digital music, streaming, etc. in building the profile of the band? Is it as important as what the band can do through live shows to solidify their following?
Cole: I think the streaming is not very supportive for the bands on the one hand because there is no income for us. If you dig into what the costs are for making just one song, not even an album, that’s so many hours. We do a lot by ourselves, but you can’t do everything. The importance of social media is very high. And it can be very rewarding. There are fans out there – it’s easier to reach people through social media, definitely. Without them, I don’t know how to reach them. There are so many bands out there – even within Austria there are more than three hundred metal bands.
Dead Rhetoric: What are the members of Elephants in Paradise like away from music – how would you describe the personalities of each member of the band, and what they bring to the table to make things unique and special?
Cole: (laughs). I think we are all a little bit crazy. Christoph is very focused; he is straight and clear. Rupert is too. We always are fooling around; we always have some sort of jokes running. It’s so fun. With our sound engineer too. I like to hang out with them. You can be serious and talk business, but they are also very trustworthy. They are very open-minded, they don’t judge you if you want to discuss something with them private, music stuff. They have an open ear; we help each other out.
The other members say I am so cool! (laughs). Because I’m not a typical diva. I am on the same level with all the other guys that are around me.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the music scene for your style of modern metal/ hard rock in Austria? Do you believe the people accept and appreciate what you bring to the table, or do you receive stronger support from outside your country than within?
Cole: Currently in our case, we have more support from the outside. But I feel that in Austria there is more awareness getting into female-fronted metal and hard rock bands. Radio stations are supporting Austrian music way more each year. I see very positive developments coming here. We have a huge following in the US, and we hope to get there soon. And also from the UK, and European countries where metal is more common than in Austria. After the first album, we had the impression that no one could put us into a particular box. It is human, everyone wants to put things in a category. And on the new album, we have everything from a pop/rock ballad to a polyrhythmic song in 6/8 for “Black Widow”, and then industrial influences – you see the little differences in the compositions when they come from Rupert or more from Christoph. When they do songs together, it’s always the best.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any hobbies or interests you like to pursue away from music during your free time?
Cole: There is not so much free time. I started my own business one and a half years ago. I need that time to establish that new brand and everything. I would say that’s kind of a hobby too. I try to have some time on my own for my friends, and the majority of my time is for my family. It’s very nice now, I balance it out. It’s not about the quantity of time, it’s about the quality of time I spend with my kids and husband.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so going for Elephants in Paradise to support Extinction? Has work already begun behind the scenes on the next set of material – and if so, how would you describe these songs in relation to previous work?
Cole: We have some new songs that we are getting ready. How would I describe them? We are always making songs. We are constantly working and letting things flow. We have some material for a new album. What we have to do is put it in a concept and see how it works with the lyrics and melodies. Is it different? I would say on the one hand yes, and on the one hand, no. It defines our style even a little bit more. Rupert wants to do a real ballad with me again, a real soft ballad. Interesting, how will the fans react again? You will notice the sound is consistently Elephants in Paradise. We are going on tour in the fall. (The tour is) bigger than what we would have done in 2020. We are looking forward to playing Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, all the countries where we have a lot of listeners.
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