Remembering Elephant 6

In honor of this week’s anniversary of Olivia Tremor Control member Bill Doss’s death, 333Sound takes a brief look back at the Elephant 6 Recording Company (and its extensive family tree).

As Kim Cooper documented in her now iconic 33 1/3 In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, something extraordinary was happening in Athens, Georgia, when Jeff Magnum, William Cullen Hart, and Bill Doss emerged in the music scene as Synthetic Flying Machine. Recently transplanted from the small neighboring towns of Ruston and Dubach in Louisiana and already flying under the elusive banner of The Elephant 6 Recording Company, SFM would bring a new, DIY, pop-psychedelic sound to the then predominately grunge landscape of Athens—a musical style (and way of life) that would linger in the community for years to come.

Synthetic Flying Machine flyer, early 90s. Ruston, LA.
Synthetic Flying Machine flyer, early 90s, Ruston, LA. From the Neutral Milk Hotel Picture Archive.

By 1997, SFM had become Olivia Tremor Control, and Magnum had moved on to Neutral Milk Hotel. Yet during this time, Doss, Hart and Magnum—along with their fellow Louisianan and yet another childhood friend Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo—had also firmly established Athens as the epicenter of Elephant 6: a close-knit creative community now known for its open practice sessions, potluck dinners, and of course, some of the most influential independent bands of the 1990s.

Olivia Tremor Control with Julian Koster circa 1997. From the Neutral Milk Hotel Picture Archive.

Though The Elephant 6 Recording Company was a term first coined by Schneider back in Ruston, the collective flourished in Athens where it drew an eclectic crowd that eventually evolved into not just Apples, NMH and OTC, but Of Montreal, Elf Power, and The Gerbils, to name just a few. A look at this fan-made Elephant 6 family tree with its intersecting lines says it all, though I’m still waiting for someone to take on the project of making a truly “comprehensive” chart, impossible as that may be to define. (For instance, should The Sunshine Fix be on this? I think so.)

Fan-made Elephant 6 Family Tree.

There’s always so much more to say about Elephant 6, but all in all: let’s make this the week to read more about this zany not-so-little collective (whether online or in Kim Cooper’s book) and indulge in our OTC marathons.

0 thoughts on “Remembering Elephant 6”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top