Ben Crum and The Elephant Six Co Documentary

Written by on January 13, 2024

There’s Always Room for Noise – Ben Crum and The Elephant Six Co documentary at The Orpheum in Saugerties, article by Dean Giagni

1/9/24 – Ben Crum of Great Lakes kicked off the celebration last night at the Orpheum Theater’s Sonic Wave Weekly series, for a screening of the documentary THE ELEPHANT SIX RECORDING CO; showcasing an intimate, joyful and poignant look at the revolutionary Athens, Georgia music scene in the early 90’s that ultimately birthed Neutral Milk Hotel.

Playing a quick four songs with a select group of friends up from Brooklyn, including Kyle Forester of Wood and Purple Mountain, Crum set the mood for the evening laying down passionate heavy rhythms seductively wrapped in noise with Dave Richardson playing his pedals as well as bending strings. After the set, when the lights went down and the film began, a much younger Ben Crum looked out from the screen on his older self.

The amazing true story of Elephant Six in a nutshell – some talented high school kids from a quiet backwater called Ruston, Louisiana, taking inspiration from the small trickle of “college rock” culture they could find, started making music their own way. Supporting each other, writing together, playing together, swapping instruments and roles to form new bands; eventually a huge part of their whole local scene – twenty people in four different bands -moved to Athens, Georgia and the rest is rock history. Culled from hundreds of hours of archival performances, interviews, rehearsals, raw footage from video shoots, backyard parties and just kids goofing around, the film is almost too short. With so much of the video having been shot by the other musicians and members of the collective, the camera is allowed an emotional intimacy that makes you feel the bonds of friendship that seemingly underly everything in the Athens music family. This is all cut together beautifully by director C.B. Stockfleth and editor Greg King into a shifting kaleidoscope of formats from VHS to scratchy 8mm film, perfectly complimenting the D.I.Y., four-track aesthetics of the Elephant Six Recording Company.

Musician and sonic genius Robert Schneider, the producer behind Neutral Milk Hotel’s mega-hit The Aeroplane Over the Sea had been impressed with Director C.B. Stockfleth’s work on a concert film of his band The Apples in Stereo. Introduced to the Elephant Six family by Schneider, Stockfleth had inside access to the Elephant family, getting the oral history straight from the source.

After reality takes a hard turn in 2012 when founding scene member Bill Doss of Olivia Tremor Control, Sunshine Fix and Apples in Stereo, is found dead of an aneurysm, the film shifts tone as the surviving members of he collective mourn and reminisce, culminating in a emotionally charged memorial show in Athens immortalized here on film. Will Cullen Hart, Bill’s partner in Olivia and Robert Schneider speak lovingly of working with Bill’s remaining recordings for a new Olivia record, saying it kept him alive in their minds, working until they were ready to mourn.

After the film, producer Dan Efram and Ben Crum did a brief on stage Q&A where Ben had a chance to speak again about the loss of Bill Doss. “He was such a good dude. He said – I loved the first Great Lakes record. I want you to be in The Sunshine Fix with me. He had a really huge belief in what I was doing. He wanted me to sing with him and to write with him. And I’m like, dude I am not on your level at all. But it was cool to be thought of in that way.” Ben Efram added, “This film is in the spirit of Bill. That passion for creativity. It’s a real feel good film about a bunch of creative weirdos that came together as a family and lifted each other up.”

The Elephant Six Recording Co. documentary, produced and directed by C.B. Stockfleth, is available to rent and purchase on Amazon and Apple TV.


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