Music Lesson: Elephant Six Recording Company

423px-e6-logo1For some reason I never got around to making all of the connections on the Elephant Six Recording Company until last year when I read about their reunion Holiday Shows, specifically the one in Louisville, KY (details). I was a huge fan of the bands Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and  The Apples In Stereo, but I had no idea that they were connected. Once I started researching E6 and it’s interconnected members, I felt like I was being inducted into some secret society (although the label isn’t much of a secret, and I guess I wouldn’t be much of a reliable music blogger if I didn’t know about its existence). If you aren’t too familiar with the label, it’s history, or the artists involved, get ready for a lesson in music fun.

While I was reading Bernstein Bears and snacking on graham crackers, Robert Schneider, Bill Doss, Will Hart, and Jeff Mangum were four high school students trading mix tapes in Ruston, Louisiana. After graduation, Schneider moved to Denver and started a band called The Apples In Stereo, Doss and Hart (and, at first, Mangum) moved to Athens, GA and started a band called Olivia Tremor Control, and then Mangum worked solo under Milk until forming his own group Neutral Milk Hotel. And thus, the holy E6 trinity was born.

As a group of friends who had a hand in one another’s music, and involved in three bands who were self-releasing material, they decided to work together and created their very own record label in 1991: The Elephant Six Recording Company. 

The story from here is pretty simple, the Apples in Denver made connections to other bands, and that’s how some west coasters joined the collective, and OTC + NMH made a community in Athens and that’s how some southerners joined the collective. Here’s a excerpt from the E6 townhall message board that includes all the connected E6 bands and their location:

1. E6 East
Based in Athens, Georgia, where The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel are based. This part of E6 is, to be honest, pretty incestuous, with many different people playing/making guest appearances in the same bands. This faction of the collective has, in recent times, expanded and branched off in a gazillion directions. Some bands in the E6 East include: The Sunshine Fix, The Circulatory System, The Black Swan Network, The Music Tapes, The Gerbils, Elf Power, Of Montreal, Major Organ And The Adding Machine, and Great Lakes.
2. E6 West
Based in Denver, Colorado, where The Apples In Stereo reside. Bands include Marbles, Von Hemmling, Secret Square, and Dressy Bessy. The Minders also were based in Denver for a time, but are currently located in Portland, Oregon.
3. Others
Beulah are from San Francisco. Robert & Hilarie of The Apples heard some of Beulah’s music and liked it so much, they agreed to release the first single and album by the band. The Essex Green recorded their album with Robert at his studio in Denver and again Robert was a fan of their band.

Once they hit the new decade, the E6 began to dissolve as a label. Apparently due to “disorganization” the label stopped operating in 2002, but many of the bands and members of the collective continue to make music today. Although the label is technically no longer in existence, new bands made of old members or friends are technically considered a part of the “collective”. Today, Elephant 6 pretty much just means community.

There are a lot of hardcore Elephant Six fans out there, and one of the best resources is the E6 townhall, which is a message board for fans of collective bands. If you’re a fan of the 33 1/3 series books there is an excellent, much more in depth biography on the collective included with Kim Cooper’s assessment of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.


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