“The Doors are friggin’ cool”: Rishi Dhir on Elephant Stone’s Cover of “L.A. Woman” from A Psych Tribute to the Doors

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What do Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Massive Attack, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Isaac Hayes, Nirvana, Nico, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, X, Jane’s Addiction, Bo Diddley, Ramones, and Siouxsie & The Banshees have in common?

They’ve covered the songs of The Doors.

What do The Black Angels, The Raveonettes, Clinic, Dark Horses, Sons of Hippies, Dead Meadow, and Elephant Stone have in common?

They and six other of today’s best bands appear on A Psych Tribute to the Doors, which features 13 highly infectious covers of 13 classic Doors’ songs.

The Montreal-based psych-pop quartet Elephant Stone is one of the best things about A Psych Tribute to the Doors. The band’s version of “L.A. Woman” is a groove-infested journey that showcases their inimitable ability to fuse raga, psychedelic, noise, and dance pop in a single song.

Indeed, Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, and Robby Krieger would all approve of Elephant Stone’s take on “L.A. Woman” for its utter originality and innovative spirit.

Rishi Dhir is the lead vocalist, bassist, and sitarist for Elephant Stone, which also includes Gab Lambert on guitar and backing vocals, Stephen “Le Venk” Venkatarangam on keyboards and backing vocals, and Miles Dupire on drums and backing vocals. He took a few minutes off from recording Elephant Stone’s third LP—the follow up to last year’s Elephant Stone, one of the best records of 2013—to talk about his band’s cover of “L.A. Woman.”

CITC: How was Elephant Stone approached to appear on A Psych Tribute to the Doors?

RD: We were contacted by the A&R rep for the compilation the day we were leaving for our US tour supporting The Black Angels.

CITC: Why did you and your bandmates want to be on the compilation?

RD: We’re always up for a challenge. And The Doors are friggin’ cool. The Best of the Doors, along with The Who’s Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, was one of the formative records of my youth. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard that album while playing Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry (laughs).

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CITC: What do you like most about The Doors’ music?

RD: They could groove, and they had Ray Manzarek. Years ago, I wanted to be the key player in my old band and wanted a setup like Ray’s with a Fender Rhodes Bass sitting upon a Vox Continental or Wurlitzer. Alas, I stuck with bass…but I digress.

CITC: Why did you choose “L.A. Woman”? 

RD: At first I thought there was no way Elephant Stone could cover The Doors. I mean, I sound like Mickey Mouse compared to the Lizard King. The only way we were going to be able to cover The Doors was to either make a jangly psych-pop tune or make it a drone-y groove song—which seem to be the two types of songs we can pull off. So I just started brainstorming over their back catalogue and tried to find a tune that we could make our own—and that would work with sitar. “L.A. Woman” popped in my head, and I started singing along to it but much more slowed down…

CITC: Did you guys keep The Doors’ exact chord progression or did you make any changes?

RD: I wanted to make the song a bit darker. I was really getting into The Soft Moon around that time. Anyhow, I dug their chorused-out/driving bass sounds, so that influenced the new chord progression on the chorus. To tell the truth, the song took a lot of work—a lot of parts, tempo changes. I think we spent more time working on this song than we spent rehearsing for the songs on our upcoming record!

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CITC: What was the impetus behind using Madchester beats and a groovy, dance-y bassline on the song?

RD: I actually had that bassline-groove reserved for a song I was working on, but it fit so well with the vibe of “L.A. Woman” that I had to let it go. You have to serve the song. Also, I was listening to a lot of Happy Mondays around then (laughs).

CITC: How did you come up with a sitar part for the song?

RD: Well, I wouldn’t really call it a “part” per se. I pretty much just did a couple of takes of the sitar at the studio and then reversed the whole. Backwards sitar—or backwards anything—is always a good idea.

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CITC: Gab’s guitar playing is as amazing as usual. How did he develop his ideas?

RD: The thing about Gab is that he’s always improvising and coming up with new ideas. What this means is that when we’re working on a new song, he never plays the same thing twice. However, from what I’ve seen, his initial instincts are always his best. So he actually came up with the part early on in the rehearsals but moved on to something else. That part really stuck with me, so I had to remind him of it later. And then he just built on it from there. Yeah, his part really has nothing to do with The Doors’ version. It’s pure genius. He’s awesome.

CITC: What was it like to sing Jim Morrison’s words? He’s one of the most iconic singers and lyricists in the history of rock and roll…

RD: Weird. He’s singing about what he sees… his view of his surroundings… not mine. I had a hard time initially singing, “You’re my L.A. woman!” However, I loved screaming, “It’s the mojo risin’.” I think it’s the most rock-and-roll thing I’ve ever done. I must try it again.

CITC: Will you and the guys play “L.A. Woman” when you next tour?

RD: It would be a fun encore tune.

CITC: What’s happening with the new Elephant Stone LP?

RD: A lot! We’re building the album song by song. Usually, bands go in and record all the drums, then bass, guitar, keys and then vocals. We’re actually working on a song from beginning to end, besides the vocals. So when we’re happy with how a song is sounding, we move on. It’s nice this way. I feel like I’m not second-guessing a tune as much as we’re leaving it in a state we’re very happy with. The new album is going to be pretty different—a lot groovier and heavier. But the sun will always shine through.

LISTEN NOW to Elephant Stone’s cover of “L.A. Woman”: https://soundcloud.com/elephantstone/elephant-stone-la-woman

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