INTERVIEW: Little Elephant [January 2015]

By Jim Howes

Left to Right: Brian Gross-Bias, Rob Courtney, and Mark Metzger

It’s 2015 now, and a lot of people are saying a lot of things about the way the landscape of punk music looks. It’s easy to make value judgments about what social media and streaming services have done to the genre and how its fans consume its music. Debates around these judgments are what they are, but one thing is certain: opportunities abound, now more than ever, for people who love punk music to innovate and create new channels for listening to and watching the bands and artists we love.

Enter Little Elephant. Located in the rusty recesses of Northwest Ohio, Little Elephant is three dudes, a living room, some gear, and a lot of heart. In the past two years, Little Elephant has seen some of the biggest names in punk, hardcore and emo swing through to crank out amazing live sessions for all the world to see on the YouTubes. In defiance of the pessimism of the Rust Belt, Little Elephant has made the most of Toledo as a crossroads for artists travelling the country, and in the process, has become a phenomenon.

First off, what is Little Elephant, how long has Little Elephant been around, and how did Little Elephant get started?

Little Elephant is a live audio and video studio located in Toledo, Ohio. It’s comprised of Rob Courtney, Brian Gross-Bias and Mark Metzger. We record live sessions of bands performing in our living room. The audio and video is all shot 100% live, so what you see and hear is what you get.

Little Elephant started as a recording studio back in June of 2011. At the time, we were solely focused on recording bands in Toledo. We did this for about two years before we started doing any video work. Then, during an off week due to cancellations, we decided to try something new and shot a couple live sessions of local Toledo bands. After we had some local success from those videos, we decided to take it one step further. We bought new microphones and cameras and started approaching bands outside of Toledo for sessions.

Little Elephant has grown and evolved over time to be the unique, awesome thing that it is now. What ultimately made you decide to make the changes you did, and what were some of the sources of inspiration that steered you guys in the direction you’ve gone?

Right after we started doing live videos exclusively, we got really lucky by getting Weatherbox in the studio. At the time, our roster was super thin, mostly comprised of local Toledo bands. But Mark happened to know Brian of Weatherbox and they agreed to come in. Having them in the studio opened a lot of doors for us. Suddenly more and more bands started responding to our emails. From there, our roster continued to grow and grow. Since then, our success has basically been from hustling and building relationships within the music community.

What’s been your favourite moment at Little Elephant so far?

It’s hard to pick just one, so we’ll give you three!

Certainly, one of the best moments was when Fat Wreck Chords decided to release a 7-inch using the audio from our session with Sundowner. Personally, we were thrilled to even have Chris in the studio, let alone record tracks for one of his releases. That was a dream come true.

Another awesome moment didn’t happen AT Little Elephant, but it was such a great moment because of the studio. This past October, the three of us took a road trip down to FEST. We got to see and hang out with so many of the bands that we had worked with, which was AWESOME!!

Also, even though we enjoy all of the bands that come through, we particularly love it when they play in Toledo after we do the session with them. It’s just great to be able to hang out with the bands, and especially great to see them play without having to worry about running our cameras.

2014 saw some of the biggest names in punk stop through Little Elephant. Any hints on what may be in store for 2015?

Our main plan is just to keep the momentum going and push ourselves. We want to get as many bands as we can in here.

The Midwest has always been a force to be reckoned with in punk music, and you guys are doing your part in putting Ohio back on the map. What does being based in Ohio/the Midwest mean for you guys?

Honestly, we owe everything to living in the Midwest, and especially Toledo. Even if bands don’t play in our town, they are constantly passing through. We are lucky to be surrounded by so many great cities and music markets. We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are now if it weren’t for our location.

In addition to being an opportunity for heavy hitter bands to make awesome live videos, do you see Little Elephant also becoming a springboard for smaller-time bands to gain recognition?

Absolutely! We are constantly trying to find new and exciting bands to have in the studio. Some of our favourite sessions have been with smaller, DIY bands. Plus, all of us play in bands ourselves, so we definitely have a soft spot for bands that are trying to break through.

How do you guys feel about chicken wings?

We have been a fan of chicken wings their whole career. We really wish we could get them in for a session, but we’re not real sure who to contact. Until then, we’re just gonna continue seeing them live as often as possible. They’re just the best.

Part of the beauty of Little Elephant is that it is driven almost entirely by social media. To what extent have you guys thought about the merch market (video compilations, audio compilations, etc)? Is that in the future? And what does the future of Little Elephant look like anyway?

We haven’t thought too hard about doing any compilations, but it is definitely not out of the question. We are currently in the process of setting up an entire merch store that will feature some awesome Little Elephant items.

Last but not least, what’s one album people might not know about that you think people should check out?

We are each going to list our own for this…

Rob: Sinai Vessel – ‘Profanity’
Brian: Sport – ‘Colors’
Mark: RVIVR – ‘The Beauty Between’

Rob and Mark also play in a band called Shitty Neighbors. Check them out here:

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]