Huntington-area punks reincarnated, reinvigorated as stoner rock band Tower of the Elephant


(L-R:) Mike Schritter, Blair Yoke, Jason King, Garrett Babb, and Josh Harshbarger, together just a few short months as Tower of the Elephant, have been making a name for themselves in Huntington.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

You could say that with their version of “weed metal,” Tower of the Elephant has been generating a nice buzz around town.

Like any organic process, the Huntington-based “stoner rock” band’s formation was quite chemical in nature. Two cells; one, lead guitarist Mike Schritter and drummer Jason King (ex-South Point, Ohio punks No Heroes Here) served as the nucleus, and the other cell, singer Blair Yoke, rhythm guitarist Garrett Babb and bassist Josh Harshbarger (ex-Beer For Blood members) merged through some symbiotic, osmosis-like process that bands seem to go through as they are born and die only to become new bands.

But they’re no different than any other local band just starting out. They face the same challenges; from getting together for practice, to booking and playing shows, not so much the latter recently.

“Between jobs and families, it can be really hard getting the five of us together to practice,” singer Blair Yoke said as a few band members convened to answer questions.

Comprised of veterans of (and band mates in) various Huntington-area punk bands, Tower of the Elephant is able to kill two birds with one stone; they practice and play where Yoke lives.

“We’re mainly more apt to play house shows there because Blair lives there,” Harshbarger said, a day after the band played a house show at 636 Trenton Place.

Tower of the Elephant: “Orbital Exile” @ 636 Trenton Place 3.26

Harshbarger said house shows have been important in helping Tower of the Elephant, together since just last October, develop a following.

“We hardly ever turn down the chance to play house shows. There isn’t much of a chance to make any money, but the setting is more intimate and it seems like you get a much better vibe from the crowd.”

Tower of the Elephant welcomes Morgantown stoner rock legends Karma To Burn back to Huntington Friday night for a show at Shamrock’s Irish Pub, with the Austin, Texas-based hard rock trio Honky in tow.

“It’s been really exciting,” Harshbarger went on, talking about the band. “The response to our music has been huge and immediate, from just word-of-mouth, to the amount of shows being offered to us in such a short amount of time. We have such a tight group of seasoned musicians that know what sound we’re looking for and I think that has come across in our music.”

Harshbarger said it’s their appreciation for the more classic rock and metal influences that has helped Tower refine their own version of “weed metal,” as they call it on their Facebook page.

“We all have pretty different influences, but most go back to the classics,” Harshbarger said. “We’ve all played punk rock in the past, but a lot of our sound comes from a heavy influence of classic stoner rock bands such as Kyuss, Black Sabbath, Fu Manchu, and Mountain. It really came to us naturally because we’ve listened to groups like these for so long.”

King described the formation of the nascent Tower of the Elephant with Schritter, who fronted the now defunct Huntington punk band Sarasota.

“Mike and I started the band in my kitchen, playing on a small amp and electric drums,” he said.

They soon absorbed the trio of Yoke, Babb and Harshbarger.

“Josh was the first person we brought in,” King said. “Then we had Blair sing for us, and as soon as the first words came out of his mouth, I knew he was perfect.”

“Up until we started Tower I’d only been in punk bands,” Yoke said. “It feels great to be able to actually sing, opposed to screaming.

“It started out more in the metal vein and became groovier once Garrett and I joined,” the singer went on. “We started playing in late October, and within a week we had three songs done. We played those three songs at a Halloween house show in town and got a great response from the small crowd that was there.”

Babb described how he, Harshbarger and Yoke brought their own experiences in Beer For Blood into Tower of the Elephant.

“Beer For Blood was pretty much where the three of us got our chops as musicians. Everything clicked with us and we played what we wanted, but learned a lot from each other as musicians.”

“Babb brought something to the table I didn’t even know we needed until he started playing it,” King added. “Now it’s a key part in our music.”

Babb said he loves being in a band with Schritter.

“When we write, it’s the most laid back and comfortable atmosphere. The riffs we write together are decided on being used when we can play them together, look at each other, and laugh our [expletive] off at what we just did. The chemistry is great. He’s a master at leads, and I’m proud we can play guitar together and share our knowledge of the instrument with each other.”

Tower of the Elephant is sitting on a four-song EP entitled “Journey of the Leonids,” set for seven-inch vinyl release in May.

Yoke said, at least for him, but likely speaking for the group as well, Tower of the Elephant is something he’s been looking forward to being a part of for a long time.

“I’m extremely excited about this band. Since the very first practice I’ve found that lyrics come to me easier than in any other band I’ve been in. It’s exactly what I’ve wanted to do musically for a long time.”

If you go:
Karma To Burn, Honky, Tower of the Elephant
Where: Shamrock’s Irish Pub, 2050 3rd Ave., Huntington (304) 523-5825 (call for tix)
When: Friday, April 1st, 9:30
Cost: $10 advance, $12 at the door
Info: www.toweroftheelephant.bandcamp.com/, http://www.k2burn.com/

photo: Josh Harshbarger
video: Chuk Fowlord

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