Honouring Elefant Traks’ immense visual legacy: ‘They just blew my socks off’

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Honouring Elefant Traks’ immense visual legacy: ‘They just blew my socks off’

Elefant Traks
Credit: Dominique Berns-Blackwell
Words by Tyler Jenke

Elefant Traks reflect on 25 groundbreaking years at ACMI, in a special event filled with boisterous storytelling, behind-the-scenes moments and the music videos that changed Australia. It'll be like a live version of Rage: epic.

By the time Jane Tyrrell joined Elefant Traks as part of The Herd around 2004, the influential Sydney label had already been around for six years. It’s fair to say that while she hadn’t been on the ground for its inception, she hadn’t expected to be around for its conclusion.

At the time, she’d been active as a vocalist in numerous genres, but it was as part of Newcastle outfit Blades Of Hades that saw her cross paths with Elefant Traks when her group supported The Herd.

Elefant Traks’ 25th Anniversary – The Videos

  • Fri 14 Jun 2024, 6.30–8.30pm
  • Cinema 1, Level 2 ACMI, Fed Square
  • Tickets here

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“They kind of just blew my socks off, in terms of content, performance and just the quality of what they were putting out there,” she remembers. “We hit it off, they asked me to co-write a song with them which was well received, and not long after that, they asked me to feature on the Sun Never Sets promo tour.

“That just kind of blew up, they asked me to join the band, and I kind of left my life plan,” she adds. “It was a real crossroads moment.”

First formed by Kenny Sabir (aka Traksewt) back in 1998, the label began as a way for artists to release their music, and exist within a community that supported each other. They soon grew exponentially, and across its quarter-century existence, the label has released 1300 songs, 66 albums, and 40 EPs, and fostered groups like Hermitude, The Last Kinection, Horrorshow, Joelistics, and much more.

As its heart though, was a family that was bigger than the sum of its parts.

“Being part of ET is definitely being part of a family,” Tyrrell recalls. “I know people that are on other labels who don’t experience what I’ve experienced with Elefant Traks. We support each other, we lift each other up, we mentor each other.

“We’re just there for each other, and we do have commonalities in our music,” she adds. “A lot of us are about human rights, telling the stories and leaning into the hard stuff even if it means it might stir up some shit. It’s very authentic love and care for each other.”

This year, however, marks the end of the Elefant Traks label, with the core team making the decision to end operations after 26 years. It’s clear that the changing musical landscape means the label can no longer exist how it used to, but its legacy remains, with its artists still going strong with or without the Elefant Traks name behind them.

“Being very close to the core team who have always run the label, I  saw it coming a little while ago,” Tyrrell explains. “I’ve seen – in many ways – the demise of music as we know it, and the ability to keep it viable and feasible.

“It was just time. It’s run its course in the manifestation that it is now, but I certainly don’t think it’s the end,” she explains. “It’s not the end of all of the artists making work; it’s the end of us having a sharehouse, and now we’re going out on our own.”

As part of their final hurrah, the Elefant Traks team are throwing a handful of gala-style shows with artists from their label, but on June 14th, ACMI will host Elefant Traks 25th Anniversary – The Videos. The event provides an opportunity for founders Kenny Sabir and Tim Levinson (Urthboy) to team up with Joelistics (Joel Ma) and Tyrrell, as they look back at the impactful visuals of the label.

“Being a visual storyteller, I’ve got some things I’d love to share and some particular clips that feel like they kind of sum up those two modes of storytelling,” Tyrrell explains. “I really look forward to having a conversation and sharing some reflections about the making of and honouring the directors, the actors, and the gaffers that have contributed to our legacy.”

One such highlight is the Mike Daly-directed clip for 2020, which won Best Music Video at the J Awards in 2008.

“The time and effort and the deep thought and consideration that went into that felt like a big moment,” she remembers. “Mike is a remarkable artist and interpreter, and that’s one of the many clips that we’ve had wherethe songs have been interpreted in dance. When music moves into movement, that’s something very powerful.”

Ultimately, an event like this will help to serve as a fitting end to an already-impressive legacy from such an impactful label.

“It’s like going through grief,” Tyrrell explains. “There’s been waves of sadness, pure joy and elation, and pride of what we’ve achieved and will continue to achieve.

“But all of these things, from the performances to the ACMI event, it feels like it honours the legacy.”

Get tickets here.