The Elephant 6 Collective

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, from Neutral Milk Hotel, is a landmark album from The Elephant 6 Collective
From studio wizardry to indie rock

From Louisiana to Colorado to Georgia and beyond, four childhood friends formed a loose musical collective based on their love of music – The Elephant 6 Collective.


There are more than 50 musical acts associated with Elephant 6, including The Apples In Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel. On Music 101, we explore not just Elephant 6, but their influences, and those they have influenced.

The Elephant 6 were one of the most vital musical movements of the indie scene of the 90s. Yes, it’s not a stretch to refer to what they did and created (including a widely respected record label) as a movement.

Their impact is still felt today, having put down the blueprint for many bands on how to maximize production while still maintaining an album aesthetic in recording.

First, in order to understand the big picture, you have to begin in 1966 – at the end of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds sessions. Pet Sounds pioneered a whole new way of recording music, and was an instant outlier, landing it on the Mount Rushmore of albums, ever.

It’s also the year Brian Wilson worked on “Good Vibrations” and began conceiving the magnus opus we now know as the Smile Sessions. These sessions became the greatest “Would Have Been” in music, and for almost five decades they were the most legendary unreleased songs in history. 

In 2011, the sessions were finally released. It put into perspective the grand achievements from those early years. 

The most beautiful music

What does Smile have to do with The Elephant 6 Collective? In a word, everything. Founder Robert Schneider called it the most beautiful music he ever heard, citing the Beach Boys as the collective’s religion. Schneider, from Colorado, created the Apples, in Denver in 1991. On “Tidal Wave” from the episode (and in the playlist below) you can hear a very Beach Boys-like approach to utilizing the studio to create a lush, filled-out sound.

From that moment on, The Elephant 6 Collective would go on to deliver classic indie album after classic indie album. 

You can hear the widely admired but never quite coped sounds in the playlist below. 

Note: Included in the playlist is the original song “1940” by the Submarines. Here is the cover featured on Music 101, done by The Morning Benders: