Little Elephant’s Rob Courtney is doing better in Toledo. For the past four years, Little Elephant— a studio Courtney owns with partners Brian Gross-Bias and Mark Metzger— has been shooting videos, in Little Elephant’s living room studio, of bands traveling through Toledo and uploading them to the studio’s own YouTube channel. Last year, the trio started making lathe-cut, stereo vinyl recordings of the three-song video sessions using their feedback cutterhead equipment.
Over the years, Little Elephant has produced nearly 300 video sessions of bands making their way through Toledo. Following their motto “From our living room to yours.” When founded in 2011, Little Elephant’s trio of partners asked their friends in local bands to stop by the studio, where they would record the bands for free. As the studio became more well known and garnered more interest on YouTube, that business model expanded to include the recording of touring bands, passing through Toledo on their way to cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Columbus.
On the way
Being in this region has been critical to the company’s success, Courtney said, even if the bands don’t actually play shows in the 419. “I’d say at least 95 percent of the time, they’re on their way somewhere else,” he said. “Typically, I’m looking at groups playing in Detroit or Cleveland or Chicago or Columbus.
“If a group plays Cleveland or Detroit or both, they’re most likely going to be passing through Toledo. The fact that we’re in Toledo, that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to get so many of these bands to come in. We’re at the crossroads of I-80 and I-75. If we were located in Detroit, the band would have to play Detroit that night to do the session. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise. We’ve been saying this for so long: If it wasn’t for us being in Toledo, I’m not sure how it would have worked out.”
McCafferty, a Cleveland-based indie punk band, stopped at Little Elephant recently while preparing to tour with the English band Mooseblood. “It was amazing playing Little Elephant,” said Nick Hartkop, McCafferty singer and guitarist. “So many of my heroes have played there and it was an honor to be able to play there and to share our art, and we are incredibly thankful.”
A solid reputation
Hartkop said just being associated with the Toledo studio can only help McCafferty. “Little Elephant has a great reputation; so many new people will check out videos based solely on them publishing them,” he said. “Their fan base trusts that they have great music come to them. We love talking with new people and making friends, so it was a fantastic experience— an absolute blast.”
During the busy summer touring months, Little Elephant will shoot video and cut vinyl for up to 10 sessions each month. “We’ve got it down to a science. We allot two hours from the time they arrive to the time they leave. … It has to do with how tight the band is and how comfortable they are.”
The sessions are usually released on video and vinyl one month later. “The vinyl crowd is our crowd,” Courtney said. “All of the bands we record, have vinyl— they don’t go out on the road without vinyl. We knew that if we were able to put all our sessions on vinyl, we’d eventually be able to start making money from what we’re doing.”
For more info, or to check out Little Elephant’s videos, visit littleelephantlive.com/vinyl or their YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/littleelephantrecord.