By Jeffrey V. Smith
Back in 2015, Sage Cook wrote a difficult, but heartfelt, note to Elephant Revival fans. After eight years, he was leaving the Nederland-based, gypsy folk band he helped form and moving to the Kansas-Oklahoma border to begin a new adventure in subsistence farming. It was an enormous leap of faith, and change of pace.
Part of Cook’s life changes since the move also included forming a new act, We Dream Dawn, with his bass-playing partner Aera Fox. The band returns to Nederland to play The Caribou Room, April 14, at 9 p.m., and will include Bonfire Dub—and recent Phil Lesh & Friends—drummer Mark Levy, and violinist Enion Pelta-Tiller of Taarka, which opens the show.
When Cook made the decision to leave Elephant Revival, he had already been farming—and re-prioritizing his life—for a long, difficult year. He was motivated to continue his new path through the inspiration to live a meaningful life that manifested during a time of grief.
“Two really important people in my life were facing terminal illnesses, which inspired me to start asking myself what I would do if I only had a year to live,” Cook explained. “My Aunt Donna was like a second mother to me, she served others with a selflessness seldom seen in this day and age. So, when the doctors said Donna only had a few months to live, it all became clear that, after being on the road with Elephant Revival for eight years, it was time to be closer to family. In addition, I had long romanticized the idea of growing one’s own food, and there happened to be a place out on the plains where we could experiment with such things. Aera and I were ready for a new adventure, and living closer to the land had been a huge dream of both of ours, so we made the leap.” Things didn’t quite go as planned.
“It’s been everything from amazing to amazingly difficult. We jumped in way over our heads and planted a 12,000 square foot garden/orchard, of which we struggled to keep up with. We lost our bee colony and two flocks of chickens along the way. Basically, we would have starved if it were a 100 years ago,” Cook said.
Things are going better now. “The fruit trees are all in bloom as we speak, and it’s looking like we may get our first fruit crop from the trees this year,” he said. “It’s tough to say what the best thing about living on the farm is, as it is fulfilling in so many ways, but I’d have to say there is nothing like eating a meal that came entirely from right out your front door.”
The musical aspects of the move came a little more naturally for Cook and Fox. We Dream Dawn is a self-described band and art collective. It’s an “experiment involving the amalgamation of art and sustenance” based on its member’s belief in “the abundance and inherent symbiosis this planet offers.” Unlike his previous work, the band features electric instruments and an atmospheric, almost alt-rock sound, but still includes Cook’s familiar lyrics and vocals.
Also, We Dream Dawn tunes its “A” note to 432 cycles per second, or Hertz, as opposed to the Western universal 440. This vibration has been called the “God Note” and is believed to be more natural, truer, and in tune with the universe. “So, basically a We Dream Dawn show is kinda like a music therapy session,” Cook said.
Although easily distinguishable, Cook’s new work easily appeals to his longtime fans. “I wouldn’t say our music or intentions differ much from Elephant Revival,” Cook said, “We Dream Dawn is just a little more rock and roll, but otherwise it is about bringing people together and hopefully inspiring some deeper conversations about how we can make this a better place for future generations. One could argue art is sustenance for the soul, but moreover we are basically eluding to taking a more holistic approach to life, by not only nourishing ourselves with art, but also nourishing our bodies through cultivating a deeper connection with food.”
Since leaving Nederland, Cook has missed its people, scenery, and the region’s general appreciation for the arts. He’s “excited” to come back. “I still regard Nederland as my hometown of sorts, and many of the great people of that community are family. So, it feels like coming home,” he said.
He also can’t wait to be working again with opening act Taarka, whose founding members are long-time friends and collaborators. “They are basically one of my favorite bands of all time,” Cook said. “David and Enion [Pelta-Tiller] were instrumental in creating the first few Elephant Revival albums, and their previous band with Nathan Moore, ThaMusemeant, was probably Elephant Revival’s biggest musical influence. Their musicianship is simply out of this world.” Expect plenty of collaborations highlighting their “deep musical kinship.”
Don’t miss the chance to reconnect with Cook and his music—and pick up a We Dream Dawn bookmark—before he retreats back the farm to create an “interactive artful oasis on the Great Plains.”
Originally published in the April 2017 issue of MMAC Monthly