words Katie Small
cover photography Myriam Santos
Confusion, intrigue, amusement, maybe even a bit nauseous…I wasn’t sure exactly how to feel the first time I watched Elliphant’s video for “One More.” There’s a playful, but almost sinister, vibe that penetrates the nightcrawler scene…you can practically feel the impending hangover. Elliphant and MØ’s unique voices entice you with their dreamy sensuality. A catchy bass line laden with dancey synth melodies makes you move. But is it pop? Rap? EDM? Blending all of these genres and more is part of Elliphant’s charm. Her music is not easily defined and her style is anything but typical. You might expect someone who’s worked with the likes of Skrillex and Grammy-winning producers to be less than humble, but Elliphant’s devotion to her fans and her down to earth demeanor makes her a standout in an industry overflowing with manufactured pop stars.
Your video for “One More” was featured as CREEP’s number one song of 2014. How did you collaborate with MØ (pronounced [M-uh], according to Elliphant) and what was the inspiration behind the music video?
I wrote the song on my first session with Joel Little, who produced of the song. He also produced Lorde’s Grammy album. It was my first session with him so I was really nervous because he’s very organic – he’s this Grammy-winning producer, but it was the best vibe ever. It was actually one of the easiest, simplest songs I’ve ever written. Sometimes inspiration just strikes and you go with it, so I wrote the song and then had the idea of adding MØ. I felt like it’s a good friendship song and I felt like it would be cool if MØ sang second verse. We’re friends from Sweden – I’ve been to many of her shows and she’s been to many of my shows and we always sync up when we’re back home. I really really like her, we’ve been friends for a while. So it was just easy, I sent it to her and she sent it back a couple of days later.
The video was inspired by the California band, Girls. They have a video for their song, “Vomit,” where they’re just driving around in cars basically… I wanted the “One More” video to be in a car, just racing through the night with a weird vibe over it. It was one of those amazing projects that just sort of happened, without having to involve too many of the big people. Everything was done on a very basic friendship level and it turned out great.
The clothing you wear in all of your videos is very unique. How would you describe your style? Do you pick out the outfits yourself or do you hire a stylist?
I don’t have an everyday stylist…for the “One More” video we brought in a stylist though. It was cool ‘cause she designed the outfits exactly as I described [my vision] to her. I think the coolest stylists are the ones who can figure out what you want. It’s not like I hire people to explore their own creativity on my body or anything. I like clothes, but I also get easily bored with [fashion]. I didn’t have any stylists for any of my other videos. There’s a crew but not some specific stylist or designer. My style just reflects who I am.
Last month you did an iPad commercial with Apple. How did that happen?
That was fun – I was up in the Apple office and had this sort of secret meeting. It came out of a very natural place. It was just me having a meeting with Apple, almost just a creative meeting bouncing ideas around, and I was just telling them about how I make all of my demos on Garageband. They thought that was interesting and wanted me to represent Garageband somehow. For me it was just a natural thing to say yes to because I was behind it 100%…I don’t know anything about any one instrument or [the technical side] of music, but Garageband was my first instrument. It allowed me to show people my songs and come out with my music.
So do you write your own beats?
No that’s the thing: if a producer sends me a track, I can put it into Garageband and then record my voice over it and build a song almost like I’m sitting with a guitar. With Garageband, I can step-by-step build a song and make a bridge and a chorus so that when I come to the session, I’m prepared and I know what to do.
Cool, so it’s a sort of home studio in your computer.
Yeah! So that’s why it’s great for me, I’ve been really…I’ve been very sensitive to [commercial offers]…I’ve said no to everything so far when it comes to [representing] big major brands, doing commercials and stuff. But this one’s different because I actually felt that it fits. It comes from my heart.
You just wrapped up a European tour, how did that go?
It was really cool – a lot of people came out for the shows, which was very cool. I went to Turkey, Poland, Prague, Germany, so many places. It was really, really cool. But because it was a flying tour, we didn’t take a car or anything. It was very in-n-out – you don’t really have a chance to wander around or do anything in the cities. But it was cool that so many people came out to see Elliphant. I also had my first stage dive this tour! I was very excited about that.
Awesome! What was stage-diving like? Did you continue to sing while you were in the crowd?
I did! I felt like a pro…I did it twice, two days in a row cause it was so fun. It was actually much more intense and sensual than I was expecting…I thought it’d be sort of punk rock but it actually felt very sincere, the whole thing, ‘cause I was standing there on stage, and I always look my fans in the eye and try to make eye contact with people. I love to do that – I love to see my fans and I feel that it’s a responsibility to return their interest. But this was different ‘cause I really had to trust them, you know? And I really felt like I really needed them, like I wanted to just hug all of them! It was very magical and personal. I think everybody should do a stage dive.
How do you feel about playing SxSW this week?
I’m very excited but it’s going to be a little bit chaotic, throwing yourself into the madness…it’s going to be a super crazy intense schedule. I haven’t done anything like this before and a lot of my friends will be there, people I’ve met through music. I’ve been to Austin twice, I love it there and I’ve heard so many positive cool things about this festival. I’m super excited.
Are you planning on checking out any other artists or shows?
Yeah, as much as I can. Naturally, I’ll catch a lot of DJ shows and I also wanna go see Tove Lo’s set – she’s a friend. Hopefully I’ll have time to randomly go and see new stuff that I don’t know much about. I really hope I have time to explore. That’s what I really enjoy about music festivals, to wander and discover new things.
How do you prepare for a show?
I like to go out and have a couple of drinks. I like to be in a pub, in a little bit of a dark pub environment. I like to talk about stuff that has nothing to do with the show. And I like to be backstage around an hour and a half before the show, to sit around backstage and talk and get warmed up in your spirits by talking and laughing and having fun. Then me and my DJ have a little exercise that we do together like 15 minutes before the show, just to warm up the body a little bit. But nothing too professional…whiskey is very important.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
This is a really boring question to ask Elliphant ‘cause I never really listen to anything special…This past tour I’ve been traveling with my DJ and he’s into reggae and reggaeton so I’ve been listening to a lot of reggaeton music. But when you live this lifestyle you can get a bit fed up with sounds, so [I prefer] just reading a book in quiet or watching Mad Men. But I have been listening to a lot of Immortal Technique lately.
If you could see any dead or defunct artist or band perform, who would it be and why?
Amy Winehouse, for sure, ‘cause I never saw her. And Billie Holiday. I was always a fan of Amy Winehouse, even though I never listened to her that often. But when she died, I realized how much she means to me…it’s difficult to put her on. I need to be so strong when I listen to her, and also super drunk. Otherwise, it breaks me apart. I just feel so much for her. And Billie Holiday was much older… I had this one Billie Holiday album on my mp3 when I was travelling around, back when the only speakers you could get were these really shitty [ones], but the Billie Holiday album was so good to play on shitty speakers. It was almost made for shitty speakers…so I listened to it so much that it became stuck in my heart. It was like a “Best Of” album of hers, so sometimes when I’m home alone I just put some Billie on. I can still listen to Billie without breaking apart. She is a bit wiser and has some perspective on her pain, but when I listen to Amy I just die because she was so young and she didn’t have a chance to save herself yet.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Yes! I want my fans to know that Elliphant is constantly looking for inspiration…no idea is stupid, there is not one idea that isn’t interesting. They can always reach out on my Instagram or Twitter if they want to channel ideas or have any ideas about what they want me to do… I just want people to know that if they reach out to Elliphant, I will always try to answer or look into everything and create something around their ideas. I really want to [use the input] of my fans as much as possible and I really want people to continue doing that because it builds me so much. More than ever, I really want to involve my fans. I feel that it’s very important.
Elliphant will be performing at SxSW this year. Check out the full schedule here.
Posted on March 16, 2015.