Elliphant photographed by Corey Olsen in NYC
Over the phone, Ellinor Olovsdotter, better known by her stage name Elliphant, tells me it’s yet another beautiful day in Los Angeles. Originally from a country known for its frigid winters, the Swedish singer is soaking up the sun behind her house in West Hollywood, the closest thing the budding talent has to a place called home. Anyone following her career would be surprised to hear about the artist relaxing–it seems that each week brings about a new release from her prolific and multi-dimensional mind, whether it’s her collaboration with fellow Nordic Pop singer MØ, making music magic with American Dub god Skrillex, or touring across the country with Charli XCX. You’d think the up-and-comer never takes time to slow down, and in a way, you’d be right.
Her words pour out of her mouth quickly, especially for someone speaking English as a second language. It’s as if her mind is moving too hastily for her lips, and she’s trying to catch up. It becomes apparent that she is not the type of singer who can remain artistically stagnant for more than a few moments, with ideas (as well as questions) racing out of her. Her personality comes off exactly like her music — mercurial, unpredictable, full of curiosity and a desire to experiment. If you don’t quite get the gist, just take a listen to her latest EP One More off of Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records, which is filled with glitchy, surreal electronic drops blended with tempestuous vocals. If there’s any overarching attitude during our conversation, it’s that Elliphant is still figuring it out, and we’re simply along for the ride. At the pace this girl’s going, I’d make sure to buckle up.
Why did you choose to move to LA from Sweden?
I don’t really live anywhere in particular, but I’ve been based here and doing most of my work from here. It’s been so many different kinds of work [I had to do] this first year, putting me on the map kind of things. This is an amazing place to get as many things as possible done, you know? So I’ve been based here for like one and a half years, but I’ve also been on tour and doing a lot of other things.
So you’re really more of a “citizen of the world” as they say?
Actually, I’m just listening now to my songs and stuff and I’m realizing a lot of it is about–now that I hear it all–the fact that it’s like, the whole home thing is probably an illusion. Like you don’t really have a home like you always had… I need to be home in myself.
When was it in your adult life that you realized you really wanted to make music?
It’s been in my life since I was maybe 18, 19 years old because I liked to go to techno parties, and I really liked when I was out at parties to take the microphone and do some singing. My mom always said that when I was a kid, it felt like something I could probably do. When I heard Portishead and like this whole Trip-Hop scene, I felt like I wanted to make music one day. But it’s never been my priority. I tried very hard with my art and my photography and other types of expressions before.
But Elliphant was an accidental project; I had a friend who asked for some help on a project of his. And it ended up with A Good Idea for Elliphant. So this is actually a very random project. I think the time that I started feeling like, “okay, music is my thing now,” was when this [project started], like three years ago. Because that was the first time I had support from people and requests. People wanted to work with me, you know?
How did you feel at first when releasing music as Elliphant?
Even if I’m complicated, I’m also very simple. It’s not a dream in that sense that I feel like I need to put this in people’s faces, even if they don’t understand. For me, a big reason why this happened is because so many people showed interest and I saw it as a way for me to express myself. And that’s still how I see it. As long as there’s going to be people who are interested in this, and as long as I feel like this is my strongest weapon to bring out what I believe in and talk about whatever I want to talk about, I’m going to continue using it.
But it’s not like… I have many friends who have felt their whole lives like they have a mission in music. They learned the language of music and they had a big interest, and a big love in more of a professional sense. I’m more of an experimental person, you know? I’m just doing what I would like to do.
You’re one of the hardest artists to classify in terms of genre, because every release sounds so different. What words would you use to describe your music?
I kind of call it Provocative Pop music in the sense that it’s not following any lines or a constructed plan… it’s not a product in that sense, at all. My project is not a figured out thing. It’s like, as it goes, things happen. Many music projects that you hear have a different skeleton, a different backbone than this project. This is why I think it’s interesting. I would think it’s interesting to follow it and see what happens, even if I didn’t enjoy the music… It’s almost a “fake it till you make it” kind of thing–just a girl having fucking fun and trying her best to just catch everything that falls her way.
Why do you choose to experiment so much?
This is the kind of complicated mind you must have. It’s just an illusion that we have one thing that we’re good at. We’re so diverse. We can do so many things with this center of energy that we’re born with. So that’s going to probably continue being like that until I get bored. Maybe one day I’ll feel like I want to go into the studio with that one producer that I fucking love and make a solid album together with that person that is a story from the first song to the last song. But if I would do that now it would be fake, because I don’t have that person in my life. I’m still just looking around, finding my sound. It’s going to be interesting for people and even for myself to see where it lands.
I think you’re sound represents the future of Pop. Where do you think the genre is heading?
Yeah, I think there’s an evolution in all kinds of music and fashion. The evolution of it is a little bit of what I’m trying to be. I don’t think people have to be in a genre anymore. I think if you listen to the Hip-Hop on the radio today, it’s maybe a skeleton of the traditional Hip-Hop technique, but suddenly it’s like minimal House from the ‘90s that they’re rapping on. It’s just weird how everything is mashed up right now, you know? How we live in the mash-up generation where you can have a punk hairdo and a suit on at the same time and no one will think you look weird.
It’s very hard to be Madonna 2014, because everybody’s Madonna. I think you’re right when you say it’s the future of what we’re going to hear… I think the whole minimal way of doing things, like in a functional minimal way, I think that’s going to be a very big thing in the future in all kinds of music, and also in all kinds of cultures, sub-cultures, whatever. I think for Elliphant, I did a lot of work together with LV Mitchell. He has a very particular way of producing his music. It’s very, very clean and very, very minimal. So there will be a couple of songs like that my album, for sure. But I’m also very much longing for something like Rage Against the Machine and something like David Bowie back on the radio. Like if you think about it, it’s not so long ago that songs like that were made that were like eight minutes long.
Has there been a different response in the states than in Europe?
I think it’s a little bit easier for American people to appreciate Elliphant, actually. I had a lot of good motion here already… Sweden is more like, there’s a group of people that really enjoy Elliphant and have big love for it, even though it’s not really figured out–it’s still a little bit confused and on its way, you know? But it also bugs people. It really, really annoys people, much more than I was expecting. And I wasn’t really expecting all the love I got from America. Here it’s easier to be different, I think, in a way.
I mean, I’m also living in a bit of a bubble. I try not to read about [myself] too much. I try not to listen to what people say, but I know for sure that it’s been a really good place for Elliphant to grow, in America. Here I’ve got support from all kinds of directions.
Check here to find out where to see Elliphant live.
Photos by Corey Olsen for BlackBook.