Elliphant’s vast, ferocious, unpredictable take on pop blazed onto the internet back in 2012. Making music under the alias, Elinor Olovsdottor, the Swedish artist's rambunctious vocals scampered deliriously over intense techno-dancehall mash-ups on tracks like "In the Jungle" and "Down On Life". Diplo was one of the first to take note - remixing her songs, inviting her to America where she supported Twin Shadow on tour, and recently releasing her EP on his Mad Decent label. Her Skrillex collaboration - "Only Getting Younger" - is typical of the galvanising bounce-bait this restless batch of musical omnivores create together. Below, watch a madcap behind-the-scenes preview of the video with a demented dentist, pig snouts, grills and a big fat drop.
Olovsdottor was exposed to all genres – apart from reggae – by her music-mad mother, perhaps explaining how Elliphant's compositions can devour all these sounds without the results seeming contrived. We saw her live performance at Latitude Festival last month where she was backed only by a DJ who blasted out her hip-hop, dubstep, R&B, dancehall and pop backing tracks – adding more fuel to her kinetic live presence. It turns out there is a softer side to her though, a vulnerability that will edge into the spotlight on her global debut album, set to be released on pop magnate Dr. Luke's Kemosabe label. Not that her innate fierceness is in danger of being curtailed, as we found while chatting over a couple of cans after her performance.
How did you find living in Los Angeles this year?
Elliphant: Usually when you come to a city people say things like, ‘you should have been here ten years ago’ – but in LA you feel no-one wanted you there ten years ago, the future is the shit. I’m excited by it.
Were you recording your new - but not quite debut - record there?
Elliphant: Yeah, after summer I’ll be able to release my new album. It’s not 100% finished - but it’s honest. I don’t want to just give people spasm attacks, I want them to be happy, but I also don’t want anyone who got into the Mad Decent thing to be disappointed as I’m singing a lot on it.
Did it take a while to build up the confidence to use your voice that way?
Elliphant: Yes. I wanted to show that I’m not only hardcore. But I don’t want it to be too pretty, as then there will be a problem, I’m not going to be pretty.
“I want to stay confused and naked; away from LED screens and backing vocalists”
Do you initially look for experimentalism in producers you work with?
Elliphant: Well, I wasn’t really into Diplo, but it was a natural meeting in music as he’s the same as me - wild and doing everything… He picked up on me early, and I’m thankful. And obviously, Dr. Luke is not someone I thought about working with, but we turned out to make a couple of fucking cool tracks – very experimental for him. Then with Skrillex, he called me and we had a real good chat, and he wasn’t an artist I listen to, but if I had been pretentious I could have lost everything, as now not only do I have a lot of beautiful songs, I have three amazing friends.
I was watching the Behind The Scenes from Jamaica for your “Music Is Life” video and you seem really at home there.
Elliphant: For me going to Jamaica was like travelling, I miss that so much. It brings me into my most profound existence, where I’m 100% who I am, and who I want to be. When I was a teenager I had this period where I really contained myself. Till I was twelve I was this weird hippy, then suddenly I turned into this kicker girl, towards the tough kids. I lost my spirit and hid myself in that crew, and for me it was important to untangle myself from it, as it killed me. I didn’t have music dreams as a kid. I was always just experimenting. Now, I’ve got a chance, but I want to stay confused and naked; away from LED screens and backing vocalists. Everything in Elliphant is coincidences, there’s never been a reason behind anything. And, I want people to feel a little uncomfortable when they listen to my songs. I think that’s more interesting, and I’m brave enough.
I read that you’re an evolutionist?
Elliphant: Yeah. My absolute perfect human is a person who… Well, it’s easy to say the person who brings the drugs and makes sure that everyone is okay. I have a lot of understanding for things that can look bad in other people’s eyes. But if we take a lot of antidepressant pills or other shit to force away what’s really going on, it’s going to be a wound that grows from the inside. For me it’s the same as a religion. Expose yourself. Do good. Don’t be greedy. Work hard. There’s not any other world. Some people find strength in safety, or yoga, or good family. I had to find my truth in the cracks as that’s all I knew.
You wouldn’t think anyone would be let down by society in Sweden.
Elliphant: There is an idea of society there, but if you’re one of those kids that slipped through the cracks, you just see where it failed you. I was diagnosed after school with dyslexia and ADD. I didn’t eat pills for it, but it’s good to have something to prove yourself to society, as obviously this is what they need. The fucking paper. If society is built on paper I don’t see the safety net in it. For me it’s a failure. It’s an experiment we’ve been doing for a couple of thousand years, but it’s failed. We need to take care of each other.
You're playing Way Out West in Gothenburg. Are there any hidden music scenes to check out?
Elliphant: It’s the metal capital of Sweden. It’s a really cool scene. I always use metal guitarists there as I want to rep that shit. I can’t deal with too much of it, but I love the essence of it, so I take elements and sprinkle. And, there’s a lot of British people doing metal in Gothenburg.