Although she’s technically from Stockholm, Swedish pop singer, Ellinor Olovsdotter, better known as Elliphant, will tell you she’s never really considered Sweden her home. Having traveled around the globe, her penchant for exotic cultures reverberates in the unique sound of her music. A mish-mash of electro-pop and alternative dance, topped with sprinkles of hip-hop and R&B, the Swedish singer regards her music as “provocative pop. Futuristic, maybe.” In 2011, Elliphant signed with TEN Music group, an independent record label that also supports Icona Pop.
Her first single, “Tekkno Scene,” with Adam Kanyama, released in 2012, and was featured in the soundtrack for FIFA 2013. Following the success of “Tekkno Scene,” Elliphant released a music video for her single called “Down On Life” which was received with much industry praise – including from the likes of fellow songstress Katy Perry, who was quoted that “Down On Life” was “one of the most bad ass music videos I’ve seen in a long time!” Since, the singer has collaborated with Diplo, M.I.A., Niki & the Dove, and Skrillex.
More recently, Elliphant released a new EP titled One More, which features a single with fellow Nordic pop singer MØ. Having just wrapped up her cross-country tour supporting Charlie XCX and Femme, Elliphant will next be seen performing at the Mad Decent Block Party in November in Miami, Florida. We caught up with her for a few hours while she was in New York City to snap a few shots and chat about her music.
Indira Cesarine: I understand that you’re from Sweden. Where do you currently live?
Elliphant: One year ago, I stopped working. I’d been working in the studio in Sweden and was working in restaurants; I had an apartment. It’s been about one and a half years since I’ve been here in Los Angeles. I rented out my apartment in Sweden and I’ve never really looked at Sweden as my home. I travel a lot. I was never expecting to live in L.A. but I’m glad that work took me here. This is home now.
IC: I know that you just released your debut album this year, which is titled A Good Idea. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the title?
E: It’s very simple as it was just an idea. The guy I was working with during that album – who worked as my DJ for a year – was on his way to Sweden with an idea that he wanted to write music for other artists. I was really fucked up and drunk and started singing my stuff for him. He liked it, so he thought he would have me come in and write with him for other artists. I’m a creative person and I always need to get things out creatively. Our collaboration was a good idea, which is why we called it that. Elliphant will always be a good idea, really – it will never really be finished. It’s always going to flow and change and we’ll experiment with things. I’d rather reach out to as many people as possible, even if they just like one song and hate the rest, rather than a large crowd that likes every song. I’d rather have many people in the world like just one song.
IC: Are there any particular songs on the new EP that you’re really excited about?
E: It’s actually a collaboration project of stuff that’s very wild and clubby. It’s a really good thing. It’s just been released in Europe and Sweden… it’s almost as though I’ve started all over again with a new image. I have so many people backing my project now. The sound of the EP is the same successful sound that I had in Europe, which opened up hard underground. It’s just my embrace of the club world and it will always be a part of me.
IC: How would you describe your sound? I know that it’s been coined Swedish electro-pop, but would you consider it to be that?
E: I think there is no genre for it as it’s inspired by so many different genres. Some songs are inspired by progressive rock, some are inspired by techno, and some are inspired by R&B. There is a lot of hip-hop and rap, as well as a lot of reggae but it’s not anything, really. I think that’s why people want to call it pop music. I don’t mind though because pop is a mash… I would call it provocative pop. Futuristic, maybe.
IC: What was the inspiration behind your song “Revolusion”?
E: It’s actually the first song that I ever recorded and I had the idea – I had written it in my head – and I came to the studio and created the melody. I wanted to make a song that had a musical chorus but was still naked and raw. It was important for me, [to have] my first session in America really show who I was, even if it wasn’t producers who found me interesting. That [“Revolusion”] was one of those ideas that we kept working on and found a really good place for. I felt that it was a reflection of the times… it felt like evolution; it felt really good. All of my songs are very relative – some days it means one thing and other days it means another.
IC: Who would you consider to be your favorite musicians?
E: I look back a lot. Last night I listened to Old Dirty Bastard and Foxy Brown. I listen to 90s music a lot, too. I enjoy music that brings me back to a memory. I’m very inspired by The Prodigy; when I heard their music is when I wanted to pursue music. I didn’t want to do music like The Spice Girls–I hated them. I love them now, but I hated them as a kid.
IC: How did you end up getting started in the music industry? I know at one point you were a waitress and wanted to pursue photography… so how did the transition into music come about?
E: The waitress has been a part of me for ten years. I was always working in restaurants. The music thing was about possibilities. I was always creative. I painted a lot and thought that I would end up doing illustration work in my life. I was also doing photography until my camera got stolen. I think the fact that I have big support – the people that signed me had a lot of ideas of where I would be today, even more than I had – gave me so much strength. That’s the only thing that was different from the other projects. The fact that I had a crew within the music industry suddenly made me realize that in all of my other creative endeavors, I was alone. But here [in the music industry] I had people backing me up. I couldn’t give up because I had them and I didn’t want to disappoint them. It took me a while to feel like it was actually me doing this. I’m really starting to feel just now that this is actually happening!
IC: You signed with Dr. Luke in L.A, right? Can you tell me about how you hooked up with him?
E: Yeah, I am signed with Dr. Luke. I don’t really know how it happened! I think that it was people who knew about artists within Sweden, like Icona Pop. Mutual producers, artist to artist — labels wanted to find opportunities to sign artists. I think that Dr. Luke has a really good crew; he has a lot of amazing girls working in his crew. They have been doing a lot of work to sign really great artists and I was just one of those fortunate people to be able to talk and meet with him. I have a very good vibe with him; it’s an honest vibe. We have a very good stream and it’s easy and natural to talk to each other. We knew that we would do a lot of work together.
IC: You’ve also been working with Diplo. How did you guys meet?
E: He was on Twitter talking about my project very early on, so we got in contact through Twitter. He was also playing my songs on Radio 1, so when I got here to America to do some other work, we scheduled to make some songs together. We’ve been working together back and forth over the year and he’s a really cool guy. He’s a good friend of Dr. Luke, also.
IC: I heard that you collaborated with Niki & the Dove?
E: We’re going to do some work but we haven’t yet. We’ll have some sessions later on this summer but we’re very big fans of each other’s work. They’re a big reason as to why I decided to start making music. We’re really supportive of each other and we’re good friends.
IC: Who would you consider your favorite musical artist of all time? Let’s say you had to choose one album to take on a trip, which would you take?
E: That’s hard! I would probably take some West African artist that I heard and liked and then start to get into their music. I wouldn’t bring an album that I’ve already listened to. I’ve never had any idols or anybody that I really like, honestly. I’ve been too obsessed with surviving myself. I think that the people who have idols and really look up to people — I just haven’t been like that. I love my sisters so much that it hurts and stuff like that, but I really just try to grow into myself. It doesn’t make me selfish but it makes me appreciative. I love everything from Neil Young to The Prodigy and Beastie Boys… I love everything. I can go to a concert and love it so much but will never go and buy the album or listen to them again. Things don’t stay with me; I have new things in my head every day. It’s hard because the world wants me to answer this and say these names but that’s not who I am; I’m not able to give answers like that. It’s a very hard question and the people who answer it are lying. No one has one favorite artist.
IC: I know that you grew up traveling around the world from a young age – do you find that influenced your sound and your work?
E: Yeah, I think it did a lot. I think lyrically it inspired me a lot. I think the whole traveling experience boosts your creative spirit because you have so much time alone. Throughout my traveling, I never wrote lyrics; I never had that time. I think getting away from your center and all of your friends–it’s easier to express yourself around new people that you meet. It’s a big part of being a human. We always send young people out on a journey to find out who they are, without having the identity that they’ve already created for themselves. Especially people who come from a hard background… if you know that it wouldn’t be healthy for you to live how your family has lived, then you need to get out. That’s why traveling was very important for me. Because I thought that I was really angry and tough, and then I realized I was very peaceful and calm when I started traveling.
IC: What are your current projects right now?
E: We’re still building a plan for the release of the album. There will be one more EP coming out One More, which will be a little bit more representative of what the album will be like. The EP that was just released, Look Like You Love It, is a reflection of my very punk and club sound. This next EP will represent what’s going on and will come with a commercial track that will hit the radio.
IC: What should we look out for in 2014?
E: The EP will come out this year and the album will come out in 2015.
IC: I know that you did some live performances in New York back in April. Do you have any tour plans coming up?
E: It would be nice to go to New York to do some shows. I have some really good friends in the city.
IC: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
E: I want to be a mother; I want to have a situation where I’m having a nurturing experience. I want to have a bee farm, maybe make some honey, produce and make music. I think that music will always be a part of my life and hopefully successfully. I hope in ten years’ time I don’t have the pressure to create so fast. I hope that I’ll be a mother and be closer to nature. I grew up in the city and I was always one of those kids that wanted to move out towards nature. I would love to live in Africa and do something nice for the world.
Watch our exclusive behind the scenes video with Elliphant!
Interview, photography and video by Indira Cesarine
Fashion Editor: Indira Cesarine
Hair: Anthony Joseph Hernandez
Makeup: Georgina Billington
Behind the Scenes footage: Marko Solvilj
Video Editor: Patricia Gloum
Fashion assistants: Mayra Perez, Martha Welnowska
Fashion – Intro image
Elliphant wears a Lie Sangbong green wool sleeveless jacket, Jiseung Lee black mesh top, Adidas sportsbra, and Black’d leggings.