"Feminism Can Have Negative Effects Sometimes" - We Talk Activism and Pressure With Pop's Next Heroine

The world needs Elliphant - come and listen to her new song with MØ.

|
Sep 19 2014, 9:00am
The pop world needs Elliphant. Just an hour with the LA-residing, Swedish-born singer and MC sparks a mad urge to get shit done; real life-affirming, altruistic shit, and then go out and get really wasted. Earlier this year, long-time supporter, Diplo put out her riotous Look Like You Love It EP on his Mad Decent label, featuring collaborations with the dance party over-lord himself, ragga socca don Bunji Garlin, and Skrillex aka Ellinor’s - not quite so N - NBF; which gives you a fair picture of the musical genres that get Ellinor Olovsdotter all excitable. It was falling in love with dancehall and reggae while travelling that inspired the Elliphant project in the first place, so while she might have adopted a distinctly non-Swedish vocal delivery style, it’s been a constant in her artistic identity since her very first bangers. "Tekkno Scene" and “Cian’t Hear It” jumped out of the internet in 2012, and eventually led to her to Jamaica to work with reggae artist Ras Fraser Junior for her “Music Is Life” single.

On Elliphant’s next release, the One More EP, out this October, the collaborators stay closer to home as she brings in MØ, an equally irrepressible Scandinavian, for the lead single “One More”, which is the prettiest ode to getting too drunk with your best mate we’ve ever heard. The rest of the EP also shies away from the rave, but under its relatively calm sonic exterior, the subject matter is more forceful than ever. It’s also Elliphant’s first release on Kemosabe, the domain of mega-hit maker Dr. Luke, responsible for launching the careers of Britney, Katy Perry and, um, Ke$ha. Which means all this could be leading to new, amazing things for pop, or new, quite terrifying things for Elliphant. But, thankfully she doesn’t have it in her to ever be anything other than her damn, fine self as we found out.

Noisey: How did you get MØ to feature on “One More”?
Ever since I met MØ I’ve always wanted us to do something together. We share a lot of fans, and we really like each other. Then I went into a session with Joel Little [Lorde producer] in L.A. He’s a real cool guy, and it was the first song we did, and it felt so right. It’s about when you want your girlfriend to stay for one more drink, like, “I can pay, just stay, I have money please.” So it was the perfect song to bring her in on. I already had an idea for the video, my reference was this Girls’ video where it’s just in a car, but our video is a bit more destructive. It’s me and MØ in a cab in London, getting really fucking wasted.

Tell us a bit more about Doja Cat who features on “Purple Light”?
She’s a real fucking cool girl who sings, raps, is super cute and is also signed to Kemosabe. I hear her everywhere when I’m out clubbing around the world. She’s a dope artist, super airy and spiritual. I really want to support her.

It was cool to see a Save The Grey (Elliphant's conceptual activism project) song made it on to this EP.
Yeah, and it’s good to release it now as I’m launching a collaboration with [Swedish fashion brand] House of Dagmar for their spring collection. I’m working on so many different ideas for STG. I’m working towards Google doing a grey week, on great headphones with another label, and on skateboards with another company. Anyone that wants to be a part of STG can be. It’s not going to end with this song. No one can buy the concept. It’s something for everybody to be inspired by.


How did the whole project get started?
When I started talking about STG it was a philosophy about how much creativity is made in the space between choices, in the grey zones, and how important that is and how much society pushes it away. It’s made very clear that at an early age you should put yourself in some kind of box, and it makes people really nervous when you don’t want to choose. That’s what I want to represent as an artist. So, I was philosophising about this grey, open space and realised that the animals I care about are grey too, so it just came together in this simple expression. As far as collecting money purposes for now though it’s about animals. But it’s also the only war I’m taking on for humans, the fact that it’s okay to be different. I’m totally against anti-depressants and ritalin, and all the drugs they feed me and my people (Ellinor has been diagnosed with ADHD) just because they decided something is wrong with us. I realised if we’d have done this 300 years ago we would have killed all these creative minds, all the grey zone people, and it would have eliminated so much creativity and art.

I was reading up about Dr.Luke’s career as a star-maker, and wondered whether you were worried about having to relinquish any creative freedom to work with someone like that?
I think one of the reasons that I felt so safe with Luke, is that he instantly picked up on my personal glow, and he’d never want to kill that. He’s very spiritual in a way, and I think he’s exploring other sides of himself, as he's proved himself in the pop world. I think taking me under his wing is a good example of that. Obviously he will try to connect me with people, and he wants Elliphant to grow as big as possible, but he won’t distract me. In fact he keeps me on my path. I’ve said yes to things before, and he’s stopped the whole project, like “Elli, this is not smart. It’s not you.” And I’ve been very thankful for that. I don’t have pretentious feelings about music. I just want to make it and get it out there. So it’s good to have someone with power who cares about my personality looking out for me.

When your record comes out next year you could end up on this huge platform, are you at all worried about the pressures that level of attention can bring?
It’s been this slow process so I think we’re ready for it. And we’ve been lucky as the blogs, media, and all these cool fucking people have been cuddling this project for so long, so there’s a very stable ground beneath us. I’m writing everything and it's all based on ideas that I have. This is not an ego trip. I’m never going to be that person that buys a big car and a big house in Hollywood. I do have one dream for my family as they have many problems, so I need to get a place for us, but that will be like a farm in the hills in Portugal or something. A nature-grounded experience. The spirit of giving is the most euphoric experience you can have. And there’s so many people in power in the pop world that have forgotten about all that. I look at these people like Jay Z and Beyonce, and I’m ashamed. What are they doing buying golden baby toys for Kanye West? I think the biggest luxury you can have as a human being is to help. Some people sacrifice their whole lives for it, as they don’t have this sort of chance. But I want to get out there, and try to get into the pop people’s minds a little bit. And if the money comes in, that’s when the fun begins. That’s when I can start doing interesting projects. It can sound like a PR trick, but when people meet me they feel it’s true. So, the more people that meet me, like you, the more good vibes that come into this project, and the more good vibes that go out. This is my mission.

Bravo. We’re in. Have you finished your first global album?
No. I was supposed to make an album a year ago, and instead we did one EP, and now the One More EP, so it’s like, my album is pouring out into EPs. Also, I need to find a balance. It’s been a year of stepping it down a little bit, and getting into the singing thing, like on, “Never Been In Love”. So I’ve got those kinds of tracks, but I really want to get down with some dance shit. I need some more hardcore songs. I’m going to work more with Dave Sitek, he has half my album, and me and Sonny are going to work some more. I have two and a half months to make it perfect.



At Way Out West, in Sweden this summer, your dancers on stage were in the wool costumes from the “Revolusion” video. What were those body suits inspired by?
They were inspired by Pussy Riot, and an amazing photographer called Pieter Hugo, who did this Nollywood exhibition. He had this new one where he’d covered big weapons in coloured, clay pearls, and so the idea was to do stitching around weapons. It’s exactly what you feel when you see it. It’s very provocative.

When I was in Sweden I noticed there was a massive, varied underground party scene.
Yeah, that’s how I started with music when I was 15 or 16 years old. When ecstasy was still legal. But now it’s different. So black. So Acne. So hipster techno world. When I was seriously in that world it was more like glitter and green hair. But the music is similar. It’s just like, look cool, and be high as fuck, but don’t look like you’re high. I’m really proud of those parties though, and they’re where I get most of my inspiration about humans from.

I was also really impressed with how almost everyone is so engaged in politics, and also outright feminist.
It’s super feminist. Did you see all the daddies and babies? We’re so used to it in Sweden. But the word can have negative effects sometimes, as it has been used too aggressively. There are a couple of more straight politicians saying they’re not feminist, but they are feminist in their policies. They don’t want to use the word, as they think some people think it’s too hippy when they hear it. But there’s no-one in Sweden who doesn’t have equality in their politics.

Even the really right-wing parties like the Sweden Democrats?
Yeah, the racist people too, they just don’t want to call themselves feminists. It’s hard to talk about it. I mean, with the racist thing, when I was in Jamaica: in Trench Town, in Tivoli Gardens, I really tried to respect the people there as much as I could. But, you know, I’m still a white girl, with a big production team, going around in a cat suit in Trench Town. People gonna hate on this girl obviously. I remember on the last day of recording was when the women came out, the women weren't really involved before just the kids and the men, but they came out and stood on the side and were talking shit, so they wanted me to hear it. And for a little while I didn’t know how to deal with it as they were being super aggressive, but I decided to take a big breath and just go up to them and talk to them about why I was there, my collaboration with Ras, and my ideas for the future and what I want to give them back, and it took them 5 seconds to love me, and represent my shit. It’s only about communication. I think the big thing with the racism thing in Sweden is for the government to take responsibility for starting communication in the areas they govern. But instead of working on it, the focus goes totally the other way. That’s why I’m so tired of this whole thing. It’s so stupid. All people want to love and be friends. That’s why I don’t believe in the concept of society. It was supposed to care and take action, but it doesn’t work. They feed people pills and put them in lines, and you speak with an answer machine. It’s an experiment that has failed.

Feels a bit like that here too. We have massive youth under-employment, insane living costs, too much attention on parties like UKIP, and many more issues besides, but at least in Sweden young people seemed to be involved in discussion rather than languishing between confusion and apathy.
Yeah, my little sister is making these [Elliphant shows her “FUCK SD” wristband]. She’s running around collecting money, and building a Facebook page. She’s 24 and she’s so dedicated. It's nice we still have a youth that cares a lot.

Elliphant joins Charli XCX on tour in the USA this autumn.

Follow Suze on Twitter: @suzeolbrich