A chat with Elliphant about Prince, Deee-Lite, sexuality, and styling. Plus watch her new video for "Purple Light" and check out these exclusive behind the scenes photos.
Elliphant's video for "Purple Light" ft. Doja Cat via i-D. All photos by Alex Aristei.
A fuzzy haze blankets downtown Los Angeles on a chilly January night, but wrapped in a snuggly knee-length purple shearling, Elliphant looks cozy. As her model-messy hair is fluffed and already-perfect lip color is patted, only her marble-blue eyes are icy. When the cameras begin rolling, Elliphant springs into action, slinking in front of a steep stairwell hidden in a secret alley as magenta lasers glide up and down a brick wall. Only a couple hours earlier, director Ellis Bahl had asked her to learn the lyrics to her latest single, “Purple Light,” in time and a half. Despite the hyper-speed, she delivers the lines flawlessly. “She’s really good at that!” Bahl says, laughing. He stares at her in close-up on the monitor. With her paisley polyester bell-bottoms and platform sneakers, she recalls Deee-Lite’s lead diva, Lady Miss Kier. Her eyes, however, are a cross between two other 90s glamazons, Christy Turlington and Helena Christensen.
“She’s almost too beautiful,” Bahl says.
In the latest installment of Behind the Lens, we’re peeking behind the scenes on the set of Elliphant’s shoot for “Purple Light.” Bahl and Elliphant have never worked together before, but the match is well made. Elliphant is playful and up for anything, and Bahl is impressed with her fearlessness.
Before we caught up with Bahl, Noisey talked to Elliphant (real name Ellinor Olovsdotter) while she was in hair and makeup—a break from character, she says. “I’m not really here to be beautiful or figured out,” she says. “I’m here to be childish. It’s fun for me to be silly!”
Noisey: What was the concept for the video?
Elliphant: Ninety percent of Elliphant is always complicating everything. This was my last 10 percent. I just wanted to make it a performance video and play around with the purple—have purple lasers, purple fog, purple clothes—and be a little bit inspired by Prince. I wanted him to be a little bit annoyed by it if he saw it. I think that’s the best way to reach out to him, make him angry. It feels like the only thing he answers to! In a little way, I feel like I’m Prince today. I have this big fur, and I’m trying to not be super-sexy. I’m just trying to be playful. So the inspiration is purple, and pink. There’s not really a story on this video.
Prince responds to feminine energy—he’s always surrounding himself with women.
I saw him here, just a spontaneous pop up show, probably 200 people there. It was crazy, but it was huge seeing him. I didn’t know I was gonna react that way, seeing him—I was starstruck. He had this girl band opening for him that was amazing. A lot of his musicians were girls. So this video, the concept is purple—obviously, a song always MEANS something, and my inspiration for this song was I wrote it after having my first sexual experience with a younger boy. So for me, that was the purple light: “Walk me through the purple light.”
Younger? Didn’t I just read about how you have more of an attraction to older men?
If I wanna have sex with a girl, I have sex with a girl; if I wanna have sex with an older man, I have sex with an older man. It was more like, just the angle of my sexuality. I would never call myself gay, or bisexual, or heterosexual, or anything. I’m just human and I do whatever I want to do. I get along very well with older men. I have a good way of getting along with a little bit older men that no one else gets along with—and it’s not a sexual thing at all.
Did you chose your own wardrobe?
I wanted to have purple. Usually, Elliphant is a little bit strict when it comes to clothes. I don’t really do a lot of fashionable, that’s not really my strong side. I’m more like very comfortable pop star. But this time I wanted to do something fun. Prince and purple.
It’s pimped out.
My stylist did a great job! I think the director was like, “Oh really? We’re really going this far out?” I’m not really here to be beautiful or figured out. I’m here to be childish. It’s fun for me to be silly!
Do you remember Deee-Lite and Lady Miss Kier?
Are you kidding?! I was mentioning this shit today! They were asking, “Do you want any song on?” I was like, “I would love Deee-Lite on today.” My mom listened, I was growing up to this shit. Deee-Lite and Pink Flamingos: that’s what I grew up with. This is amazing in my project—most things are really not figured out, it happens on the roll. Some days it can go a little bit weird, but that’s just because there’s no box with this project. It’s very liquidy. Sometimes, you can feel that a little as a listener: “Oh, this was sloppy a little bit.” But I think that’s a small price to pay for that freedom of being able to change and be your own evolution.
A conversation with director Ellis Bahl who's directed videos for BANKS and Alt-J:
How did you guys find that crazy alleyway with the stairway to heaven in it?
Ellis: We were actually location scouting, going all around downtown LA and the arts district, looking for alleys and back walls of warehouses, and we couldn’t find anything we liked. Everything was feeling really flat, or it was places where everybody and his mother has shot at. So we took a break to get Guisados tacos, which are our favorites, and we parked in the parking lot and were like, “What is this!?” We walked around and found these incredible alleys, but they were all locked up so we were just peeking through gates. We just stumbled upon it.
Have you ever worked with Elliphant before?
No, I only met her three days before the shoot. The concept came through Ellie, in collaboration with i-D Magazine. They came to me with a rough outline, and then I expanded upon that. That happened about three weeks before the shoot.
When you had Ellie rap at double time, what was that about?
We have artists sing really fast so that we can slow the footage down nice and slow—everything is moving in slow-mo, but the lip sync matches. We weren’t doing twice as fast, we were doing 1.5 percent. Twice as fast is almost inhuman, it’s impossible for a human to achieve. She was so good at it. She really surprised me. Usually artists get it a couple days beforehand, but we didn’t have time so she pretty much got it an hour or two before we started shooting. I was really impressed. She nailed it.
What did you like about working with her?
I loved the energy and enthusiasm she brought. She was super playful and sexy, down to do whatever. Not shy or bashful. She put her all into every moment and whipped out some incredible dance moves that are both silly and sexy and unique, all at the same time. I love when there’s a connection between Ellie doing some sort of crazy move and the camera catching the light in the right way—when those things all come together, those shots tickle me. And on this project, we had quite a few of those.
How did you find the video complemented the song?
I think the song has a real nostalgic vibe to it, and also a moody atmospheric feeling. I wanted the visuals to represent that. I drew a lot of influence from 80s music videos, especially sorta cheesy pop videos. Prince was a big inspiration. The track is really fun and has an exuberant party energy to it—it made me think of late-night, drug-fueled binges. I wanted it to feel like that, take iconography from classic music video structure and infuse it with a modern, edgy feel.
Like the water-drenched alley! There was always an oil slick shot in 80s videos.
The cinematic wet down! [Robert] Zemeckis always did a wet-down. All the Back to the Future movies, there’s always a wet-down. The way that light looks at night, when everything is wet is so intrinsically cinematic and beautiful. In the 80s, that was really popular in movies, and because music videos were influenced by movies, it became really popular in videos.
How long have you been directing?
I think I got paid to direct something, freelance, for the first time about three years ago. I was shooting, editing, producing and directing at MTV for a couple years before that. And student films and fun films before that. And making movies with Legos when I was five years old.
I bet those were very creative.
Oh, those are my best work. According to my mom at least—my number one fan.
What made you decide to shoot music videos?
I started doing music videos because I was actually in a band in New York, and I had a bunch of friends who were musicians and so I started making videos for my friends’ bands. I also had friends in film school who were making music videos and see some moderate success—they were actually getting paid, so I was like, “Whoa! I can do this!” I want to make feature films, and this seemed like a really nice stepping stone to that.
What’s the coolest video you’ve seen recently?
My favorite one is Hiro Murai’s video for Childish Gambino’s “Sweatpants.” I think that’s one of the best videos in a long time. Very technically proficient, the craft is really well done. He’s flexing, but it’s not getting in the way of Gambino’s performance. It’s playful but it’s not in your face.
Rebecca Haithcoat is a writer based out in LA. Follow her on Twitter.