Sometimes it feels like Scandinavia has a giant industrial complex where gorgeous, flamboyant pop stars are constructed piece by piece, and then sent to the US to dominate our charts. Case in point is Elliphant (born Ellinor Olovsdotter), a fizzy Swedish singer and songwriter who looks like a model (she was one) and makes hard-to-pin-down jams that borrow from influences as varied as dubstep and reggae. Elliphant, who’s worked with producers like Diplo, Dr. Luke, and Skrillex, recently moved to LA to finally, after several very danceable singles, produce her first album, A Good Idea. We recently caught up with the free thinking pop star to discuss having a message, failing out school, and being drama-free in a drama-filled industry.
How’s LA treating you?
I heard some real horror stories about struggling in LA but I’ve been very lucky since I’ve been here. I’ve had a good stream of amazing music, great collaborations, and lots of love. It’s a cool lifestyle, very creative, I can live in a very nice environment, I can eat healthy food, and go to good studios. There’s always sunshine and I can smoke weed everywhere!
What I hated about LA was that you have to drive everywhere, and I’m a drinker so that was a problem.
Usually, you don’t spend much time too far away from where you live. I spend a lot of time in Silver Lake, West Hollywood, Echo Park, and sometimes I go downtown. It’s really cheap with an UberX. A couple of rides a day won’t break you. I’ve been kind of broke at the moment but I can still do it. I’ve just changed the way I look at it. It’s a really work intensive place but you can take an hour in the car and go to the beach or the mountains and have really cool nature adventures. It’s just a different lifestyle than in Berlin or New York or anywhere. People don’t come here to party or work at a bar, they come to “make it.”
You’ve had big collaborations with the likes of Diplo and Skrillex. If you could choose anyone to work with, who would it be?
That question is so hard! I have a couple of dream collaborations up for discussion. There’s this old school techno trans band called Deep Forest. They were super active in the ’90s, they did lots of albums with South American, Asian and African influences. They reached out to me, which gives me a delusional happy feeling. Not only do I love them, but it proves to me that I’m sending the right signal. Even though I come from Sweden, I’m still accepted and people still hear my soul. Collaborations like that surprise me and make me so proud. Massive Attack would be amazing to work with, too. I really want to go back in time!
You’ve said you want to be a pop star with a message. What do you want people to learn from your music?
Everything. I’ll spit my truth. As you become bigger, you need to put an example out there of what you stand for and what lifestyle you believe in. I’m going to really stand for being a very confused, ambivalent, ADHD personality; someone who doesn’t take any shit from anybody. It’s going to take most of my power and control to make sure I’m not polishing the result that I put out there. I must continue to keep it a bit dirty, so I represent humans in an honest light.
You had a hard time in school and said you felt that branded you as a “bad person.” I had a similar experience, I struggled and thought I was a failure because of it. I would have loved to have a pop star tell a similar story and reassure me that I could still do whatever I want. What do you want to say to a girl who’s reading this and going through school feeling really insecure about her abilities and future?
Don’t forget you’re just an animal on a rock floating through space. Humans don’t know where we’ve come from and we need to remember that. Everything else is bullshit. School’s supposed to be a tool that helps us through life but we’ve forgotten that it might not work for people who don’t have that kind of mindset. Some people are very comfortable having structure and being told what to do every day, which is why we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. But there’s a need for change because humans are changing. If you put an iceberg in the forest, it melts. If you put a human who wants a certain condition in a different position, that person’s soul can die. This generation is one of the most amazing; historically, the most free. There’s never been a woman so free on earth as she is today. There have never been so many Cleopatra’s on the planet. I would say that we’re in an amazing time, don’t forget. Don’t look in books so much that you forget to look in space.
Lately there’s lots of drama surrounding mainstream artists stealing ideas from underground artists. For example, Venus X accused Rihanna of stealing “GhettoGoth.” Do you think at some point an idea belongs to everyone?
If you want to do what you want in life, whatever it is, you really have to stop listening to drama. You need to take a step away and understand that you are a bottomless well of ideas. There’s nothing physical about your spirit. It’s huge, there’s everything there. People get really possessive about their ideas and associate them with their economical problems and “I did this and you did that.” I’ve never seen a happy person in the music industry with that mindset, even if they do amazing things, there’s an energy around them which isn’t healthy. If someone would steal my ideas I couldn’t care less. I get inspiration constantly from others, that’s what humans do, back and forth.
What’s one thing you think we should all do to help the environment?
One thing that could really change the environment and our way of looking at nature would be to take away the gravestone industry and begin planting trees for the dead. When someone dies you plant them with a new tree. So you have these forests of growing trees with your people buried under them. A person’s body would help the tree grow and physically be in the tree forever. Imagine how many people die everyday. If that would be law, to plant trees for our loved ones, instead of having gravestones, it would change the world. And we’d all look at the trees as a part of us. It would not only get rid of a bad industry but help us appreciate nature. Most people forget that we’re a part of it.
Photo: Elliphant wears TOTHEM.