Elysia Crampton, formerly known as “E+E,” is a producer living in the backwoods of Virginia, creating affecting music informed by truth. She sits in a tender spotlight as she transitions not only physically, but also musically away from a sample-based style to more performance-based compositions. As a transgender musician, the timing of her artistic rise has inundated her with visibility at a point when most artists might find comfort in privacy. Crampton’s work as E+E sits in the same camp of producers like Total Freedom and Lotic, paralleling the pace of online interactions—a place where soft R&B vocals, cumbia rhythms and the glittering sounds of monster truck engine revs flow into one another.
Her project is moving into more original territory now, but what’s not changing is the emotional root of Crampton’s production. The sincere appreciation she has for her life experiences are heard clearly in her compositions. Crampton’s forthcoming album, Shenandoah, translates Virginian history, and will be released in short volumes on Boomkat Editions. We caught up with Crampton to discuss trans artists in the media, being misgendered and the sound of her debut album.
Listen to “Guns&Synths,” Crampton’s Kelela remix dedicated to the late Lamia Beard, below.
“I grew up between Southern California and the state of Nuevo Leon in Mexico. I ended up moving to LA, and then Tennessee for a while, and now I live in Virginia. Location has always been important to me, especially growing up between Mexico and the States because it gave me this feeling of never settling down. I’ve always felt like an outsider, beginning with the gender I was born with, so I’ve always had this feeling of distance that expresses itself in how I’ve experienced landscape, especially now with music. I’m half-Bolivian, half-American, and I use a lot of Bolivian-genre influences, especially the tribal music from near Monterrey where I grew up in Mexico. Southern style, especially Southern rap and Southern style American music, has also been an influence. I’ve grown accustomed to the landscape in Virginia and I’ve become more of a hermit. Something about it here has made me comfortable with my solitude and seeing the difference between aloneness versus loneliness. It’s allowed me to develop these languages of music and of writing to develop myself as an artist.”
On sampling and the categorization of sound collage:
“Now that I no longer go by ‘E+E,’ I don’t sample anymore. I’ll use artificial drums or hits, but everything is totally performance and composition based. My previous sound collage style started when I was in a rehab years ago and I didn’t have much to work with, but I wanted to write music and realized I could put things together with other people’s work. It started out as these studies—they were just sketches where I could use like a crunk synth line, but then this Bolivian baroque string and an R&B vocal. I could put grander ideas together faster. It really helped me create my own genre space. I think that you get written about a certain way a few times and then it kind of sticks, but I think things are changing and we’re looking at artists as creatures of change. We’re not so petrified anymore, and there’s a little more space for growth, at least I like to think so.”
On media coverage of trans artists:
“I don’t think there’s much media coverage of trans artists. When they do, it’s problematic in the sense that media still looks at trans people in this drag queen kind of way where they’re put on as divas and it’s all about the objectivity of their corporeality and not necessarily the objectivity of their work. It’s like looking at a trans body still needs digestion. But of course any kind of digestion is good. Trans visibility creates the space for us to actually exist and not be killed. I can go to Walmart and know I’m not going to get shot down for showing up in the wrong outfit.”
On being misgendered in the media:
“Transitioning has been full of so many surprises. I’m so humbled and moved by people’s care and concern, and the level they go to facilitate, or accommodate or to try to understand. I transitioned in my coming up as an artist and so that’s weird because when you’re coming up, you want that visibility, but you also have people looking at you right in this moment where you’re transitioning. It’s a strange thing being looked at for music or art and then also transitioning in that light. But for any fear that could be associated with that, it’s been very positive for me. The amount of girls and trans folk that have reached out to me as fans and as trans brothers and sisters has been amazing, and I’m so grateful for the visibility. I’ve also realized the power of trans visibility and being very vocal about my experience of transitioning.”
On dedicating “Guns&Synths” to Lamia Beard:
“Lamia Beard was a young trans girl that was gunned down this year. She actually lived a few towns from where I’m living right now. I know Kelela through a few friends and I’ve always adored her voice, but I didn’t know that she was a fan of my work and actually listened to my music. My friends connected us and she sent me this acapella. I decided to remix this work because the lyrics are so extraordinary and they really resonate with me about my own experience transitioning and it made me think about this greater body and this higher object of transness, of transself, and I wanted to rewrite something from that perspective.”
“When I was a kid I used to play with these Cowboy and Indian figurines that I used to get at the swap meet in Mexico. There was one that looked like Jesus, and I reenacted the Golgotha, or the whole walking of the cross. I took all his clothes off and made him a robe that was clear, because these toys were really built and he had a little six-pack—it was the sexiest thing for me when I was like four years old.”
On making music from real experiences:
“I feel like a lot of kids now have this idea of being post-racial or post-identity, and they see something that’s cool, like an African moment or a cool, sexy Latin moment, and they want to emulate that. The feeling of wanting to perpetuate that is very natural, but these kids are making things that aren’t from a place of their own experience and it drags things out of context. There’s something you can feel in speaking and coming from experience. You know it when you hear it and see it—it’s a place of truth. When we do that, I feel it draws us to the things that we are entangled with genetically and spatially. I think especially with being brown bodied and coming from a place of Latinidad or indigeneity, it’s so important because our histories are constantly getting severed and rewritten and never even actualized in the first place.”
“It’s a work about Virginia and I did a lot of studying for it about American history. It falls along this perspective of being American as an outsider from this perspective of a brown body. It looks at brown in this ontological way as pure substance, as mineral, as material, as mud. I’m so excited. It’s the best work of my life and I’m so ready to share it with my fans and the people that have shown interest in my music.”