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Elliphant

Dec 07/2014
WORDS Amanda Purdie PHOTOGRAPHY Neil Mota HAIR + MAKEUP Alexandre Deslauriers STYLING Marie Claude Guay

 

“I’m very chill,” says Ellinor Olovsdotter from her rented house in LA. “I’ve just been sitting here drinking coffee and smoking too many cigarettes and enjoying the beautiful weather.”

Olovsdotter, the Swedish-born artist better known as Elliphant, has good reason to chill. Since the 2012 release of the infectious “Tekkno Scene”, she’s been on a fast track to stardom. Her video for “Down on Life” fetched over two million YouTube views and attracted widespread praise – including from Katy Perry, who tweeted, “One of the most badass music videos I’ve seen in a long time.”

In 2013, she released her self-titled debut EP and signed to Kemosabe Records, the star-studded label with producer extraordinaire, Dr. Luke, at the helm. With the release of her first studio album, A Good Idea, as well as an EP in April 2014 and another EP six months later, it’s fair to say things have been more than a little hectic for Olovsdotter. “This year I haven’t even had time to think. It’s been crazy.”

Elliphant’s music is an unlikely blend of pop, grunge, hip-hop, and reggae, which says a lot about Olovsdotter, who’s determined not to be pigeonholed into a certain genre. “I can never really make up my mind. Music is still a new thing for me.”

And about that patois sound that comes through on tracks like “Music is Life” – it’s not a deliberate attempt to mimic the Jamaican dialect, although she does have an appreciation for it. “The thing with that island and the language that they create is people can make up their own words for their own crew, for their own family, and they do their own twist on English. That’s what they do. And that inspires me a lot.”

“One More”, the titular track from Olovsdotter’s latest EP release, features fellow Scandi pop rebel, MØ. A pared down departure from Elliphant’s characteristic brand of club-worthy, big beat tracks, it’s a nod to female friendship that perfectly captures the feeling of wishing the night could go on forever.

For Olovsdotter, MØ was an “obvious choice” for the track. The duo connected through Facebook a couple of years ago and have since become fast friends. “I don’t have too many music friends. She’s one of the few I’m close to who I knew I wanted to collaborate with.”

The accompanying music video, directed by Tim Erem, is exactly what it looks like – two girls getting wasted in the back of a cab, singing about sleazy bars and skipping out on work. But somewhere in between the whisky slugging, cigarette smoking, and pissing on the street, there’s a kind of tenderness, perhaps because it all looks so believable. According to Olovsdotter: “It was like a cool family project that had the right energy. I think that’s why it gets so much attention – because it comes from a very natural place.”

As a ballsy performer with an androgynous edge, Olovsdotter is a breath of fresh air in an industry saturated with strategically moulded female artists. “It’s a powerful time for women,” says Olovsdotter. “When I grew up I had Missy Elliott, and I had Aaliyah, I had Gwen Stefani – they were, for me, very powerful women. But I read about how they got fucked by their record labels and were in a very vulnerable situation. And I think now that’s changing – I hope so at least.”

Olovsdotter, who recently made the move to LA, says: “The American music scene is the ruler of commercial music in the world, so it’s important that people like Lorde and Charli XCX and even Iggy Azalea that are not American-made girls – are here.”

She describes her new home in the sun as somewhere well-suited to her love of the outdoors. “It’s a lifestyle I don’t really have yet but it’s my goal to have. I need to make time for that – going to the beach, surfing, climbing – even if I never had routines or structure in my life, ever.”

What drives Olovsdotter is the modest hope of someday having a farm where her kids can grow up surrounded by nature, and a genuine, deep-rooted desire to make the world a better place. “It’s the best feeling giving back. But it’s not easy. The world is not constructed so that it will be easy for humans to do something. But it’s important for my evolution.”

It’s been a “surreal” couple of years for Olovsdotter, whose foray into music happened rather serendipitously – the result of drunkenly grabbing the mic at a party in Goa and catching the attention of an Indian band. “If someone had said two years ago that I would be here, I would have just laughed in their face. I still worked as a waitress.”

For Olovsdotter, coming to terms with her quick rise to success can sometimes lead to moments of self-doubt. “Sometimes I feel like I got everything too easy, like I don’t deserve it or something, you know? I have dreams where I give birth to babies and it doesn’t hurt, and everybody just stands around and looks and I have to pretend that it hurts but it doesn’t.”

At the same time, getting to where she is today hasn’t been without sacrifice. “I left my world and I went into a new world, so it’s been very hard to keep my family and my other friends working outside of the music thing involved. That’s been a really weird feeling, that you suddenly have a new life.”

It’s only now that things are really starting to feel real. With her first full album in the works, she says: “I’m at a point right now for the first time where it’s like, ‘Whoa’ – people actually like my project and it’s really the time for me to focus.”

And focusing she is. The move to LA isn’t entirely motivated by nature and sunshine. According to Olovsdotter, “It’s because I know I’m going to get shit done here.” With plans to release an album in 2015, she’s hoping to develop as much in the studio as she has on stage over the last two years. “I just want to be more free like that in the studio.”

She’ll also be turning her attention to Save the Grey, her social project aimed at saving grey animals. The concept arose from Olovsdotter self-identifying as a ‘grey’ personality, and the realization that all of her favourite animals – like wolves, sharks and elephants – are also grey.

Talking to Olovsdotter, it’s clear she’s a woman on the cusp of something big – and you can’t help but root for this maverick with a big heart. “It’s never been my own love for music that inspires me. It’s the love that I get from people for my music. That’s who I am. I’m a sucker for love.”

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