Swedish singer-songwriter Elliphant has had quite a year, releasing new music for the first time in four years and giving birth to her first child all during a global pandemic. Her new singles “Uterus” and “Had Enough” embrace a new toned-down pop sound and style. A large departure from the loud, high energy songs she made a name with through her successful collaborations with the likes of Diplo, Tove Lo and Skrillex. With two new songs out and more new music on the horizon, Elliphant spoke with mxdwn to discuss motherhood, her love of the “farmer chic” aesthetic and what to expect from her next album.
mxdwn: “Uterus” marked your first release in four years, what was the return to music like for you?
Elliphant: It’s crazy that it’s been four years. It doesn’t feel like that at all for me because I’ve constantly been working on music. I did a couple of collaboration releases, I did a song for the Spider-Man movie, there’s been a little bit here and there. But I was so happy releasing “Uterus.” I’m so fucking happy with that song and the video, I think it’s probably the best work I’ve ever done. And it’s not for everybody. And I know that. I know some people were like, what? But that’s a factor. What I’m here for is to grow, to challenge myself and the listener. I don’t feel like constantly being what people expect. I wrote that song maybe two to three years back and it’s about me and my relationship with my mother. I was just really destructive at the moment and I was not feeling so good about anything. So it’s kind of a deep track for me. And it all turns into another life now, I have my own child, she actually had the umbilical cord wrapped one time around her neck. So, she was also a little suicidal being born. People were saying maybe it’s not the best track to come back with but I really wanted it to be the first one. I wanted to put out something genuine. I don’t have a massive following but I have a very loyal fan base with some real people that I actually have real conversations with and I wanted to put them right into where I was at the moment. The “Had Enough” video was filmed a year back but “Uterus” was just a couple of months ago. I just wanted to bring them into what’s happening right now in my life. I just wanted to do something super honest.
mxdwn: And you recorded “Uterus” in one take, right?
Elliphant: It was basically one take. We all played everything at the same time and just like, sweat. It was a heatwave in LA and it was there in Studio City in a garish, a really dusty old school type of studio and we just recorded it without headphones just like that. It’s the only song on my upcoming album that is straight-up off the demo. So all the other songs are re-recorded and reworked from the demo. This one is just straight from the demo without any work just how it was.
mxdwn: Your two new songs “Uterus” and “Had Enough” have a very different sound from your previous reggae and EDM fusion, what brought about this change in sound?
Elliphant: I have, through the years, released songs like “Where Is Home,” “Bloody Christmas” and “One More” which are not too far away from the “Had Enough” track. I blew up because of this screaming music, like people thought it was some kind of hysteria thing going on. But that wasn’t really my intention. That was just the breaking point of me blooming into the music industry and I was, before that, a poet basically. I like to write stuff and I just like to scream them out. And from traveling all over the world like I did since I was 16/17 years old, I had learned one type of English that I reused for my performance and that was that. But I never really wanted to be in a pocket like that. I felt like that was one of the reasons why I needed to stop everything for a moment because I didn’t want to just be the collaboration. I have so much love for Diplo and Skrillex and all these boys but sometimes the girls end up really in the far back. A collaboration is like Diplo featuring DJ Snake featuring fucking this guy and in the end, it’s featuring Elliphant. I didn’t want to be that. I grew up with all types of music around me. My mother was a total music junkie. Listened to everything from Frank Zappa to Frank Sinatra. So I just always wanted to be an artist that represents that diversity. And I also felt that I had grown up. I want to make music that I feel cool about standing on stage and doing. And I knew it was time for me to start a family. I knew it was time for me to start living for someone else and for myself, and I knew that lifestyle that came with that type of performance couldn’t transfer into this new life. It’s just basically a reflection of my own growing.
mxdwn : Also, your visuals changed a lot. Both the “Had Enough” and “Uterus” videos were shot in and heavily feature the Swedish countryside, what does it mean to you to showcase Sweden so prominently?
Elliphant: I’ve been in Sweden, I bought a little house like a really rustic smoked shithouse just outside of Stockholm. It’s nothing in the world but my heart is there. It’s that real old school late 1700s house and I’m just obsessed with it. Coming back to Sweden after so many years, I feel so much love for this countryside and the nature over here. Also, I just felt that I basically wanted to create—like no one has made the farmer look cool. My first intention was that I wanted to be farmer chic, I wanted to be heavy-rain plastic-boots and working with the soil. Like a real farmer but still look cool. I wanted to make that street…I want to work with the milk farmer, at the moment I’m over the city scene. Everybody does it, I’ve done it. I’m over it. I want to make nature cool and the people that work with nature.
mxdwn: How has motherhood influenced your new music?
Elliphant: The biggest influence is that basically I never studied music or had this path, this beautiful dream about becoming a musician or a pop star or anything. I basically just fell into it. And one of my secret weapons or whatever that people were interested in was my lifestyle and my lifestyle was wild and very independent and very reckless in many ways. I never really put any boundaries on myself and I just drank whenever I wanted, smoked whatever and whenever I wanted and I smoked a lot of cigarettes and I was just decadent and in your face. That was a big part of Elliphant, so one of the biggest thoughts that is in my head right now is this change in Elliphant because obviously now it’s a different life. I had a totally sober life for 10 months now. I am a mother, I have responsibilities for the first time for another human being and I need to stay healthy and I need to be on point. So, I feel like the biggest thing, that challenge or whatever that is going on in my head is: How can I continue doing Elliphant and morph this punk rock crazy drinking crazy-girl into [something that can] still be interesting? Like what questions can I awaken and what can I talk about now when I can’t constantly talk about being shit faced? For me, that’s what swims around in my head sometimes now, it’s what I think about. Because I am soon going back into the studio and soon gonna write a new album and I’m like what am I gonna fucking write about now? I’m not gonna sit or write about my baby or my happy life. You know, I [have] always been miserable. I think most great art comes out of some touch of misery. If you’re too happy, the art at least is not interesting to me. Art needs to be crying and I just I’m just a little bit too happy right now. I’m a little worried about what I am gonna write about now when I’m so content. I’ve never been content before. That’s basically what I’m thinking about a lot now and also, obviously, the situation in the world right now is kind of a lockdown. So in one way, I’m lucky or whatever because I have a baby in a time when there is no touring anyway and I can, with a good conscience, just focus on her for a while.
mxdwn: Has the coronavirus pandemic affected your career these past few months?
Elliphant: No, I haven’t been in the studio since I got pregnant because it’s been basically a pandemic since I got pregnant almost. So I haven’t risked my pregnancy. My boyfriend, he’s really hard on that. So I haven’t really spent any time with musicians. I’ve been doing some research because I’m actually back in Sweden for the first time in my career. For six years I’ve been over in Los Angeles working. So this is the first time since I started Elliphant where I’m going to be back here recording again. So I’ve been doing some research on cool studios to work in and cool musicians to do some work with in the future.
mxdwn: In the past, you’ve collaborated with some really big names. You mentioned Diplo and there’s also Charlie XCX and Tove Lo. Do you have any upcoming collaborations in the works?
Elliphant: I’m always up for doing this. All these people I consider friends at this point. Especially Tove Lo, my first ever performance was her and me on the same stage. She’s really someone I’ve had by my side through the whole thing. I do look at her as a friend and I would love to do something, I would love to work with her. Diplo, I’m always grateful to and I’m always up for doing something if he wants. Like, I send him stuff all the time and he’s like “nah, nah” but maybe one day he’ll be like “yeah.”
mxdwn: You were featured on Tove Lo’s song “Bitches” along with Charli XCX, Icona Pop and Alma, which mxdwn actually named one of the top songs of 2018. How was your experience working on that song?
Elliphant: It’s funny that you mention that, I was actually shit faced showing up to that fucking video shoot. I mean I was just happy they asked me, I wrote a little kind of rap thing. I didn’t know what she wanted from me, she never really said she just said ‘do something’ and I wrote something and I feel like it was just really funny to be a part of. I just had a really good time. I had some funny clothes on and I threw some fruit around. It was fun. It was a good day. I wasn’t there both days because I had some really important shit to do the next day, but it was really nice. It’s always nice to hang out with these girls.
mxdwn: Your single “Had Enough” has a lot to do with self-reflection and evolution, where has this recent evolution led you to with your music?
Elliphant: Yeah, I mean it’s just made of wood. You know? It’s something I carved out of wood. I wanted it to be some type of goodbye. It’s a little bit emotional. It’s like a goodbye to something, like turning a page, the next chapter. But I am also a very ambivalent, destructive person. I can’t really make up my mind about anything. So I’m actually never really gonna change. I will always make a little crazy song here and there. But I feel like this is a place where I can grow and where my fans can grow and where I can see myself. It’s quality. I can see myself singing these songs when I’m 50, 60, 70 years old on stage. It gonna be hard, but if people want to listen to Elliphant screaming “Only Getting Younger” on stage when I’m 70, I will do that. But I don’t know if the performance will be as good as the “Uterus” track. But it’s also a challenge because my whole art history I’ve been touring with only a DJ and I’ve just been alone on stage just taking over the stage with a lot of energy, jumping around with a microphone, just screaming. So it’s going to be a big challenge to work together with a band and for the first time ever in my life sing with real instruments and have that collaboration on stage. It was time for me to not be all alone all the time. It was an ego death for me, it doesn’t have to be all about me. Now it’s about my daughter, now it’s about respecting the other musicians on stage. Now I can’t just sing the wrong verse four times and just laugh about it and tell my DJ to rewind. I need to be on point and do my work. It was time to grow up I felt. But I mean, it could also be all bullshit what I’m saying right now.