INTERVIEW: ELKI releases debut EP 'Extended Play'
By Danielle Doporto
Australian independent singer-songwriter ELKI released her first single in 2016 and at the end of May released her debut EP, appropriately titled Extended Play. It is a beguiling mix of indie-pop, dance beats and heartfelt ballads, all with a touch of the classic artpop vibes of her hero Kate Bush. On the eve of her support slot for Thandi Phoenix’s Sydney concert on June 21, we caught up with ELKI to find out more about her career and music.
Hi ELKI! Congratulations on the release of Extended Play, how does it feel to have it out there in the world?
I’m very, very happy and kind of relieved that it’s out in the world. I’m funding everything myself and being an independent artist, everything takes a bit longer. But I’m really happy that it’s out there!
Were you trying to evoke a particular mood or energy in the people that listen to it?
That’s a very good question! Hopefully, it should be enjoyable, that’s the main thing. But also danceable and somewhere where you can be relaxed - if it’s on the beach or going for a bushwalk or just hanging out. The EP does have a different vibe per track, it was recorded over three or four years, so it is catching different moments at different times. Different songs probably have a different place in terms of mood.
Is there a particular track, lyric or melodic hook that you’re especially proud of?
Yeah, ‘Movie’ is probably the one that I’m most proud of.
Tell me about your stage name ELKI. Where did it come from?
I really like Elkie Brooks (English singer who first found fame in the 1970s) plus I really like the animal the elk. I thought it’d be really cool to just have a short, succinct name. It just felt right, to have a shorter version.
Did you grow up always determined to be a pop star?
Well I actually started music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, I did a classical degree. I’ve always written stuff, ever since I was tiny, I would muck around on the piano, I really like writing songs. I’ve just always done it I guess. In high school, I was always getting in trouble up at the back of music class, playing piano and writing jingles and stuff. I’ve also always recorded little bits here and there. I’ve got countless songs recorded half-finished things that I should probably finish!
At what stage did you decide you wanted to put your material out there for the world to hear?
I guess after I had done demo and demo, like crazy. I would do countless demos, I would record something thirty times, and I thought it would be a good idea to get into a studio and work with a producer just to help me finish everything off. So I sent a bunch of demos that I made to people I admired and I was stoked when they all got back to me! That was probably the thing that I made me think ‘I should really get all this recorded.’
You are investing your own time and money finding people to work with, hiring studios, printing CDs and so on, are you keen to stay as an independent artist or does working with a major label appeal to you?
Being independent is great because you can do what you want and you can do everything to your own timeline. But if you’re doing everything yourself, there is never an ‘end date.’ I like things to be done properly, but I do have a tendency to just go over and over things a million times. If you’re with a label, they would put a date on it and say ‘it’s coming out now, you have to get it done’, which would be good [for me]. Provided it’s the right fit, being with a label would be fab.
Can you tell me a bit about your writing process and sort of how music comes to you?
I’m kind of writing all the time. I feel like if I haven’t written something in a day, I haven’t achieved anything. But generally, it can often be inspired by watching a movie or reading a book or by other people’s stories that they’ve told me or friends going through stuff. In terms of the process, I’m a big believer in melody first because I think melody is the thing that everyone sings along to. I always start with melody and then do a couple of sketch lyric ideas, I’ll normally work on the lyrics over a period of time and then flesh out the chords underneath them. Then I’ll use Logic and mess around a little bit with some beats and some feels and some grooves.
Do your housemates love living with you or do they get sick of hearing you when you’re stuck on a verse?
I normally try to find time when they’re not home because I feel it’s weird working on ideas if people are around and can hear you going over things, over and over! Today, they are all out so I’m like, ‘Yes, I can finally record some stuff!’ I do a lot of writing in my car as well, because it’s actually a good way to get creativity happening because you’re already preoccupied with something - if you’re washing the dishes, having a shower, or driving.
You clearly love writing music, can you see yourself writing for other artists in the future?
Ideally, my long-term plan is to be someone like Sia. There’s so many amazing songwriters that have come out of this country and eventually write for other people. I wouldn’t mind just writing for other people, but I would like to keep ELKI going. I wouldn’t like to kill her off too soon!
You have just finished a mini-tour promoting the single ‘Nightmare’, and on 21 June you will be supporting Thandi Phoenix at her Sydney show. Do you like performing live on stages and at festivals or are you more comfortable in your bedroom recording?
Definitely the part I most enjoy is recording in my bedroom. Song writing is what I mostly like to focus on. But performing live in front of a crowd can be really rewarding. Probably the most fun thing is just meeting people afterwards and chatting to them and connecting with real live people as opposed to comments on social media. And also meeting other bands. It’s really fun when you’re in a line up with other cool bands and you can actually hang out with them and chat with them and hear other stories as well.
Something we talk to artists about a lot is gender equality. I’m wondering what your take is on issues of gender, sexism and the new wave of feminism we’re seeing?
Look, I guess [sexism] will always be there. And it’s tricky because everyone’s had different experiences and everyone has their own experience of going through certain things. It’s improving a lot, you guys are great at being very female focused and I know festivals have been much more female focused as well, which is great. Hopefully it continues the way it is, hopefully there’s not some crazy backlash where it kind of swings back even more extreme the other way.
Who do you love listening to? Where are you getting your inspiration from?
My all-time hero is Kate Bush. She’s just incredible. I’ve listened to her forever. Also, Stevie Wonder. I also really like Brazilian music, and I love Burt Bacharach. In terms of current pop people, I really like Sigrid, she’s amazing, and Aurora.
What’s next for ELKI?
I’ve just had a run of shows, I’ve got a show with Thandi Phoenix on June 21 and then the plan is to do a few more shows in the near future. I’m also working on a video clip as well for ‘Soho’, the second single from Extended Play.
ELKI is supporting Thandi Phoenix at the Lansdowne Hotel on Friday June 21. Buy tickets here now.