Elderbrook talks Cola, Sleepwalking and touring Aus with The Wombats
Catch the GRAMMY-nominated London producer wrap up his Australian tour with headline shows in Sydney and Perth this weekend.
While you may not be familiar with his name, there's definitely a strong chance you've sung along to a lyric sung originally by Elderbrook. The London-based musician, real name Alexander Kotz, was the guest vocalist on Camelphat's stomping summer classic Cola – a single that still gets rinsed on the weekly in nightclubs a year post-release. Also, there's a reasonably strong chance you've heard his latest solo single Sleepwalking – another sun-stroked, percussion-led anthem that oozes with this instantly-replayable quality. Just take it from triple j, who have played it almost-religiously over the last few weeks.
The thing is, is that all of Elderbrook's music has an instantly-replayable quality to it. Whether it's the accessible and radio-friendly songwriting highlighted on singles like Sleepwalking or Talking, or the light-hearted and fun, often summery productions that groove underneath, every single one of Elderbrook's singles thus far (and those still to come, no doubt) have this catchy, earworming quality to it which won't let you go even after the 50th listen.
Currently in the country for a splash of Australian dates (including Splendour In The Grass and support slots for The Wombats – remaining dates at the end of this interview), we had a quick catch up with Elderbrook to talk about the success of Cola, his latest single Sleepwalking, and working with Empire Of The Sun's Nick Littlemore, plus heaps more.
First up, let’s chat Cola. It was one of the biggest dance records of the year and was nominated for a GRAMMY – amongst many other acclamations. Did the success of the single change anything in your approach to songwriting and production on a solo level?
Because Cola was a collaboration with Camelphat, the production on the song was much more in their world (dance and techno orientated). Although I too fit in somewhere in the electronic music spectrum, my style is very different from Camelphat. I think at first, everything that happened with Cola did make me rethink what kind of music I wanted to write and what kind of artist I wanted to be. I could have started writing music like Cola and I thought about it.
Ultimately, though, there's no point in making music you don’t love yourself, and I’m really proud of the music I’ve been writing recently and can’t wait to share it with you!
You come from an indie-rock background, which is definitely noticeable in your music, but there’s also those heavy electronic sounds too. How do you approach songwriting and trying to balance those two very different sounds?
Whenever I’m writing I tend not to have such a structured approach. For me, I’m always just messing around with sounds and ideas. Some completely electronic, sometimes vocals and sometimes live instruments. The balance of where those three aspects of my music end up is different every time and, usually, is a surprise for me as well!
Sleepwalking is your most recent single, and it’s noticeably heavy on the electronic side of things. How did the song come about?
I wrote the song a couple of months ago when I was in LA. I like to go out there a couple of times a year to write as its good to get away from home to write, and there are so many amazing writers and producers based there that I love working with. I had a few days in the studio with Nick Littlemore (known for being in Empire Of The Sun) which I remember I was super excited about cause I absolutely love Empire of The Sun. We came up with a load of ideas in those few days, but Sleepwalking was the best I think.
It started with just that tribalistic drums that you hear at the beginning of the song and kind of just developed from there. The vocals came next. The lyrics are about human influence on the earth and nature. Basically how we are ruining it and how it can’t last. The sleepwalking (“don’t wake me up”) aspect of the song is about how no one really wants to admit what is happening and how a lot of dealing with the problem is just ignoring it…
You mention that the song is “inspired by dark scenes of the world coming to an end.” Is there anything in particular which encouraged you to write about this, or did you feel like it would just be a good theme?
I’m not sure anything in particular really encouraged me to write about this. My lyrical style and process are often purely phonetical to begin with. When I’m writing over a beat, I tend to mumble different sounds until I get a phrase that I like that sounds good. I then build the lyrics around that phrase until a story or theme starts to form. It's so happened that the song ended up being about human influence on the world and the distortion of nature that we cause and its an important issue. Perhaps subconsciously the eerie sound of the initial tribal beat lead me down this path though!
The track was written with Empire Of The Sun’s Nick Littlemore, who has a heap of songwriting credits to his name both in and out of Empire Of The Sun. What was your experience writing with Nick like, and how did he influence the creation of the single?
Writing with Nick was great. Like I said before I have always been a massive fan of Empire of the Sun and just to work with him was an honour. I got to his studio in downtown Los Angeles which was in this huge open space loft, and we just sat and talked for a while before we even began writing. I think that always helps when working with new people as you get a feel for who they are and what the process is. Nick is a very deep and spiritual character, and I think that bit of him really influenced the lyrics as well.
You’re in Australia for the first time to support The Wombats and play Splendour In The Grass. Can you walk us through your live show, what it consists of, and what to expect?
When I play live, it's just me on stage. I play keys, the electric drums and a Launchpad through which I loop sounds, bring stuff in and out and all sorts. On top of this, I'm pretty much singing all of the time. A lot of the time people expect just a DJ set from me but it's all my own songs and very much live!
Your music has a lot of layers to it – what goes into working your music into a live setting and making it playable by yourself?
You’re right. When I make music a lot of the time it's by myself and on playing the drums, singing, sometimes playing instruments and all sorts. So when I rework the music into a live set, it does take some work. A lot of the time looping helps with playing everything at once! Sometimes I’ll change the production to a more minimal (and playable) format as well.
Is there anything you’re keen to check out while you’re in Australia, or anything you’re particularly looking forward to?
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing a beach or two. We don’t have them back home. Well… we do.. but they’re definitely not in the same league!
Australian tour aside, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I have a new single being released on the 10th of August called Capricorn that I'm super excited to share with you all. I'm constantly working on new music though building towards an album and other than that, touring! I'm doing another headline tour of the US in September which I'm excited about as I'm going to be going to a load of cities I’ve never been to before. Then straight after that, I'll be in the UK and Europe doing a couple of shows as well :)
Fri 27 Jul - Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
Sat 28 Jul - Amplifier, Perth
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