Elliphant

By
Photography PHIL POYNTER

Published September 24, 2015

Getting Elliphant on the phone is, well, a real beast. “At least once a day, I have some kind of technical issue. What happened now with the phone calls, that happens all the time,” she says apologetically in a lilting Swedish accent, calling from Austria after a week of connection hiccups and false starts. “I don’t want to sound like I’m some kind of alien, but it has been my life, this problem with technology. E-mails, phones, weird computer viruses that no one has ever seen before.”

Despite this perplexing “cloud” around her, as she dubs it, the 29-year-old singer-rapper (born as Ellinor Olovsdotter) can thank the internet for her fast ascent through the dance-pop ranks. Her pyretic, gender-flexing fusion of reggae, EDM, hip-hop, and dancehall first surfaced in 2012 with singles like the sultry “Down on Life,” earning scores of blog comparisons to M.I.A.; the self-titled EP that followed intrigued Charli XCX enough to invite her on tour. Elliphant’s American debut album, Living Life Golden, out this month, hews close to that form, leaning heavy on dancehall infatuation odes (“Love Me Badder”) and New Orleans-style bounce credos (“Club Now Skunk” with that scene’s queen, Big Freedia).

It’s a dizzying sound, and not the first many would associate with a Scandinavian-bred artist, but Elliphant says it suits her many influences. “There is a big reggae scene in Sweden,” she explains. An avid traveler who trekked extensively through Asia as a teenager—and began playing music on the road, jamming in drum circles—she says those experiences made her porous to new cultures. “For me, that was very important. It broke down the walls, the bubble you can create around yourself having always lived in the same place.”

Next, Elliphant concludes a full summer on the festival circuit, with sets at Reading and Leeds in England. After that, she treks through Europe, opening for Diplo‘s dancehall project Major Lazer—a connection that, not so shockingly, almost fell prey to her tech demons. “Diplo reached out on Twitter, and I didn’t even have my account open yet,” she recalls with a self-deprecating sigh. “A producer friend was like, ‘Hey, you need to reply to Diplo!’ I wouldn’t have known.”