By Mike Bax
Elle King (the daughter of London King and comedian Rob Schneider) has recently released her debut album Love Stuff on RCA/Sony Music. Last week, she ended up in Toronto for a few days doing some press and a wonderful club show at the Drake Underground in Toronto. Love Stuff sounds like an album misplaced in time. It’s rife with material derivative of early gospel music, soul, country and bluegrass. It’s simultaneously retro and timeless, and it’s immediately addictive stuff.
This interview almost didn’t happen. I was running late, Elle was booked with back-to-back television, radio and phone interviews. I wound up cutting into our allotted time while stuck in commuter traffic. I got my car parked, whipped into my office and fired up the audio recorder at my desk just in time to get onto the phone with Elle, en route to another interview somewhere in Toronto.
What ended up happening was a nine minute long interview of somewhat rapid-fire questions, in a fashion. Time was of the essence and I had some things I wanted to find out. We got right down to it with little in the way of formalities.
Mike: How close are your demos compared to the final songs we hear on Love Stuff, Elle?
Elle: You know, I have to say they are all pretty darn close. Most of the songs that I worked with certain producers on, I co-wrote and then we would produce the songs pretty much right there in the studio. So, minus the songs that I wrote on my own without going to a studio to work on, they are all pretty close.
Mike: Your album, Love Stuff, from the outside looking in appears to be an assembly of songs that were recorded at different times. That’s accurate, yes?
Elle: Oh yeah. We worked for about three years on this album.
Mike: Ok, It wasn’t like you went into a studio and banged out twelve songs all in sequence then.
Elle: No. But I wasn’t looking to make that kind of a record.
Mike: Were you even looking to make a record? A lot of artists in this day and age don’t even look at a record as the way they’d get their music out to people anymore.
Elle: Well, it’s different because the times have definitely changed. People don’t really listen to a record as a cohesive front-to-back kind of thing now. So I wasn’t afraid to play all of the different types of music that I wanted to. This is my first record, I wanted to show what I like to do and the kind of music that I play, and I am really lucky that I am with a label that will let me do that.
Mike: I love that your album has such an old-school sound to it – gospel and soul and bluegrass.
Elle: Oh, cool.
Mike: Is that all stuff that you are genuinely into, or did you just decide to make music in that fashion because it suited your vocal sound?
Elle: That’s the kind of music that I like to play and that I listen to. I wasn’t trying to do anything retro or make it sound like it was old-school or anything. We just wanted to make the music that we wanted to make. I feel really proud of the album that I have.
Mike: Nice. I was checking out your new tattoo on Instagram this morning.
Elle: Oh yeah. I got another one, too. I’m just full of bad ideas. (laughs)
Mike: Was that something you intended to do once you got to Toronto? Get a tattoo on your neck?
Elle: Well, one of the owners reached out to me and said, “Hey, we love your music. We’d love to tattoo you when you come through.” And I had completely forgot when his text came through. It was great. I’d just finished work. I went right in and I got two tattoos. It was really, really fun. I basically grew up with a bunch of really famous tattoo artists, so I always feel super comfortable in tattoo shops. I always end up making really good friends out of that.
Mike: So you didn’t know Matt (Vanasse – Black Pearl, Toronto) in advance then?
Elle: No, no. I’d never met him in person before. I’d traded a few messages. I just walked in and saw a few ideas there that made me laugh and said, “Let’s do them both.” I’m going to take my bassist there today and he is going to get a tattoo there today, too.
Mike: Nice. Have you performed in Toronto before, or is tonight your live debut?
Elle: This is my first time singing and performing in Canada ever.
Mike: That’s awesome.
Elle: Yeah! And I’m having so much fun.
Mike: Are you performing with an entire band this evening, or are you doing something acoustic?
Elle: I sure am. We are a five piece, and we are going to get real rowdy!
Mike: Right on. What do you think is the most important thing that your listeners need to know about Elle King?
Elle: I don’t know. I don’t want to tell them anything. I think it’s up to them to think whatever they want. If they like me – amazing. If they don’t like me, I’d tell them not to lie to me.
Mike: I’m going to pander a little bit here. I believe there are two types of albums. Albums that grow on you and albums that immediately grab you. I think that Love Stuff is the latter. The first time that I heard Love Stuff, I loved everything about it. I like the diversity of material presented on it. And I don’t believe that Ex’s and Oh’s is the best song on the album, even though it’s servicing you well at the moment. I think it’s a precursor for some pretty awesome singles yet to come out.
Elle: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I never would have expected Ex’s and Oh’s to be the single that is being used, but it’s been a really cool thing to watch. People liking that song and the buying my album and then having people come up to me and telling me what their favourite song off the album is. I’ve been getting these crazy things from all over the world, six songs from the album are being used all over the world in TV and movies and it’s just been crazy. It’s just such a wild thing.
Mike: Nice. That sounds like it’s happening pretty organically. That’s people deciding what they want to like off of the album. That’s not that common in marketing music at the moment. So hats off.
Elle: It’s been great. I feel really grateful and lucky. There’s still the little girl inside of me that’s going, “This is so exciting. I can’t believe this is all happening.” It’s fun to watch it all unfold.
Mike: Do you have an idea of what the next single off Love Stuff is going to be?
Elle: No clue. We had some kind of plan, but Ex’s just won’t quit, you know? I think we are waiting for the summer. Technically its summer now, but it’s early yet. It’s cold here in Toronto today. It doesn’t feel like summer quite yet. I have no idea. I also don’t read my emails. So there probably is a plan, I just don’t know it yet.
Mike: Would you describe yourself as a creature of habit? Do you feel that you have a formulae that you adhere to when you’re on the road, or before performing a show?
Elle: It’s weird. I think it’s a bit of an oxymoron. I don’t even know what that word means (laughs). I have really weird and strange OCDs, weird habits that I HAVE to do, and I’ll twitch if I can’t do them. I’m a real weirdo. But then all the other parts of my life are with no habit, no structure, no nothing. So I don’t even know how I’m a real person. (laughs)
Mike: Would you say that you write lyrics to accompany your music, or do you write music to accompany your lyrics?
Elle: Oooh, I think I write music to accompany my lyrics.
Mike: So you keep a journal then? Are you like that?
Elle: Yeah. I constantly have a notebook with me. I write weird. I can ’feel’ when I have a song in me. It’s a strange thing. I don’t really write down diary entries. Sometimes I’ll write down a sentence or something like that. But I’ll sit down and play some kind of chord progression and then whatever it is that needs to come out just spills out. So I don’t know. It’s this crazy thing. It just kind of takes over me. The music just has to come out. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s fucking true.
Elle King did indeed play a sold out show in Toronto at the Drake Underground hours after this interview. She was totally amazing. She will be back next month playing at Echo Beach with the EDGE 102.1 Edgefest series on July 23rd with Milky Chance, X-Ambassadors and The Zolas.