Behold! The premiere of ELLiS⋆D’s new single ‘Confidence’ is upon us. Self-recorded in between dates of his debut UK headline tour with producer Maximilian in Brighton’s secret DIY studio space known to its inhabitants only as ‘The Carwash’, swaggering rhythms flirt with heavy fuzz laden chorus hooks as ELLiS⋆D showcases a new side to his songwriting.
He was kind enough to give John Clay the lowdown on the track and thoughts on creativity and the music industry.
Hello ELLiS – D. Keen to discuss your ‘Confidence’ in regards the sounds and lyrics which make it the fantastic single that it is. The verses have quite an odd Captain Beefheart ramshackle vibe to them.. Where did the oddity of the rhythm come from and did you have to reign in a more unwieldy version in your initial writing session in order to maintain a balance?
ELLiS⋆D: I toyed around with the verse drum beat at first for a little while, trying out different rhythm patterns and felt that it would suit something a little more off-kilt, to which the instrumentation came quite naturally but it took me many rewrites of the lyrics and vocal melodies before I was happy with what came out. I’m a huge Beefheart fan so there’s definitely a nod to him in there, but rather than reigning in an unwieldy version I took what was initially something a lot straighter and wanted to bring it to a much stranger sounding place overall.
How does the rhythm reflect the song’s theme if at all? Care to share the logic behind the track’s subject matter?
ELLiS⋆D: The lyrical themes touch upon the duality of stage and real life persona’s and how the adrenaline of performance can breathe such swathes of self-belief into people that they can’t access in normal social situations, so I suppose you could interpret a reflection of that from the swaggering feel of the drums, but it wasn’t something that was in my thought process at the time of writing.
This particular subject is one you’ve obviously given a lot of thought to. Do you have any thoughts or concerns on the spiritual aspect of a performer’s societal function, especially in an art space that has long since become transfixed on commodifying its existence? Do you ever, as a musician, yearn for a time before the industry’s hyperactive state?
ELLiS⋆D: There are so many different ways you could approach those questions, but to answer the latter first, I would say no, particularly when it comes to yearning to be part of a previous era. Certainly there have been vast changes to the arts over the past decade or two, a lot of which are inherently detrimental to the idea of being an ‘artist’ in the sense of the word, but it’s so easy to look back on history (particularly the last half-century) with rose-tinted glasses on and convince yourself that everyone had it much easier.
A lot of this I believe is due to the fact that we now only focus upon the artists that were deemed ‘successful’ in their era, to whatever degree that may have been, and managed to create art with longevity into our era, particularly in the case of music. How many bands, for instance, that have been long forgotten now, would have loved the option to be able to record professionally at home like we can now without having to shell out for a recording studio, or be able to share creative output with people across the world without requiring a record label to create that audience for them? This isn’t to say social media and streaming have had a positive effect on the industry, only that it is a waste of one’s time and mental reserve to yearn to be part of something that has gone.
When it comes to concerns over a performer’s societal functionality, I would counter that by suggesting that all imaginative and creative expression has a purpose to serve, be it on a societal or individual level. Sometimes it can be hard to justify what you’re doing if it feels as though there are a million others travelling in the same boat and the destination is vague and ambiguous in itself. But I think it’s important to stress to oneself in these moments that it is expression, not purpose, that drives you to create.
Can you talk more about expression verses purpose in regards to creativity, and how have you reached your current conclusion?
ELLiS⋆D: I feel there’s definitely a divide between the two when it comes to being a musician in the 2020’s. Expression is from my experience everything that surrounds the idea of creating, writing and performance, pouring emotion and feeling into songs as a means of personal catharsis, whilst purpose stems from everything else that’s required of you in order to feel as though you’re devoting your life to being a creative – releasing, rehearsal, promotion etc. It’s different for everyone of course, and certainly aspects of each cross between the two (particularly in performance).
I suppose the way I’ve come to this conclusion comes partly through how I allow time for each side of things. I specifically set aside hours/days for the activity of writing to ensure I’m keeping myself satisfied creatively to a degree, whilst the other side feels strangely a lot less coordinated despite there being a lot more planning involved.
With all that in mind, what advice would you give to your younger self five years ago?
ELLiS⋆D: It’s a tricky one, because I’d tell myself to make sure I’m doing everything I can to promote myself as a musician and not to get complacent, but also to savour every moment I’m able to spend writing and performing and not spend time worrying about how things will pan out in the future. It’s easy to slip into comparing what you’ve achieved to others around you, which I’m sure I’m not alone in doing (or at least I hope not!). I’m always having to remind myself about this and that I want to be able to look back on this time and know that I enjoyed it to the full, rather than agonising over whether or not I got where I wanted to be.
Do you think the comparison issue is another clue as to how hyper commerce and industry has affected the artist’s mindset? There is so much emphasis placed on value being derived from sales, yes?
ELLiS⋆D: Yeah absolutely. I’m all for the idea of healthy competition in an artistic sense – if I go to see a new band and am blown away by them then I come away thinking ‘fuck I better get into the rehearsal room!’ – and this helps drive people on to keep making more and more incredible music that we see coming out all the time. But when it comes down to artists trying to make a living off of their music in this now hyper commercialised industry, as you say, then we can often see the ugly side of this competition rear its head, and you end up with a new generation of artists who believe that their value is derived from how many streams or likes they’re getting.
Well said. Thanks so much for giving us your time and thoughts on false confidence and indeed, your ruminations on the industry which often mutates it. May your music continue to flourish and find many a fan in ‘Confidence’.
‘Confidence’ is being released via Brighton indie label Crafting Room Recordings in conjunction with ELLiS⋆D’s own DIY label Change The F*cking Records!.
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