Interview: Elohim on redefining an image, her own spirituality, and connecting with fans as an anonymous musician
You’ll never hear Elohim’s speaking voice. Where other musicians might use their actual voice to speak on record or in interviews, Elohim uses a text-to-voice system. Just listen to the last few seconds of the much-hyped, and rightfully so, “Sensations” from her debut EP, Elohim, released this summer.
You’ll never see what Elohim actually looks like, either. It’s difficult if not impossible to find a photo of her online in which her face isn’t obfuscated by tousles of black hair or what looks to be a lion’s mask. And she likes it that way.
Where other musicians might use a meticulously constructed image to promote their music, Elohim lets her music do the talking. There’s something so magnetizing by the way she forces her fans to get to know her through her music, not her looks, that make the meaning of songs like “Bridge and The Wall” or “Xanax” peel back like the layers of an onion on repeated listen.
We caught up with Elohim via email between sets supporting EDEN on the Futurebound Tour, which pulls into a sold-out Sinclair in Cambridge this Tuesday (October 11). She answered our questions about the mystique of her image, her greatest challenge as a musician and as a human being, and randomly stumbling upon a Sigur Ros concert in Minneapolis.
Cory Lamz: Hi Elohim — I love your music because it’s so complex. There’s this deep theme of tension on your debut that arises from juxtapositions; tension between feeling numb and feeling everything (“Sensations”), socializing versus social anxiety (“She Talks Too Much”), and the pain that comes with heartbreak and the sense of starting anew (“Guts”). Your debut is up there with my favorites because you are able to explore so many emotions simultaneously. That’s why it’s so great to get the opportunity to pick your brain via email. Your songs are rich with meaning for me. You’ve mentioned before that being a woman in music is important. What does it mean to be a woman in music for you?
Elohim: First of all thank you very much for such kind and wonderful words. I truly appreciate it. I believe there is a sensuality and spirituality that is only inherent in women, and that in itself is incredibly special. Woman are strong, and I am happy to be able to express that through music.
And as a woman whose music is very purposefully disembodied from her image — or, rather, lack thereof?
Well, I guess it really all depends on how you define image. I couldn’t feel more physically and spiritually intact with this project. I think the disembodiment is an illusion created by my anonymity. It’s pretty standard to have an open door into the lives of musicians given the culture of social media, I miss the fantasy created by artists like Prince and David Bowie. Like them, I embody Elohim, and Elohim has become my identity.
And what does it mean as a woman whose performing name is a biblical reference to god?
I love that the word Elohim feels strong and empowering. Even phonetically, it sounds and feels like strength. I am constantly on the quest to find independence, positivity, and strength within. At the end of the day you have yourself and only yourself, and we need to be ok with that. We need to love ourselves and the people around us. We all have this inner light within, and I think that is godly.
Are you spiritual in any way? Religious?
I definitely lean heavier on the spiritual side. If I had to choose a religion, I would choose love as my religion. That’s the type of environment I was raised in and I hope to always be surrounded by. No matter the religion, I believe peace, love and equality should always be at the core.
What is your greatest challenge as a songwriter/producer? As a human?
Myself. I can truly be my best friend and my own worst enemy. Self-doubt is my greatest challenge.
You’ve dubbed your music “experiential alternative.” Who do you consider to be your peers in music? Your inspirations?
I absolutely love Radiohead. Thom Yorke is a mental genius. Bjork is another artist that blows my mind. These types of artists resonate with me. I love how authentic their art feels. They don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. They just make what they feel. They can’t help it! Animal Collective is another favorite.
I saw Sigur Ros last night in Minneapolis. I walked off stage after having an incredible show, walked two blocks down the street, and ended up front row at their concert. I couldn’t stop smiling. The entire show felt completely euphoric. Just watching the singer’s face I could feel he was so completely submerged in the music. That’s the only type of artist I want to watch. It’s so inspiring. I instantly wanted to get back on stage and perform again.
King Krule is really dope I also love a lot of hip hop, jazz, classical, blues. Anything that makes me feel something, anything that feels completely authentic. I vibe with weird and interesting.
Your songs are so grounded in the human experience — anxiety, physical touch, falling in love. Without being grounded in an image, there’s a real sense of ethereal emotion. On the tour, however, musicians are almost forced to present an image as they perform. How can fans expect you to tow this line when you perform live?
The live show is an experience. It is an open invitation to my perception of life. I can be the most real version of Elohim when I am performing. That’s when anything can happen. Risks are taken. It’s a one of a kind experience every night.
“Hallucinating” [Elohim’s latest single] marks an evolution in your sound. The layers! The hooks! Is “Hallucinating” an indicator of where you may be headed next musically?
Thank you! This song is really special to me. It’s another one that juxtaposes the feeling of anxiety. I constantly feel like I’m on drugs while I am completely sober. I like that “Hallucinating” is tapping into those feelings but in a very fun, playful, psychedelic way.
I am headed in many directions. There is no telling what’s next but I have some really exciting ones in the bag. I cannot wait to get back in the studio when I am off the road for a month so I can just put down everything I’ve been collecting and storing onto records.
You’ve also spoken before about how removing your appearance from your music and sounds allows you to open up. I think this is an interesting, beautiful reflection on the human experience. Can we as fans really get to know you if we can’t see you?
Absolutely. I have met some phenomenally wonderful people through my music. I chat with many of them via direct messages. At my shows I am pretty open and willing to talk one on one. These are the types of connections I want. I think slowly unraveling is much more exciting tha[n] giving everything away at the beginning. Mystique is a magical thing that’s far too rare in our current world.
Along those same lines, which of the songs you’ve released so far best encapsulates what it means to be Elohim today?
Definitely “Hallucinating” at the moment.