“If we lose idealism, we’re really fucked…”
Not to promote unhealthy behaviour, but we when we obsess over something or someone, it’s vigorous and it lasts. And if you’ve recently checked our Spotify favourite artists, you’re perhaps already in the know that our ears (and hearts) cannot take enough of one particular artist: Elkka. More than just your typical, fleeting DJ obsession, the London-based artist is actively building the blocks for a better tomorrow. Last Friday, Elkka released her first record, “Everybody is Welcome”, under her own label femme culture. Alongside its absolute dedication to feel-good vibes, the EP embodies a message of community building for LGBT+ individuals within the music industry, but also for everyone in need of space of freedom and acceptance. Glamcult caught up with Elkka right after the release, for a chat on the urgency of idealism, her recent (and giant) b2b2b with Jamie xx, and pop stars.
Diving straight into the deep: you describe yourself as a woman and a queer person. How do these identities interact within you and each other?
It’s a conversation I have with myself regularly, because I put that forward quite clearly and it’s a really big part of my identity. I was having this discussion with myself of how I wanted to be identified as a human being and as an artist, and that seems to be the front of everything I say and do. So, I questioned it for a minute. Do I want to be defined by being a woman and/or being a queer person? Actually, yes. [Laughs] I do, because it informs so much about who I am and about the people I surround myself with, about the things I enjoy, the life I want to lead. I always knew I was a woman, but before realizing I was queer, I was very lost as a human being and had quite a different life. So, in discovering that and finding myself and finding who I really was and not being scared of that, that was such a liberating thing, such an important thing and at the front of who I am. I’m quite proud of that. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love being a woman and I love being queer.
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TODAY is the day. My EP ‘Every Body Is Welcome’ is finally out! These photos reveal just a few of the emotions I am feeling today 😊 So excited to get this out there. This is really a record of celebration of finding and losing yourself on the dance floor. How much those experiences have meant to me and shaped who I am. I can only hope people enjoy it, makes people feel good or feel something. It’s out today via @itsfemmeculture on vinyl (😛) and digi. Link in bio ✌🏼
How would you define queer?
It’s very personal, very specific to each person. For me, I think queer is “other”. I think what’s beautiful about being able to label yourself as queer, if you want to label yourself, is that you don’t actually have to define, specifically, what you are in that bracket. I know I’m queer, but my identity changes, day to day, week to week, month to month of what I am within that bracket, so I love that it gives me freedom as well.
How do you think your label, femme culture, is having a positive impact?
We’re a small label; we just try to positively contribute to the landscape of the music industry and the arts world. Impact feels like such a big word, but I hope we’re having an impact. I think what’s at the heart of what we do, alongside championing women, and womxn, non-binary people and the LGBT+ community, is bring a sense of community. I really feel like London and, generally, society for young people can be quite isolating in some respects, whether it’s through social media or something else. We live a very different life than twenty years ago, and it’s a good thing in so many respects, but I also feel like that sense of community has kind of changed. Part of the reason I set up “femme culture” originally is, alongside championing the mentioned groups and enabling them to create their own platform, that I wanted to connect with real people. I think that our parties and events represent the heart of what we do. We want everybody to feel included; we’re fighting for balance for everybody. It’s called “femme culture”, but in some way that doesn’t cover what we really stand for, which is for everybody to have their place and space, and feel welcome. I hope we have a small impact to encourage that way of thinking and being.
Do you remember the moment when you decided, “I’m going to start this label”?
The moment this thought process started was probably when I was going to a Jamie xx concert in Brixton, in London, with my girlfriend. He’s someone who I really admire. I just came from another session with another producer, you know the 100th one, just going there and writing these “OK” tracks, but not feeling really heard or like I was progressing as a solo musician. I was doing well as a writer, but my own artistry was getting lost completely, and I just cried, I completely broke down. I was like, “This isn’t working, I can’t do this, I’m not going anywhere”. I was aware enough to realize that this wasn’t going to work like this, so something had to change. We didn’t go to see Jamie xx. I couldn’t see him and I felt like I couldn’t go listen for two hours to someone I really admire so much, but feel so far away from. So, we didn’t go. Next day, I started producing for myself and that was really the beginning of me as an artist. Then, I spent a year putting the EP together alongside a friend of mine. I then found a distributer, but they need you to put a name of your label. I didn’t even think of the fact that I was setting up a label, but on paper I was. Like with everything I do, it has to have some thought behind it. If something’s going to represent me, even if it’s a label name, I really want it to be meaningful. And I stumbled across femme culture, it seemed to represent me as an artist and I knew that I wanted to do something beyond myself. So, that’s how it came about and it blossomed from there. It became obvious that it should be some kind of collective, a community, and that it should be for people that we’re trying to represent as well. That was kind of a turning point for me.
Then it’s also pretty amazing that you did a b2b2b2b with Jamie xx.
I know, I know! Obviously I didn’t say anything to Jamie. [Laughs] That was a big thing for me. It’s funny when you’re standing alongside somebody and you go into a mode of, “Ah yeah, he’s just a bloke, standing next to me”, and we’re talking about music and any kind of nerves or preconceived ideas of what I wanted to say to him just went out the window. We played a couple of tracks and then everyone else started arriving, also people that I really admire and am a big fan of. It was a surreal moment. Standing beside him, playing music with him, that’s the kind of power of what’s possible. I was not being encouraged to do what I did, at all. It was fifty percent fear and fifty percent guts. For me, not doing music was just not an option, I couldn’t contemplate not having a career in music; I had to do it. So, that was a great thing to happen. And Sam (Floating Points), who invited me, has been super supportive and helpful. To have people that you look up to want to support you is one of the best things that can happen to you as a musician, to be honest.
About your new record, its sound is rather idealistic. Why do you feel that this idealism is necessary right now and how could it help? Especially with the state the word is in at the moment.
I think it’s absolutely essential. If we lose idealism, we’re really fucked, because if you can’t aim for what is ideal, you’re not even going to get close to that. You have to be able to push through, because everything happens incrementally, nothing happens overnight. That’s just not realistic. So, I think if you aim for what you’d like in an ideal world, you’ll get closer and closer to it, slowly. That’s the same for the label and for what I’m doing, I appreciate that these sentiments are very obvious. It can be seen as quite fantastical and sentimental, but I think it’s so important. Because I think change is totally possible, we just all have to push for it. I would rather put something out there that has that ideal behind it, and contribute to something positive as well, because it’s not just about complaining about what’s wrong. We have to push forward in a way that’s inclusive of the people that don’t have the same beliefs as us. I wanted to put something that’s an actual feel-good into the world, rather than something that wasn’t. So, that was the intention to do that. And a celebration—it’s shit right now, yes; but there are still great things going on and we can make it better.
You’re saying your album is pretty feel-good. What is your current favourite feel good track?
I’m literally using it in a mix right now. I love it. It’s called “I’m Gonna Get You” by Bizarre Inc. A really great, feel-good, house track. It brings that emotion to me every time; like, I just feel happy. Putting it in the mix made me think of the kind of sets I intuitively play out. I like playing heavy music sometimes, but everything has to still have warmth and lightness to it at the same time, and I really do enjoy throwing in a feel-good track regularly. Because I want people to have an enjoyable experience, and that can, of course, be in many ways, but this one is just positive, light and full of goodness.
How was coming to age in London for you?
I came to London straight. [Laughs] I didn’t know who I was at all. I guess the first few years of living in London I lived a very different kind of life. What London allowed me to do was to tap into a community of people that were similar to whom I was becoming. I grew up in Cardiff, which is a fair-sized city in Wales, and I studied in Bath, which is also quite small. I had friends that thought very differently from how I did, and the more I discovered who I was, the more I realized how different our paths were going to be. Slowly finding people with whom you connect with, that make sense to you as a human being, was the most incredible thing. Now, I’m very lucky to live in a city where I have lots of great friends, a girlfriend too; it’s a great place to be creative, it’s very cosmopolitan and I need that in my life. I want to be somewhere where everybody is welcome, ha! [Laughs]. Oh, that was so bad. I come from Jewish immigrant grandparents and it really resonates with me being somewhere, where everybody can find a place, especially now more than ever, with what’s going on in the UK and everywhere else in the world. So, I guess London gave me that freedom.
What made you change so much in London?
I met a girl; it’s just that simple. The probability that I’ve been hiding away from for many years. I knew something like that would happen and change my life, and it did. She actually just ended up being a good friend, we didn’t have a romantic relationship, but it made me face up to who I was and whom I’ve been hiding from. Then, the doors opened and I ran straight through.
What would you dream if you would dream real big?
I would dream that somebody else was crying outside my concert. [Laughs] No, I don’t know. I do want to do big shows. I grew up loving the Spice Girls, for god’s sake. And Britney Spears! I was going to these big shows and concerts, although I don’t imagine myself doing those necessarily, but I do love them. The impact that those things had on me as a kid were so great, I guess I’ll always want to be a pop star.
Wrapping up this interview: “I’m a DJ, but I rather would’ve been a pop star”.
Yeah, it’s funny, it’s like my child self and my adult self are battling with each other.
Maybe you should find a way to combine the two of them. New project!
Yeah, who knows what’s next. I went to a Christine and the Queens gig, someone just offered me tickets and I was like, “Great, I’ll go”, and I haven’t been to that kind of show for so long. It was so fucking amazing! And inspiring. She was just positive, and weird, and dark, and light, and so queer. I was surrounded by these kids who were so inspired and excited by her. That’s the type of pop star we should be championing in the world. She really is great—a great writer, singer and dancer. I still love that shit, I wish that there were more of it around. So, maybe I’ll do a remix for her, maybe that will be a compromise.