Swedish rapper, singer, and songwriter Elliphant calls herself "one of the first women in the history of the human race who was born free," and after meeting her, I not only believe it but also have some hope that she’s the first of many. Just wait until you hear her theory about the comeback of the Amazon warriors.
At the Day for Night music festival in Houston last weekend, she commanded the stage, tossing her mic and catching it with confidence while dancing flawlessly and singing hits like “Down On Life,” which includes the poetic refrain, “I need you to take all my shadows for a walk tonight."
“This is the best shit ever,” she closed her set — but not before pointing out that the skyline looked like giant chlamydia. And she meant it in a good way.
An hour and a half before her performance, Elliphant greeted me in the media trailer behind the stage. "Suzannah!" she addressed me like an old friend, offering a firm handshake with one hand while balancing a beer in the other. "I'm Ellie."
On the interview room’s cozy couch, Ellie (AKA Elliphant) sounded off on the absurdity of American gender roles, how humans are like giraffes, and her past life as a dude resembling Mowgli from The Jungle Book. No, really.
If this is what a free woman looks like, we’ve got to get on that whole women’s-liberation thing ASAP.
How are you liking it here?
I haven’t seen anything yet, but it’s cool. I’ve been in Houston twice before, doing gigs, but only in the same place, and it was a very small little crossroad somewhere outside. In my head, Houston was a really small, little town, because all I’d seen was this wooden rock club next to a weird train. I’d never been into Houston before.
Where do you spend most of your time now?
I’m spending most of my time on the road. I’m out doing this all the time. I don’t really have a home, but I’m based in Los Angeles. I go back there all the time in between tours to do videos, to make new music, to just catch up with my record label and stuff.
But it’s been like this for too long now. I need to get a home. I’m going to work it out. When next summer is finished, I have this goal that I will have a fucking home, somewhere I can put my shit.
I get so much beautiful stuff! I get beautiful fine art. I get beautiful, cool, special-made clothes from people, and I just end up losing everything because I don’t really know where I put stuff.
Humans are collectors. You get sad when you don’t have anywhere to put things. But yeah, I’m a world citizen at the moment.
Is Sweden a lot different from the US?
It’s very small. Sweden has 9 million people in the whole country, so that’s the biggest difference. We had a period a long time ago where Sweden was in a big crisis and there was a big infection of the foods that people kept for the winter. People didn’t have any food to eat, so they left from Sweden to America.
So, we have big Swedish communities all over America. My mom’s grandmother came back to Sweden as a teenager from America. We always had American television. We always had American language on Cartoon Network. They combined a little bit. Sweden doesn’t hate on America so much. We actually borrow a lot from America.
Obviously, there’s a lot of differences. We never had any slavery. We never had any of these things that built this country. My country’s thousands and thousands of years old. You can’t even compare it. But that’s why probably you can’t compare it: because it’s full of French and Swedish and English people. Now they’re Americans, but really we’re the same.
It works really well with me, but I never thought about America. Many people want to go on a road trip in America after school. That was not even in my head. America has only been Elliphant for me thus far. Elliphant is my ticket here. It’s cool. There are a lot of problems, but you know that. I don’t want to sit here and be the political pop star because I’m really not. I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to these things.
You said in one interview that Sweden is a more feminist country. Is that true?
Yeah, it is true. It is really true. I mean, I was born free...I’ve been myself since day one. I never thought about what I was saying. I never thought about what people thought about me. I don’t know what it means to be a woman who feels weak. I’ve never been weak. I have no idea what that is. I don’t know why they feel like that. I don’t know why they look at anybody as bigger than themselves or feel like they have to be nice just because they’re girls. I understand that it is like that. I understand that many women, especially in India and Asia, where I spend a lot of time, feel a lot of pressure to do right, but I don’t fucking know what it means.
That means I am probably one of the first women in the history of the human race who was born free without the pressure of giving birth to babies or eating last in the family. You know, humans actually have the same kind of DNA as, for example, the giraffe. In our DNA, women are supposed to be bigger than men. That’s why the Amazon women were all fucking huge. When they get to eat, they grow huge and they kick the men in the ass because there’s no way. But in Europe and everywhere, we got so small because of evolution and because we didn’t get food because we always had to give our husbands food first and then the children and we were last to eat. So, that’s why we’re still smaller than men.
But now, when everything is balancing up, probably, in the future, we will be bigger than men again. So that whole thing about being a thin little loca, no, man, that’s over. Over and done. I embrace that a lot. That’s a big inspiration for me.
One of the few things in life that I was given was freedom, and I embrace that. Sweden is a very open and a very futuristic place when it comes to differences, not only for women but for homosexuality, for differences in anything.
The music industry is known for being sexist. Have you experienced that?
If you are an artist who comes in with a pretty face and a beautiful voice and you don’t write your own songs and you don’t know what you want to do with yourself as an artist, yeah, you’re gonna get fucked over. People are gonna put you in the most crazy situations.
But for me, actually, my problem is that I’m too sexy all the time. I don’t want to be sexy. Because it’s still scary to be in front of a camera making a music video, something just happens in my head and I just go fucking sexy. I don’t really want to do that. I really would like to just be me. But I’m actually still a little bit nervous about all this, and I put a mask on, you know? My manager runs up to me like, "Ellie, please, stop putting your hair — stop doing this sexy stuff. Can we please take it down?” She’s like, "Can we take Elliphant’s makeup down, please?” So, with my situation, it’s the total opposite. Nobody wants me to be sexy. Every time I accidentally do a sexy photo shoot, they’re like, “We can’t use this photo shoot.” So I’m lucky.
I read in an interview with Elle that you feel you’re an androgynous spirit. What did you mean by that?
I am for sure. I started getting a beard when I was like 14. I took it away yesterday. You can’t really see it, but you feel it. I had my period really late. If you would take tests on my hormones, I probably have a lot of testosterone inside. I have never been so girly. But that’s only a theory.
Also, I had one out-of-body experience one time, and I saw myself being a man, and I had really long, black hair, and I was really beautiful. I looked like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. I was really pretty.
An out-of-body experience?
It was on one of my travels, and I was sitting, having a ginger-lemon tea, smoking a joint on a beach in the South of India, and a man came up to me and he said, “I’m gonna invite you for something.” And I’m like, “OK! Let’s go.” And we went away to a really beautiful part of the beach, and we sat down and we chanted for like four hours, and when the sun started to come up, we smoked DMT. He’d been away in the forest to get this stuff. It’s in everything, but you can get it out of some flowers. They say it’s the same thing that happens to you when you die and when you’re born.
And when you’re dreaming, actually.
Yeah, it pumps out a little bit when you’re dreaming. That’s also the reason, actually, why it’s a one-time thing in life. You do it once and you don’t do it more, to all the kids out there. DMT you do once, and you don’t do that fucking made-in-a-factory DMT. You need to do the real shit because you don’t want to waste your death experience on anything.
So, we smoked that. We chanted for four hours. I had an amazing five minutes seeing how the universe really comes together — a dimension-free world. And I saw myself. I was a man. So, I know I was probably a man recently. But I’ve been a tree frog. I’m a combination of Mowgli, tree frog, and Elliphant. That’s me.
So you believe in past lives?
Yeah, for sure. I don’t believe that the better you do, the better you get. I don’t believe in that cost system. I don’t believe that there is one life that is better than another. I just think it is a very random evolutionary thing. But definitely. The soul has been here since the beginning of time. The soul is passing, obviously. It’s the answer to everything. That’s why people believe in Jesus. Because no one wants to believe in just the soul.