British singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Elderbrook has caught our attention this month with the release of his sublime new EP Talking. Bringing classical training and diverse influences to electronica, Elderbrook – real name Alex Kotz – pairs signature smooth vocals with infectious beats to produce addictive tracks you’ll be listening to on repeat. We caught up with him to talk his upcoming live shows, his experiments in sound, and the process of putting together an EP.
You’re touring in October – what have your experiences of touring been like before?
Last year I toured with Gorgon City around the UK. That was amazing because I was playing much larger venues than what I was used to at the time. After that I supported Hayden James in America and that was great for different reasons. I love travelling and I got to see a lot of the West Coast of the States – places I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Before then the idea of touring the US had always been a dream so I’m very happy to have done it.
How do you think your experiences will be different this time around as you’re embarking on a full headline tour?
The tour in October I’m looking forward to for different reasons; it’s my first headline tour and I’m excited to play out some of the new stuff from the EP that I’ve released recently. It’s always amazing to play to people knowing they’ve come there for me. For this particular tour I’ve introduced some new elements as well by playing a bit of keys and drums as well as everything else so looking forward for that to all come together onstage.
You’re known for sampling strange noises – breaking glasses and crackling ice, for example. How did you start doing this?
I think what originally inspired me to use these sounds is that what emerges is something completely unused before and unique. With a lot of synths or sample packs you just end up with sounds that people have heard time and time again. Obviously I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for a classic synth sound, but adding more strange, self-sampled sounds gives it something new.
I’ve found that using these sounds has led my composition into new avenues as well. Sounds that I end up recording for a snare might sound entirely different in the track and may lead to it being used in other ways. I love when things like that happen ‘cause it’s like the song is building itself.
Talk us through your new EP ‘Talking’: what processes do you go through when putting together an EP?
In the time leading up to the EP I had accumulated about 60 songs and ideas but these 7 songs stood out for me. What I liked about them together is that they were all slightly different to one another. There are influences ranging from hip-hop to house to reggae to gospel. It was important for me that they didn’t all sound too similar as that reflects my personal musical interests. Much like anyone reading this, I can’t say I only listen to a certain genre of music so I thought, ‘Why should I limit the music I create to one genre?’
You’ve said before you’ve been through quite a few transformations as an artist, from indie to folk to hip-hop – can you see yourself exploring more genres in the future, or does electronica allow you to do enough exploration already?
Like I said, I do try and incorporate as much variety as I can but you’re right in the sense that I do all of this within an electronic bracket. I spend a lot of time messing around with different ideas and sounds that would be considered just folk or just hip-hop but then it’s all about finding ways of merging them with the ‘Elderbrook sound’ – which I think is always evolving and changing anyway.
And finally, what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
I can’t remember who said it but the phrase that’s lingered in my memory is ‘Learn how to say no.’ Of course it’s important to do as much as you can and work with as many people as you can. However, it’s important that you know who you are as an artist and not let anyone get in the way of that.
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