As one of the fastest rising producers in the world of EDM, Elephante has been on an absolute tear lately. Having made a name for himself with some killer remixes over the years, he’s now in the business of creating originals and each one has been better than the last. From “Age of Innocence” to his newest effort, “Closer,” the producer’s work shows off his versatility, talent and dedication to making tracks that sound unique and refreshing.
Last week in Miami, we caught up with Elephante for a brief interview. Having just seen him on the Inception at Sea cruise ship festival, we were eager to sit down and chat and find out how a Harvard grad went from having a corporate job to DJ’ing at clubs and festivals around the world.
Over the course of our discussion, he spoke about what gave him the courage to quit his job and pursue his dream of making music, how his songwriting background helps him, how to get your name out there when you first start off and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
How does a Harvard grad go from the business world to being a DJ?
Elephante: I definitely didn’t go to Harvard with the intention of becoming a DJ. I majored in economics and music. I’ve made music my whole life though. I’ve been in bands, played piano and guitar, written songs, etc. I’ve always been doing that on the side. When I graduated I got a pretty good corporate job and was still making music on the side. After about a year and a half though I was just really unhappy with my job and decided to quit. I knew I would never be happy if I didn’t give music a real shot.
What gave you the courage to finally quit and pursue your dream?
Elephante: It wasn’t courage so much as there was nothing else I wanted to do but make music. It was terrifying though to quit. Probably the scariest day of my life. It was super exciting though and I was very optimistic about my future. I was also a bit naive at the time. If I’d known everything I know now in regards to what I’d have to do to get to where I am, it would have been so much more overwhelming.
Talk about your new song “Black Ivory.” It’s not as pop-y as your previous tracks and sounds a lot different. Are you trying to experiment a bit more now?
Elephante: I try not to think about what my sound is or what direction a song goes in. I make things that are exciting to me. Also, I’ve done so many pop vocal, big progressive type things already. I think “Black Ivory” still sounds like me, it’s just an opportunity for me to show off some of the other type of music I like making.
Will your upcoming music follow in that direction?
Elephante: It’s going to be a mix. I’ve got about 4 or 5 songs in the works. 2 or 3 are more progressive for sure, and closer to my older stuff. But then a few of them are more departures from the 128 house style.
Do you think it’s important to build your brand around one sound rather than keep dipping into different genres?
Elephante: I don’t know. It’s hard, because as an artist you want to be creative and show off your different sides. But as a producer it’s tough to get your name out there. Especially when you’re starting out. So you need a way to get people to remember who you are. It took me a while to get to this point though, and honestly, I’m still not sure how it happened.
If you look at all the guys who’ve been successful though, they have something to their songs that just screams their name. You hear an Avicii song and you know it’s Avicii. You hear an Adventure Club song and you know it’s Adventure Club. You can’t think about it too mathematically. As soon as you start thinking about what parts you need to include in a track to make it sound like you, that’s when you lose the soul behind it. Whenever you start to engineer it and try to put in specific elements, that’s when the song feels really mechanical. You just need to make what excites you. That’s when the magic happens.
Up until a year ago you were primarily doing remixes. Talk about making the transition over to originals and the challenges that presented.
Elephante: Well you need to start with remixes. It’s just more practical to do it that way. There’s so much music out there and you kind of need to do remixes early on just to get your foot in the door. When I first started out no one knew who I was. No one was going to click on an Elephante original. But if it was an Elephante remix of say a Lorde song, they might click on that.
I mean, some people can pull off starting with originals. Look at Zhu. But it’s tough, really tough. I look at a lot of my remixes as kind of figuring out how to make the music I wanted to make as well. I learnt so much. And I’m still learning new stuff, all the time.
I grew up as a songwriter and guitar player and singer though, so I was always going to make originals. It was always something I was going to do. I had been messing around with ideas for original tracks for a long time and I just waited until the time felt right to release one.
What do you look for in a song you remix?
Elephante: I don’t know honestly. I guess I just have to really like the original. There has to be something that really excites me. And I also have to be able to add something different to the song and make it sound like me.
How does your songwriting background help you in producing?
Elephante: I think it contributes to my sound for sure, and for the type of music I make, I’d say it’s an advantage over producers who come from more of a computer/technical background. I couldn’t make the music I make without my background. I start almost everything on a piano or guitar and I just play around until I find something. It’s hard to think about it any other way honestly. That’s how I’ve developed musically.
You recently got back from Europe, how was it over there?
Elephante: It was pretty crazy. The show I played was actually mostly Ex-Pats though, so I still haven’t really done a proper European tour. I’m excited to go play over there though in the future.
Is it tougher to book shows in Europe?
Elephante: It’s not so much that as it is practicality. I mean, the amount of money you’ll get for one show, it’s almost not worth time to travel all the way over there. Until you can really line up a full tour at big venues, it’s not very practical. I can play one show in Europe, or in that same time frame I could do three shows in the US. And we’re also touring so much in the US right now, so it’s hard to find time to get over there.
Up until this point, you’ve kind of resisted going the label route for the most part. Why is that?
Elephante: I haven’t really gone out of my way to avoid labels. I’ve just found in most cases there’s a disconnect between what we think is the right thing to do and what the labels think is the right thing to do. I came up a different way, too. I came up on the internet and the internet is very important to me. I’ve also had so many friends who’ve just had bad experiences with labels.
You need to work with the right people who see eye to eye with you. I don’t want to get into specifics but there are a lot of competing interests out there and competing philosophies and I feel very strongly about certain things. Armada was great though, for “Age Of Innocence.” A lot of our values aligned and it was great working with them.
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Elephante very much for his time!