Search The Line of Best Fit
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Beatrice Eli: “I don't want stuff to pass by unnoticed”

Beatrice Eli: “I don't want stuff to pass by unnoticed”

21 March 2013, 09:05

Admittedly, of all the coffee-brewing establishments London’s Fitzrovia has to offer, taking Swedish singer-songwriter, Beatrice Eli, to Scandinavian Kitchen for our interview is hardly going to win the Genius Decision of the Year Award. After all, you wouldn’t take a visiting Italian out for a pizza, would you?

My ridiculous choice of venue notwithstanding, it does prompt Eli to confirm that the food available at the Nordic emporium indeed looks “like real Swedish food” and with this verbal certification of authenticity, we proceed to shelter from London’s renewed efforts at snowing. Dressed in black, Eli is donning a Croydon facelift, and somehow makes it work and look cool. She is, at all times, smiley, attentive and doesn’t shy away from eye contact. This may have something to do with the fact that she is very excited to be talking about her new music, which is finally seeing the light of day in the UK, following a soft release in her native Sweden.

The EP she is about to unleash here, It’s Over, is a ‘no fillers, no shit’ endeavour, containing four diverse and bravo-worthy tracks. Last year’s buzz maker, ‘The Conqueror’, is on it as well as three new potential greatest hits.

We start off by talking about when she first started making music. “After I quit high school – is it high school here when you’re 19?”, she asks, but we don’t dwell on the intricacies of Sixth Form. “I’d been to music school in Stockholm”, she continues, “and I didn’t have a band or play the guitar or the piano at the time but I wanted to make music. So I just bought this little home studio type of thing and started learning to produce. I just wanted to make my own music so I took some time to work on that and especially work on the beats. The beats are really important to me. I don’t want stuff to pass by unnoticed, I like weird and dramatic sounds”. The next step was putting some of her home recordings up on Myspace. “An A&R guy in the UK found me on Myspace”, she says, “and I started working with EMI in Sweden and with professional producers. I co-produced a lot of the demos”.

At music school Eli mainly studied soul singing. “I learned to play the guitar a bit too but not very well”, she giggles. I ask whether she found music school to be beneficial. She takes a moment to think about this and then shakes her head. “Not really, to be honest,” she says. “After school I realised that the technique I was taught really messed up my voice. I don’t know if I was doing it wrong or something but it really hurt my voice. And I think what got me to sing better and write better and perform better was just me being in the studio all the time and just singing and working on it. But I guess at least I had the chance to do something that I was interested in studying”.

‘The Conqueror’ came to Eli a couple of years ago. “I wrote it on the piano”, she says. “This made it very open in terms of what we could do with the song and, at the time, I just got into the UK sound and I was really inspired by dubstep and grime and all that and I wanted to do my own take on it”. The idea behind ‘The Conqueror’ came from wanting to be that someone special in another person’s life but “it doesn’t have to be about you actually loving that person that much, you know”, she clarifies. “It’s an ego thing. That’s a common theme with me and my friends – like, oh, I don’t like him or her anymore, we’ve broken up and I don’t want to be with that person anymore but I actually still want to have some sort of effect on them. I don’t want to see that person with someone else. This kind of ugly thing within us that a lot of people have and that I’ve experienced myself”.

I put it to her that this admission is rather honest. Does she not mind being so open, especially on her very first release? “That’s the only way for me to write”, she says. “So there are songs on the album that are beyond ‘The Conqueror’ in that respect. I guess it’s a good thing for me to get that one out there first as a taster of what’s coming because it’s going to be a personal experience. Also, I guess you have your own feeling when you write something but then when other people listen to it they might not see it in the same way you did when you were writing it. So, a lot of people thought it was a song about heartache but for me it was about ownership”.

Whilst ‘The Conqueror’ was only intended as an introductory hype-creator and was not, until now, made available for legal procurement over here, Eli made an initial promotional push in the UK last year and enjoyed very favourable blog murmurings. Throughout our conversation you get a real sense of Eli being an anglophile. She mentions her love of London often. “I’d absolutely love to be able to work in the UK”, she says. “It’s very close to home and the culture is quite similar. I adore London and I think the music that comes from here is really, really good. So to be able to have a little space of mine here in the music world would be amazing”. Eli previously lived in London for a month and cherished that experience. “I didn’t wanna go back to Stockholm”, she exclaims. For her it’s all about the vibe and the tempo of the city, she tells me. “It’s just very energetic and for someone who is in the music business, there’s a lot of people to work with, a lot of creative people. Also, I know you guys don’t think the weather here is good but if you compare it to Sweden, trust me – it’s good”, she laughs.

We move on to discuss her new single and the title track of the EP, ‘It’s Over’. Where ‘The Conqueror’ had a ballady essence to it, ‘It’s Over’ swallows a dextrose tablet and instantly turns on the sass. The song was started off by Astma & Rocwell of Swedish band (and Best Fit Recordings family members) NONONO, who also co-wrote and produced ‘The Conqueror’. “I was just like, wow I love this track. I love the vibe of it. I had a couple of lines that I had written on my phone a couple of days before and they just fit perfectly on their track. We recorded it the next day and there it was. It fit. I tend to instinctively go for ballads so it was really refreshing to have something that was much more upbeat”.


The other standout, upbeat, number on the EP is ‘Violent Silence’, which Eli wrote with Daniel Ledinsky and Saska Becker, Sweden’s sorta-kinda-equivalents of Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper. Ledinsky and Becker have previously worked with September and Eli’s fellow Razzia Records label-mate, Petra Marklund. They put more ‘fresh’ into pop music than fabric conditioner does to your laundry. “That was the first song I did with them. The sound for me, then, on that track was quite different to everything that I had done before so I wasn’t really sure about how it fit with all of the other songs. But then the more I worked with them, I went into that vibe a bit more and now I am only working with them on the rest of the album. So I would say that ‘Violent Silence’ is a good representation of quite a few of the other songs on the album”.

The album itself is about half-way through in terms of being completed. “I am definitely a perfectionist”, Eli says. “I’ve been doing songs for it for a long time and I’ve gone into different sounds and different influences. I think this stage now is about getting all of those different inspirations together and I’m definitely getting there but I have a little bit more to write. I’d love to release it tomorrow. I just wanna leak all my songs now”, she laughs.

I ask her whether, out of the recent songs she’s written for the album, she has a current favourite. “I tend to… when I’ve written a new song, I only listen to that song and nothing else for about two weeks and I’m like, I love this song. And I obsess about it. What I do most recently is what I tend to love the most at any particular time”. Her current favourite is a song called ‘Judy’. “It’s a song I’ve written with one of my best friends and also a really promising songwriter, Ji Nilsson, and… it’s a song about a girl called Judy”, she smiles coyly. Is Judy real or a fictional character, I ask. “Both”, she giggles. “It’s got a lot of hip-hop in it and a surprisingly poppy chorus. There are a lot of different elements in it, pitched-down vocals and heavy drums but the chorus is very catchy”.

Another song on her eventual debut album will be a ballad called ‘I’ll Be Fine’. She tells me that it’s her favourite of the ballads she’s written but is hesitant about saying much more about it. She then offers: “it’s a song about that person that you used to be with moving on and the sort of ‘I’m happy for you’ thing mixed with ‘oh fuck, someone else has you now’. I love that track because the production is quite special on it but I’m not going to say any more for now”.

We turn to chat hip-hop, which is one of Eli’s greatest passions. Mention hip-hop and her face lights up. As for her biggest influences, it’s a close call between 2Pac and Biggie Smalls. “Maybe I should pick just one but I love them both, I can’t choose! I also love, love, love Jay-Z. And Kanye. I know a lot of people are, like, oh Kanye is so full of himself but I just think he writes rap music in a new way. He has a really interesting rhyme structure. And Eminem! His rhyme structure is crazy good! Actually, that’s a funny thing as well, people have been saying that ‘It’s Over’ kind of sounds like ‘My Name Is’ but it’s not actually sampled from that”, she says.

Notwithstanding the distinguished list of hip-hop dudes, if Eli had to pick one producer to work with, she’d opt for a female rapper. “I’d do something with Missy Elliott. And, you know, she’s still doing stuff now”. Here we go off-topic and explore whether Missy is ever likely to return to her heyday of greatness. “I really don’t know”, she says exasperatedly. “But everything she’s done in the past was just so good and ground-breaking! I think sometimes being experimental and doing fresh things has something to do with your age. Maybe she got too comfortable, maybe she doesn’t have the hunger to make something that special again, I don’t know. She should work with a producer no one else has worked with before”. Missy-love aside, in a subsequent Twitter exchange, Eli tells me she’s reconsidered whom she’d do a rap-collab with. “t is and will always be Andre3000″, she says. So there you have it.

As for playing live, although Eli has not toured extensively back in Sweden, she occasionally gigs here and there in her homeland. Her live set so far consists of her and a DJ on stage. “It’s very, very simple right now. It just makes it easier. The sounds sound as they should do and it’s convenient. But I’m going to have a band for live shows in the future. I love performing and that was the reason I wanted to get into music. I wanted to stand on a stage. I didn’t want to be a karaoke singer so I had to write my own stuff”. Will she be playing any festivals this summer? “Umm… I hope I will. I want to say I’m sure I will but it’s not confirmed yet”. She played Gothenburg’s Way Out West festival last summer and would love to play there again this year. “It was exciting. It was on the last night and the club where I was playing was packed”, she says. “It’s always scary when you’re performing and people haven’t heard your songs before but it was great. They were proper hip-hop kids standing and nodding to ‘It’s Over’. Hands in the air kind of thing. It was cool”.

And at the end of last year she also had her first live tv appearance, performing ‘It’s Over’ and ‘Violent Silence’ on Swedish programme, Musikhjälpen. She looked as though she was a dab hand at the medium but was she nervous? “Yeah I was! Although, I was mostly tired because I had just arrived from Berlin and came straight to Malmö so it was a bit crazy. But I loved it”.


Our talk moves on to Amy Winehouse, whom Eli has – vocally, at least – been compared to. “I love Amy Winehouse, she was a genius. She wrote like a rapper, basically”, she says. “I wanted to be a jazz singer for a while when I started out. I used to listen to Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. And they are singers that Amy Winehouse used to listen to as well. You know, retro, old soul. So if you listen to the same music, if you come from the same influences, I understand why to some people it might sound similar. But I’m striving to sound like me and like no one else. So if I sound like her it’s unintentional but it’s a great compliment”.

We only have a couple of minutes of chat left and we use them up discussing the Stockholm music scene. “A lot of people I’ve seen around on the local scene for a while are starting to emerge right now, which is great”, Eli tells me. Are there any of her contemporaries which she particularly likes? “Yeah, there’s a singer called Julia Spada who is great. She has a song out called ‘The Ocean’ and I just think that song is… no one’s done anything that sounds like that. Her vocals are amazing. And the lyrics are amazing. She’s a very intelligent person as well. Noonie Bao is also someone I love. She is doing very well at the moment. Noonie is a very strong and interesting person”.

I wonder whether Eli has a theory as to why so many Swedes are making it big in the international music arena. The prevalence of music schools may have something to do with it. “I think there are a lot of different aspects to it. We have free music school, everyone has to go to it when they are at a certain age to learn an instrument so it’s kind of easy doing music for free. Also, it’s quite a cliché but I think because of the weather… you stay inside a lot so that can help encourage you to do stuff creatively. And also just the fact that there has been so much success for other Swedish artists, you see that it can happen. Swedish people are blessed to have a stable economy so you think to yourself, yeah I could be an artist if I wanted to”.

It’s somewhat misleading that Eli’s first proper release in the UK is with a song called ‘It’s Over’, when all the indicators are that it is anything but over. This is a music career that is only in its nappy days and you get the feeling that, as it progresses through toddlerhood towards the emergence of Eli’s debut album (be it later on this year or in 2014 – you know how elusive release dates are nowadays!), we’re going to fall more and more in love with her particular take on hip-pop. Don’t know about you, but we’re stoked.

‘It’s Over’ is out on 24 March on Razzia.

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