interview by Alli Lindsey
Header image by Chase O’Black
A rhythmic deity embracing the tuneless suffering of humanity, Los Angeles-based artist Elohim is the personification of both God and Man. Her songs are physical manifestations of a perfect mess – anxious, serene, troubled, and eternal. A singer, songwriter, producer, and DJ, Elohim’s fearlessness is a gift not only to herself but to those fortunate enough to listen. Over the course of the last two years, Elohim has been surveying tiny fragments of her everyday life by splitting them open to reveal a complex network of interconnecting feelings, adventures, and isolated episodes. These otherwise trivial moments in time became the foundations of her life’s greatest awakening. Revolutionary as it was for her personally, Elohim’s kindred spirit and dedication to human connection prompted her to translate this profound self-reflection into a four-part EP series aptly titled Journey to the Center of Myself. Following three deeply-moving and provocative installments of the series, Elohim’s fourth and final volume of Journey to the Center of Myself is a celebration of the totality of her self-acceptance. A largely instrumental body of work, Elohim excels at telling painful, beautiful stories without the abundance of grand metaphors and catchy rhymes. Exposed and unarmed as she may be emotionally, Journey to the Center of Myself, Vol. 4 is Elohim at her most powerful and in-control.
Alli: This EP was so raw, vulnerable, and true to who you are because you had the time to really sit down, learn about yourself, and synthesize those feelings into music. What was your creative process like before you had the time to create like this?
Elohim: It was always different – there wasn’t one set process. But a lot of times I’d start ideas on the piano at home and take it to the studio outside of my house to work with an engineer, or work with another producer and we would collaborate and work on these pieces together. And it was great, but when I suddenly had all this time and I was home, I set up a home studio and it was so different because it could be 2AM, 7AM, it could be 10PM and I was like: create create create. I just didn’t stop, and it could happen whenever, which was really exciting and inspiring. I made this EP during the original lockdown and we weren’t seeing anyone, and every week I feel like I would have a breakdown. There’s one song on the EP I was having a breakdown during, and it was like, I don’t know if I’ll ever play a show again or if I’ll have an album come out again or what’s going to happen to this world and if we’re going to survive this. It was so scary. And I had a breakdown. I went into the shower and I was standing there and I legitimately wrote a whole song while just standing in the shower. And I was able to just walk over to my bedroom and just record the whole thing. So this EP was different in the sense that it was very spontaneous.
image by Javi Perez
“There’s one song on the EP I was having a breakdown during, and it was like, I don’t know if I’ll ever play a show again or if I’ll have an album come out again or what’s going to happen to this world.”
A: Is creating music on your own time your new norm?
E: I think so yeah! Since then, I’ve really been honing in on my production skills. I work from home a lot. I can just sit at the couch, or the piano, or my keyboard, or even sit in bed. I can be anywhere – that’s the beauty of having a MacBook Pro haha! So the answer is yes, most everything I’ve been creating since then has been at home and it’s been two years. It’s really elevated my production skill, and my confidence in my production skill! I’ve learned to trust myself, and I just didn’t have that before. I think sitting alone in my house and creating this stuff with no intention of it ever coming out – that really pushed me to a new level of confidence. Now I’m doing sessions where I’m the producer and songwriters will come in, and it’s so cool! I just didn’t have the confidence to do that before.
A: Journeying to the center of yourself is difficult because it requires a great deal of reflection and we tend to hide hard personal truths from ourselves. Did you struggle with accepting hard truths about yourself?
E: Yes absolutely! I feel like this is just an ongoing battle with humans. There’s this other aspect too of comparison, because we’re online all the time just swiping and going through Instagram so we start to compare ourselves. But yeah, that inner battle has kind of always been there and it’s almost been amplified lately. Going to that place is really difficult, and it’s difficult to write about. One of the songs from the previous Journey to The Center of Myself EPs is about a best friend break up. We didn’t speak for three years – this was my best friend in the entire world and we didn’t speak for three years. And I decided to write her an email when I was just having one of those reflective days during the pandemic, and I think it grounded us a lot. She responded a few days later at night, and I went to my brother’s house and wrote this song. One of the most emotional songs I’ve ever written. So yeah, it can be really difficult going to that center of yourself. Even challenging myself to produce a whole EP of eight songs – that in itself was such a challenge in a sense. Even though it did end up feeling kind of easy because there was so much freedom. But it’s always challenging, because to get to the center we do have to face the beautiful, the scary, and the anxious.
A: It can also be a humbling experience – so on a lighter note, can you tell us about an embarrassing moment that’s humbled you?
E: Oh my gosh! A humbling, embarrassing moment… I’ve had tons of those on stage where you just kind of fall down and get back, literally and metaphorically. There have been some moments on stage where something catastrophic will happen to my sound or something where I have to stop and restart. That is probably the most humbling, “you are human” moment. I try to stay humble all the time though because at the end of the day, we are all just human beings that come from these little tiny cells.
image by Chase O’Black wearing Luke Vicious
“I’ve learned to trust myself, and I just didn’t have that before. I think sitting alone in my house and creating this stuff with no intention of it ever coming out – that really pushed me to a new level of confidence.”
A: Have you ever performed for a tough crowd?
E: Oh my gosh, yes. I was in Vancouver playing Faded in The Park Festival and I had just gotten off an amazing two-month tour with Blackbear and I was feeling on top of the world. I had a great set time – it was like 6PM and I was on a great stage and I was so excited. All of this was going to be epic because most of my festival sets are amazing up until that point. I’ve played Coachella, Lollapalooza, and all of these amazing festivals, and the crowds are always so amazing and brilliant. So I walk on stage, and it’s packed and I’m so excited because festivals are where I thrive and this is where the crowd goes crazy!? And I essentially got booed off stage. Well, they weren’t booing…but they were yelling the next artist’s name so loud that I could hear it through my in-ears. And us artists, we hardly make any money because we have to fly out our whole crew and everything is so expensive! And I literally didn’t even play the last song. I was like F this, I’m getting off stage, this is so rude, I can’t even believe I just flew all the way here – I’m tired, and I’m on my period. It was horrible! It was humiliating.
A: You are stronger than me! I would have been fighting back!! I would have been pissed! Good for you to end that early. But you have so many fans that love you. And you do so much for them as a mental health advocate. Do you ever put pressure on yourself to show up every day and be this voice for people who struggle with mental illness? Does it ever impact your own mental wellness?
E: There have definitely been times where I’m on the road and something randomly triggers me and I feel really sick and I’m like vomiting from a panic attack or dissociating really bad and I’m wanting to go home. But I feel like I’m the reason that people are out there waiting for me to come on stage, but here I am advocating for mental health but I can’t even survive this thing and get through it. So it can be negative of course, because the reason I’m on tour is to go on stage, but it can create this crazy dissociation. When I played Lollapalooza, I also did a headlining show in Chicago around Lolla and it was put on by the festival. It was a sold out show and it was my first show back after being at home for a year and half and I just, like, lost it five minutes before I was supposed to go on stage. I was freaking out, shaking, hyperventilating, and everyone was already in the crowd. Like my hardcore, best friend fans – I knew they were out there and I just couldn’t control this dissasocation and it was really scary, but at the end of the day, the reason I power through and get to the other side is because I want to share this. I’ve noticed for me and my own journey, opening up about it has definitely helped. At that show actually, I started feeling really weird mid-set and I stopped the music and no one knew I was doing this. No one at the front of house – my people doing visuals and audio – they had no idea I was going to this, but I stopped the song “Braindead” right in the middle and I was just like I‘m having a really hard day and it was dead quiet. I mean this was in a proper venue, everyone was standing there and partying but you could hear a pin drop. And I was like ‘listen, I’m having a really hard time adjusting getting back to real life, like this has been such a wild experience and so I just want to play this song broken down.’ And people were crying and I just really needed that. So yeah, opening up has really helped my own journey but it has been triggering at times.
image by Javi Perez
“There’s this other aspect too of comparison, because we’re online all the time just swiping and going through Instagram so we start to compare ourselves.”
A: Wow, that made me emotional! I’m tearing up a little bit. I remember coming out of quarantine I was struggling just going to the grocery store. I think mental illness can really make you feel stuck sometimes. And when you get stuck, you can neglect making music, or going to work, and for some people it’s hard to even get out of bed and brush your teeth or take a shower. When this happens, we tend to resent ourselves for neglecting our responsibilities. How do you practice self-patience and self-forgiveness when you get stuck?
E: It’s hard! I get so frustrated with myself. I remember when I started medication I was like on cloud nine and I was feeling so great! I was like ‘anxiety? what’s that?’ And one night I just broke down and had a panic attack, and I was so frustrated with myself. And Chase, Chase O’Black who works with me, heard me say ‘why me? Why is this happening? I thought I was fixed. I thought this medication was fixing me.’ And he was like ‘it is helping, but you’re not superhuman. These things still happen. This medication isn’t going to make you superhuman. You’re just human. And you’re feeling human things.’ Sometimes it helps looking at things head on and being like, this is normal. This is human. The best people who have gotten me through those really bad panic attacks are the ones that hold your hand, or sit in there in silence and are like, go through this. This is okay. This is normal. You’re totally fine. I know it can be scary for people around.
A: The worst thing to hear when you’re having a panic attack is someone saying “oh just calm down, just breathe.”
E: Yeah, that stuff doesn’t help in the moment at all. It’s kind of the opposite. Trying to calm down in that situation almost exacerbates it more, because you’re trying to stop it but your body is trying to get it out. So for me it’s like, the best thing is to go through it to get through it. And to get to the other side sometimes you do have to get through that full panic attack. And a lot of times after I go through it I’m like, wow okay I feel better now!
A: Literally! It’s like purging something.
E: Exactly! And I think there’s a reason our bodies listen to that.
A: On this EP, which song is your favorite, which one is the most personal, and which one do you think is the most universal?
E: I think my favorite one today is “Elyse’s Lullaby,” which is track number eight. And that one is dedicated to my dear friend who had a baby during the pandemic. And when she was two months old she was in the studio when I was mixing the record and she was crying, crying, and crying. So we set her next to the piano and I just started playing in C-sharp minor and she stopped crying. So that night I went home and made “Elyse’s Lullaby.” And it’s just me freestyling in C-sharp minor but it came out so beautiful and I love it. Most personal would probably be “Talking to Myself” which is the one I was telling you about – that day I broke down and was just standing in the shower. And the first line is “my shower’s gone cold when I needed it most. That’ll teach me not to stand here and cry” because I literally stood in the shower until the water turned cold because I couldn’t stop crying. I think we all had those weird days in the pandemic where we were just like “what is life!” And the most universal… The whole thing feels so relatable because it feels like one piece of art. It doesn’t feel like individual songs to me, it feels like a whole piece of work. But maybe “Sleepy Tuesday” or “Slow Go.”
image by Javi Perez
“I try to stay humble all the time though because at the end of the day, we are all just human beings that come from these little tiny cells.”
A: It’s so interesting too because I feel like this EP is largely instrumental. But it’s so cool because it plays to the power of sound itself. You don’t have to hear your lyrics to deeply connect with the body of work.
E: Thank you! I appreciate that. I really respect that you can understand that and that you heard that, because I feel the same way with music. Sometimes I’m so moved by instrumental music – you really, truly don’t need lyrics. And that was kind of my journey of making this. It would be late nights in my bedroom making sounds that I wanted to make – sounds that made me inspired and happy or weird. There is just so much in sound. I know it’ll be weird for a lot of people. Like even my dad was like “I feel like you need to put more singing on this.”
A: There are also so many misconceptions about electronic music in general. People tend to see electronic music solely as EDM dubstep thrashers. But your music is a testament to the connective nature of sound and the emotional vehicle that electronic music can be. How do you feel about those misconceptions?
E: I think there are misconceptions in every genre. Even popular music, rock music… I don’t know it’s so weird that artists are pigeon holed into being one thing because human beings are the opposite of that. We’re so many different things. And for me, with music, I grew up playing classical music, I love jazz, I love alternative music, I love pop music, I love rap, and I love electronic music. And with electronic music there are so many genres within that genre. But it takes some deep diving into it. But there are so many different types of electronic music and I think that’s really cool. And I wish that people would explore it more! Sometimes it takes a song going viral or getting really popular for people to even notice the genre of electronic music. So hopefully people just keep discovering and learning that there are so many aspects of it and it’s just fist-pumping, club-banger.
A: And I think a lot of the foundations of modern music right now are electronic music. Especially hip-hop! But we call them beats instead of dance music so there’s a disconnect.
E: Yes! It’s quite literally all electronic. I’ve watched many hip-hop producers in a room and everything they’re using is electronic. That’s a good point.
A: This four-part journey has been a very spiritual and metaphysical one. But if you were able to materialize this into a real physical journey, where in the world would you have ended up and where would you have stopped along the way?
E: I think I see it as starting in the middle of the ocean kind of lost, then finding the sand and just walking, walking, and walking through snowstorms, rainstorms, tornados, sickness, and then ending up somewhere warm and beautiful.
A: This is the fourth and final installment of the Journey to the Center of Myself series. How do you plan to continue learning about yourself as you inevitably encounter more challenges throughout your career and life?
E: I’m kind of experiencing a lot of firsts right now. I’m embarking on this DJ tour which is very different for me and a lot less stressful in that I don’t have to bring all of my gear and a whole crew. It’s very much a freestyle when I’m on the decks DJing. So that’s going to be interesting. It’ll be cool to travel and see more of the world without feeling so much of that pressure of a live show. It’ll be a cool couple of months discovering new things! I really don’t know though, check back with me in a month and we’ll see how I’m feeling!