Get to know Grammy-nominated artist Elderbrook whose tender vocals and organic beats are making waves this year.
Alexander Kotz, more commonly known as Elderbrook, got his musical start in an indie band and later transitioned to a solo acoustic guitar singer-songwriter. At one point he even tried his hand at hip-hop. It was only through constant experimentation and bouncing between genres that he ended up incorporating electronic beats and finding his own musical niche.
“It began with a desire for a straighter, more all encompassing sound sonically speaking,” Elderbrook tells LYFSTYL. “I loved creating acoustic music but when I started incorporating a four-to-the-floor feeling, it felt more exciting to be in new uncharted waters with less rules and restrictions than with a guitar and voice.”
After some early success with remixes and singles, he released his EP Talking in 2017. The seven-track album was met with widespread acclaim, but more importantly he separated himself from other electronic artists in the process. From his preference for live instruments to his tender vocals, it’s very difficult to pinpoint the London native’s exact sound on the sonic spectrum. “I am drawn to more organic sounds just for the originality and depth they can carry,” he says.
The true shift for Elderbrook was uncovering how to successfully blend his melodic vocals and trance-like ambience with his hard-hitting beats and extracted sounds that give his sound an extra “kick” to it. His resulting body of work landed him a collaboration with Camelphat in the form of “Cola,” which is up for a Grammy this weekend for Best Dance Recording. The success has continued to pile up for the 23-year old, as he kicks off his first North American headlining tour in February.
How did you begin making music?
I began teaching myself guitar when I was about 14. I started making music soon after that because I wasn’t really interested in playing other people’s songs, it always seemed more gratifying to create something from scratch.
You were first in an indie band and then a solo acoustic singer. How did you end up make that transition to electronic music?
When I was making music by myself was around the same time I started to learn how to produce music. It started with just learning to record my guitar and my vocals well, but after discovering new tools and sounds, it gradually became more and more electronic until the acoustic elements became just an aspect of an entirely new sound. I wanted a fresh slate and then started using the name “Elderbrook”.
Those early indie and acoustic roots are still on full display, even in your Talking EP. Is this something you want to preserve in your music forever?
That kind of music will definitely always be a part of me. As for the music I make, I think my musical roots’ largest influence will be on my vocals and particularly my lyrical style.
You prefer to use live instruments in your records, bolstered by synths and other electronic sounds. How do you balance this?
When I’m writing, I try and let the sounds balance themselves. If it sounds good then I try not to question why but rather roll with it and see where it takes me. Having said that, I am drawn to more organic sounds just for the originality and depth they can carry.
Part of your unique sound comes from fusing the melodic vocals with the electronic elements that give a “kick” to the sound. How did this begin?
It began with a desire for a straighter, more all encompassing sound sonically speaking. I loved creating acoustic music but when I started incorporating a four-to-the-floor feeling, it felt more exciting to be in new uncharted waters with less rules and restrictions than with a guitar and voice.
Is there anything you need to do to get in that creative zone?
I like working in the mornings. My mind is just clearer at that time of day not long after waking up. A clear mind makes space for creativity. As for a process, I can’t say I have one. I like to let the music almost make itself. Obviously I’m there making the sounds, putting it together and making the executive decisions but, like I said earlier, I try not to think about direction too much because the restrictiveness can sometimes cloud creativity.
Talk about your Grammy nomination for the track “Cola” alongside CamelPhat. How did this collaboration come about?
To be nominated for a Grammy is an amazing feeling. No one had heard anything about it until it was announced online so it was definitely a shock. The collaboration came about when Camelphat were in London in January last year. We had a few hours in a studio in Brixton and they were playing a few different instrumentals they had. After throwing around a few ideas on a few tracks, they brought up what is now the instrumental to Cola. When they played it I sat down and wrote the words “She sips the Coca Cola” and worked backwards from that until a while later it was all done. I recorded the vocals and they’re the ones that were used in the final version.
Did you always expect it to be a hit?
I honestly didn’t expect it to do anywhere as near as well as it has done. I had pretty much forgotten about it until a couple of months later when Defected Records had signed it and it’s been surprising me since then!
You’re kicking off your first solo North American tour in February. How do you feel about it?
Crowds in the US have been amazing so far. I’ve played a few cities last year supporting Hayden James and some festivals. It was always a dream of mine from the very beginning to tour America and to be able to do it now as my own headline tour is even more of an amazing experience.
Words by Braeden Alexander – Catch Elderbrook on tour NOW.