(By: Angela McLean)
Indie electronic artist Elliot Moss has been buzzed about as an artist to watch, and for good reason. The 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist has been touring nonstop since last year in support of his debut album, ‘Highspeeds.’ He started working on the album during his sophomore year of high school, a time that is typically filled with plenty of excitement and confusion. The songs on the album are very much inspired by his surroundings and emotions, like the hit “Slip,” which is about finding light alongside the dark in life. They are insightful, moody and dark but also interwoven with a sense of hope, glossed with Elliot’s enchanting soulful voice.
Live, Elliot is engaging, captivating and inspiring with crowds at his headlining shows, festival gigs and opening sets for bands like Cold War Kids and, later this month, Oh Wonder.
RUtv News sat down with Elliot before his recent headlining show at The Drake Hotel in Toronto to discuss all things ‘Highspeeds,’ intense music videos and his personal connection to Bon Iver.
What story does ‘Highspeeds’ tell?
I wrote the whole record towards the end of high school when my friends were all talking about where they were going to go in life. In my mind, it worked like, maybe they’d all go away one at a time and it would be this gradual transition, but there was this shock of all of a sudden not having anybody to talk with or hang out with. So, it felt like everyone was moving at high speed and I made the choice to sit and work on my music straight out of high school. It just felt like I was stuck while everyone else was moving along.
How would you describe your sound?
I grew up listening to a lot of electronic stuff but I also feel like a singer-songwriter type of guy so it’s fun to mash those two worlds together. I called it alternative electronic when I first put it out and I feel like that still fits the vibe.
How would you describe your live performances?
Bigger than the record, definitely. I play with two really talented guys who went to Berkeley and I’m just a self-taught musician so what they’ve added to the show is so special to me. They are my best friends and band, which is great. We all get along really well and just sit in the van and work on stuff.
If you could only perform one song off of ‘Highspeeds’ for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
How often?! Maybe “Best Light.” That was the last one I wrote and that one’s really fun to play. With that song, it shares some of the same lyrics as “Highspeeds” just to kind of bookend the whole album.
Your music videos, particularly for “Slip” and “Big Bad Wolf,” are very visually intense. How involved were you in deciding how the songs would come to life?
“Big Bad Wolf” was just this idea that I workshopped with this guy and then it evolved into all of his friends building this gorgeous video around it. I was on tour while they were shooting it, as opposed to the “Slip” video where I actually stood in the river to get those shots of the girl, Britney, walking through it. That one was this labour of love with Britney, David Svedosh, who was the director, and I. They’re both just incredible.
Speaking of bringing things to life, “Slip” was used in a beautiful viral dance video. How did you find out about the video, and have you had a chance to meet the dancers, Phillip Chbeeb and Renee Kester?
I saw it pop up on Twitter and I was like, “Hey you guys, this is great!” I checked back a day later and was like, whoa, that’s a lot of views, and it just kept coming, which is amazing. I haven’t had a chance to meet them in person but I’ve talked with them a bunch and we may be doing more stuff together down the line.
Your music is driven by instrumentation and layering, but also by the lyrics. What comes first for you – the music or the lyrics?
I’m a big fan of toying around with crazy gear and stuff and making noises that are inspiring, but many times I’ll find myself starting a song just based on a grouping of lyrics or some sort of idea that I have. “Highspeeds,” the first track on the record, started with that crazy noise. I just started singing over it and in like 20 minutes that one came together. I sleep in a studio so really any time that there is an idea at all I can start recording.
You recently remixed Prinze George’s “Freeze” and released an accompanying music video. Is remixing something you want to do more of?
Definitely! It’s really fun. When you’re writing your own song, you’re starting with a blank slate. But when you’re remixing and the artist is cool about it like Prinze George were, they’ve kind of just given you free reign of the tune and all of the parts that make it up and you can mix and mash them to your heart’s content, which is really fun.
What are some songs that you can’t get out of your head right now?
I absolutely adore the two-song EP that Massive Attack just put out, ‘The Spoils.’ The new Bon Iver stuff is also wonderful. I played at his music festival, Eaux Claires, once and that’s one of my favourite shows we’ve ever played. My manager is actually his brother, so there are ties there and he’s just the sweetest person on the planet.
You have toured across the world in support of ‘Highspeeds.’ What are some of your backstage essentials and pre-show rituals?
Water! That’s a big one, and if I walk out on stage without water I’m in trouble. I also like tea. We’ve tried to come up with a ritual but it never sticks. It only lasts one or two shows. I feel like we should, so maybe we can come up with one here!
Have you had a chance to do any touristy Toronto things on this trip?
I’ve only been here for five hours, but I walked up and down Queen St. W., got a cup of coffee and bought this shirt.