Photo credit: Grace Pickering
British electronic musician, songwriter and producer Alexander Kotz, better known by his moniker Elderbrook, has been steadily creating a buzz with his unique blend of sounds ranging from gospel to indie to hip hop. The appeal of electronic music for him is that there an infinite amount of sounds to be made. Having performed in an indie rock band as a teenager, he later attended University where he was exposed to quality electronic dance music and began to merge hip hop beats with indie songwriting, jumpstarting his career in electronic music in 2015. Although he started out pursuing a more hip hop and soulful sound, he has since transitioned to a more upbeat electronic sound. He released his first EP, Could, in 2015 and a second EP shortly after, gaining him attention and positive reviews through SoundCloud. He’s collaborated with various artists, such as the German duo Andhim and Gorgon City, but it was his collaboration with CamelPhat on the song “Cola” that led him down the road to instant success. The song reached number one on the Dance Club Songs chart in the US and the Indie Chart in the UK. The song also earned the the two artists a nomination for Best Dance song at the 2018 Grammy Awards. With several tours under his belt and recent performance at Coachella, he’s set to play more festivals this summer, finish his album and is preparing for some exciting releases in the next few months. You can follow Elderbrook and stay up-to-date on all upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase his music via the following links. Check out the videos below for “Cola” and “Old Friend”.
You performed in an indie rock band when you were a teenage and later experimented with hip-hop before discovering electronic music. How much of an influence do your previous musical experiences have on the music you are currently making?
It had a huge influence. I definitely feel like I stumbled upon electronic music as a result of merging hip hop beats and indie songwriting together. I was playing in a band and writing solo stuff for ages. When I started getting into hip hop I wanted to try and write backing beats for people and become a producer in that world. Unfortunately I didn’t know any rappers at the time so I took it upon myself to sing over these beats rather than let them go to waste and eventually that turned into Elderbrook.
Your music career took off in 2015 and you have since collaborated with a number of different artists, remixed numerous tracks, and were nominated for a Grammy Award last year for the track “Cola” that you did with CamelPhat. Is it surreal to think about self-releasing music online 5 years ago and now being where you are?
A lot of the time yeah it does feel a bit crazy. If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d have a song with 10,000 views on SoundcCoud I would have been over the moon. It’s funny how your goals and aspirations get further and further away the more you achieve. It can become all too easy to take everything for granted and I’ve learnt recently that it’s important to take a step back and really appreciate the things that have happened to me.
You have said that leaving University after the success of your single “Rewinding” was the best decision of your educational career, but that it was a gamble since you then had to navigate the complex world of major label music. What were those early days like for you and how did you navigate and adjust to that world? Did you have people that helped to guide/mentor/advise you?
Those early days were a bit strange. I was still pretty young and all of a sudden I had a bit of money and all this time on my hands. At the time I thought I was doing okay and getting on with it. On reflection though I was being pretty stupid and I wasn’t using my time properly. I should have been writing more, playing live more, and partying less. Had a good time though and I’m where I am now so I can’t be too angry at my younger self! I don’t know if I had a particular guide or mentor, I didn’t really know any other musicians in my professional circle at the time but over a couple of years I realised what I should be doing.
You have said that one of your toughest challenges to overcome so far in your career has been to translate your recorded music into something that works live. What has developing your live show been like?
It took me a really long time to start playing live. I was definitely focused on writing new material and figuring out what Elderbrook was going to sound like. Developing the show has been a long and still ongoing process! At first I started playing with a band. I think the reason why I started like that is because I was afraid of being onstage by myself. Having other people up there really helped me out in the beginning. Eventually it became just me, and I think that was the best decision for the time because it allowed me to discover who I was as a performer. A lot of the earlier shows were very chilled out. The music I was releasing back then forced me to be. Over time, the music become more energetic. I think this was because I love playing those songs live.
Your sound has been ever-evolving, starting out with more of an ambient vibe and then transitioning to hip-hop and currently to a more upbeat sound. You also experiment with “strange sounds,” such as the sound of ice crackling in your hot coffee or of your reading glasses snapping. What do you feel has inspired you to grow your sound as an artist? Do you feel that having experience playing other kinds of music has helped to fuel your creativity?
What’s most inspired me to develop my sound is wanting to create something completely new. I’ve tried to use odd live sounds in the past like the ice or the glasses. That’s also what gave life to the project; merging indie and electronic to create something that people haven’t really heard before.
All the other music I’ve dabbled in has 100% helped fuel my creativity. In the past few years there’s elements of gospel in “Feels Like A Sunday”, hip-hop in “IOU”, indie vibes in some of the newer stuff and loads more. When I listen to music recreationally I don’t want to be stuck listening to one genre so why would I want to write with those kind of constraints?!
You visit Los Angeles a couple of times a year to write, having worked with some amazing LA-based writers and producers. What have some of your most memorable experiences been so far and how do you feel that these sessions have helped you to grow as a songwriter? What do you enjoy and find inspiring about LA?
I think one of the most memorable experiences has been working with Diplo. I was just going about my business on one of my trips doing a load of sessions and getting a lot done. I saw a message from Diplo and was pretty surprised but he asked if I wanted to come and work on some stuff with him.
So I moved my flight back a day and went round and worked with him for a bit. Since then we’ve worked together a few times and made some great stuff! Sessions like these and with anyone I write with help me as a songwriter just because I experience so many different ways of working and has sharpened me up in the ways of writing and finessing songs.
I think being in LA helps me write because being away from home helps me write. It’s easy to get stuck in your ways and distracted by going out and meeting people and everything. Getting away from home just puts me in a clear headspace that helps me write. The sunshine and weed doesn’t hurt either.
What can you tell me about your latest single “Old Friend”? How did the recent remix by MK come about? You also released acoustic versions of “Old Friend” and your previous single “Capricorn.” What inspired that decision?
I’ve met MK a few times out and about on my travels! I’ve always been a fan and it made sense for him to remix. I wanted to do the acoustic versions to show people that I’m more than just an electronic artist. A lot of people think I’m just a DJ and don’t even realise that I sing! It’s always been difficult to explain just what it is I do but I think I’m getting there!
You just wrapped up your European tour with Moglii. What were some of the highlights from the tour?
Highlights were probably Warsaw (the crowd was crazy) and Vienna. I had never been to Vienna before and for it to be the largest of all the shows was amazing! Having Moglii there was great. We’ve actually worked on music together a few times and just get on really well. His music is great as well and I think it was a good fit!
You will be releasing an album later this year. What did you learn about yourself as an artist in the process? What led you to make the album more live instrument oriented and combine this instrumentation with electronic beats?
It was always my plan from the beginning to mix live and electronic and I want the album to reflect that, definitely. It’s still very much in the process but coming together very nicely. What I learnt about myself as an artist was that I change my mind a lot which can be a great thing but also very annoying.
You performed at this year’s Coachella Festival during week one on the Do LaB stage! As leaders in redefining modern music and art experiences, how does it feel for you to have performed on their sought after stage? What was the biggest highlight from performing at Coachella and were there any other performances that you were especially excited to see?
Performing on the Do LaB stage was amazing. Such a cool pocket of the festival. Biggest highlight of playing the festival was probably playing my song “Let Go” which always makes for a good scene when I play it live. To be honest I wasn’t able to see any other acts! I had just finished my three week-long tour and, without a day off, I was a little ill so I just didn’t have the energy to move after my set! Hopefully there’ll be a next time and when there is I’ll do some exploring.
What’s next for you?
What’s next is a summer full of festivals! Which I’m very much looking forward to. Finishing the album as well. Other than that I have some exciting releases coming up in the next few months which I cannot wait to share!