INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Linnea Siggelkow of Ellis

interview by Rosie Accola

With Ellis, Linnea Siggelkow’s first project, Siggelkow positions herself as a  dazzling addition to the pantheon of non-male Shoegaze vocalists. Her voice possesses the of glow of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval; while the full band’s sound bridges the gap between shoegaze and bedroom pop. Ellis’ first EP The Fuzz, is released today, November 9th. The EP juxtaposes the quiet strength of vocals that sound more like a whispered secret, and all-consuming feedback soaked guitars. The production quality of these tracks is intricate, each listen reveals another layer of guitar or piano hidden between the warm folds of, well, the fuzz.

With just six tracks and a smattering of disposable photographs, Siggelkow creates a  world that is thoughtful, multi-faceted, and entirely her own. Hooligan sat down with Linnea over Skype to talk about the relationship between music and visual art, Mitski’s new record, public vulnerability, and how small talk is the worst.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Hooligan Mag (H.M.): This album has such an interesting visual component. For you, what’s the relationship between creating music and creating visuals?

Linnea Siggelkow (L.S.): I think the overall goal is to create a mood or a feeling. I’m not much of a visual artist but I’ve been incorporating photographs I’ve taken, it’s an attempt to make it more personal. I also have so many talented friends who take photos and make cool art. It’s been a really cool opportunity to collaborate with people that I love too.

H.M.: It’s interesting that you say that you’re not a visual artist because I love those photographs.

L.S.: Thank you so much! They are mostly just photos that I’ve taken on disposable cameras over the past like, ten years, so thank you for saying that!

H.M.: So you shoot all on film and disposable, then?

L.S.: It’s pretty much all disposable cameras. I know very little about photography, or to be honest, cameras at all. It’s something I’m really interested in learning more about, but it’s just been disposable cameras pretty much so far. My friend Sean and I collaborated on the album art for the EP. I shot a bunch of these floral shots just on a disposable camera and he’s an amazing designer, so he used all of them to make something that looks amazing. I’m really happy with it.

H.M.: Who are some of your visual influences?

L.S.: A lot of my friends are just amazing artists and inspire me. I don’t spend a lot of time creating visual art, but I generally love lo-fi stuff and analogue stuff. I think those are just the visuals that I’m the most attracted to. I love the look of film photography, ‘90s camcorders.

Can you tell me about where you derive inspiration from musically, and how you started playing music?

L.S.: I started playing music as a child, I played classical piano growing up so it’s always been a super big part of my life. My mom was a piano teacher so it wasn’t a choice in our house whether or not we played piano. Now I’m really grateful that I have my roots in that, and I’ve recently started teaching piano too, so it’s cool that it kind of came full-circle.

I started playing guitar when I was twelve because I saw Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’ music video. I babysat for a full summer to save up for my first guitar. It was a Squire stratocaster, and I briefly took lessons around then.

I think I was always writing songs, I don’t think they were very good, but Ellis is fairly recent. I had played in another band that was sort of pop-punk, but I think my songwriting has always been a bit more melancholy. I think I just wanted to make something that sounded more like the way that I felt.

Ellis started a couple years ago alone in my room. I just started demo-ing a bunch of songs on garageband. I played a couple solo shows and realized that I don’t love performing solo. It’s been a bit of a journey figuring out how to execute it, but now I play live with a band and that’s been really cool.

As far as influences, I used to write a lot more folky stuff. I’ve sort of been all over the map but I feel like this is the sound I’ve always wanted to make. It definitely resonates the most with me, so I think I kind of fell into it after dabbling with a lot of different stuff and listening to a lot of different music. It’s been called a lot of genres, but I think it’s mostly just moody and emotional, that’s where I feel the most myself.

H.M.: The first couple times I listened to it, it reminded me kind of of old Mazzy Star.

L.S.: That’s a huge compliment, thank you!

H.M.: I was like, ‘I get Hope Sandoval vibes and this makes me excited’. I love it.

L.S.: That’s so nice, thank you!

H.M.: I feel like Shoegaze is always sort of bro-y, but then people forget that there were women and non-men in the scene. What’s it been like navigating venues and spaces with this project?

L.S.: I think that I feel really fortunate to be coming out with music at a time where women are killing it right now. I’m grateful for the people who have come before me to make it a lot easier for me to navigate those spaces. I think even a few years ago it wasn’t the same as it is now. And like, all my favorite artists right now are women or non-men, and they’re dominating the indie music scene. That’s so cool to see and so cool to get to come into and be a part of. I have been fortunate to have pretty positive experiences, and I think I owe that to the people who have come before me and carved out that way.

H.M: Who are some of your favorite artists right now? Who have you been listening to?

L.S.: I love the new Yowler record, that’s one of my favorites. The new Mitski record, obviously. Sasami is dropping hers soon, and I’m excited for that. Such a cool thing to see Mitski selling out multiple nights in Toronto. It’s unreal.

H.M.: Do you have a favorite track on your new E.P.?

L.S.: I think “The Fuzz” is my favorite song, I don’t know if it’s the best one, but it’s definitely the most dynamic song I’ve ever written and my favorite one to play live. It doesn’t seem to be that many other people’s favorites, but we’ll see.

H.M.: How do you figure out which songs you like playing live?

L.S.: At this point we’ve only got this EP coming out, so we’ve just been playing songs from that, but I’m in the process of writing the next thing right now, so there will be more songs to choose from soon and then it will get trickier to pick a setlist.

H.M.: Does that take away some of the more nerve-wracking aspects of live shows?

L.S.: Yeah, it’s been an interesting time so far because we haven’t released the full collection, just three singles now, so most people that come aren’t familiar with the songs yet. The EP come out a week from tomorrow. Maybe it will feel different when there’s a chance that people will recognize them when we play them live.

H.M.: I think they will. Can you take me through your writing process?

L.S.: Pretty much every song starts with lyrics or at least a lyric, or a verse, or a chorus, and then I build around that -- always. Usually I’ll write the melody, either on guitar or on keyboard and I sort of just build them up from there. I like to layer as much as I can on my own and demo as much as I can on my own before I get other people involved. With this project, I feel pretty possessive of it. The songs are super personal and really special and important to me, so I think I tried to form them as fully as I could before anything happens to them.

H.M.: How do you navigate that tension of being vulnerable and telling a story while also knowing that this is something that’s going to be out in the world?

L.S.: There are some songs that make me more nervous than others, for sure. Writing is definitely a process of coping and a tool I use to process things. With some songs, I feel like I have processed and moved past that feeling. They still mean something to me, but it feels separate from me now, while other songs still feel very much like a part of me, sometimes in difficult ways. I think putting them out makes me feel in control of them, like I have some sort of power over the feeling and I think that itself can be really empowering.

Also, I’m a bit of an open book. I wear my heart on my sleeve, sometimes to a fault. So sharing parts of myself has never been that difficult. Sometimes I wish I was a little more mysterious.

H.M.: I get what you mean though. Do you find it difficult to be less open with certain people? Like when you have to go buy a coffee after doing something super draining like that?

L.S.: [laughs] That’s a funny question. I think I’m good at picking and choosing who I spill the beans to, but it doesn’t take too much to make me feel comfortable to share. I hope that I’m not that person that’s like, ‘oh God, not this girl, talking about her feelings again.’

H.M.: I totally get it. I don’t know what small talk is.

L.S.: I hate small talk and maybe that’s part of it. I don’t really want to shoot the shit, I want to get deep and get on another level with people. That’s the way I enjoy to connect.

H.M.: Yeah, and I think music is such a cool way to connect with people and strip back those layers of conversational niceties because it is so direct. I was looking at your lyrics, and some of the phrasing is so beautiful. I don’t know how you finagled it into a song but you did.

L.S.: Thank you so much, that’s so kind!

H.M.: It’s so cool! Can you tell me how you learned to work with things like phrasing and the actual musicality of your lyrics?

L.S.: Oh man, I don’t know if I know how to actually answer that question. I think a lot of the best songs I’ve written have just sort of spilled out. I’m a bit OCD about rhyming and things like that, every once and awhile I will shift some things around just to make them work together. I’d love to learn more about songwriting and phrasing, I’ve never really felt that was my strong point.

I think it just starts with a line or a phrase that I hear over and over in my head, something that occurs to me and I just build around it. Probably the phrases that you notice are the ones that it started with.

H.M.: I feel like so much of writing is just shit getting stuck in your head for hours and hours.

L.S.: Totally. I don’t have much of a formula.

H.M.: Did you have a hard time finding a track order or anything?

L.S.: Honestly this particular collection of songs sort of just came together. I had written a bunch of things, but these six sort of came about around the same time and felt really cohesive, like a collection. It wasn’t extremely intentional in the way it happened, it just felt right. I feel like there’s cohesion to the sound, but also to the feelings and the words. It wasn’t that difficult a process, they sort of just came to be that way. It might be harder the next time around, but this time it felt like the pieces just fell into place.

H.M.: From a writing perspective, do you have any favorite writers that you look to when you’re working on lyrics or songs?

L.S.: I don’t know so much if I go to other songwriters for lyrical inspiration because so many of my songs are like journal entries or something. But I definitely have favorite songwriters, or songwriters where I’ll read the lyrics and be like, ‘shit I wish I had written that.’ Maryn Jones from Yowler is one of my favorite lyricists, but I could never write like her. I think I’m inspired by people but I don’t know how much I’m influenced by them. All of my songs are in first person, and all of them are autobiographical.

H.M.: How do you navigate the fact that a lot of people are hearing your work now?

L.S.: I just feel excited, to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect when I recorded these songs and I didn’t know what to expect when I put them out. The fact that they are being heard is really cool and validating.

H.M.: One last question. I was reading that you’re a Pisces sun, what’s the most Pisces thing about you?

L.S.: Oh gosh I feel like I’m as Pisces as they come! I think definitely the emotional aspect and wateriness- I cry a lot. It’s pretty accurate. Sometimes they get a bad rap, but it’s just a lot of feelings to navigate, that’s all.