Elanor Moss – In Their Own Words

Yorkshire-raised and now London-based, Elanor Moss came crashing to my attention with the release of the beautiful, bruised and at times darkly comic EP, Citrus. Following that record’s success, which saw Elanor become something of a fixture on 6Music and written about in almost all the right places online, she made the rather exciting decision to swap York for New York, recording in Brooklyn with regular collaborator, and Low Pines members Oli Deakin. There Elanor found a cohort of temporary bandmates willing and able to send her music spinning off in an array of exciting new directions. The result is Elanor’s brilliant new collection, the Cosmic EP.

Elanor has spoken of this record as a continuation of Citrus, while that EP seemed to exist in a place of chaos, Cosmic picks up the pieces and begins the process of piecing them back together. The record even seems to begin mid-story with Sorry Song, a track that might read like an apology, yet truly is a song of self-recrimination and failing to take the unconditional support on offer, “I’m sorry that I always shrunk from your hands, when they offered to take half the weight but I know that it’s not yours to save”. Accompanied by swooping woodwind, and underpinned by a beautifully complex drum track, Elanor seems to lay out all her flaws, offering them up to be cleansed, alongside the unwashed dishes and take away boxes, “I’ll scrub away every stain, the soap keeps the monsters away”.

From there the record slides into a classic slice of religious guilt, in the shape of the crashing Rilo Kiley-like guitars of Catholic. The song sings of seeking acceptance, initially, it feels like she’s singing to another, yet on repeat listens, I wonder if Elanor isn’t actually singing to herself as she repeatedly asks, “I just want to feel loved by you”, before lamenting a late night with too much wine and devouring, “the contents of a dine-in for two, covered in key lime, trying to find validation online”. That sense of trying to find confidence in yourself is also present in the de-facto title track, Cosmic Memory, the luxurious strings bringing to mind Martha Ffion, as Elanor watches a quite possibly unwanted squeeze move on, noting, “you’re seeing someone new, before I had the chance to see if I still love you”, before the crushing rise and fall of possibly my favourite lyric this year, “I hit back with “I’m basically famous” but really I’m cripplingly lonely”.

The record draws to a close on the magnetic Mary, the track seems to almost bring the record full circle, finding Elanor switching roles and offering unwavering support to another in their own personal hour of need, as fluttering guitars accompany Elanor recognising her own struggles in the eyes of another, “her stare enough to tell me, she’s not there these days but packed and gone elsewhere”. From there, the whole thing drifts out on a wave of layered vocals, and a saxophone mimicking Danny Boy in an unusual, but rather poignant farewell.

With the EP out into the world and a first headline tour coming quickly on the horizon, I recently spoke to Elanor about throwing herself into the unknown, sharing a stage with the Poet Laureate, and why “the Elanor on the ‘Cosmic’ EP feels like a big sister to the Elanor on the ‘Citrus’ EP”.

Photo & Header Photo by Mon Levchenkova

FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Elanor Moss?

Elanor Moss is me, Elanor Moss: a songwriter based in London, by way of Leeds, writing autobiographically about my experiences and trying to figure it all out. I started writing my own music when I was studying English Literature at the University of York and began releasing my own songs around this time last year. Last year I released my debut EP ‘Citrus’, and a couple weeks ago I released my second EP ‘Cosmic’.

FTR: You’ve just released your new EP, Cosmic, what can you tell me about the recording process?

It was very different to the process of recording Citrus, that’s for sure! I got to work with a band for the first time, over in New York with my friend and co-producer Oli Deakin. There were a lot of ‘new’ things; from being in Brookyln for the first time, working with bandmates, and also the pressures of touring plans and things when I got back. It was a challenge but it provided a huge amount of growth and experience for me! I’m so grateful to Oli for going deep on that experience with me. There was a huge amount of trial and error as we workshopped how the band-feel was going to work for these songs and my music.

I was so lucky to get to work with such great collaborators, too. Oli’s friend Stuart Bogie played brass and woodwind on the record, and I first heard Stuart’s playing a year or so ago on an album by Cassandra Jenkins, who is a New York based artist whose music I love. Stuart played on Cosmic and shortly after I ended up opening for Cassandra in Leeds, so it was a real full circle moment! We also had a dear friend of mine Morgan Karabel on drums and Oli on bass and guitar. It was fun and the start of something new!

FTR: Do you think recording in Brooklyn changed the sound of the record? Would it be a different record if it was made in Yorkshire?

Almost definitely. I was thrown into a big unknown, which in my experience can either cripple creativity or help stimulate it. I was somewhere in between! But moving through that fear is so so great once you do. The songs felt like an expansion and movement into a new space, and it made sense for the music and production to reflect that expansion. I wanted to treat this EP as an opportunity for experimentation, and had to give myself permission to do it imperfectly. I tend to have an attitude of ‘doing it perfectly or not at all’ which can be really stifling. Being thrown into a new environment created a lot of uncertainty, and working with such new material created uncertainty, and recording the second EP before I’d even released the first created uncertainty… I think all that uncertainty was useful, in a way. It didn’t always feel it at the time, but in hindsight I can see it was! Those trips were total mixture of terror and joy, hahaha. I think we created something really worthwhile out of it; a true ‘record’ of the moment, which is all I ever really want to do when making something. Oli taught me that.

FTR: I saw you’d mentioned this record comes in the aftermath of your previous EP, Citrus, how are two records linked?

They’re linked in a purely autobiographical sense, chronologically so I guess. They are also both EPs about trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense at the time, but they present that in quite different ways. The songwriting on first EP ‘Citrus’ felt very unfiltered and stream-of-consciousness-y. ‘Cosmic’ does a similar thing but comes after more time spent working on the craft aspects of songwriting and finding different ways to express some quite similar ideas. I was also finding new ways of looking at old things, and new ways to look at new things and challenges. The Elanor on the ‘Cosmic’ EP feels like a big sister to the Elanor on the ‘Citrus’ EP; and so it’s appropriate that the collection rings out with a song about asking for help and leaning on people when you need to.

I guess they’re connected in that they both feel like accurate documentations of the journey I’ve been on with myself and those around me. Whatever comes next will do the same, I’m sure!

FTR: Who are the influences on your songwriting? What were you listening to when you wrote Cosmic?

So many! The earliest ones are the greats like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Sheryl Crow, Carole King… then more recent people like Feist, Adrianne Lenker, Julia Jacklin. I was listening to a lot of contemporary Australian songwriters at the time like Julia Jacklin, Stella Donnelly, Courtney Barnett. I was also reading a lot of like Nora Ephron and similar things.

Photo & Header Photo by Mon Levchenkova

FTR: I love how your songwriting melds humour into the darkness, is finding that lightness something that comes naturally to you?

I think in a way, yes! My personality surprises people sometimes when they’ve only heard my songs; when I’m most myself and not in a bad place I do tend to see the funny side of things. Melding humour into my writing is something new I was trying on this EP – it’s a balancing act, finding that emotional dexterity in songwriting. Humour was a good way to find the different shades and nuances of a situation whilst I was writing these songs. It was what was exciting me in my writing at the time which is why so much of it made the final cut. By the time I release something else I’ll be interested and excited by something else, no doubt! I’m always looking for new ways to express the complexity of experiences. Nothing is ever ‘just sad’ or ‘just happy’ or straightforward. That’s what is so amazing about songwriting; we have the opportunity to reflect back some of the confusingness of human nature and there are endless ways to do that that I haven’t explored yet! Humour is just one way of many. I’ll let you know when I figure out more ways of doing that…

FTR: The new EP already seems to be going down a storm, has the success of it surprised you?

That’s very kind of you! Thank you. Yes, I think I have been surprised. The songs are a bit different to my first EP, but still feel very me, and it felt like a big leap of faith to release them. People were very kind about Citrus, so I wasn’t sure if this was going to be too much of a deviation. So, yes, I have been surprised! But very pleased and grateful.

FTR: You’re heading out on your first headline tour next month, what can people expect from the Elanor Moss live show?

Yes, and I’ll also be playing my first ever full band show! I have a brilliant band performing with me on the London date on March 24th at St Pancras Old Church, and I couldn’t be more excited or terrified. All the other shows will be solo. I try to foster an intimacy at my shows, so you can expect a lot of oversharing. I want us all to feel like friends by the end of the night!

I managed to trick my very brilliant and talented friend Sam Griffiths from the band The Howl and the Hum into opening for me on the tour. He is superb, and I may have shot myself in the foot by asking him to open the shows… He’s very very good. He also helped me write ‘Catholic’. We work together a lot and I’m very grateful to have him in my life. I’m such a fan!

I was super lucky to be awarded the PPL Momentum Fund which is helping make this tour happen. Shout out to PRS Foundation and Spotify! It’s amazing what is out there to help new artists.

FTR: What was it like sharing a stage with the Poet Laureate?

Honestly quite surreal. A pinch-me moment, especially as I grew up on those poems. Simon Armitage is a very lovely man as well as a true talent. Very Northern – I like that. I asked him quite impertinently about the rumour I’d heard (that you can google) that Poet Laureates are gifted an inordinate amount of sherry when they are made Laureate. It’s true! Too many bottles for me to say on here..!

In all seriousness, it was a gorgeous show. I am very grateful to Richard, Patrick, and Simon for having me. It was a pleasure to hear them play, too.

FTR: I really loved the video for Cosmic Memory, do you enjoy the non-musical parts of being a musician?

I do! I find it a bit overwhelming in practice, but I enjoy coming up with concepts and collaborating with friends on it. I worked with my friend Mon Levchenkova on the artworks and campaign imagery. I am so inspired by her, constantly. I feel so fortunate to have her in my life. Same with Alessia Stranieri, who is another close friend and new filmmaker. I find that all the other creative world-building aspects inform the music and vice-versa. It’s all very stimulating, even if it can be overwhelming at times.

FTR: What’s next for Elanor Moss?

At the moment I’m writing my first album. It’s exciting and scary and great and fun and not fun! I love it. Whilst I make that, I also have a bunch of other projects I’m working on collaboratively. I can’t share much about those at the moment (oooooo!) but I can say that I’m really excited about them. I’m just figuring it all out and trying to let myself enjoy it.

Cosmic is out now via Blue Raincoat Music. For more information on Elanor Moss visit https://www.elanormoss.com/.

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