At Lollapalooza in Chicago, I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Elephante shortly before his set at the iconic Perry’s stage. We went over his shows in 2019, his personal involvement on his new album, and even talked barbeque!

Welcome to Lolla! Is this your first Lolla performance?
“It is! This whole situation is pretty insane, but I’m excited to see what happens.”

This is another big festival for you to check off the list this year. You performed at Ultra this year! What was it like at the new grounds?
“The new grounds were awesome! The Worldwide is such an iconic stage. I’ve always been around Ultra for WMC and stuff. This was my first time playing so it was really special. To claim the new show on that stage, and seeing the photos and videos afterwards, I was like ‘This is so fuckin’ unreal!’”

As someone who played piano, guitar and is now into the electronic production, I’m sure you can appreciate a musically diverse festival like Lollapalooza. Are there any non-EDM acts you’ll be checking out while you're here?
“I’m really into King Princess. She’s actually one of my favorite artists. Her set is right after mine, so I might be sprinting after! Lolla is like the biggest crossover, sort of multi-genre festival that I’ve ever played. I’ve watched all the documentaries; I grew up listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers and all those other guys. To be a part of that is pretty cool.”

You’re stepping up the production game with your future shows. What involvement did you have in those visuals?
“Yeah, I’ve been working with an amazing team to kind of bring the new vision to life. With the album tour last fall, that was really the last time where I had sort of a cohesive vison where it was more than just the music. I really wanted to tell a story. It’s not all me, I have an awesome creative team that I’ve been working with. It’s been really exciting and also a learning experience for me.

In the music, I’m such a control freak and doing everything and working with all these other talented people, it’s almost like letting go a little bit. I’m so used to having my fingers on everything. Working with these talented people, communicating a vision and trusting them to do their part, and coming together to create something that I never would have been able to do on my own is the most special part.”

The blend of genres at Lolla might be fitting with the transitioning sound for your latest album. What can you say about the new album?
“I’ve really turned back and looked at all the influences that have gotten me to where I am. With dance music, the biggest challenge is really finding your own sound and being unique and having a unique perspective. Everyone is trying to copy the latest trend, whether it’s future bass or trop house. For me what makes my perspective, my angle, unique is I started going back and listening to all the old music from when I was younger. Alt rock, classic rock, hip hop, just taking that and really trusting each song to be its own thing and really follow what the song is telling me to do instead of being like, ‘well shit I really need a good 128’. Instead of taking a song and turning it into a 128 radio song, I’m like ‘I don’t know what this is, but we’re just going to run with it.’”

You’re also are including more of your own vocals in the new album. Was it an easy decision to go that route instead of bringing in an outside vocalist?
“I was a singer/songwriter before I started producing, so I’ve always sang. The thing for me was it was never about the ego of ‘oh it has to be my voice on the song’. If someone else can sing it better than I can, I want them to because to me it’s about the song. Over the chorus of working on “Glass Mansion”, I feel like I was learning a lot about writing and creating the songs I wanted. For me, with the process of making this new album and the songs I’ve written, I think I’m the only one who can sing them because in a lot of ways they’re deeply personal. I’ve gotten used to writing them for my voice. Before I’d be like ‘let’s find someone to sing this idea and take it wherever they want to take it.’ Now it’s like it needs to be exactly how I’m hearing it in my head. I’ve really dug deep and dug up some personal stuff that, two or three years ago, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to put out a track. Now it’s time to put it all out there.”

You recently announced that you’ll be headlining this year’s Up & Up Festival series! What will it be like to return to a college campus as a headlining artist instead of an Econ student?
“It’s crazy! I played a lot of college shows when I was first starting my career. They’re obviously smaller, like at frats and things like that. It’s such a formative time for the music you like and the experiences. When you’re going into college you’re like a soft ball of clay. Those experiences are going to define the music you love for the rest of your life. I’m really excited after everything I’ve learned and how I’ve developed as an artist, I get to be the artist now that gets to be influential. I remember how influential stuff like that was for me, so it feels very full-circle to be on the other end now.”

Finally you’ve been known to be a master on the grill. What is your ultimate Saturday barbeque meal?
“I just got a smoker! You can throw an eight pound brisket in there and let it smoke for four or five hours. My go-to is a bone-in pork shoulder. I have my secret marinade rub, some Dijon mustard and a spice blend I made. Let that marinate, throw it in the smoker for six hours until you get that nice little bark. Then, you finish it off in the oven. It is really insane! The pulled pork parties at the crib are the jam!”

I'd like to thank Elephante for taking the time to chat with me (and making me hungry). You can check out tour dates and links to all of Elephante's socials via his website.

Photo credit: Derek Rickert