Roseland Theater, Portland Oregon
When I saw the press release for Elizaveta, I was instantly drawn to the fact that she was touring with James and Thomas Dolby. Out of half-morbid curiosity I thought I would set up the interview, run through it, watch the show, and gorge myself upon the awkward vibe that would permeate the venue between the ironic youths, the former glory adults, and the people that were actually interested in the music. Luckily, Elizaveta didn’t give me the chance. I started my research on her, and almost immediately forgot that she was opening for other acts. Her story is so fascinating on her own, coupled with her amazing voice and sophisticated, yet accessible music on her new album “Beatrix Runs”, that I immediately changed gears on my basis for going to this concert.
Elizaveta has had what I would consider to be an interesting, yet chaotic upbringing. Born in America, raised in Russia, schooled all over Europe (and by “schooled” I mean all forms of what that word can entail), ultimately returning to America for a formal degree from one of the top schools on the West Coast. Her music draws from all of these experiences, simultaneously, and yet doesn’t muddle her sound or message. She has a clear understanding of her process, as well as the finished product, and knows where her music is going at all times:
Mark: Does having so many diverse influences free you, or bottleneck the creative process?
Elizaveta: It’s always the external perspective; [one] sees it more from as a complete product, and then takes it apart and makes it less analytical. I liken it to a painter, who learns all these different techniques and then, at some point, determines their sweet spot; and then can adapt all these different techniques and not have it seem like a mish-mash.
There’s a big difference between mixing things up to fulfill a place of love and simply putting things together for the sake of doing so; when you make decisions in your head from an analytical standpoint, you may think that a formula will work, but hybrids function better when they’re coming from a more genuine place. I’m already a hybrid of cultures to begin with, and I have that love, so I think that why I do it well.”
MJ: How much does the visual aspect of your performance play into your overall persona?
E: “The [visual] should be supportive of the music, not overbear it; it should take people to a particular space. My music has outside elements, drawing from other eras; it’s good to have a visual representation of that era to help make the connection.
This leg we’re playing around with costumes. I had a lot of people react differently, but I tend to gravitate towards things that have an aesthetic element to them.
The video was just shot for “Meant;” that one is more along the lines of contemporary, but there’s a classic 1940s sense to it. It’s following along the lines from record – there’s a story in the record of a time-traveler (Beatrix). We wanted to shoot it in Paris because we wanted to have this amazing backdrop but somehow it all completely fell apart and then when they came back together we were someplace else and everything aligned. The video has so many historical elements that tie so well into the music.
In the record there’s a 2 sided poster one sides a map of the story (record), we wanted to slowly unveil. As we unveil more content, the map will slowly make sense. I think people really respond to stories; it is somewhat of a fairytale, but really, it’s a more fantastical version of my own story so it has some very genuine roots. I’ve had my share of adventures and struggles.
The goal is that, as we put out pieces, there will be moments where they raise questions without it being completely confusing. So the following videos may take up somewhere else but in the end you will be able to see how it all ties into each other.”
Her partner, in the artist realm, is her stylist/artist/costumer Missy – a woman Elizaveta had met through some friends during her time in Los Angeles. The two have collaborated on the visual elements of “Beatrix Runs,” from costuming in videos, to the elaborate drawing in the CD that Missy has taken to accompanying Elizaveta on tour, to keep the artist “in character.” But Elizaveta’s plans for her music spread far beyond that of the visual or auditory realms:
E: “The way I see my music in the future; one idea is to incorporate different scents for different songs. Music is primarily an emotional experience. The artist is a kind of channel to let the energy in, and act as a prism to guide that energy. Whether it’s a song, a set technology, costumes, it can all be added to amplify an experience.
As an artist with a unique sound, and an uncompromising desire to make music that is as beautifully innocent as it is hauntingly powerful, Elizaveta has been able to carve a niche in an untapped (or better to say unsuccessfully tapped) genre, and push herself into the foreground. While I don’t foresee any chart barreling success or “burn-bright-and-die-out” in the artist’s future, I see a long career that will measure its success by enduring content, not by soundscans or scandals.