ON ELKKA’s new EP, there’s a slow-burning house track based on a sample of Laurie Anderson, the New York performance artist who had a surprise hit with ‘O Superman’. Everyone wants to know exactly what kind of artist I am, Anderson sighs, as ‘Avant Garde’ builds to a climax: “Who cares?” This is the kind of DGAF attitude — sampled, chopped and placed on a Floorplan-esque pedestal — that sums up where Elkka is at right now.
It wasn’t always this way. The Cardiff-born musician spent many gruelling years behind the scenes, trying to crack the industry as a pop songwriter. But four years after abandoning the studio sessions to go it alone, Elkka has built a miniature empire — producing, DJing, throwing parties and running a label under the banner femme culture. “Laurie Anderson does whatever the fuck she wants,” Elkka explains, chatting from her home in South London. “I’ve always been obsessed with strong, charismatic women who fight for what they want and push the boundaries. I cared for so long about what people thought about me — is the music cool? Are people going to judge me for what I’ve done in the past? So that statement — ‘who cares?’ — was so important for me.”
She’s also borrowed the purring voice of soul singer Eartha Kitt, who appears on the dreamy ‘LVURSLF’ to announce, “I fall in love with myself and I want someone to share it with me.” These are the women that power ‘Every Body Is Welcome’, an EP that confirms Elkka’s transformation from peppy dance-pop songwriter to self-taught producer of dancefloor dominators. Her love of classic house is on display throughout, from the tracky intensity of ‘Avant Garde’, with its nod to DJ Pierre’s Wild Pitch remixes, to the acid-tinged celebration of the title track— an astrology-themed call-and-response anthem. What is it about queer girls and horoscopes? Elkka howls in recognition. “I’m always desperately trying to write a queer anthem,” she laughs. “The queer origins of house in Chicago and New York resonated with me so much when I sat down to write. I wanted to make something that was euphoric and celebratory of all of those things.”
Now 30, Elkka spent much of her twenties in recording studios, “rebounding from producer to producer, never feeling comfortable and in control”. She remembers being jealous of the producers in charge of the sessions but lacking the confidence to follow her own path. “That uncertainty allows people to take control from you. They sense that they don’t know yourself,” she remembers. In seven years, she never once worked with a female producer. “At some point I realised this wasn’t going to produce a body of work that was substantial and unique.” So in 2015 she quit the pop sessions and set out on her own “fake it ‘til you make it” journey.
The first step was to throw her own night — and within months, femme culture was born. In partnership with fellow DJ Ludo, the DIY effort has grown into a string of parties and a thriving label, with two fundraising compilations so far, featuring major names like Octo Octa and Lone, and a Breakthrough Label win at DJ Mag’s Best Of British awards in 2018. Next year they’ll drop another compilation, along with releases from global allies like Chicago’s Ariel Zetina and São Paulo’s Badsista. Through femme culture, Elkka is building the community she always yearned for. “Being a solo artist can be quite lonely. I wanted a reason to connect with people who were on the same wavelength. It’s about welcoming everybody,” she says, proving that their mission statement is the fuel that fires ‘Every Body Is Welcome’. “Having some escapism via the dancefloor is magical. We’re living in a difficult time — I want to put something out there that feels good.”