Ellise Is Entering Her Villain Era... And We're Here For It [Q&A]
Photo: Natasha Austrich
With multiple full-length projects under her belt, Ellise has quickly trademarked all things hot pink, heart-shaped, and haunted as her own. If it’s kind of creepy, but also insanely cute, it’s probably Ellise—and we mean that in the best way possible. The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has put her own unique spin on the traditional pop sound, intertwining sunny synthesizers with glitchy basslines to create the happiest nightmare you’ve ever dreamt of.
Today, Ellise is starting off 2023 with a new single, “brokenboys&bitterbitches,” where she reminds us that Valentine’s Day is far behind us; it’s time to embrace pettiness and get revenge.
We sat down with Ellise to learn more about the singer-songwriter's roots and get the inside scoop on “brokenboys&bitterbitches.”
Ones To Watch: First off, hi Ellise!!! This is actually such a full-circle moment hahaha. How have you been?! I think my main life updates are that I live in London now and work in the music industry. I hope all is well with you!
Ellise: Tatum!! Hi!! This is actually crazy. From high school drama class to now, definite full circle moment. London sounds amazing, and it’s pretty cool two kids from a little suburb in the Bay Area ended up in the music business. I’ve been good, very excited for the rest of 2023 and to drop a ton of music!!
Okay, now I’m going to start the ~interview~ questions. Let’s start by introducing yourself to the Ones to Watch audience. What’s your name, age, and where are you based? Any fun facts?
My name is Ellise (didn’t think of a sick stage name lol), I’m 23, and I’ve lived in LA for the past six years. My best fun fact is probably that I have three cats.
You’ve always had an incredible voice and such a great stage presence. I know you grew up doing theater and choir in school, but when was the moment you realized being an artist is something you wanted to make your career? What is the Ellise origin story?
Thank you so much!! Honestly, I think I always knew it was the only thing I wanted to do with my life. At our high school, I literally had to take classes at the local community college because I had so many class periods of choir and theater that I didn’t have enough room in my schedule for actual school. Music was always the biggest part of my life since I was super young, and as I grew up and came into myself more, I knew I was going to be an artist. I started writing songs and creating music video treatments in middle school for absolutely no reason lol, so I think it was kind of inevitable.
Throughout your discography, there’s always been consistency within your aesthetic. When it comes to making creative decisions, like artwork or videos, how do you go about translating your music into its visuals?
This is a really good question, because it always sort of shifts over time. First and foremost, as simple as it sounds, I just always make sure that my visuals are full of components that I personally love and think are cool. Kind of obvious, I know, but I figure as long as my brand and aesthetic are always a true reflection of ME and what I like, it will always be cohesive and consistent, and it’ll also grow with me. There are certain elements of my music and visuals that will always stay consistent, simply because it’s the core of who I am. My negative emotions that overwhelm me and make life feel impossible is really the core of it all. The dark, moody dramatics of myself will always be there, the rest is filled in with whatever I’m feeling at the time, mixed with my current inspirations and interests.
Today, you released “brokenboys&bitterbitches.” Yay! How do you feel now that it’s out for the world to hear?
I’m genuinely soooo happy it’s out. I made this song almost a year ago, with my brother (lilspirit) and our amazing producer friend JVSE, and then ended up adding the second verse with my best friend Bryana Salaz, so it was truly such a family moment. We wanted to make something different from my usual sound, more upbeat, less metaphorical and lyrical, just something fun and honestly... somewhat mean! A lot of my music in the past years has been from the perspective of the victim, about being scorned or heartbroken by others and vomiting out all the sadness and anger. But "brokenboys&bitterbitches" is truly the opposite of that. It’s me becoming the villain, and no longer taking shit from anyone.
In terms of its songwriting and lyricism, "brokenboys&bitterbitches" feels playful and lighthearted. In comparison to previous projects, how did you find the writing process for this track?
This song was definitely different to write than many of my others, in terms of the process. I typically write an entire song in one sitting, but this one went through some drafts before we got it to where it is, both lyrically and melodically. My brother actually wrote the hook, the melody and title idea were his. Once we had that and recorded it, the first verse and pre came to me pretty easily, and we stopped there in our first session. About a week later, Bry and I linked up and finished writing it (or so we thought.) Months later, I realized I wanted a bridge with full vocoder, a complete break with an entirely different production sound. JVSE had his friend play around 80 different tracks of violins, and we created the bridge. So, she’s had a looooot of versions.
What’s your favorite lyric from "brokenboys&bitterbitches?" Can you give us a Genius-style annotation?
I think my favorite lyric in the song is in the bridge, “I love lying and stabbing myself in the back.” The bridge of the song is supposed to be a reflection of the rest of the song. Obviously, the song is very lighthearted and carefree, it’s like a giant IDGAF to the world, just living in my little bubble and getting into trouble without a care. But the bridge is where you take a look in the mirror at 5 a.m. after you made a string of bad decisions all night and realize you actually feel terribly sad and lonely. I don’t “love” lying or stabbing myself in the back, but I do love engaging in self-destructive behavior, which ends up making me feel worse in the end.
Does "brokenboys&bitterbitches" hint at a future project in the works? Is there anything we can look forward to from you this year?
I can’t say too much about it yet, but yes, a project will be coming out this year. I’m super excited to be consistently dropping music again, after not releasing much last year!!
You’re playing Bamboozle Fest in May, which is so exciting! Are there any songs in particular you’re excited to perform live?
I’M SO EXCITED. It’s my first ever festival performance, so I’m kind of nervous but also super ready to do something so fun. I can’t wait to perform "brokenboys&bitterbitches" live for the first time, as well as Black Balloons. I already have my whole setlist sorted and all my visuals planned out.
And lastly, who are your Ones to Watch?
Some artists I’ve been obsessed with lately: iyla, Leyla Blue, lilspirit, Ice Spice, ELIO, Lolo Zouai