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An Album Worth Savoring

Meet multitalented musician Eliot Sumner

If the name Eliot Sumner doesn’t sound familiar, take a listen to the music. While the forthcoming album Information might be the first released under its creator’s given name, Sumner’s been putting out music (sometimes as I Blame Coco) since 2010 and has been tapped for collaborations by big-name artists including Robyn and Miike Snow. Listening to Information, it’s no wonder why: Sumner’s got a deep, driving voice that she mixes with electro-tinged beats and a dark, exciting vibe. Her songs, like “After Dark,” are as easy to take in through your earbuds as they might be on a dance floor. 

Here, Sumner explains how she forces herself to write and why a sinus infection almost detailed her entire project.

You’ve released music before, but never a full album under your own name. What’s different now?

I started working on the record about two years ago, and some of these songs didn’t really have a direction where I wanted them to go. And then when I met Duncan [Mills], who produced the album, he picked out a few that he thought really worked. After that, I went off and wrote more like those, and then we started a process of trying to make something consistent.

How do you write a song? Do you sit down and do it in one swoop or does it take time?

It depends, really. I started using this technique: I go into my studio and I have four hours to come up with something, and if nothing is sticking, then at least I have done four hours of work. That’s my way of getting stuff done, since I get distracted very easily. I need to discipline myself in order to write songs.

Is four hours enough time to make something happen?

I think so. It takes me about an hour to get a bit warmed up and enthusiastic. I think enthusiasm is one of those things there is no formula for, you just have to wait till it comes. If you give yourself an hour to just kind of fuck around and see what happens, then you’ll get into song structures and what have you.

You’ve been touring quite a bit, are you testing the new songs out on the road? 

Before we recorded the album, we were able to go on a European tour, and we got a chance to try out different arrangements of the songs. All of those nuances that came together for us as a live band are very much what we collected and put on the record. I think that’s when the magic happens, when we are all kind of playing together.

What kind of magic?

For instance, the song called “After Dark” is so changed from when it was a demo; it was a totally different song. None of us were really happy with it—I didn’t really like it very much—but then we worked on a live version and it totally transformed into something that we all loved.

If things were coming together on the road, what was your time like in the studio?

We didn’t have that much time, only about a week of preproduction. So, we were there in the studio with Duncan and the demos we were going in with. Then as soon as we finished that, we went on tour and then went straight from the tour back into the studio. We were refreshed and really tight already, but we only had about four weeks of recording. I got really sick for most of it; I had a sinus infection for the whole recording process.

Did it at least give you that raspy, throaty rock ‘n’ roll voice?

No, it just made me feel like shit.

The record comes out in January. What’ll be next for you?

I have to start writing new songs before it gets too late!