JP-based musician Eleanor Elektra recently released her second full length album, Exquisite Corpse, which she describes as a concept album revolving around the environmental crisis and her personal relationship with it.
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Elektra came to Boston several years ago to study at Berklee College of Music, but dropped out as she “wasn’t really thriving in the institutional setting,” she told the Gazette.
“I was still in a place where I wanted to learn and be a student of sorts,” she said of Boston, and as someone who deals with chronic pain, she said it was easier for her to teach herself and “being in my own environment gave me some more flexibility to manage that.”
Since 2015, she has resided in a house in Jamaica Plain with other musicians—as many as five at one time—and she said this community environment allows her to “still be a student in a way.” She and her roommates often play music together, but also work on their own separate projects as well, she said.
As a musician, Elektra said she has always been self-motivated, and started teaching herself the guitar at around age 10. She also took piano lessons as a young child, and always participated in music with her family as a group.
Elektra’s first album, The Lumberjack, was released in 2018, and she said she has been working on Exquisite Corpse since about 2016, but she really started focusing on it about two years ago.
“It’s really meant to I guess kind of contribute to this pool of artistic and intellectual resources for people to have an actual relationship with the planet that we live on,” she said. “Now that the environmental crisis is really looming, I’ve been hearing more of that come up in new art and music.”
She said that while the environment has been a topic of some of her previous music, this album presents a “sense of urgency.” Elektra said she’s “really trying to draw attention to the fact that we’re on the edge of a precipice and we need to walk ourselves back.”
As a printmaker, she also created original artwork for the cover of her album, which she said takes imagery from music on the album, as well as certain metaphors that are consistent throughout.
“Both on the posters and the album art, there’s this image of what is a dead deer,” she said, but it’s “kind of ambiguous whether it’s dead or alive.” She said the corpse is “used to talk about cycles and nature” and “a period in our cycle as a people it seems where it’s really heavy with dying.”
The first song on the album is titled Exquisite Corpse, and “we ended up kind of using that as a metaphor in the lyrics we’re writing as well,” she said, so the name also stuck for the album title. “This is a good way to personify the planetary body as it exists right now,” she said. “When the planet undergoes a transition like this, it is violent.”
The album features several other musicians that Elktra met through the Boston music scene, including Milena Casado on trumpet, Jacob Hiser on piano and the Hammond B organ, Ivanna Cuesta Gonzales on drums, Zosha Warpeha on fiddle and Hardanger fiddle, and Tyrone Allen on bass.
She said that “Miami” is one of her favorite songs on the album, “both as a composition and the way it came together in the studio.” She said the song is one that “personifies the signals that we’re getting from the natural world that are indicating big changes are happening, like the foundation of like on Earth.”
She continued, “I suppose it also expresses the apocalypse in progress aspect of now and so it’s kind of like, if you listen to it, it may not be totally clear if you’re looking at a post apocalyptic world or the world right now.”
Elektra said she feels so connected to the environment because it’s “always been my point of spiritual contact. For a number of reasons, it’s been one of the most important relationships in my life.”
Coping with a chronic illness, she said, “I’ve always been sensitive to the sensory experience of being in nature,” such as noticing how the sun feels on her skin or other tactile experiences she could have that didn’t make her feel pain.
She said a lot of it has to do with where she grew up in the Pacific Northwest. “It’s hard not to notice how impactful and important and beautiful the environment is here,” she said of Portland, where she was calling from. “There’s a culture here of education around environmental issues.” She said her father is a hydrogeologist who works on environmental cleanup sites, and she’s been exposed to a lot of natural history through him.
“In Boston, writing about nature is more of a niche subject,” she said. She said that Jamaica Plain feels a lot like Portland to her, with its many community gardens. Portland has less dense housing, so people have large gardens in their yards. “In Boston, you see community gardens which is awesome,” she said.
Exquisite Corpse is currently available for streaming on Bandcamp, but will be available on other platforms soon, Elektra said. To order or download the album, visit https://eleanorelektra.bandcamp.com/music, and to order shirts and posters, visit https://eleanorelektra.bandcamp.com/merch.
Elektra can be found on Instagram @eleanorelektramusic, as well as on Facebook and YouTube.