[Q&A] eli.’s Remarkable Sound is as ‘undefined’ as Ever

Photo Credit: Eli Lucas (@imelilucas)

By Alissa Arunarsirakul // May 4, 2020

A West Virginia native, eli. has most certainly spent an interesting few years in the music scene. With an impressive DIY approach and an ever growing fanbase, eli. produces music that can’t be tied to a single genre because… well, that’s just not how it goes for this musical mastermind. An eclectic mix of tracks about love and self-discovery, undefined is eli.’s latest effort that’ll keep you on your toes. 

On undefined, eli. explained,

“This is definitely my best work yet. I built upon previous concepts from other albums and fully fleshed out my multi-genre experiment. Most importantly, I created something here that I think is really authentic in the way that it is presented. I’m not separating different parts of myself, different identities; I’m not trying to brand myself with a specific sound. I don’t care. I care about good music, period.”

To celebrate the release of his new music, we recently chatted with eli. about his basement studio, self-fulfillment, and of course, undefined

HH: Although some may classify you as alternative, how would you describe your sound without genre categories?  

E: I think alternative is probably the best description one could give. I’m really not sure what else to call it. I’m not necessarily creating a new genre in and of itself; I’m just participating in many of them. I think alternative, or really even just “undefined,” is a good option. That’s why I named the album this way.

HH: Rumor has it you wrote, recorded, and engineered undefined completely in your basement studio. What advantages did you have in your own space as opposed to renting a professional studio session?

E: Yes, it was actually all in my bedroom at my grandparents’ house. Every song except the last song was finished there. I recently moved to a new place, where I have set up a basement studio, and included just one song from the new place as the final track. I guess the clearest advantage is financial. I didn’t have to pay anyone for any studio time. I don’t have to rely on other people in any aspect. When inspiration strikes or I feel like working, I walk from my bed or couch to my computer and work. It can be very “on the fly.” I never lose any good ideas that way. Efficiency is another advantage, too. I can turn songs around in under a day, meaning finished from the first moment to the final master after a single 8-12 hour session. 

HH: With 18 tracks, undefined. is a considerably long album. What led you to including so many songs on the record? Are there some that didn’t make the cut? 

E: I did 18 because that’s how many songs I had when it was time to release. I do like 18 though… that’s a good number for an album. I’m not sure why exactly. I suppose it could have almost been two albums. I don’t really care or think too much about albums and how many songs are on there. I used to just release a song every week instead of albums. I think I may even like weekly releases more than albums. Maybe I’ll go back to that someday. 

HH: It’s been months since you released “make it,” but we still have it on replay. How have your fans been reacting to the new record? 

E: It doesn’t seem like people are taking to it very well, but I’m glad you love it! It’s been an extraordinary challenge for me to break out of the “sad stuff.” My biggest songs that helped initially establish my career were sad and fit some particular niche that I never even intended. My point here is that I release a happier, upbeat song and most of my fanbase may not necessarily listen to music like that, so it flops. Or maybe the song is just complete ass! That is, of course, possible. But I feel very strongly about how good this track is. I feel like it’s unfortunate that it hasn’t reached the proper audience yet. With all of that said, it doesn’t change how I do things. It’s business as usual. I don’t make songs to have a hit (although that would of course be very nice!), I just make music I like that is meaningful to me for some reason!

HH: You’ve shared that undefined. is “definitely [your] best work yet.” What pushed you to keep working on the record in the times that you might’ve felt discouraged? 

E: Do I appear arrogant or overly confident if I say I never felt discouraged? Oh well. I never felt discouraged. But just to be clear, it’s not because I thought I was making some sort of God-tier album! I just don’t do this to get a pat on the back. I’m not doing this to be the biggest star in the world. I make music because it’s just what I like. It’s my hobby. Some people love math and they just do math. It’s incredibly rewarding to have a fanbase. It’s incredibly rewarding to maybe be able to speak to someone through what I do. And, it is incredibly rewarding to hear praises for one’s own work. Of course… but I was doing this long before any of that and I will continue long after. If people keep listening, that’s awesome! Being able to support myself financially from this is incredible! It’s not why I’m doing this though. Music is simply part of my identity and I’m not trying to cater my music to anyone. A lot of artists say they make music for their fans, but that isn’t the case for me and I’m not sorry about that. I’m making music for me and that is how you know what you’re getting is real. I could make an 18 song album with tracks like “attached,” which is my biggest song. I could do that and, in fact, I think it’d be easy. I think that’s what people want from me too, so it seems like an all-around win. A win for everyone except for me. It wouldn’t be authentic and it would be like I’m just trying to force something for the wrong reasons.

HH: If you could collaborate with anyone in the music industry, who would you pick?

E: I’m not big on collaborations. If I could collaborate with anyone, I’d probably pick John Mayer and call it a day. 

HH: What are your three hidden hits?

E: “Someone Else” by Aftertheparty is an amazing track I heard years ago. I’ve been listening to him since and he has so many tracks that are absolutely incredible!

“Malibu 1992” by COIN. Not sure if they are hidden… they have quite a sizable following, but I’m from the same hometown/area as their lead singer. 

“Racecar” by Gabe Bondoc is great. I found him from YouTube covers and of course, his originals are underrated.

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