Adored by her legion of fans, the Bubblegum Army, Elliot Lee and her alt-pop music fuses dark themes with a vibrant anime style. From Sailor Moon to Kingdom Hearts, her love of all things Japan has influenced her music videos and fashion, while lyrically she touches on loneliness and the struggles of the under-represented.
Her latest single is GoodBadUgly, which follows equally intriguing singles like Dirt and Pink (Freak). Beyond music, Elliot likes to draw and has been busy doing commissions for her fans during lockdown. At least, when she’s not playing Animal Crossing…
We caught up with her to chat dark pop, her favourite Studio Ghibli film, and her love for Japanese games.
How would you describe your music?
My music is, for me, an outlet and a place I get to talk about everything that I can’t talk about in my daily life. My music is kind of all over the place and it mimics what I’m feeling when I’m making it. I think it’s a therapeutic process for me and the people listening.
Your latest single, GoodBadUgly, what was the inspiration behind it?
GoodBadUgly is about how we tend to see – especially our idols – everyone around us in a light of ‘you’re doing better than me’ or ‘in this regard I see you doing so well, why am I not doing that well?’. And it’s hard to not get stuck in that rut.
It’s important to remind ourselves that everyone goes through the same basic struggles. We all have these aspects of life and some people may be better at hiding it or maybe they’re just in a better time in their life right now. But everyone does go through all this stuff.
Your music and videos juxtapose a cute aesthetic with dark themes. What’s the reasoning behind this?
Growing up I listened to a lot of music that had emotional themes and darker themes. And a lot of times it was only represented as black and dark and all that, which is totally fine. But for me I’ve always been a person who wears pink and likes bright colours and I like to be bubbly with pigtails and stuff. Even though I portray myself as that, I still do feel the same emotions that other people feel. I’ve been through a lot, I’m going through a lot. So it reflects in my music and my image as I am this bright pink bubbly person but my music is still about what I’m feeling and experiencing.
You champion the underrepresented and sing about mental health & loneliness. What do you want people to take away from your music?
The thing I want to get across always is that you’re not alone in what you’re going through and even if I’m not talking about exactly what you’re going through, I’m sure I’m feeling a lot of the same things you’re feeling. There’s someone else out there who has gone through exactly what you’re going through, at least in some form. Feelings of loneliness and alienation are hard to get rid of, but I think the more we talk about topics the more we feel comfortable opening up and the more I realise there are people out there going through it too. The main message is that my music is for you to use to heal in whatever way you need and that you’re not alone, period.
Who would you love to collaborate with? I saw someone mention BTS on Twitter…
Oh that’s absolutely a dream! I think honestly I really want to collaborate with some cool female artists that are on the scene right now. I really love Ashnikko, I think she’s so cool and she’s doing some cool collaborations lately. I love her whole energy: she’s got the anime girl vibe that I love and she’s blue and I’m pink! So it would be a cool little connection there! I would love to collaborate with anyone who’s doing something crazy.
I can see from your videos you’re inspired by anime. How did you get into that?
I grew up watching a lot of Sailor Moon, I would go to the library and take out VHS tapes and I’d watch them over and over again. I think that helped me create the foundation of my identity growing up. I watched a lot of anime when I had no friends in school, I’d go home and watch anime and my friends would be the characters. And so it had a big impact on me. The styles, the art, and the aesthetics in anime are so different from other cartoons and TV shows. I’ve always wanted to look like I was in an anime, that was my dream! So every day I try to do that. I also love how anime has some really great themes of mental health and other darker themes, a lot of people don’t realize that.
What else has influenced your videos and sense of fashion?
Kingdom Hearts for sure has an impact on how I dress. I just love that whole crazy look with the chains, I’ve always wanted to pull that off! Also, a lot of street fashion has inspired me, like Harajuku fashion in Japan or street fashion [in the US]. I love baggy clothes, growing up I always saw the girls who wore low waisted really baggy jeans. The grungier looking stuff and mixing it with the anime I think makes my style what it is.
What else got you into Japanese culture as a whole?
I watched a lot of Studio Ghibli films growing up, like Spirited Away and Totoro. I also lived in Hawaii as a kid for a little bit which has a lot of Japanese culture. So I think everything around me pushed me towards being into it. I’ve branched out from there into Korean culture – I’m learning Korean and speak it semi-conversationally. That part of the world is really interesting to me, I love all the cultures. Now I’m branching out into the whole world as I grow up, and I’m inspired by people of all backgrounds and countries. There’s cool styles and fashions and traditions everywhere.
What’s your favourite Studio Ghibli film?
Probably Spirited Away, I’ve seen it so many times it’s not even funny! But Totoro is a close second. I would mimic parts of the movie all the time in public!
You create your own art too, what influences that?
My first time focusing on drawing, I would sit and watch scenes of Sailor Moon and draw the characters on screen. And I’ve branched out from there, I’ve been drawing since I was in 5th grade off and on. I used to be really active on DeviantArt and I drew inspiration from all the artists around me, all the cool darker artists. Tumblr also had a big effect on how I drew, because everyone on Tumblr had such unique ways of drawing faces and stuff like that.
What games have you been playing recently? We hear you’ve been playing Animal Crossing!
Yes! I just got a brand new Switch as I was using my family one. So I’ve been starting over on a new island. I also got the free game Ninjala, I’ve been playing that a lot. It’s kinda like Splatoon but it’s melee-based, kinda like Fortnite. It’s really hard to explain but it’s really cool.
How have you and your fans been playing Animal Crossing?
I put some original designs up based on things that I wear a lot. There’s a jacket that I love that on the back says ‘got work, got money, got bee, got honey’ so I made a jacket out of it and a lot of my fans downloaded it. And then they’ve been making merch of mine in the game which is really cool and I can download those and wear them. It’s a cool way, especially in this COVID time, to interact in a fun way. And it’s also free! I don’t have to charge them for merch, they can make their own!
Have you visited any islands or are you keeping distance?
I’m a little socially awkward in general. I have a very hard time playing games with people as I get so scared! I barely even visit my friends’ islands! But hopefully soon, especially when I get my island looking a little better. Maybe I’ll have a little party and invite some friends on!
Do you think you would ever combine your music with video games?
For sure I’d love to. I’ve had a lot of ideas where I can have some promo where it’s a video game. I love the 2D Undertale style of gaming, something like that would be really cool to incorporate somehow. Video games have been a big part of my life so it would be cool for sure.
What got you into gaming?
My mum was really into games when I grew up, she played a lot of Final Fantasy and Dark Cloud. So watching her play those games got me into it. The first I ever really played was Kingdom Hearts, that’s the first I ever beat when I was in elementary school. After that I got more into Zelda, especially Wind Waker – that’s one of my favourite games, I love it so much! I really like games that look unique, like Wind Waker is one of the prettiest and most unique games ever. Also, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was one I played a lot growing up.
Do you plan to pick up the Crystal Chronicles Remaster?
Absolutely, I’m so excited!
What’s your favourite game of all time?
It’s kinda silly, but it’s the Hamtaro Ham Ham Heartbreak game! I love Hamtaro! The point of the game was to learn the language of these hamsters and use it in different situations. It’s hard to explain as it’s a strange concept but it’s really fun! I’ve played it through multiple times.
What’s next for Elliot Lee?
I have a lyric video coming out soon for GoodBadUgly, that’s gonna be awesome. I’m still doing commissions for fans. They commission me to draw and then I donate the money to a charity of their choice. I’m just gonna keep making stuff for my fans. I’ve just finished a couple of songs in the studio I really enjoy, so hopefully we can get them finished up soon and get them out in the world! Hopefully soon things get safe and I can go out and perform again. Whatever it takes to stay connected to my fans.