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Interview: Elle Graham ‘Woodes’

Melbourne based producer and singer Elle Graham, better known as Woodes, is one of the many artists performing at this year’s BIGSOUND. We caught up with the 23 year-old to chat about her on-going collaborations and recording in shipping containers. 


Firstly, how did you arrive at your stage name “Woodes”?

I wanted something that embodied strength and suited the music I was making and wasn’t too wanderlust or airy-fairy, because I do get likened to an elf… So I wanted something that was strong and I could pour all my energy into.

The current official Woodes photo shows you in the woods surrounded by snow. Where did you take it?

That was up in Lake Mountain (VIC) like a week and a half ago, it was freezing! I wanted it to have lots of black and white contrast and the snow seemed like the perfect spot. But we got (the photo) just as the snow was kind of thawing.

Many would have first heard you on your collaboration with Atticus Beats for Decisions.How did that collaboration come about and how do you feel about its relative popularity and success?

We wrote that song I guess like three years ago down in Melbourne. We’d always wanted to work on music together and we actually had a bunch of other tracks that just never got released. But that one (Decisions) I suppose kind of started me off on my solo artist journey, cause we started sending it out and people were like “this is a great step in the right direction”. Atticus released it as his own thing, which was great for him and also great for me because it gave me a deadline, like “you need an artist name by next week cause we’re releasing the song!” So I guess it was the catalyst for the next chapter. It’s been great though, and Paces and Alison Wonderland have got behind it. It gets played at clubs and that’s just surreal to me cause most of my stuff is ambient and peaceful….it’s cool to see people dance and sing along.

So are you happy for your songs to be remixed?

Yeah! I’m really about just giving people the stems and seeing what they come up with. I love it when my favourite artists just release a pack and it gives you a new set of tools that I usually wouldn’t draw on. I downloaded Alison Wonderland’s Run stems and I had such a fun time just cutting them up and turning them into my own thing. It’s such a powerful tool and it inspires emerging talent as well.

You’ve been pretty busy with Melbourne Producer Callum Baker, better known as Elkkle, how did that collaboration come about?

We really wanted to work together on some music and we studied together at the same uni, so we always just talked about it. I liked what he was creating and he got a bunch of samples from my voice and was putting them into songs. So we were like “lets see what happens if we spend five days working on some stuff and see what happens!” So all of those songs (Woodes x Elkkle) were written from scratch. It was nice to do and I don’t think either of us expected it to take on this journey, but it’s been really good!

What sounds, instruments, or parts are your contributions in the collaborations with Elkkle?

I wouldn’t say it was a clear divide, like obviously he’s very percussive and beats orientated, but we both definitely produced in terms of the creative vision. I was in charge of things like the structure, which included time limit, and the song having like a verse-chorus-verse-chorus, which wasn’t something he’d done before. But we both inspired each other to use our skill set in a certain way. But of course the production in Ableton is Callum and the vocals are definitely me. But even with my vocals he would say “why don’t you try this”, so it wasn’t necessarily me doing my thing and him his.

Your song with him, Muddy, received plenty of praise including plays on Triple and Double J and being ‘Unsigned Artist of the Week’ by FBi. Did you expect this kind of reception to the song?

Not at all! I thought it (Muddy) was a bit too weird, like it’s so special because of the idea it came from, which was just one morning with us writing a song. I did think that it was a bit lo-fi or weird to be picked up, but everyone just got right behind it, which is crazy for your first kind of actual single I guess!

What was the process like recording the upcoming Woodes x Elkkle EP “Flash Mob”?

We recorded it in a shipping container on Phillip Island…

How did you come to that decision!?

Ha! So Callum’s dad bought a shipping container studio from a guy who’d decked it out with like soundproofing with full thick doors, like a full on studio in a refrigerator like thing…and it was in the middle of like some trees. It didn’t seem weird that we were going to create some epic thing, we were just happy to be in a space which didn’t have Internet, that’s in the middle of nowhere, where all we can do is write music and eat! So that’s pretty much all we did, and we spent that weekend putting down everything but the vocals. Then I flew back a week later after putting a time stamp on them. I think that’s the great think about going out of the city and going somewhere unique like that is that you only have those five days and then afterwards I didn’t really want to (the songs) too much, cause you could just keep working on the forever.

Do you feel like five days was enough?

Oh we could have come up with heaps more but maybe we needed like a few days break and then go back the week later. I’d still be keen to see what would happen, especially now that we’ve written a few more things and he’s added some beats on some of my material and I’ve done some vocal samples for him. I’m sure it would even be more organic now after we’ve done some shows.

Will you continue to collaborate with Elkkle or are there other artists you want to work with?

I’m talking to a lot of other producers at the moment. I think (with Elkkle) it’s more like I’ll feature on his tracks and he on mine, but the collaboration EP was definitely it’s own thing and that’s why we had joint names. We’ll keep collaborating just because it obviously works and he’s also a great person.

What can fans expect when you release some solo work?

Well a lot of people have reviewed the material as kind of dreamy and nice descriptive words about my vocals. That will still be apparent as well as the idea of making music you can get lost in and has a little adventure tied in. They’ll still be beats and it’ll be a nice branch off from (the collaboration with Elkkle) I suppose. 

You’re in Brisbane for BIGSOUND, are you excited?

OMG Yes! I found out when I was in America, like my family don’t really know what (BIGSOUND) is… but it’s great to have only a little bit of material out but already so many people believing in the project and really understanding my creative vision. I’ve also already run into like six really awesome friends, and it’s just nice to play music to people who care about music. And I wish I could go to all the conferences, I think I’m going to come back next year regardless! It’s such a unique event and its so great Australia has something like this. I remember hearing about it a uni last year and they were like (BIGSOUND) should be everyone’s plan, and it’s great to just be a year out and do it, it’s crazy!

You’re opening The Brightside’s Outdoor Stage tonight, are you preparing for the set any differently to usual?

Well I did some shows last week in Sydney and that allowed me to sort of see where the set was at and rework it a bit to get the energy different. But as soon as I went back to Melbourne on the weekend I hired a Vibraphone and practiced on that for two days in my living room. That’s not different for me I guess but it’s kind of a different thing to just like put some mallet percussion in the middle of your living room and play that for a few days… but that’s pretty normal for me!

How important is BIGSOUND to emerging artists such as yourself?

Extremely important! It’s great for everyone to come up and not just network, but put a face to a name, cause so much of (the music industry) is emails and talking to people over the phone. And just for emerging artists it’s great to come along and see what team you can create and what things people are doing who are a few steps ahead.

What’s the next big thing for Woodes after BIGSOUND ?

I’m playing a few beautiful shows in the coming months. I’m also curating my first solo thing, which I can’t talk about yet, but really cool! Then I’m doing my solo release, so they’ll be a single out in November and an EP out in February. It’s basically just focusing on Woodes and what’s that sound and forming a team or making a little army, it’s good!

And who’s your picks to see for BIGSOUND ?

Umm Ella Thompson for sure, cln, umm I’m so excited for JOY, Luke Howard, and Ben Abraham…I don’t know, heaps of people! I’ve timed (seeing the acts) so I can weave through strategically.

Woodes will be playing at 8pm on The Brightside (Outdoor Stage) tonight as part of BIGSOUND.

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