We were seated in the media tent at Bestival when Elliott Vincent Jones (EVJ)’s manager approached us, asking if we wanted a few minutes to ask him some questions since their scheduled interviewer was running late. I had been in contact with his PR representative a few days before regarding an interview, but nothing was confirmed. Nonetheless, we came prepared.
EVJ was lounging on a blanket in the Lucky Lounge when we were introduced. I was a bit nervous, given my limited interview experience, but he was incredibly friendly, even offering to hold Morgan’s phone close to his face to make sure that it picked up our voices.
A card-carrying member of the Toronto music scene, EVJ, formerly of Ell V Gore and other musical projects, is a known Toronto DJ and musician. His recent release of Arto Arto, a synth-pop digital EP, has garnered a positive review from NOW Magazine. He will be touring with Mac DeMarco on a sold-out European tour over the summer, so it’s likely that he will continue to pop up on our radar. We spoke to him about playing at Bestival, navigating sobriety as a musician, and asked if he had any advice for young creatives.
JM: What made you want to pursue music and how do you make it work?
EVJ: Well, I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work, financially (laughs). I was brought into music at an early age. My father was a guitar player and tried to teach me to play music traditionally. I didn’t want to [do it that way] and I would just bang on [the guitar] and make noise. That blended into a very DIY approach to making music. I’ve been making music for a long time. I’m still pretty young—I’m 26 years old—but I’ve been doing it for well over a decade. I also grew up in Guelph, where there wasn’t much to do…but there was lots of music, so I was exposed to a lot of indie rock at a young age.
JM: Do you find that Bestival is a good way to gain prominence or do you find a better connection in smaller venues?
EVJ: Smaller shows are way more intimate and fun. Playing at venues like Bestival is cool, but it’s more of just having your name on [the lineup] and being associated with it than it is the performance itself. That’s because you’re on so early in the day and everyone’s really just here to see Tame Impala and The Cure.
JM: You’ve been sober for awhile now. Do you find that it has changed your relationship with your music?
EVJ: Yeah, completely. As cheesy as it sounds, when I was partying a lot and drinking, I made more aggressive, darker music and now it’s like, “oh life has all these cute, pretty things,” so this little sweet side of me comes out. And I really wanted to make pop music, so this is kind of my stab at it.
JM: Do you find it hard being in the music scene while sober?
EVJ: Uhm, no. I DJ a lot and I throw parties…so, I mean, at first it was hard, but it’s just a part of my life now. I have no desire to not be sober.
JM: Relating this back to students, what advice do you have for pursuing a creative career like yourself?
EVJ: The approach I always took was, literally, “do whatever the hell you want and don’t let anyone tell you what’s good or bad.” Yeah, I dunno. I’ve gotten myself in trouble for it a lot in the past, but I’ve never really given a shit about what people think about me. I don’t let anyone tell me what to do. If you’ve found something you’re good at and that you like, just stick to it.
Read more about Jess’ experience at Bestival 2016, here.