ElyOtto on Algorithm and Autotuning
In the spring of 2020, at the height of pandemic layoffs, Elliott Platt was laid off at a pet store in Calgary, Canada. This meant less responsibility for the young producer, who spent his free time finishing up song ideas in his bedroom while his family was away. Without any expectations, Platt uploaded them all to Soundcloud under the nickname ElyOtto. They were hyperactive, bursting through the ceiling of boredom at Platt’s house, and they quickly caught fire in a line.
“SugarCrash!” – a choppy hyperpop cutout about not having the money and half a brain – has taken off in the millions on TikTok, causing major record labels to arrive at Platt’s doorstep. RCA Records eventually won the fight and ElyOtto went from a feverish, unemployed teenage dream to a real viable pop project. And “Profane”, released today, is his first new release on RCA – still self-written and self-produced, only with “a darker, less mellow sound” than previous singles.
“Profane,” which Platt says is “meta as hell,” was written directly in response to the success of “SugarCrash!” – a song that saw him change his writing style to be more direct, assuming no one would ever hear it. Of course, he was very wrong. “I made the effort, I mixed it with profanity,” Platt sings on “Profane,” referring to those lyrics about drugs and mental health. “It wasn’t enough to keep him out of the nursery.”
Below, PAPER dives into ElyOtto’s “Profane” and chats with the 17-year-old escapist feeling of internet consumption, autotuning, and the algorithm.
How has your approach to music changed since the overwhelming success of “SugarCrash!”?
Because making music is no longer just a hobby for me, my approach to making it has changed in several ways. First of all, I can’t sit back and remix some obscure euro-pop ringtone. What I do must be fresh, original and listenable. I guess I could tell my focus has shifted to the sound of the finished product, rather than the manufacturing process.
From your point of view, what is “Profane” talking about?
Honestly, “Profane” is meta as hell. This is a direct response to “SugarCrash!” In the past, I had always written my lyrics in this cryptic way that only I could understand. God forbid people hear it and worry about me. With “SugarCrash!” and other songs from the summer of 2020, I had come to accept that my music would never gain enough audiences for anyone to pay attention to the lyrics. Because of this, I switched to a much more blatant style of writing that didn’t care about profanity and references to sensitive topics like suicide and drugs. Of course, as soon as I did that, the whole internet took “SugarCrash!” and ran with. It’s like as soon as I stop worrying about who is listening to my music, everyone is listening.
“As soon as I stopped worrying about who was listening to my music, everyone was listening.”
How does the rapid pace of internet consumption impact how you plan to make a song?
It seems that a song can use a few key aspects to combat the internet’s short attention span: a strong beat, a recognizable melody, and repeatable lyrics based on a common problem that people can relate to (and create TikToks with). While it’s good to have in a song, these characteristics alone aren’t enough to make something worthwhile. A lot of people who just don’t understand internet culture don’t recognize it, which is why we end up seeing these really horrible attempts to hang on to a trend or attract kids in an incredibly flattering and boring way. . Some of my songs are internet compatible, yes, but that’s because that’s what I want to hear, not because I’m so desperate to please the masses.
What do you think of the genres? Are you limiting yourself to just one label or is it the enemy?
Genres are good if you like listening to music, but since it has become a career for me, I find it doesn’t matter anymore. I do pop music. Sometimes it’s soft flashy pop pop, other times it’s evil, crisp I’ve-been-dead-since-1836 pop. That’s not my problem – the most interesting things exist in genre liminality, anyway.
Do you still make all this music from your room in Canada?
No, I moved to a very high-tech recording facility known as my mom’s garage. I have my own office and everything.
The algorithm helped launch your success. For many artists, however, this is an impossible pain in the ass. What do you think ?
The algorithm really freaks me out, to be honest. I think if we tried to explain it to someone from the past, they’d be horrified at how easily we’ve come to come to terms with something that’s so reminiscent of cosmic horror sci-fi. Also, I think many creators, without realizing it, have come to view the algorithm as some kind of artificial deity. It has the power to reward and punish us based on our dedication to creating relevant content, which is super scary. Either way, I think we need to let go of the underlying belief that social media is a contest – it isn’t. We’re all here to have fun and we shouldn’t let the algorithm take control of that.
Can we claim that planes in the night sky are like shooting stars?
I could really use a wish right now, a wish right now, a wish right now …
You’ve already blown Kim Petras on a runway. Who would be the dream collaborators to remix “Profane”?
Personally, I don’t think layman needs a remix. It’s good on its own. As for the other songs from my next EP, we’ll see.
“I make pop music. Sometimes it’s sweet and flashy pop, other times it’s mean, crisp pop. I’ve been dead since 1836.”
Is autotuning good or bad? Stand up for yourself.
Preset is great, but it makes me very sad when people assume I’m using it as a crutch. I wish more mainstream artists were transparent about their use, so people would realize that it’s a fun tool and has nothing to do with how someone’s voice sounds naturally.
Do your pet geckos love your music? Do you test any tracks on it?
[If] You mean Freddie, my gecko, he doesn’t know all the music. I can’t tell her, it would ruin her perception of me. Pippa, my other gecko, on the other hand, loves my music and pop in general. We could collaborate.
Where in your wildest dreams would your music career go in the future?
I want to jam with people on the streets during the day and host raves at night. I want to save lives with my music.
Photo courtesy of Sami Drasin
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