Music Spotlight: Party Nails
LA-based singer-songwriter Elana Belle Carroll aka Party Nails just released her highly anticipated debut album past lives and paychecks after teasing the album with single releases, including the intimate track I go To You. party nails flawlessly blends elements of electronic, pop and alternative music in the 12-track album. We chatted with her about I go to you + her unique synth-pop sound.
Asymmetric Magazine: Your latest single before the full album dropped was I Go To You. Can you tell us a little bit about that track?
Party Nails: I noticed a theme in some of the men in my life, and it was that even when they could be the most generous, sweet and loving people, there was always something that shut them down and made it hard for them to ‘come to me’ when I felt I wanted that closeness. It was as if they would be there to help me solve problems, but didn't want to be there when I wasn't sure what the problem was. There is something special about closeness when you don't need to ask for it. It's an understanding. The song itself isn't gendered at all, it's actually a story about that whole state of being and the pain two or more people can go through when they want comfort but don't want to ask for it—or can't ask for it. Really the song explains it better than I ever could.
There is something special about closeness when you don't need to ask for it.
AM: What was your biggest challenge when writing this song?
PN: The writing itself was pretty frictionless. I started with the chorus. I wanted the hook to be a list of things that are never issues, and then end with the big problem (you're never angry / you're never tired / you never judge or stoke the fire / but you don't come to me / I go to you). The biggest challenge of this song was the production. When I first wrote it almost two years ago, I thought it would never be a Party Nails song. Then at some point I thought I'd produce it out a la Arcade Fire. It wasn't until I'd almost finished the rest of my first album that I realized this would be best as a close-mic'd dry and compressed, sad Americana record. I think getting some of the other stuff out of my system really helped.
AM: How does your current work compare to your previous work?
PN: I spent my teen years playing and writing Americana and country music, so this definitely ties into that nicely. But I think this has elements in it that didn't develop in me until more recently. My music through my 20s has been more electronic based, and obviously more recently I've leaned quite far into pop. Electronic production has allowed me to explore sound and some more experimental sides of songwriting and singing. Even though that evolution isn't obvious in I Go To You, I don't think I could have created it without all of these previous eras and influences.
AM: How would you describe your sound?
PN: Robyn and Sheryl Crow had a baby who listened to SZA and Prince constantly.
AM: What themes do you typically pursue through your music?
PN: I'm obsessed with talking about our modern world and modern capitalism, which is very difficult to talk about when you're in the middle of it, as we all are. But I try. I try to use the whole picture of my music—the images, my actions, my words and sound choices, and my stage presence—to engage and promote self-awareness. I try to use what I've learned to paint a picture of our modern world that it somehow also able to remind us that we are all just human, things weren't always like they are today, and that there are universal feelings and states of being that we all experience. There is a sadness and irony to our present time, and I love being so soft and vulnerable about it in a song. I love a happy-sad-lovesick-dance-song.
There is a sadness and irony to our present time, and I love being so soft and vulnerable about it in a song.
AM: What other musicians are currently inspiring you?
PN: I'm really lucky to have so many inspiring friends. Somme is my friend and roommate, and I love being near her and her work. My friend Kerry has a band called Bad Bad Hats. I love talking to her and Chris about their music and songwriting in general. Lynn from Pvris is incredibly inspiring. She's always working and so kind and so curious to always grow and push herself. I'm also really loving the music of Your Smith, Phoebe Bridgers and of course Robyn's newest single and every move SZA makes. Perfume Genius has really been hitting it for me, too. Also, I'm kind of obsessed with Jay-Z right now.
AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
PN: The best part of LA is that it's nice out a lot of the time, so I don't get slowed down by seasonal depression. In general, it's easier to live here than it was to live in New York City. I think when I first moved here four years ago, I was able to get in touch with the happy, sunny side of myself for the first time, and that was really inspiring.
AM: Where is one place that you feel completely in touch with your creative self/music?
PN: At my guitar, at my computer, on stage, and at my notebook. Some blend of those things.
AM: What can we expect to hear from you next?
PN: My record Past Lives and Paychecks [is out now], and I'll be touring the US in November and December. I'm already working on my next album, but you'll have to wait to hear more about that!