For most people, the eyes are the windows to the soul.
For L.A. pop newcomer Elana Belle Carroll of Party Nails, it’s her nails. This is a realization she had after witnessing the vaguely hilarious existential glee shared by a group of young girls as they got ready for a party.
“I liked the idea of girls doing their nails just to have a little more fun, just the tiniest detail in getting ready to go out,” she told LA Music Blog.
So, because so much of her sound and identity as an artist is shaped by the joy she observed in the that moment, we decided to find out a little more about her by conducting a weird, new type of interview never before seen in the IHC universe: the manicure interview.
Instead of answering my questions like how normal people answer normal interview questions, she painted (or glued) her responses onto her own nails, creating a visual representation of herself on the tips of her fingers.
Check it out, and scroll down to read more about her.
Everything Elana knows, she learned from the Blues. After her dad befriended the local music store owner in her minuscule New York hometown, Elana began taking lessons from him, practicing day in and day out to become better. It happened that his musical tastes were based in writing rather than technique or reading music, a an almost fate-based catalyst which resulted in her subsequent fascination with the craft of songwriting.
“He showed me all this great old Blues and country stuff, stuff that was really focused on chord structures and ways to support a personality behind a song,” she says. “The stuff we were working on was so colloquial, like it was exactly what you’d say to someone if they dumped you, which I really liked; all the lyrics were things someone would really say. It was just incredible to me that these songs could be so simple, but so powerful. But in order to be simple, it has to be right.”
Years later, that foundation has culminated in her pop-based Party Nails project, something that has become a final destination for her after years of experimenting with self-produced electronica, Americana and what she describes as “some thoroughly ambient shit.”
So far, she’s come out swinging with two intensely upbeat pop gems, both of which consider heartbreak and moving on in the context of bouncy drums, triumphant synths and the sort of shimmering, smiling vocals that make pop songs like hers so infectious. Because of this, her unique sonic palate has drawn comparisons to John Hughes and that certain optimistic ’80s aesthetic, something she finds both flattering and amusing. In fact, Noisey called her first single, “No Pressure” “a fierce bit of pop that sounds kind of like if Carly Rae Jepsen fronted a New Wave band that made songs for John Hughes films.”
When I asked her how she feels about the insta-eighties label her records have received, she said told me she’s happy about it, proud that her introduction into L.A.’s music scene could be associated with that kind of sass and spunk.
There’s no denying that that kind of sound plays well with her subject matter.
“Songwriting is always about tapping into something, and for me, that thing is usually interacting with another person, who I may or may not be in a relationship with,” she said. “There’s just so many ways to talk about connection and loss and fun with someone that matters to you. I was reading this one piece Pitchfork did about Taylor Swift, and it really stuck with me because they were saying they were worried that she could only write about broken relationships, but I don’t think there’s harm in getting to the bottom of what happens to you when you’re going through stuff like that. I think of a relationship like a diamond; it has many different sides, but every time you look at it you see it from a new angle and there’s lots of things you never saw before.”
However, the uplifting labels she’s received thus far aren’t the full story for Elana. Despite the sunny demeanor of her music, Elana herself is actually a self-admitted brooder, prone to the kind of melancholia you’d never expect to hear in such gleeful songs. Dig a little deeper under her primary layers of twinkling pop, and you’ll find someone who is both thoughtful and meticulous, who’s considered time and time again the complexity of relaying a message as deceptively simple as “I’m heartbroken.” That juxtaposition between audible joy and unseen discipline is what makes her magnetic.
In fact, the whole point of her Party Nails project was originally to reconcile her feelings with her sound.
“Party Nails started as this thing with a bandmate who is no longer with me, but the idea with him was sort of like ‘What if Elana did this thing that she’s never done before and I made tracks that made her sing differently?” she says. “Instead of writing about how crazy the world is today, which is easy to do, we wrote about having a good day and it just worked, even though that’s not what I’m naturally inclined to do by myself. The difference between me working alone and me working with other people is the difference between me making sad singer-songwriter stuff and me making pop music.”
She hopes the result of this will elicit a sense of catharsis a in her her listeners. “Getting in touch in your feelings in a real way is empowering,” she tells me. “That sense of relief and release is something I would like for people to feel.”
Up next for Elana is a total overhaul of her visuals, the likes of which will feature prominently into her performance. “I’m excited to make visual things part of myself that exists in the world beyond the songs,” she says. Same here.
Elana has a summer and fall full of new music coming up, but for now, we’ll be on the lookout for her legendary self-manicures.