If you’re a local music fan, you’ve probably witnessed Elly Swope performing with some of Portland’s best bands: Genders, Sunbathe, Loveboys, Kelli Schaefer, Deathlist, and her own solo project, Focus! Focus! But this year Swope ditched that moniker and began to allow the magic of her vulnerable, skewed pop songs to reflect upon herself directly, without the buffer of a pseudonym.
“Running your own solo project is obviously very exhausting when you’re doing your own booking, your own album art, recording everything, and trying to do press and all that on your own,” Swope explains over the phone from a Sunbathe tour stop in Boston. “I’d just gone through some life changes that made me feel like I needed to be the side person for a while, and to just remember that I love playing music, or else I might not go on. Earlier this year, I just felt ready again.”
The result is her stunning debut EP, It Feels the Same Everytime, which is being released this week by NYC tape label Rue Defense. Evidence of Swope’s masterful songwriting can be found throughout the EP, but it’s even more impressive given the fact that, save for guest performers on two tracks, Swope played every instrument herself during the recording process at Destination: Universe, where she works when she’s not on the road.
On murky tracks like “6.8,” crushing imagery finds a stylistically restrained Swope whispering lines like, “I hold my character so well when I feel it coming on/I know you couldn’t tell,” until the song shapeshifts into a riotous fuzz-rock rallying cry: “Don’t tell me how I should feel about it/Don’t act like you never let me down.” The innate catchiness of Swope’s poetic, anti-pop confessionals can camouflage the raw emotional expressions lurking beneath the surface, especially on the anthemic “Idea,” which hints at the aftermath of a hurtful breakup.
“Sometimes when I have a darker song like that or a more emotional song, and I’m writing it after the fact, it feels somewhat hopeful or powerful to play it and write about that kind of thing after I’ve already processed what happened and I feel like I’ve gained my footing again,” Swope says. “Anytime I write a song that’s just completely dark and hits you over the head with that, I feel like I’m faking it.”
Rest assured, there’s no fakery afoot on It Feels the Same Everytime—Swope’s earnestness will demand your undivided attention.
“I ultimately just don’t want to feel like I’m pretending or that I’m trying to do something,” she explains. “I just want it to feel right.”