One to Watch: A Q&A with Eliot Sumner

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It’s 108 degrees in Hollywood, the height of an unexpected heat wave smothering Southern California, but  can’t be bothered. You’d think the oppressive heat would bother the young Brit dressed like a health Goth ninja (“I prefer Jedi,” she jokes) but she handles it in stride, baggy black uniform and all.

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The 25 year-old multi-instrumentalist is preparing to take the stage at the Troubadour in a few hours and is as cool and collected as someone with twice the years of experience. That confidence might have something to do with her parentage– her father is none other than Sting, the multi-GRAMMY award winning lead singer of the Police (stated in case his name doesn’t immediately ring a bell). Onstage swagger is practically embedded in Sumner’s DNA.

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The cliché narrative of “ the rock star’s child seeks to make a name for themselves in the biz” is nothing new (see: Sean Lennon, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jakob Dylan, etc.), but it’s often tempting to dismiss their success as simply a perk of being rock royalty’s progeny. Sumner, who has been making music since 2007, is no doubt familiar with that fable, but she’s got no hard feelings. “I would never feel resentful about [my parents]. I’m very happy, and me and my parents really get along so I’m really grateful for my childhood. I have nothing to complain about.”

That’s probably because once people hear what Sumner has to offer, it becomes a lot harder to deny her natural talent. After being signed to Island Records at the age of 17, she began her music career under the moniker I Blame Coco. That indie electro-pop project introduced the world to Eliot Sumner as just another girl, not the daughter of a legend, but it didn’t take long for Sumner to try and escape the identity that had been carefully crafted for her; “I was very young when I got signed, so you know 17-year-olds are just changing their minds constantly about who they think they are and who they want to be, so it was confusing for everyone.” After some initial success she ditched the name and went on an extended hiatus from releasing new music.

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With the decision to go by her own given name in 2016, Sumner shows her true self in more than one way. Sumner cuts quite a striking figure with her androgynous wardrobe and shaggy hair– it’s a shocking contrast from the pictures you see of her as a young girl, standing alongside her parents on red carpets in awkwardly frilly dresses. Now, she doesn’t hide the fact that she doesn’t identify as any gender or that she’s dating a young woman (a model named Lucie Von Alten). “I’m very, very happy with my place in the industry,” she says, and it shows. “I’m having the time of my life. The label has been very flexible and just lets us get on with it, and they’ve supported that, which is great.”

 

With the release of her first full-length album as Eliot Sumner, Information, she is feeling more satisfied than ever in her creative output. “I think [in the last 5 years] I became a different artist and I grew up a lot. I wanted to distance myself from the past [because] I’m just not connected to it anymore. For me, this feels like the debut record.” Now, Sumner’s Krautrock influences and predilection for brooding vocals, and swirling, rhythmic epics are at the forefront of her sound.

“This was the album I think I was always was supposed to make,” she says and from the sound of it, there’s a lot more music that Eliot Sumner is meant to share. She’s only just begun.

All photography by Natasha Aftandilians for LACANVAS.com
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