Culture, clubbing and community: ELLES & Violet in conversation


Generally this series involves label mates, collaborators, kindred spirits and the like, but ELLES and Violet are even more than that, they’re BFFs too – which we imagine makes working together all the more fun!

Violet is one of the leading figures in Lisbon’s underground music scene. As well as helming naive, a record label that’s been home to Eris Drew & Octo Octa, Almaty, Black Cadmium and many more, she is behind queer party Mina and community radio station Quântica, both of which she runs with long term partner and fellow production wizard Photonz, and more recently a brand spanking new club called Planet Manatas.


ELLES has been a mainstay on Violet’s naive imprint since the beginning. The London-based producer, DJ and Rinse and Netil Radio resident has had a number of her EPs have had a home there and on sister offshoot naivety but more recently her debut LP has been released on the label… and it’s a corker.

Tracing the journey of a night out, from leaving the office and getting ready with your gals to hotfooting it to the club and getting lost amidst the sweaty bodies on the floor, A Celebration Of The Euphoria Of Life was made to capture the importance of the dance floor and the escape it offers us – a particularly poignant message as it was written during the pandemic, a time where clubs were closed and the yearning for connection with others was at its peak.

Violet’s latest LP also comes from a similar place of reflection and soundtracking the every day. Transparencias, which was available for free, comments on the idea that “culture should be a universal right”. This extends to the contents of the album in which she seeks to provide music for our daily activities and serve us with a reminder that culture is something that plays a vital role in our lives.

In the below interview, the pair come together to chat about the processes behind their respective albums, the plans for Violet’s new club and ELLES top secret label plans…

ELLES: Obviously we’ve seen each other quite recently at the Naive label showcase in Berlin, but what have you been up to since?

Violet: I just had Mina on the weekend, which was another great party and I only played ambient for three hours. I opened up the ambient room which was nice to explore and I had a lot of fun. I played at Manas, the venue which I just opened and it was dope, and of course, you were there at the opening, so you’re already part of the history. So I’m busy running that and the labels, plus I’m going on tour to America on the weekend. I’m also running a party called ‘Angel’, that I’m looking to turn into a label for drum & bass adjacent situations. For that I have something from Gag Reflex and I’m also trying to finish my own EP for the same label, which is exciting.

E: When’s that coming out?

V: I wanna do the Gag Reflex release in September/October and then mine towards the end of the year.

V: You’ve just put out your album, ‘A Celebration of The Euphoria of Life’, which has so much of you in it. It feels like such a personal project, full of emotional content. Obviously you’re still promoting the album and the vinyl is out soon, but as an artist, how do you feel about making dance music, singing songs live – what’s the vibe right now?

E: Yeah both actually. I feel really proud of how the album came out, because I really wanted to make something that wasn’t just a bunch of club bangers. Not to say anything disparaging about those, but I really wanted to make something with lots more influences, more songs and do a lot more vocals. I’m working on a couple of things that are in a similar vein, in terms of songwriting, rather than club bangers. But I’ve made a couple of things that are definitely in the club banger section. I don’t know, I always like to be exploring different styles and doing both at once. I’m definitely interested in expanding on the songwriting element and taking that further.

V: Yeah that’s totally part of your artist DNA, and I feel like that’s a way we relate because we really see no limits as to what type of music or performance we’re going to put out. You’re an amazing songwriter, and that’s something I can’t wait to see you explore. I don’t think I know a better one alive that I can also hang out with.

E: Ah thank you! No but totally, and that’s one of the things I really appreciate about Naive and about releasing an album on the label. I knew my record was going to be along these lines, that it was going to be songs and vocals; having more poppier elements at play, and when I came to you with my ideas on the album and how it might not be in the same vein as other Naive releases, you were just totally open to it. Naive is Naive, as long as it’s good. But to have your openness and support was really cool.

V: I think the label will always become what it needs to become, because it’s all like it’s your label as well, and it’s everyone’s label. I feel like it should reflect how our group of friends and artists expand and obviously if we look at what you’ve done so far, even on your first EP, ‘Summers of Love’ on Naive, you had a proper song and your songwriting resonated with people from the get go. And even your EP on Naivety wasn’t at all a dance record, even though you’re an amazing dance DJ. I’m excited to see your limits girl.

E: Yeah totally. I suppose you could argue that quite a lot of stuff I do isn’t bangers in that traditional sense. But as a DJ I’m so used to being around that music; it’s so much part of what I do even though what comes out sometimes is not exactly that.

V: I feel like I have similar feelings about my music. I was talking to my friend the other day saying I’d like to, just for fun, make some bangers, and he was like, ‘well, this and that are bangers…’, but sometimes more of a stripped-down straight to the point banger is not what comes out of me as a music-making artist. But then, if you catch me playing at 4am at Mina, or you will be playing techno and loads of things that we wouldn’t necessarily make, but it’s not something that I would shy away from, I would love to come to a point where I can just decide to do it; though it’s not always that way as we know.


E: On the subject of albums; you’ve had one out recently as well, namely, ‘Transparencias’. I really liked the way that each track took on a different theme. What was your process in creating that?

V: I feel like it was a reflection of the thoughts and just personal individuation I’ve been through in the past two years. Not just with the pandemic, but having a pause from touring because of it. And I also got some funding to make the album, which was my first time ever, which was a game changer because my livelihood stems mostly from touring, so it was nice to have the support as a composer, so I took that philosophy and kept with it for the album. And that’s why I made the album free. It reflects this idea that culture should be a universal right. And then obviously the concept of the album itself, the substance of it, the contents of it is also about that. It’s about taking art into the everyday world. Which is why I provide soundtracks for daily activities so that we are reminded that art and the access to the fruition of culture should be part of our day to day life and that it’s an essential service or good we rely on. So it was kind of like a conceptual thing but also much like we were saying just now, it also encompasses lots of different sounds from ambient to jungle and dancier records.

It’s been fun, and if we’re talking about everyday life I try not to shy away from reflecting all of that, instead of just pigeon-holing myself into something. Because when I’m writing an album I’m telling more of a story about something deeper in me and when I’m writing an EP I’m doing it for the ravers and the culture that I love. So it’s two different modes. Even when I’m producing an album I’m not worried about how it’s going to sound on a big system, so that’s freeing as well, to not have to worry about the kick piercing through the mix. So this album was less of a technical endeavour, which was nice.

E: The thing you say about soundtracking everyday moments in life, there’s a parallel in some senses in both of our albums. Because one of the things I wanted to do was eek out the details, like making best mates with random girls in the toilet and those ideas of the beauty in the mundane or the minutia; the things we take for granted. Whether it’s soundtracking a night out, or having a bath, or taking a walk or chatting shit in the club toilets.

V: You also wrote it in the pandemic, but I think that your album is so candid in the way that it captures everything and every vulnerability we feel and the fleeting happiness we feel that have a lot of meaning. I almost feel that I would have to take a pill to remember all those conversations. Like wow, this is a great exercise in empathy with your past-self and remembering. I was just so amazed at how you tap into those feelings of crushing, that bliss that comes with a little bit of sorrow that you reflect on the album and I thought it was so mature of you to be able to pick out those feelings and be able to talk about it in a firsthand way.

E: Thank you first of all, because that’s a really nice thing to say. I was actually thinking about this earlier, how so much of the album I’d make one bit and then just improvise something over the top. I’m interested in the idea of channelled creativity: sit down and just see what comes out. Although there is a narrative theme, to be listened to as a whole, it almost came together retroactively. Once I started building the songs I was like, ah this is what it’s about, it revealed itself almost, then once it was 80% done I’d fill it in to complete the full narrative. But when I was making the tracks, there’s so many tracks on there where the vocals were literally improvised first takes, and that was deliberate as well, because I wanted it to reflect some of the naivety of the thoughts you have, the inner monologue. Just like the conversations we have with ourselves aren’t polished. I wanted to try and deliver some of the truth of the way we talk to ourselves.

V: I mean, we’ve had a few ravers heart to hearts that were not too dissimilar! 

V: The messages you convey might be from a naive place in the moment, but I find it so amazing that you improvised. Even in bright sunlight and total sobriety those feelings ring true, which is part of the album’s beauty. That a night out or rave isn’t something just encapsulated in that moment in time. It kind of bleeds into our lives and our ways of seeing things and how we love one another and how we just decide to make the best of life, so I don’t see it as just a pilled up raver at all. I’ve learnt so much from my raving experiences and I know you have too; just like being lost in yourself and your thoughts.

E: And obviously with the pandemic there’s an additional backdrop to the prospect of losing so many nightlife spaces in that time, as we did. So many places did not come back from that and through that added lens, there are so many experiences that are meaningful beyond toilet talk or whatever, that have come out of those spaces. 

V: Ultimately, both of our albums have a political backdrop to them. In your case maybe the idea of bringing dance music to the forefront and not seen as just a distraction but as an explicable part of our outlook in life, and in my case more in the sense of culture as a right.


E: Definitely, and the idea of culture as right is the overarching theme for both in different ways. Those places should be respected and valued not just for their hedonistic properties ofc but their deeper cultural value, in a way they’re kind of not, especially in the UK. Which is wild considering so much of this country’s cultural legacy or cache or whatever is traded off musical heritage that came from venues like the Hacienda and the Cavern Club or wherever and yet, but when push comes to shove where is the real funding, protection and support to make sure grassroots venues and artists can survive and ensure cultural spaces have a future too? 

Your club, Planeta Manas in Lisbon, has been open for several months now. What’s the ethos behind that because that’s a golden example of how things could be in the clubbing world.

V: It’s a working progress, so it’s still becoming what it will become and I think it will always be ‘becoming’. But we imagined it as just a very free space where people feel respected and loved and not snubbed by the security or people working at the venue. I think a lot of cool venues are great but then you might love the crowd, but for example the team is a bit more sassy, or not nice, or you feel a bit intimidated. So we wanted to zag in the other direction from that zig and create a space that really doesn’t exist in Lisbon. And it is possible as a cultural association, as a non profit, if everyone is a member inside your party, it’s almost like a private party.

So yeah, we want to combine that feeling of actually being safe within in your community or being the safest you can be at night with all of the risks involved, and then combining that with the artistic vision of people involved in it, who are the people helping programme it, namely Phoebe, Bleid, Photonz, Marum and myself. We all have a lot of similarities and differences in our tastes, so it’s been really fun to programme together. It’s great that we don’t all have the same opinion because that means we have to think harder about every lineup  because we don’t agree on everything so we always look for the best solution, rather than thinking about it ourselves, or with just one more mate. So the fact that it’s 5 of us really brings out the best results, working together to make everyone happy. We’re focused on booking music we love but also people we love. We’re prioritising friends and people who have been sharing our path in music for a while as well as sister and queer collectives from around the world. Maybe one day we can have programming that focuses more on a sonic vision but I think this personal vision is also really important to set a good ground for what we may build in the future. But it’s just a place about loving each other and caring for each other. If you don’t have money, just DM us and we’ll let you in, you don’t have to buy a ticket. So it’s that kind of like being in tune with class struggle and identity and putting our politics into action in a way that we can and we know how to, as our only specialty in life is music.

E: Definitely, that feeling of a real sense of community. When I played there in terms of the crowd and energy it’s honestly one of the best gigs I’ve ever played. People were so open and receptive and just there for the absolute craic of it. The feeling of joy was palpable. And I know that people wax lyrical all the time about these sorts of things in the industry but I feel like the place is special. The way the crowds interact is reflective of that. Nice one hun.

V: Yeah I’m really happy about that. I don’t know if I can talk about this, but you’ve mentioned a few times about starting a label. Can you tell me a bit more about that and disclose any of your plans?

E: It’s not top secret but it is something I’m working on. I just wanted to put out lots of different types of music and doing so much radio, coming across lots of different artists. You know, I’m excited to embrace the A&R side too, so it’s definitely in the works. 

V: I’ll be offended if you don’t recruit me as an artist for my country album.

E: Definitely for your goth country album.