While many of us were baking bread or binging Netflix, Elephante spent his days in lockdown underwater and suspended in midair.
The Los Angeles-based musician shows off some seemingly superhuman skills in his new music video, “High Water.” The clip finds him crooning the words to his song in an aquatic bedroom of sorts and later levitating upside down above a desert floor.
Speaking to HuffPost, Elephante said he wanted “High Water” to “really push myself creatively.” After meeting with director Alex Goyette, he decided that the best way to do so would be to go to literal extremes.
“There’s a part of me that naturally gravitates toward the most insane, most difficult things,” said the 31-year-old, whose real name is Tim Wu. “It was the most physically challenging thing I’ve done in my life [but] also a wild adventure.”
The shoot required a fair amount of mental preparation, too. “I’m not a great swimmer and I’ve never done scuba diving, so I was filling up my bathtub and holding my breath and trying to rehearse and see what it looked like,” he explained. “Ultimately, I had to get myself to this zen state where I convinced myself that I wasn’t drowning.”
Catch Elephante’s “High Water” video below.
“High Water” is the first single from Elephante’s forthcoming album, “Heavy Glow,” and his first musical project since a five-song EP he unveiled last year with actor Jack Falahee as the indie pop-rock duo Diplomacy. Due out later this year, “Heavy Glow” represents the singer, songwriter and DJ taking greater control of his narrative. Though he’s best known in dance music circles as a DJ who has remixed everyone from Ed Sheeran to Katy Perry, his latest work finds him exploring alternative rock and “the organic feel of Damien Rice.”
Lyrically, he’s delving into more vulnerable territory, too. “High Water,” for instance, was inspired in part by his early struggles with opioid addiction. It was only after he started therapy in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown that he began to process that experience.
“I had some rough times in quarantine, as we all did,” Elephante recalled. “I realized that the excitement of being an artist and touring and doing all this cool shit was glossing over a lot of cracks in the foundation.” Therapy, he added, “helped to clarify what’s important to me creatively. I’ve always injected my own voice into my music, but I was filtering it. I was telling stories I thought other people wanted to hear and would want to rage to at a show.”
Moving forward, Elephante is especially eager to reflect his Asian identity in his work ― a subject he’d previously avoided. His parents emigrated from Taiwan to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and encouraged their son to pursue a career in medicine even after he’d demonstrated a penchant for music.
“Growing up, I’d never seen an Asian American doing what I wanted to do,” he said. “All we had was Jackie Chan, and I didn’t do kung fu and I wasn’t funny. I always felt like an imposter. It wasn’t until I was 22 or 23 when I was finally like, no, this is what you’re meant to do.”
These days, Elephante finds himself “so moved” by the scope of Asian storytelling in music and film, as exemplified by the Oscar-nominated smash “Minari.”
“When I was younger, there was always that voice that was like, ‘No one really cares, so stay in your place and be a good boy,’” he said. “I think there’s a lot about my experience [that’s typical of] the Asian American experience. So I’ve been trying to lean into that and tell my story.”
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