Tim Wu, aka Elephante, isn’t your typical dance music success story. After graduating from Harvard with an economics major, Tim abandoned the corporate life to pursue music, and we’re so lucky he did. Glass Mansion is one of the top electronic albums of the year, and he’s been touring extensively in support of it. River Beats was able to ask Tim a few questions about his influences, his phenomenal new album, and what he has for us in the future.
River Beats: By now most people know about your Harvard story, but let’s go even earlier. You grew up in Ann Arbor, and as a fellow Michigan native (Grand Rapids) I know the electronic scene in Detroit had a huge influence in shaping my current taste in music. Were you exposed to that as well? When did you first start getting into electronic music?
Tim: “I was exposed a little bit, but I was more into alternative and indie music – I grew up wanting to be John Mayer. I played open mics and was in bands and stuff… I started getting into electronic music through electronic indie acts like Passion Pit and Miike Snow, and then I heard Skrillex and it kinda all evolved from there.”
By now you’ve toured extensively and played a lot of festivals. Do you have a favorite venue/city/festival that you need to come back to every year?
“Well, my favorite city I’ve been to is Montreal – the food there is incredible and the crowds are insane. I played my first EDC in Vegas this year, that was a really special moment for me”
Glass Mansion is one of my favorite electronic albums of the year. How do you feel your sound has progressed from I Am The Elephante to Glass Mansion?
“I think I’ve really leaned into the organic sounds that influenced me as a kid. So much of electronic music sounds the same now, so a lot of it was a search for a unique voice, and my musical background is different than a lot of other people so it actually took a look backward to go forward. And I think I improved a lot as a songwriter. Before, I would try to fit the song I was working on into whatever sound was popular at the time, but now I’ve gotten better at just following where the song itself leads me, and not try to force it into something it’s not.”
It’s been four years and I still bump your Lorde remix. What’s your favorite remix that you’ve done, and what song have you been dying to remix that you haven’t yet?
“The Lorde remix has a special place in my heart! It was the one that started everything for me… if I had to pick a favorite I’d either say my remix of Galantis – Help or Mako – Smoke-Filled Room – I still play those out and they achieved the sort of joy and energy that I have all my music aspire to.”
If you could choose any vocalist to do an entire EP with, who would it be?
“Nevve! We’ve done four songs together, and she’s the best – we finish each other’s sentences, creatively, and it’s such a pleasure working with her.”
I know the tour is your main focus right now, but what’s next for you, music-wise?
We just put together a killer remix EP with a ton of amazing songs, from guys like Codeko, MoTi, Zaxx, Party Thieves, and a bunch more. I’m also working on some special live edits of a lot of my songs for tour… and I’m always writing, gotta start working on the next album already :)”
Are we ever going to get an Elephante/Elliphant collab?
“Who knows, tell her to holler.”
Taylor Swift, Kesha, or Lana Del Rey?
“Lana… although I did meet Taylor once and she gave me a hug so we’re basically bffs.”