By Ellen Pentony
“Distraction,” the irresistible new single from ELKAE (Laura Keane) is premiering right now, here on Nameless Faceless! The disco- and funk-infused dance track is the second single from ELKAE’s upcoming EP Girls Like You Like Me, set to be released on July 9th.
Listen to the track below — a necessary addition to your outdoor party playlist — and read our interview with Keane to hear more about the inspiration for the EP, teenage talent shows, and nostalgia for queer nights out.
Nostalgia is the dominant theme of ELKAE’s upcoming EP Girls Like You Like Me.
“Thematically it was definitely inspired by my life before the pandemic. It’s very much meeting different people and being in different relationships and going out and the whole gay scene – which I think doesn’t really feel like it exists in at the minute,” Keane explains over a Zoom call.
Exploring the subtleties and everydayness of the queer experience was a priority for Keane, who says that “as queer people we’re kind of sick of seeing the whole ‘this person’s gay and let’s make it all about them being gay and coming out.’ ” She wants her music to be universal but also specific to a queer audience, so that those who know, know and those who don’t still enjoy it for what it is. For Keane, there’s a “subtle difference to queer music. I’m not sure if it’s the tone, or if it’s the kind of manner in which we speak about the person were writing about or what it is, but I’ve definitely heard songs where I think, That’s about a girl and it’s a girl singing it.”
She reflects on how her song writing has been a journey, recounting a particularly cringe-inducing moment at a talent show as a teenager: “I did a song that I wrote called “Just Leave It.” I wrote it when I was 12 or 13. And the judges were like ‘Oh it’s good,’ but they called me cynical.” She laughs and says matter-of-factly that “you haven’t been offended until you’ve been called cynical as Gaeilge – at the age of 13.”
Since that humbling moment, Keane’s musical style has developed into a sophisticated yet free-spirited sound, blending elements of funk, disco, and contemporary pop to create tracks very much suited to the dance floor of the George or Street 66. For Girls Like You Like Me, there was a definite effort to create a “throwback EP” where “in each song, there’s a touch of influence from like the ’70s or the ’80s – whether that’s funk or disco.
Things get nostalgic again when we talk about the inspiration for the title track “Girls Like You Like Me.” The song features a rich chorus of voices from the Irish music scene, including Lydia Ford, Chloe Agnew, ZaPho, Toshín, Karla Chubb (Sprints), Sinead McConville and Taylor Mas. When asked if all of the featured artists are also queer, she says “some but not all” and that she doesn’t intentionally choose queer people to collaborate with, but that it just happens.
“Nearly everyone I’ve worked with is gay, or female,” Keane says. “It’s not planned but nearly everyone that’s done my photoshoots or artwork, or directed my music videos is gay.“
This sense of community is central to her upcoming EP. While these tracks are dancefloor-ready bops, the last 18 months of forced separation from our favourite queer venues and people gives the title track a heavier emotional weight than Keane initially intended.
“I hadn’t thought about it in an emotional way until I heard it happen,” she reflects. “But I thought that was just for me because I missed my mates.”
It’s hard not to feel a wave of nostalgia when listening to a song that celebrates the essence of the Irish queer experience – bumping into your ex, or ex’s ex in the toilets of Street 66 while you’re on a date with another one of their exes. Too specific? I think not.