Over the years, Ela Stiles has built a name for herself as an adept musician in Sydney’s often strange and varied music scene. Moving beyond her work in local favourites Songs, she became a driving force in Melbourne outfit Bushwalking, releasing two records with the band while still based in Sydney and working on numerous projects. Now, Ela has taken another hairpin turn, revealing a solo record comprised entirely of a-cappella performances. It is her voice alone that fills the listener’s ear, and then her voice again, rising and falling in different vocal patterns both rhythmic and melodic, turning in on itself and creating layers of startling sound. Her work with Nisa Venerosa and Karl Scullin in Bushwalking has obviously influenced these vocal performances, yet there is something beyond the jagged, new-Australiana here. A single vocal becomes far more powerful than amplified sound; the shock of being able to hide nothing is new in a tradition of rock music.
I have 4 band s at the moment – Ela Stiles, Songs, Bushwalking and Roamin’ Catholics.
Right now I am sitting in the art room of a boys school in Sydney where I am staying for a few weeks before I go on tour.
I love clean washing.
What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
My love life, traditional folk songs, India, books, people, injustices, places etc.
How and when did you get into making music?
I come from a family of musicians and artists so I was always around it.
I started playing in a band for the first time when I was 19.
It was my friend and long time collaborator Max Doyle who I play in a band called ‘Songs’ with who got me into playing music first back then.
We met and started a band together that is still going today.
I played bass first off then I started playing guitar, drums, keyboard and flute.
I now play guitar in The Roamin’ Catholics, guitar, bass, keyboard and sing in Songs, Bass and sing in Bushwalking and play guitar and sing as Ela Stiles.
What are your 5 favourite albums of all time?
I don’t really like saying ‘all time’ because there are too many favourite albums so here is a few albums I love:
CAN – Soundtracks/Ege Bamyasi
The Clean – Vehicle
Kes Band – Kes Band II
Anne Briggs – The Time Has Come
Josephine Foster – All The Leaves Are Gone
Edith Frost – Calling Over Time
What do you associate with Berlin?
I have never been to Berlin before! When I think of Berlin I think of the cold, and I love the cold.
What’s your favourite place in your town?
My favourite place in Sydney is the beach, we have lots of beaches and they are beautiful.
If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Cooking and swimming
What was the last record you bought?
Low Life (a Sydney band ) – Dogging
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Townes Van Zand t
What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
That half hour or so that I’m on stage is when I am happiest.
How important is technology to your creative process?
I don’t like to use much technology in my process because I’m not very good at it. I like to keep it simple.
I like like my guitar to be loud but sometimes singing alone with no accompaniment is the best.
Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career?
I have an older sister and she is very supportive of my career! I hassle her all the time and she talks me through things, she’s sensible and wise unlike me.
Bushwalking – In My Hair