Ellise Conjures Dark Pop Coven with Mothica and DeathbyRomy on Expanded Version of “Soul Sucker”

Photo Credit: CASTRO

The concept of the “Power of Three” has existed in many religious beliefs, but it is, perhaps, its proximity to Pagan, occult, and Wiccan religions that has made it a trope within gothic-horror media since Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and more recently with cinematic hits such as Hocus Pocus, The Witches of Eastwick, Charmed, and Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. These unholy trinities have been a mainstay of the genre and persist as a symbol of female solidarity. Now, producer, musician, and lover of all things spooky Ellise taps into this theme for a new version of “Soul Sucker” featuring additional verses by fellow dark-pop artists Mothica and DeathbyRomy.

“Soul Sucker” first appeared on Ellise’s most recent album Letting the Wolf In, conceptually centered around retelling Grimm’s Fairy Tales and released just before Halloween. “Soul Sucker, Pt. 2” builds on the song’s themes of toxicity and self-destructive behavior. “It’s such a spin on what my songs are usually about, where the female is portrayed as this victim,” Ellise tells Audiofemme. “In ‘Soul Sucker,’ it’s completely the opposite…you are the soul sucker.”

While she’s always harbored a fascination with the fantastical and the so-called Halloween-pop it inspires, Ellise says, “I always want my music to be real and realistic. The reality is that we all have toxic tendencies. We are all imperfect and we’ve all hurt people just in the same way people have hurt us.” For Ellise, it’s the manner in which the sub-genre serves as the antithesis of the bubblegum aesthetic of pop. Since moving to Los Angeles from the Bay Area at the age of 17, she’s made it a tradition to release new music on or near Halloween, beginning with EPs Can You Keep A Secret? (2018) and Under My Bed (2019). Letting the Wolf In nips at the heels of her proper full-length debut from earlier this year, Chaotic; though Ellise has been prolific, there was something missing from “Soul Sucker.”

Originally produced by her brother LilSpirit, Chelsea Collins and Brandon Shoop, Ellise tweaked the vocal arrangements and production for “Soul Sucker, Pt. 2,” and wanted to activate the power of three in her own way. “I’ve never dropped a song with features on it. So I knew I really wanted to do that,” Ellise expands. “I just loved all the dynamics of that. I thought of Mothica because she has a very nice, powerful pop voice. Then I thought of Romy because I knew she would kill a sort of like, more minimal production section, and I’m really happy with how it came out.”

Mothica, who released her latest EP forever fifteen earlier this year, says she was drawn to the project because she was intrigued by Ellise’s work on Letting the Wolf In, and felt it mirrored her own. “All of us thematically cling to the darker imagery. I love her concept of turning fairytales into haunting dark pop, so when she reached out to have me on Soul Sucker Part 2, it was a no brainer to jump on it!” she says.

“I’ve admired Ellise and her project for a couple years now” DeathbyRomy adds. “I’m all for females supporting each other and bringing each other up. This industry can be extremely catty especially with women versus other women.” DeathbyRomy released her debut, Songs For My Funeral, earlier this year as well.

As with the first version of the song, “Soul Sucker, Pt. 2” immediately introduces Ellise’s clear, delicate vocals that bring to life a “beautiful vixen” with dark secrets. “Don’t get too lost in her arms/All she wants is a bite of your heart,” she warns before launching into a chorus where no one gets out alive. Sonically, the track sticks to the basics, keeping the verses bare of any overwhelming elements and allowing the listener to zero in on the singer’s haunting words.

Mothica and DeathbyRomy follow Ellise’s lead, painting practically tangible imagery in lyrics fleshed out with mainstay motifs such as the femme fatale, Satan worship, and mythological figures like Medusa. The trio play with these stereotypes to illustrate the ways in which women in horror and mythology have historically been dehumanized; their desire for obtaining power at any cost in turn makes them monstrous.

Mothica goes first, belting lines like “You drink it up but it’s dark magic/No room in her heart to be romantic/I don’t blame you, it’s hypnotic/Skeletons inside her closet.” In her considerably deeper register, DeathbyRomy narrates the demise of those who fail to recognize the warning signs: “Toxic lullaby/Kiss your comforts all good-bye/Turn you to stone with a look in her eye/But you love her all the same.”

When discussing the creative process with these three, the word seamless keeps coming up; it’s clear that this project wasn’t only a creative partnership but a collaboration between friends. Their ability to tap into each other’s psyche and create a similar tale whilst retaining their own sonic independence is testament to that.

“They really elevate and expand on the sound of it. Both of them really played off of the lyrics of what the song is already about, which is just like this dangerous… absolutely unbothered woman,” says Ellise. “Sonically, I think it added so much more like variation to the song. They both have incredible voices, but what’s awesome is that all three of us sound so different. You’re getting to hear all these different voices. It’s really cool to me. I’m very happy.”

DeathbyRomy agrees, saying, “Aesthetically we meld well… I think we all did our own thing, in our own way, and still maintained something very cohesive.”

“Soul Sucker, Pt. 2” offers yet another example of the power of female collaboration within an industry that continues to pit female performers against each other, while also adding dimension to the trope of the femme fatale as a complex, multi-layered being – one that resides within us all. As a cautionary tale, the song acts as a reminder not to let our toxic tendencies take hold, and instead reach out to those who will support and nourish us the way Mothica and DeathbyRomy have for Ellise.

Follow Ellise on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Audiofemme Presents: Relaunch Party w/ Zola Jesus, Mothica, Jess Williamson & Purple Pilgrims @ Rosewood Theater

On 11/17/19 Audiofemme celebrated its relaunch! To mark the occasion, we hosted an event at Rosewood Theater – a gorgeous private space in Chelsea, NYC. Talent for the night included intimate sets by Zola Jesus, Mothica, Jess Williamson and Purple Pilgrims. We threw in complimentary flash tattoos by Tessa and tarot card readings by Meredith Graves, as it’s not a party without a little blood and magic…Peruse our photo gallery of the night. All images courtesy of Jeanette D. Moses.

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Mothica Talks Metamorphosis Ahead of Blue Hour LP Release

Part suburban Oklahoma cowgirl, part Brooklynite, recent LA transplant McKenzie Ellis (who has released two EPs as Mothica) uses her cunning wit to balance clever wordplay while exploring intimate and often dark autobiographical experiences. Mothica is an alter ego that isn’t afraid of honesty, and echoes strength in vulnerability. You can find her distinct, raspy, yet honey-soaked voice speaking directly to her camera lens, breaking the third wall on social media platforms while simultaneously spreading her words of wisdom and personal truth. These truths come in an array of textures and topics, ranging from her passion for Matcha, to her personal journey as a survivor of childhood trauma, substance abuse, and self harm. Her unexpected pop writing style incorporates nocturnal melodies and siren vocals with a metallic silver lining.

Meanwhile, the videos she’s released to promote her forthcoming album Blue Hour are ultra-personal, drawing viewers deep into her world and its history. “Love Me Better,” released in August, was shot on her final days in New York City, just before she moved to the West Coast. And she recently returned to Oklahoma to shoot a mini documentary/album trailer that revisits her now-abandoned childhood home, her high school, and an old chapel scheduled for demolition. Included are home videos and painful confessions, but her message, ultimately, is that there’s hope – Mothica found it in  seeking help outside herself, making sweeping changes in her surroundings, and most of all creating her beautiful new record.

Audiofemme is pleased to host Mothica at our relaunch party on Sunday, 11/17 at 7:30pm at the Rosewood Theater in Manhattan, along with Zola Jesus, Jess Williamson, Purple Pilgrims, tarot readings, and a tattoo booth – if you’re in NYC we hope to see you there! Read on below to hear more about Mothica’s metamorphosis.

AF: How did the mystical Mothica come to exist?

ME: The name Mothica came long before the music. I felt this kinship to moths and my friend made a joke about me being “Mothica” rather than “Gothica.” The metaphor of a moth attracted to the light has been super prevalent in my life. The “light” I’ve been attracted to has changed over time, whether it was chaos, unhealthy relationships, drugs and alcohol, dark thoughts, or recently, self-care and recovery.

AF: Can you talk about growing up in Oklahoma during the age of internet?

ME: Oh, yes! When I was in middle school I had one of those little block Nokia phones with no graphics. My first experience with self-expression and technology was setting my ringtone, and picking from the default backgrounds. I remember the drama of who made it into your top 8 on MySpace, or what your away message displayed on your AIM account. Growing up in suburban Oklahoma, I dreamed of living in a big city. I was always friend requesting musicians and artists from all over the world. Lookbook, Tumblr, and Pinterest were huge tools in visualizing my escape plan.

AF: If you could choose any decade to grow up in – which would it be?

ME: I used to say the ’80s because of the fashion, and because drugs weren’t regulated but that’s probably my addict brain speaking. I still think the ’80s would be an incredible time to make music with all the new synthesizers that were coming out. I’ve always been into John Cusack movies of course.

AF: If there was a glitch in the Matrix and you morphed into another version of yourself – who would this person be?

ME: I think about this a lot, and the concept of reality. Every little decision you make can alter the course of your day and create a domino effect in the rest of your life. I wouldn’t be pursuing music if I hadn’t met certain people. I wouldn’t have met those people if I wasn’t in the right place at the right time. I think in an alternate reality, I’d be pursuing something that combined neuroscience and visual art. My ultimate goal is to live in a unique home outside of a major city. I’d like to be surrounded by nature, with an art studio, small recording studio, lots of books, a grand piano and a dog. To be able to create freely and inspire others. Hopefully that happens in this lifetime and doesn’t involve a glitch in the Matrix.

AF: How do you feel about the shift in the music industry shedding light on Mental Health Awareness?

ME: It’s very necessary, but it has a long way to go. I was just talking on Instagram stories about the conflicted feelings I have towards artists that market themselves as “sad” and make money by selling merchandise that romanticizes mental illness. Depression is a serious disease, not something cool and sellable. My depression has lead to hospitalization, self harm, and suicide attempts. I don’t believe in rocking a shirt that glorifies depression unless the profits are going to a a charitable cause.

AF: Can you discuss the inspiration and backstory of your new song “Love Me Better”?

ME: Some songs come easily, and some take a drawn out, winding journey like this one did. I had the lyric “you love me better than myself” in my notes for years after a writing session in Los Angeles. I occasionally revisited it, trying to work out the concept but I had no idea who the ‘you’ was referring to. I got into a relationship with someone who truly embodied that lyric. I met him when I first started trying to get sober. I was seeking safety in the co-dependency of the relationship, to avoid facing myself. He moved in with me within the first week of the relationship. You can say we jumped in head first. I rarely left the house, because I knew that I would end up in a bar if I did. I had this unrealistic expectation that being with him would somehow ‘save’ me from myself. After months of failing to become sober, I had a drug induced mental breakdown. I self-harmed with the intention of being admitted to a rehab facility. During this time, he stayed with me until I was released from the hospital. The cover artwork is a film photo he took of me on our last trip together. We ended things because I had to focus fully on my recovery. This song was the perfect fit to release before my album, which is about that later journey.

AF: What was the inspiration behind your new single, “NOW”?

ME: “NOW” was the first song I wrote for Blue Hour, and it came out as a freestyle in the vocal booth. I had recently gotten a tattoo that says NOW on my inner arm which helped inspire the title. The song is a warning: “If you expect me to be happy all the time, you better leave now.”

AF: What has the response been like for the powerful mini-doc/album trailer for Blue Hour?

ME: The response to the mini doc has been beautiful. I received a lot of really thoughtful messages, and some heartbreaking stories from people who experienced something similar. It was such an important story for me to tell, and while the quantity of people that have seen it is small, I feel like it had a strong impact.

AF: What are your goals and hopes for the new record? What do you think will surprise listeners most, after you’ve been so open and honest about your personal struggles leading up to its release?

ME: I think these songs are the most true to me, sonically and lyrically. I tried to be a bit more accessible in the past, opting for more upbeat or EDM sounding production to compensate for lyrics that felt TOO dark. In Blue Hour, you’ll hear explicit lyrics, electric guitar, and analog synths – I’ve embraced my darkness.

Vanessa Silberman plays The Broadway & Premieres ‘Don’t’ Music Video

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.


Fresh New York City transplant and DIY queen Vanessa Silberman is playing at The Broadway this Thursday 11/21 with Nihiloceros, Top Nachos, and Sharkswimmer. We are psyched to premiere her colorful stop-motion music video for “Don’t,” off her new EP Brighter Than Bloom that recently recently released on her own label. We spoke with Vanessa about her heavy touring schedule, running her own label, and what keeps her motivated, organized, balanced…

AF: You recently relocated to NYC from LA. How do you like New York so far? What are the advantages to having home bases in cities like New York and LA?

VS: I love it! I love the music scene and people here. It’s thriving, inspiring and there are so many venues! I love LA too but it’s very different. I was in LA for so many years but was really just ready for growth and a life change, especially for when I’d be coming off tours. I just wanted a different place to come home to and always wanted to try New York. Over the last few years I had been spending quite a bit of time in NYC and on the East Coast working with a lot various artist/bands recording in-between touring and really enjoyed it!

Some of the biggest advantages I see to being based in ether of these cities is the multitude of opportunities and business for people. There’s a lot of music in both cities too. I think people can only go so far in smaller cities depending on their goals. NY has an amazing advantage of being so close to so many other states and cities, making it easier for an active artist to get out and play out of town shows but not have to drive far. You also don’t have to own a car – I’ve been walking a lot and making up for all the insane hours of siting in the car on tour! NYC has this magic too – I have no idea what it is but just walking through the city you feel it. Its a very exciting city that’s fast paced, which I love and matches what I am very used to.

On the other hand, I do love things about LA, Hollywood and the magic that is there. It’s just really easy to live there and the LA weather is so beautiful. There’s a lot of opportunity in the music business there especially for someone starting out, depending on your goals, or for an artist/band who has the pieces but is ready to go to the next level. Though, I do think it’s up to an individual to cultivate and create what they want wherever they are. With the internet you can do that from a lot of places these days.

AF: You do everything yourself and wear pretty much all the hats in the industry. How do you balance songwriting, leading a band, booking, touring, producing/engineering other musicians, running your own label, etc.?

VS: I definitely use a lot of to-do lists and plan a lot in advance. Even when it is a juggle it somehow just feels right doing everything. I love music so much and I love playing as well as helping other bands and artists. I also think in this day and age it’s imperative for artists to be multi faceted (like a brand) and be able to be visionaries, creating their career before bigger people get in the picture.

Some of it is learning how to balance as you go. I was on the road for over 3 1/2 years and I didn’t have a home because I was touring so much (plus recording, doing co-writing and my label work in between being on the road). I love it but also the more people involved the more moving pieces there are. I think it’s hard to stop once you have been out that long and balancing so much. I have had a couple moments where I have needed to just say to myself “Okay, I need a spiritual break to collect myself, to rejuvenate, take a minute off touring, rest, exercise, have quiet time, expand as a human, just experience life in one place so I can re-balance.” I put out a lot of energy and it’s hard for me personally to allow myself to stop but it is needed for expansion, assessment and growth as an artist so one can produce really good material. I think also working for other bands and artists gives me a very good perspective.

I do start to feel uneven or even stagnant if I’m just focusing on one of thing for too long. Like if I’m just playing shows, booking, promoting (basically running a tour) I feel so self-reliant and extremely fulfilled but I do miss creativity in recording so I like to record other artists in between playing or even mix and co-write from the road. Then on the other hand if I’m just in the studio I absolutely miss the road and feel like I need to get out into the world. Same thing too with business/admin work – too much of it and I feel very unbalanced, but as soon as I play I feel a lot better. I think I’m the happiest doing everything and plus I have multiple streams of income. I spent a couple years just mainly working like 12-14 hours in the studio and then going to shows late at night to get out. I just have a lot of energy! I love having a label too and it is really fulfilling to help build artists’ careers. Everyone I have ever been inspired by has wore a lot of hats in the music business and were also artists and/or producers. I feel a complete knowingness around what I am supposed to do on my life path. I think the only tough thing that truly has ever been hard to balance is a personal life. Relationships are challenging.

AF: How long have you been a touring musician and what have you seen change over the years? What’s your favorite part about touring and what keeps your motivated in general?

VS: I did my first tour in 2005 (when I played under my old band moniker Diamonds Under Fire). When I first started there were only yahoo maps and we had to print them out! There are so many more resources now, it’s incredible. Everything from venue resources to food, hotel and cheap gas station apps. You name it! I also feel like now more than ever you can really find so many different avenues of reaching people and getting people to shows. There are a lot of options, especially if you’re willing to put in the work. You can actually make a living DIY touring. You don’t need a label, agent or a lot of money to tour. I love waking up every single day and playing for people, traveling and connecting to music fans about life and learning about different places.

What keeps me motivated? Wanting to change the world in a positive way through music is an absolute motivation – it’s like a fire that won’t burn out. I just want to impact and motivate people through music, whether I’m playing live, putting out someone’s record or producing them. I want to get people excited and make them feel. I just want to make things happen and amplify everything.

RSVP HERE for Vanessa Silberman with Nihiloceros, Top Nachos, and Sharkswimmer @ The Broadway Thursday 11/21! 12+ / $12

More great shows this week:

11/15 Tall Juan and Wild Yaks @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/15 High Waisted (Birthday Show), Close Talker, Seafoam Walls, and Wooter @ The Sultan Room. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/16 Leftover Crack, Days N Daze, Cop/Out, Alexander Agent Orange @ Market Hotel. 21+ / $20 RSVP HERE.

11/16 Goon, Big Bliss, Monograms @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/17 AUDIOFEMME RELAUNCH PARTY! We’ll see you at the Rosewood Theater with sets from Zola Jesus, Mothica, Purple Pilgrims, Jess Williamson, tarot readings, a tattoo booth, and more! 21+ / $25 / 7:30pm RSVP HERE

11/17 Emmerson & Her Clammy Hands (Acoustic Residency) with Shilpa Ray, Odetta Hartman, and Joanna Schubert  @ The Footlight. 21+ / Free / 3pm RSVP HERE

11/18 Blood, Tredici Bacci, Cindy Cane, Poppies @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

11/18 Drug Couple (Record Release), Moon Kissed, Color Tongue, Atlas Engine @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/20 Mikal Cronin, Shannon Lay @ Bowery Ballroom. 18+ / $18 RSVP HERE

11/21 Combo Chimbita (Doc Martins Presents) @ Barbes. 21+ / Free RSVP HERE