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Interviews

Salt Lake band Elytra a gender bender

Written by Mikki Enoch

Salt Lake City is home to the band Elytra (eee-LIE-Truh). I recently got to speak with Scotty-Ray Phillips, the group’s lead singer and song writer. They were excited to discuss Elytra, their music and their history. This project has come to life as Phillips has expanded their skills on the stage while growing as a person who wants to reach out and not only entertain but inform their audiences as well.

Mikki Enoch: How did the group come together?

scottyrayScotty-Ray Phillips: About two years ago I met the drummer of Elytra (Lindsay Heath) after she approached me to compliment my music with a previous project called The Femme Medea. We became Facebook friends and over time she started messaging me about creating a sort of “super group” that she had envisioned including her favorite musicians from various local bands.

The idea remained a seedling of a subject for almost an entire year before the stars aligned and I got together with Lindsay and Chris Murphy (synth/keys) to jam and feel out the potential of working with them. There’s a lot of intricate detail and history of how it all fell into place, but Elytra started off under the name Medusa’s Cross with a different guitarist, bassist and cellist before we had some shifting around and found the perfect chemistry with Secily Saunders (guitarist) and Janet Chotia (bass). I will admit, after working with mostly guys initially, I felt very passionately about the energy of working with more sensitive/feminine artists. So when our original guitarist and bassist quit the band around the same time, I asked Lindsay if she knew any bad-ass femme musicians, and she conjured up a beautiful crew of powerful women, and the most kindhearted guy ever. Chris has totally become the brother of the group.

Enoch: What is the inspiration for the current EP?

Phillips: The writing took place over the course of about nine months, mostly in my 25th year of life. Finishing up the writing for the EP when I turned 26 (I seem to remember things based on seasons). After a major battle with depression, my mental health was in a fragile state and my aunt had just passed away from cancer. The first couple songs we finished (“Crash” and “The Maze”) were written just before checking in to a doctor and making the effort to get healthier. So the remaining three songs were all written during a time that I was seeing a therapist and working through some deeply rooted emotional trauma.

There’s a present theme of family, mental health and definitely identity that carries over from song to song. By the end of the EP, if the listener is fully tuned in, they will have a bit of glimpse into who I am and what the last year of my life taught me. Every lyric has been impeccably complemented by music that is equally as emotive.

I wrote these songs for my LGBTQ family and community, and feel that the overlying tone of hopefulness is the best gift I know how to give during a time as politically skewed and bizarre as we are living in now. The EP offers realism through the eyes of a mentally ill, gender nonconforming individual who happens to identify as a witch.

Enoch: How do gender and sexuality relate to your music and performance? 

Phillips: Most of the band members fall into the “Q” spectrum and there is a strong feminine energy on stage. Being that the singer and lyricist is queer/femme but male bodied, the story line of the music and the aesthetics of the performance are very ambiguous and androgynous, but with a focus on the feminine side of the yin-yang. You’ll hear through the writing style that ambiguity adds an element of mystery for listeners who are just hearing and not seeing “I’m not a little boy or a little girl, just a little person in your little world” is an example of lyrics from the song “Afraid of Me,” which was written about my difficulty relating to my father growing up. I also use descriptive words like “wanderer” & “tired eyes” in the song “Embers and Stardust” to keep the description of an experience between two people completely gender neutral. It’s important for me when writing to paint a picture that is very emotional and human, and less about genitalia.

Take a listen to their music at elytra.bandcamp.com/releases.  The music has an energy all its own that should be experienced to decide how it fits into each individual’s world.

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Mikki Enoch

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