It was her early love of Jimi Hendrix and musically gifted family that saw Eliot Sumner first pick up the guitar. Now aged 25, the British singer and songwriter – who previously performed as I Blame Coco – has switched instruments ("it’s playing bass that I feel I’ve found my 'thing'"), collaborated with the likes of Robyn and Miike Snow, and released released two albums including January’s release of Information – a record that progressed her previously pop aesthetic with a darker, sophisticated sound.
Having just wrapped up a tour of the US and about to start work on her new EP, Sumner is back on stage with her band this weekend as part of the Southbank Centre’s Fashion Undressed festival. "Music is about self-expression and representing the times and I think fashion is the same," says Sumner of the relationship between the two worlds. "It took me a long time to find my own style, both in terms of fashion and music. But now I love designers like Rick Owens and Boris Bidjan Saberi and lots of dark, minimal stuff."
Ahead of this weekend’s performance we got her take on the records that have shaped her career so far.
The Prodigy, Firestarter
"I was about seven when The Prodigy brought out The Fat Of The Land (1997). This track was the single from that album and I remember getting shivers down my spine. It still represents me in a lot of ways as I have a lot of positive aggressive energy. The song is timeless as it was a crossover of punk and techno, which no one had done successfully before – I think it’s the perfect balance."
Simon & Garfunkel, America
"When I was young I was a huge Hendrix fan and started off playing guitar, then when I wanted to write songs I taught myself a bit of piano before moving on to bass. For me, Paul Simon has always been an incredible songwriter as he writes very complicated songs that sound very simple and he makes it look so easy when it’s not."
"ABBA were great as they wrote really dark songs but presented them in an accessible, poppy way. My friend Clint Mansell did the soundtrack for the recent film High Rise and he got Portishead to cover SOS by ABBA, which is a track that has really stood out for me this year. It’s a very dark song and Portishead really do it justice – you’ll know what I mean when you hear it."
The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
"I listen to this [album] a lot and it has an impact whether I’m in a good or a bad mood. It’s difficult to explain exactly how I react to music but if it makes me feel anything at all then I’ll have some kind of emotional relationship to it. That’s what defines good music to me – if it makes me truly feel something. I’ve seen him [Brian Wilson] perform a few of the songs live, too, which was awesome."
Fufanu, Few More Days To Go
"We’re hoping to take this Icelandic band with us when we go to the States. They have an intellectual take on punk and we first came across them after playing at the same event. We always make friends with the bands we tour with; the music is an important connection but there also needs to be a personal bond, too, as you spend every day with them for up to eight weeks; we tend to play a lot of pranks on tour to keep things lighthearted."
Eliot Sumner headlines the Southbank Centre's new festival Fashion Undressed with MasterCard on July 23, 2016.