Brooklyn-based electronic artist Mothica (McKenzie Ellis) is making a splash in the music scene at the ripe age of 23. As an independent artist, she has risen in popularity with the track “No One – Kayge Calypso and DUNN Remix” accruing over ten million hits and over eight hundred thousand monthly listeners.
Mothica’s music career began in 9th grade in her hometown of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma writing and playing songs on guitar. It wasn’t until she moved to New York to attend the Pratt School of Design that she fully discovered electronic music. Following a jaw injury that sidelined her from vocals, she discovered music production and began putting her music on Soundcloud and eventually Spotify.
With a cross-country tour and release of a new EP scheduled, 2018 is off to an auspicious beginning for McKenzie. We talked with Mothica to look in-depth at her production process, upcoming “To A Flame” tour, and forthcoming EP Ashes.
FestivalPulse: Where did the moniker Mothica come from?
Mothica: I’ve been using it since the age of 16, before I thought I was going into music. In middle school, I had an obsession with moths. I liked the idea that these nocturnal creatures were willing to kill themselves to get into the light. It’s an interesting metaphor for my continued strive for success and self-destructive behavior. The term Mothica came about when a friend referenced the term “gothica,” she said, “oh you’re mothica.” So when I began creating my own music, I went with that name.
FestivalPulse: What is your music production process like?
Mothica: I’ve written hundred of songs and it feels like everyday I have an old song stuck in my head. When I’m writing alone, I typically start with a baseline. I choose from a long list of song titles, and often have five different song titles about the same topic. Based off the song title, I build out lyrics, drums and the baseline and really try to get it right the first time.
FestivalPulse: How has your sound evolved throughout your career as an artist?
Mothica: I’ve sang on over 30 tracks with different producers and many of them weren’t my style. In my own music, the instrumentation is a lot different. I hope to make whatever comes out naturally and what songs I feel at the time.
FestivalPulse: It seems like emotion is a large part of your music.
Mothica: Definitely, I feel a lot of my music is an impulse. I have thousands of notes on my phone and am constantly writing lyrics down as I go throughout my day. And while there’s nothing new to say about heartbreak or emotions, there’s a new way to say it. In my music, I hope to convey a different slice of that emotion.
FestivalPulse: You’ve recently announced your first ever tour dates (“To a Flame” tour) across the country. Could you tell us about your tour and what can someone expect at a Mothica concert?
Mothica: The tour is centered around the Norman Music Festival in Oklahoma. It’s a big appeal to me being from there and knowing that so many people come out to the fest. We booked the tour around our trip down there and back. It’s my first experience playing consecutive shows and we’ll have an authentic tour experience traveling in a small van cramped with four other dudes.
Electronic music can be boring live. So when we were planning our live shows, we wanted to make it lively. On stage, we’ll have a live drummer and guitarist. It’s important to me that you can feel the kick-drum and that it is more than just “headphone music.” The way we play each song is different than the recordings, in a way that elevates it. In the shows, look out for some great live instrument play and bad jokes in between songs. I hope that concert-goers will be pleasantly surprised.
Festival Pulse: You’ve released LoveTalk recently and have an EP coming out in the next few months. Could you share any details for FestivalPulse readers?
Mothica: The new EP is called Ashes and the release date is set for May 2018. I’ve worked on it for the past year. It’s reminiscent of a moth to a flame and it’s like these songs are my ashes. It’s also about relationships. In every song, I feel like a different ex-boyfriend lived in each one.
Check out Mothica on Spotify and see her tour dates below:
APR 21 Diamond Pub Concert Hall @ Louisville, KY
APR 23 The Basement @ Nashville, TN
APR 27 Norman Music Festival @ Norman, OK
APR 29 The Riot Room @ Kansas City, MO
APR 30 Fubar @ Saint Louis, MO
MAY 2 Bourbon on Division @ Chicago, IL
MAY 3 Pike Room @ Pontiac, MI
MAY 5 The Symposium @ Lakewood, OH
MAY 6 Shrunken Head @ Columbus, OH
MAY 7 The Smiling Moose @ Pittsburgh, PA
MAY 8 Bourbon and Branch @ Philadelphia, PA
*Note: Interview edited for conciseness and clarity.*