“People really love [‘B.O.T.A.’]. In a way, this always surprised me. It’s quite important to me to be about music.”
The rise of Eliza Rose has been meteoric, and it happened off the back of a supremely empowering Interplanetary Criminal EDM number that became inescapable just last year, B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All).
The UK DJ and singer experienced the whirlwind success of her song firsthand while walking through the grounds of Pilton, Somerset, at Glastonbury Festival. “That was a really amazing experience. It was the first time my music had really played out on a big speaker,” Rose shares over the phone.
“You really couldn't walk anywhere in the festival for longer than 20 minutes without hearing it pumping out over there somewhere, so that was really cool and something that I'll never forget.”
It’s something she never expected to happen after only DJing for a few years (and dealing with some imposter syndrome).
In last year’s Breakout interview with NME, she said, “Never in a million years did I think it was going to do this well. My management were really excited about it, and I was like, ‘It’s good, but calm down!’ I think you don’t expect it when you’ve been doing music for a long time. Because I’ve been away playing festivals while it’s taken off, it feels like I’m watching it from afar, which makes it even more surreal. It’s like I’m watching this happen to somebody else!”
It’s an experience she still admits that she was never prepared for. “[It was] quite overwhelming coming from obscurity to people that are excited about your music.” Pure human connection is key, she notes as she divulges the positive thing about her speedy ascent to being a household name.
“The one good thing about especially B.O.T.A. was that it definitely took on a life of its own,” Rose says. “And I think people really love the song. In a way, this always surprised me. It’s quite important to me to be about music.”
The inspiration for B.O.T.A. stemmed from Rose’s boyfriend’s bedroom wall at the time, where a poster displaying actress Pam Grier in the 1973 film Coffy featured the tagline, “She’s the GODMOTHER of them all… The baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad that ever hit town!"
That attitude undoubtedly influenced Rose’s spoken-word hook - in a press release about the track at the time, she wrote, "It definitely reflects the two contrasting aspects of my personality. Girly and cutesie but a bit of a bad gal too!" Rose says now that simplicity is key.
B.O.T.A. took over Australia too, landing at #2 on last year’s triple j Hottest 100 countdown and leading to Eliza Rose’s domination over Groovin The Moo festival and a run of headline shows this April and May. “I can’t wait to come to Australia,” she says, promising an unforgettable experience when she takes the stage.
“I’ll be doing a more hybrid show,” she shares, but what does that entail? “There will be a lot of singing with dancers and stuff, and I’ll be going into DJing. But I’ll also explore a new side of my set and performance!
“There'll be some DJ, there'll be some singing in a predominantly DJ set, but I'm beginning to incorporate more vocals into my set. And yes, when I say hybrid, I mean combining the singing and the DJ element.”
Last month, Eliza Rose’s new track, Better Love, debuted atop triple j’s weekly Top 20 Chart. A homage to the genre that introduced her and kickstarted her love affair with electronic music - garage music - Rose travelled back to her past rather than channel Grier’s badassery.
“Garage is a massive influence on my music. It’s probably my first love and introduction to electronic music,” Rose shares. “I wanted to pay a little bit of tribute to the genre that interested me in electronic music. It definitely shaped my sound in the long run, and I guess I wanted to explore that, really.
"It's been around for a long time, and it started as a very working-class scene and a scene of people probably in the Ministry of Sound. Garage was fun - it was very fast. It was fun-loving; it was a new genre. And I guess I wanted to make a song with that in mind.”
A press release about Rose’s upcoming Australian tour states: “Rose carries an encyclopedic knowledge of electronic music, with a vast collection of vinyl which serves as the bedrock for her curatorial and creative approach.”
She began growing that vinyl collection while working at Flashback record store in London. She discovered a multitude of soul music, from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Otis Redding, and Al Green to Amy Winehouse.
“Vinyl has seen a massive resurgence; I think this was the first year that vinyl outsold CDs, and I couldn't see it not continuing to go that way,” she says (it’s true). Beyond pure sales, vinyl means something to Eliza Rose.
She continues, “[Vinyl] is something you can have forever; it's like a book. I think people resonate with having something they can actually hold in their hands. For me, digitally obviously has its uses, but there's nothing like buying a record.
"There are so many things attached to it. Not just the artwork, but the memory of what you bought, and I think it's like having a little memory, a little snapshot of your life at the time and a bit like a postcard. And I think that's really beautiful.
“It’s amazing that so many people are making music [and it’s uploaded to digital platforms],” she adds, “[Music] is a bit more disposable now, and I think people can sometimes work really hard on something and it can be forgotten about quite quickly because there's so much music across the world. Having a copy of a record kind of gives that longevity in a sense.”
It’s Rose’s love for vinyl and albums of all genres that informs her music, blending 90s R&B and soul with electronic music. A song like Massive Attack’s Teardrop is the perfect example of what Rose strives to do: forming a simple beat you can remember but with lyrics that call back to the music that influenced her youth.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns in the UK and shutdown of her full-time job, Rose finally had time to make music her sole focus - the one silver lining of living through a pandemic.
“Basically, before Covid, I hadn't been singing for about five or six years. During Covid, I got into it again because I had time to rethink what I wanted to do and what direction I wanted to go in my career,” she explains. “And so, in a sense, the pandemic allowed me some space to be a bit more creative, which I think, unfortunately, in a world that is now so expensive, people have to be working on getting the money that they need to make their art.
“I was quite lucky to have that time. But, of course, it was still a bit of a double-edged sword,” Rose continues, acknowledging how difficult inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have become in the UK.
“I think it's extremely hard for creative people in the UK. People have to work doubly hard, meaning that it can lead to burnout. But then, on the other hand, some people are not getting jobs.”
She adds, “It's a shame - people from working-class backgrounds, who are often the most creative people, are not able to go into the fields that they want to go into because they just don't have the financial resources to do so. It's pretty sad, really. Hopefully, the next government will not be Tory, and somebody will actually put some funding into the arts rather than slash it. It’s difficult for everybody in the UK, especially the artists and the NHS and teachers lacking funding.”
Beyond the financial factors holding back artists from making music and touring, there are cultural and political elements are at play. Last weekend, “rapper” music with “aggressive tones” was banned from Sydney’s Easter festival. Last November, the Italian far-right government criminalised public raves. It seems that wherever there is electronic music or young people enjoying themselves, moves are made to shut it down.
“Looking at places, I think they really need to actually see the importance of it [electronic music], the cultural relevance and the necessity,” Rose says about the subject. “I think in this current climate, people need to rave. They need their communities. People never stop it [making music and gathering]; they just find different ways to do it.”
Eliza Rose doesn’t want much, just to make music and for others to build communities with her. She’s not interested in being put on a pedestal or being anyone’s idol, but she would be quite happy to be called someone’s inspiration.
“I would hope that someone somebody listened to my music and thought, ‘I can do that too,’” she explains. “That would be lovely. And I think that's really important too. If I can inspire anybody to make the music they want to make, and it resonates with people, then that's good news to me.”