Philadelphia Freedom: Ellen Siberian Tiger

With Isolation Drills, MAGNET has been checking in with Philadelphia-area musicians during the pandemic, while Where We Belong shines a light on our beloved local venues. Now that our city is opening again, MAGNET has launched Philadelphia Freedom to explore what happens next with our music scene. Photos by Chris Sikich.

What were you working on at Miner Street when we did these photos?
When these photos were taken, I was recording vocals for a love song I’m working on.

What project was it for, and how/when are you looking to release the music?
I’m actually starting a brand new project, and the songs I recorded at Miner Street will be the first ones I release under the new name. I’ve been putting out music as Ellen Siberian Tiger for more than 10 years, so it’s a big deal to me! I plan to share my new band name and release some of the music in June.

How did your approach to writing and recording change as a result of the pandemic? How did it impact how you worked in the studio?
At first, the pandemic allowed me to take a break. Between that and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter protests, I didn’t think about songwriting or gigging at all for the first time in ages. Sometimes that felt restful, but mostly I experienced a lot of anxiety and existential dread. I assume we all felt that way sometimes? Anyway, eventually I started to have ideas about using music to create an alternate reality, a version of the future that was colorful and bright, like, “What if we win? What if the planet doesn’t melt? What if we can somehow redistribute resources equitably?” 

With that as my primary vision, I decided to do the songwriter cliché and spent most of February by myself at a friend’s family’s lake house with the goal of getting as much writing done as I could. 

I’d never spent that much time alone. Time alone is a big thing the pandemic has given me, and I’m grateful for that because it helped me realized all the ways I second guess myself—as an AFAB non-binary person and as a songwriter and a musician. I decided to go into the studio alone, too. During the recording session you photographed, I recorded the songs I wrote during my solo time in February.

How much time do you plan to spend—or have you spent—in the studio working on this?
Now that I’ve gotten the basics of the new songs recorded, I plan to pass them around to a few of my most trusted collaborators—Collin Dennen, Richie Straub, Joel Sephy Gleiser and Catherine Parke—to fully bring them to life. It’s hard to tell at this part of the process how much more time in the studio the songs will need to feel finished.

Anything else you can think of to give MAGNET readers a behind-the-scenes look at your process, offering them a better understanding of what you’re working on?
My musical taste has been more eclectic than ever over the past two years. I’ve become obsessed with Dent, Guerrilla Toss, System Of A Down, Björk, Yola, Yaeji, Juana Molina and Kacey Musgraves. I want this next album to be lyrical and emotional. I want it to have moments of electronic production that make you feel transported and elated. I want it to have some heavy freaking riffs!!! I’m not sure what genre that is, but we’ll see how it turns out! I’m excited to share these new songs under a new name.