Rising Stars [Issue
Turning It Up To Ellee Ven By
Some artists just
sit around and wait to be discovered. Others, like L.A.s Ellee Ven (try
saying it out loud) create their own opportunities in the music world. The self-made
vocal diva/record label entrepreneur uses her eclectic, danceable pop music
to inspire listeners to follow their own dreams. Her debut release, the four-song
Rolling Stone, offers a glimpse of her forthcoming full-length, Funky
Bohemia, available January 2005.
Despite her newfound
success and dedication to making music, Ven nearly missed the boat, only to
create herself a second chance.
As a child, Ven (AKA Jessica Kunin) harbored an interest in music and dabbled
in it as a hobby, including performing in musical theater. I got into
it, she said in a recent phone interview, but my parents were more
practical and didnt really have time to be stage parents.
Ven followed her parents suggestion to do the college thing and enrolled
at Pepperdine University. Two degrees later, Ven went through a tumultuous period
where she made some less-than-groovin decisions (including
a ridiculous marriage and a job as an elementary schoolteacher).
Her interest in music soon brought her out of her rut. I felt like OK,
who are you making decisions for? she said. Then I just decided
I really wanted to be in music. I really like being around creative people everyday.
What makes Ven unique is her DIY attitude. After receiving the typical run-around
from shady promoters, managers and label reps, Ven took her music into her own
Ven established her own Los Angeles-based record label, Hot Sauce, to promote
and release the music being made by her friends. Though initially a strain on
her bank account, Hot Sauce provided stability in other areas of Vens
life. It was fun, she said of starting the label, that was
the primary thing.
The money being poured into Hot Sauce seemed, at times, misdirected. Ven decided
to take matters into her own hands. If Im gonna take a risk on anybody,
she said, I should take a risk on myself.
The singer traded in her teaching duds for the sleek, sexy, soulful persona
Ellee Ven, styled somewhat on divas like Sade and Madonna (only Ven writes and
produces all of her own songs).
The punny name derives from Vens spiritual outlook on relationships. 11
represents the significance of two individuals next to each other, whether its
as friends, lovers, or business associates, she explained. Theyre
separate, but united.
That philosophy mirrors Vens recording style. Though decidedly a solo
artist, Ven revels in collaboration. I cant do it all myself, but
I dont even think Id really want to, she revealed. I
think part of the joy is who you get to work with, and what you learn from them,
and what they bring out in you.
Significantly, frequent Beck collaborator DJ Swamp has worked with Ven, lending
her an outside ear and bringing his unique turntable abilities to the mix.
The web has been a significant outlet for Vens creativity. If it
wasnt for the Internet, I wouldnt have made a quarter of the progress
I have made, Ven confessed. Though burned by piracy in the past, she finds
the Net a positive and community-oriented avenue for aspiring musicians. The
Internet is all-good, she concluded.
Ven looks to Janis Joplin as one of her primary musical inspirations (though
she thankfully doesnt follow Joplins self-destructive personal side).
Other favorites include: Stevie Nicks, Prince, Mötley Crüe, and Tricky.
Such diverse artists help inform Vens eclectic sound that combines electronica
with pop vocals, some funk, and a dash of hip-hop.
In this world of disposable pop groups who look the part, but fail to measure
up musically, Ven is a beacon of originality. She forgoes the traditional major-label
system and creates her own grass-roots sound and movement. Through her label,
she encourages other like-minded artists to take the commercial side of their
music into their own hands, as she has. Its risky, to be sure, but ultimately