After Losing His Daughter, Seattle’s ELIA Turned to Electropop to Heal

Photo by Joe Houlberg

Ignacio Izquierdo, better known as ELIA, has led a full life. The son of an Ecuadorian diplomat, Izquierdo spent much of his early life abroad, studying, working and playing music before finally settling in Seattle about five years ago. While still in Ecuador, he released two EPs – both in English – but after relocating to Seattle, the need to reconnect with his roots became urgent. In 2014, ELIA released Sentir, his first Spanish-language EP, and with this newly found creative footing, conceived his full-length debut Futuro Humano.

Over the years, ELIA’s sound and performance set up have evolved from a band-focused arrangement to a more versatile electronic format, due to difficulty finding bandmates. As Izquierdo points out, that’s ironic, considering Seattle’s impressive musical tradition. This new sound is most noticeable on tracks “Hasta El Final” and “Vacío,” which appeared on Sentir as straightforward indie rock songs, re-emerging on Futuro Humano as sleek, electro pop gems.

“I feel this album is about adaptability,” he says. “All my life I’ve had to adapt to new societies, new surroundings, new homes, new friends, etc. Using electronic music was a way for me to continue making music and most importantly performing without having to depend on others, as it was already a difficult task to achieve. We have a short time on this Earth and especially after losing [my daughter] Amelia, it was clearer to me that I had to find a way to make music on my own. I had to be proactive and relearn how to compose music without the traditional elements: drummer, bassist, guitarist.”

Amelia’s traumatic passing serves as one of the album’s primary catalysts. “My wife and I lost our first girl last year, and it was a very emotional and troublesome rollercoaster going through something like that. Of course, my way of coping is using music to heal some of those wounds and heal from this experience. Recording the album was a way to escape and regain some sort of emotional stability. So I quit my job here in Seattle, and my wife is a teacher so she has summers off, and we went to Ecuador for two months.”

ELIA creates lush sonic soundscapes that evoke his deep Andean roots – without resorting to stereotypical pan flute kitsch.

As a love letter to their daughter, Izquierdo wrote and recorded “Amelia,” which also includes background vocals from his wife. Within the context of loss, songs like “Morir Para Vivir” and “Futuro Humano” take shape as meditations on life, death, and the need to move forward or be consumed by grief. Album closer “Este Amor Es Del Más Puro” starts as a beautiful slow-burning hymn that culminates in a drum-fueled eruption of cathartic emotional release. This last song was the first written by Izquierdo after Amelia’s passing. It encapsulates his colorful, introspective journey, as well as his ability to create lush sonic soundscapes that evoke his deep Andean roots – without resorting to stereotypical pan flute kitsch.

There is a deep-seated Latin American energy in Futuro Humano. A song like “Libertad, Cultura, Fé” acts both as a catchy first single and a praise list of his homeland’s greatest assets. “There is something very appealing about being able to go back to your roots and where you grew up,” offers Izquierdo. “I started playing music in Quito, and I was part of the local indie scene, so it’s nice to go back to familiar places. I recorded the majority of the album at my friend Diego’s house, the same place where I recorded my first English EP Complacency, so it’s interesting going back and reminiscing about moments in the past, viewing it in a different way, and working in a place where a lot of things started for ELIA.”

Art will always be the perfect medium for metabolizing emotion, and in the case of ELIA, Futuro Humano is an honest reflection of a man opening up his heart and exposing his highs and lows to the world. All of Izquierdo’s choices are deliberate, and he stresses the importance of telling his story on his own terms, be it through subject matter or language. “I’m bilingual,” he reflects, “So English has always been a very natural and accessible language to me. There’s this thing in Latin America where people diss you and question why you sing in English, and for me it’s more about being comfortable.” Adding, “Music doesn’t have a language; Music is the language!”

Futuro Humano is available now.