by Jasper West

Elena: Getting In The Mood

by Jasper West

Elena: Getting In The Mood

Elena Laota put her second round of NZOA funding to great use with her new single Mood. Written by South Auckland soul singer-songwriter Jeremiah Fale, aka Hales, and produced by her manager Edy Liu (Donell Lewis, Razé, Mikey Mayz) the song is a short and sweet departure from Elena’s previous RnB slow jams like Selfish and Ur Vibe. Jasper West finds out more, made with support from NZ On Air Music.

Mood is just about two people hanging out, listening to music,” explains Tāmaki Makaurau RnB artist Elena. The track opens with pitched percussion which underpins themes throughout, and with no time to waste, the chorus is set up like dipping into a hot bath on an icy day; ‘Don’t you kill the mood…’ 

“This is my first afrobeat song,” Elena admits. “We had just recorded it in Edy’s home studio and were all super excited to release it. It’s pretty much, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, don’t kill the mood because I’m chilling and having a good time.”

She obviously enjoyed the recording the track and reminisces fondly.

“My favourite moment would be the second chorus because it’s not just me singing. Edy and Hales joined in to have that crowd/choir effect and it just reminds me of the funny moments we had while recording it in the studio!” Ironically that second chorus is also the final chorus, cutting a sweet thing short and leaving the listener to either play it again or move on.

Singing from an early age in primary and high school, Elena took her love for performing on stage to the next level while attending Excel School of Performing Arts in New Lynn, Auckland.

“I wouldn’t be how I am today if it wasn’t for all those amazing tutors and friends I met along the way!”, she states gratefully, giving lots of credit to the environment and peers. Elena went on to link up with Astro (046, Duckwrth) and Sam V (2022 Best Pacific RnB/Soul award winner) who helped her to grow and mould her image into the RnB singer she is.

“Originally I was going with Lenz before I met Edy and the team, but Sam V had said Lena sounds like a rapper name,” she chuckles. “We decided to go with Elena just so people can know the real me, and because Elena isn’t a very common name.”

Mood is Elena’s first single to benefit from a music video. Collaborating with Christian Tjandrawinata and dancers Lagiii H and Timena Vai put her well out of her comfort zone.

“Dancing in the video was a bit new to me, but such a cool experience,” she laughs. Transitioning between two locations, each with their own mood, the movement, and cuts fit satisfying against the afrobeat grooves, filling a visual space that’s left by the catchy yet sparse chorus. Self-proclaimed aspiring Tiny Desk Concert performer, Elena has set her sights rightfully high as she has the team behind her to reach new goals.

“I have a song with Christchurch musician Hone coming out in April, and another song lined up after that featuring Jaevann in May,” she tells NZM before signing off with a final bit of wisdom. “Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Ofa Lahi atu (‘I love you’ in Tongan) and god bless!”