Nick Knight Expands Elita’s Emotive World

by Joshua Graham on 22 March 2023

The master image-maker teamed up with rising alt-pop musician Elita for the cover of her debut album, Dysania.

The master image-maker teamed up with rising alt-pop musician Elita for the cover of her debut album, Dysania.

You should never underestimate the relationship between fashion and music. Sure, purists will wax on about introspective lyricism and powerful production but when looking at modern music's most influential acts (Elvis Pressley, David Bowie, and Lady Gaga being some of the prime examples), visual world-building is just as vital as their sound. While in no way discrediting anyone's sonic abilities, finding symbiosis between sound and aesthetics is what makes global superstars. Following this trajectory is rising alt-pop musician Elita who enlisted SHOWstudio director Nick Knight to shoot the imagery for her debut album Dysania which releases today. I sat down with Knight to discuss the inspiration behind the album’s cover art and what makes Elita one of today's most captivating emerging talents.

Dysania album cover by Nick Knight

Hailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland, the Canadian musician was born Emma Harvey before she settled on the mononym Elita. Also known as YungElita on Instagram and Elita Harkov when she was working as an internet cam-girl, it’s her fearless exploration of identity which makes the enigmatic musician one to keep an eye on. Her foray into music began when she met American artist Melanie Martinez in 2016. Appearing in her music videos for 'Tag, You’re It' and 'Mad Hatter'. Elita released her debut single 'I Hate Everyone But You' in 2018, with her EP, Sick Girl released the following year. An honest exploration of different mental states with songs like 'Introverted' and 'Agoraphobia', it's Elita's sultry mixture of melodic shoegaze and garage rock that's resulted in nearly 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Still, it's her transformative abilities on Instagram that's garnered just as many fans, including master image-maker Nick Knight. ‘What's interesting with this generation is that they’re doing it for themselves,' he explains when comparing the social media platform to traditional fashion photography where control is relinquished to the photographer. Elita's expert world-building skills led her to becoming one of Knight's subjects in the SHOWstudio project Profile. Described by Knight as 'Victoriana – delicate, slightly quieter – mixed with manga and S&M', Elita's hyper-feminine aesthetic was showcased in a fashion film shot entirely over Zoom.

Elita - It's A Joke

‘Album covers used to be windows into worlds of the artist you love,’ Knight tells me. ‘Back in the 70s you would have a 12 inch album cover and you put it on your desk or your bed or whatever, and you stare at it while you listen to the music. It would take you into the world of the artist.’ No stranger to composing covers for today’s biggest names, Knight has notably worked with Gwen Stefani for her debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Björk for Homogenic, and Lady Gaga for Born This Way, David Bowie's Black Tie White Noise, Massive Attack's Mezzanine, and The Rolling Stone's A Bigger Bang. When asked about what makes a great collaborator he explained, ‘someone who has an idea of what they want but is open to what I’ll bring to it. You don’t want someone who doesn’t have a clue why we’re here or what we’re doing.’

Dysania back cover by Nick Knight

For Dysania, Elita and Nick decided on a portrait of the artist for the cover while the backing is a monstrous, distorted and contorted image of the artist wielding a knife. ‘She has a quite pronounced fetish for knives,' Knight tells me. The juxtaposition feels more than appropriate for an introspective album that explores the artist's desires, fears and anxieties in a blunt and honest way, with lyrics she croons like ‘under the devil’s spell, spill out red blood cells’ in 'Mentally Not Here' and ‘once I fall asleep, demons crawl and creep’ in 'Sleep Paralysis'. ‘The concept comes a lot from her. To a large degree it was about bringing my skill to her expression,’ explains Knight. ‘I wanted to find something that didn’t look like she'd taken it. She’s very skilled at crafting her own image.'

Elita’s debut album Dysania is out now.



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