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Vera Ellen Follows Taite Music Prize Win With Fiercely DIY EP

“For my own sanity I needed to make work like I used to,” Ellen says

Vera Ellen

Nicola Sandford

How do you follow winning the Taite Music Prize? By releasing a surprise new EP, if you’re Vera Ellen.

The Wellington-based singer-songwriter today shared heartbreak for jetlag, a six-track collection that’s a proper DIY project, completely self-recorded, mixed, and mastered in Ellen’s bedroom.

According to Ellen, she had to get back to basics in order to feel her music again.

“For my own sanity I needed to make work like I used to, hunched over my laptop with the sticky keys, sock over a mix, concocted in my bedroom at my most vulnerable, touched by no hands but my own from start to finish,” she says.

“None of these songs I planned to share beyond a couple of close people. But each got me through some heavy feelings and out the other side. May they be a comfort in your lowest moments, which to me makes it worth going through mine.”

Recalling Karen O’s transition from the raucous indie rock of Yeah Yeah Yeahs to her lovingly acoustic – and under-appreciated – debut solo album Crush Songs, songs she wrote and recorded privately, Ellen is achingly vulnerable on heartbreak for jetlag.

It’s not an entirely solo affair, though, with Oli Devlin of Aotearoa indie pop favourites Hans Pucket lending tender vocals to complement Ellen’s on the beautiful ballad “danger i”.

It’s a quietly moving follow-up to her 2023 album Ideal Home Noise, which won her the 2024 Taite Music Prize despite facing strong competition from Erny Belle, Dick Move, Tiny Ruins, and more.

Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with Ellen immediately after her win, where she revealed she was “still in shock.”

“You know how you think that people will secretly know, and then they just act shocked? Like, no, I literally didn’t know. I remember just sitting there when they were announcing the nominees, just feeling so happy because I’m like, ‘Look at all these amazing nominees I’m with,’ just chillin’. And then when it was my name called – I’m still really shocked, honestly,” she said.

Ideal Home Noise placed third in our Best New Zealand Albums of 2023 list.

“Vera Ellen is a performer of exciting swagger, who whips out indie rock anthems that surge and swell and make you want to follow the person that wrote them to the ends of the earth,” we wrote.

“…Some artists, at this stage of their career, would kill to have just one potential singalong anthem like “Homewrecker”, but Vera has another few to boot, particularly “Imposter” and “Carpenter”. And the latter of these tracks is a towering achievement of songwriting and scope, a grand centrepiece to the album.”

Next up for Ellen is a New Zealand tour alongside Voom and Reb Fountain, which begins in Christchurch on May 30th and takes in further stops in Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland (ticket information here).

Vera Ellen’s heartbreak for jetlag EP is out now vis Flying Nun Records.