Artist of the Month: Eli & Fur
Artist of the Month: Eli & FurMarch 7, 2022
The seizures began the summer of 2019. Fur, AKA Jennifer Skillman, was in a hotel room in Miami before a gig when she felt the tremors. Then her legs gave way, then her entire body began to quake. A new kind of pain radiated from her lower back which was so excruciating she struggled to breathe. She thought she was going to die.
“Looking back, I should’ve seen the signs,” Fur says. “We were doing four shows a weekend, my body clock was all over the place. I was going too hard.”
It wasn’t always this way. DJ and producer duo Eli & Fur describe their 10-year career as a slow-burner and say the secret to their successful partnership boils down to friendship. They couldn’t have been housemates, colleagues, lapped the world more than 10 times, or recorded 19 singles and EPs if they didn’t get along pretty damn well.
Eli & Fur’s story began at sixth form college in Surrey where Eli (AKA Eliza Noble) studied music and Fur studied art. They bonded on a group trip to Palma and got closer in 2008 when they moved to London instead of a university town like everybody else.
Perhaps the success of their partnership boils down to yin and yang, too. As they chat from their LA homes, it’s clear they couldn’t be more different. Eli lives on the Hollywood and Vine intersection, otherwise known as The Hollywood Walk of Fame, while Fur resides in Laurel Canyon surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains. Eli is a city dweller while Fur prefers the countryside. Fur is happiest in the studio while Eli is at her best bouncing behind the decks. But one thing they totally align on is always putting each other first.
In the last year, Eli & Fur have achieved more than most artists do in a lifetime. They teamed up with Camden Cox to release catchy, electro-pop anthem. “Burning;” they kicked off their residency at Zouk in Vegas; recorded a BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix; collaborated with Stella McCartney and The Kooples; and released their first full-length album, Found In The Wild.
Their debut album was a triumph. Eli & Fur spent their entire careers being told to choose between their club and melodic side, so this split album is a big, resounding “make us.” The album was a long time coming, but the wait was necessary for its creation. Eli & Fur had to go through a decade’s worth of experiences, ideas, tours, collaborations and chronic illnesses to create a work as true to themselves as this. It was their metamorphosis, and a lesson in faith, patience, and self-belief.
Like many before them, Eli & Fur’s DJ career started at a house party. They got behind the decks one night in 2012 with no clue what to do, simply driven by each other’s energy. There’s no room for self-doubt with your best mate by your side.
“We just had a real laugh,” Eli says. “Yeah, we had no idea what we were doing,” Fur echos. “We just had so much fun choosing those songs,” Eli says.
That’s when the Eli & Fur project began. They bought a pair of decks and spent the next few months honing their DJ skills at various venues around London. The pair radiated such ecstatic vibes that Eli’s boss at pop label Xenomania hired Fur too so the pair could spend weekdays co-writing pop songs and weekends DJing. “We felt really inspired and strong together,” Fur says. “I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it by myself.”
They spent 2012’s summer of deep house festival-hopping, soaking up the sounds of Pan-Pot, Maceo Plex, Finnebassen and Adana Twins. They came back inspired enough to start producing their own house music, simultaneously launching their label NYX to give it a home. Japan was the dream team’s first international booking, followed by a handful of shows in the States, but their 2013 EP Illusions made the whole world stop and listen. Their single “You’re So High” is still a house-head favourite almost a decade later.
“We’ve definitely had our highs and lows, and it’s always been this very slow rise,” says Eli. “But I’d say our partnership with Anjunadeep really kicked things off.”
They quit their jobs right before their California Love EP came out in 2015, and spent most of that summer at shows in Vancouver, London, Amsterdam and Ibiza, playing alongside DJs like Pete Tong, DJ Harvey and Nightmares on Wax.
Eli & Fur never had a plan, except to do what they loved. When they started out, Instagram was barely a thing, so they didn’t have the rockstar DJ lifestyle in mind. What drove them was a love for the many faces of house music, which came with its own set of problems.
Eli & Fur’s sonic trajectory has always bounced between club-bangers and melodic house, but they were constantly being advised to pick one. Whenever they tried, they felt they were losing part of their identity. But the constant question of where they fit made them second guess themselves. “We really struggled with that for a long time,” Eli says. “We wanted our vocals on the tracks and we wanted it to be melodic, but we wanted it to work in the club too.”
As a result, the first few years of their production journey turned into a creative tug-and-war over their sound and style. “We were so young, we always just wanted to stay true to ourselves, but I listen back to some of our music and can hear we were a little lost at times,” Fur says.
But in 2018 they blocked out the noise, ignored everyone’s advice and wrote the music they wanted. The result was their Night Blooming Jasmine EP, released on Anjunadeep. “That EP was something we were just really proud of,” says Eli. “It felt like it was really true to us and it got great traction at the time.”
“It was really difficult to find the confidence to believe in what we were making,” says Fur. “We didn’t know if people were gonna resonate with it, but we stuck with our gut and didn’t let the industry put us in a box.”
A year later, Fur’s symptoms began. She still DJed in Miami that night, but went straight to hospital after the show. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, so the next day she flew to Atlanta, where their next gig was, in agonising pain. She played that show too, and spent the night in the hospital again. “Eventually Eli put me on a plane back home and I spent the next three weeks in hospital doing every test under the sun.”
Fur had an operation and every type of ‘oscopy there is. At first they thought it was kidney stones, then endometriosis. “It was a living nightmare,” Fur says.
Eventually, she got a diagnosis. “Fibromyalgia is basically a diagnosis of widespread pain,” Fur says. “Doctors don’t really know much about it and there’s no cure – it’s something you just have to learn how to manage.” Fibromyalgia can develop at any time, but usually after a traumatic experience or as a result of burn out. “Basically, it’s your body’s way of saying ‘enough,’” Fur says.
Fur was pushing herself to the limit with non-stop touring. If she could go back in time, she says she’d set more boundaries. But after all those years of grafting, it was incredibly hard for the pair to say no. “You can’t burn the candle at both ends for very long,” Fur says. “But I’m definitely seeing more people in the industry talk about this, which is super important. Touring looks fantastic and glamorous, but it can take a massive toll on you.”
Fur’s condition made sitting on a flight for over five hours nearly impossible, and she needed the space to come to terms with this invisible, chronic illness. “The hardest thing is I look fine on the outside,” says Fur. “I’m always smiling and trying to be positive but it’s really quite lonely at times because on the inside I just feel like someone’s stabbing me in the back.”
As the world locked down in March 2020, Eli & Fur escaped to Fur’s parents shed in Sussex to record Found In The Wild. There they fired their creativity from all barrels, and came out with such clear duality they decided to split the album in two. Found showcases their emotive, melodic side, while In the Wild is an homage to the club chock full of big-room bangers.
The name of the album was inspired by their favorite film, Into the Wild, and the theme of escapism chimes throughout. For Eli & Fur, there was a lot to run away from — a pandemic, chronic illness, pressure from the music industry. The album has been described as a masterpiece by multiple outlets and it’s not an exaggeration. The production is unparalleled, as are their song-writing skills, but it’s the sense of freedom and empowerment that ties it all together. This is the work of two artists who know exactly what direction they’re going in.
“Wild Skies” is a stand-out on Found – a nod to their pop background, with ethereal vocals from Eli and comet-like synths that create a soundscape closer to ambient than club music. In the Wild’s “Come Back Around” is made for the club, or more accurately a subwoofer; one for close-eyed dancers to get lost in. But the true magic of this album is the consistency between each track, regardless of the varying energy. An invisible thread links it all together, maintaining a deep synergy throughout and demonstrating how the two sides of Eli & Fur were never meant to be separated – in fact, they’re at their best together.
Eli & Fur haven’t toured for two years. And with gigs returning, the pair are adjusting to their new dynamic. Currently, Fur is playing one or two shows a month and spending more time in the studio while Eli holds the fort behind the booth. Eli may have a more robust disposition, but she’s not invincible, and it’s crucial she sets boundaries in place. “I find it really hard to see ahead,” she says. “But my manager will say look – you’ve got this many gigs in this many time zones, you have to take this weekend off.”
Eli & Fur’s friendship comes before everything else. It’s a joy to watch them flip through their picture book of memories, bouncing from London nights in 2008 to headline shows in 2016 to airport seizures, studio sessions, and airtime on Radio 1. At the moment they’re spending their days in the studio, working on their next album, collaborating, creating, inhaling the endless opportunities in the LA air. In the next few weeks, they’ll release a new track on Positiva and a collaboration with Meduza, and play a massive Printworks show with ANTS.
After 10 years in the game, Eli & Fur have finally found balance. They’ve rejected industry standards and stayed true to their sound, paving the way for a whole new world of multi-genre artists and inspiring a generation of free thinkers. And they don’t plan to go anywhere soon. “We just want to keep going,” says Eli. “We want to be bigger. We want to be the best. These milestones are confirmation we’re going in the right direction.”
“Yeah,” says Fur. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
Alice Austin is a Berlin-based freelance writer from London. Find her on Twitter.