Pain may be unwanted and undesirable, but if you harness it the way Elana Justin has for Motive Black’s debut record, Auburn, then you can make it all worth it. The band, for whom Justin acts as the frontwoman, released the album last month, produced by Grammy-winner Nick Rowe, who has worked with artists as diverse as Bloodsimple and Vampire Weekend. The album explores change, evolution, and the good and the bad that accompany those experiences. There can be a lot of unpleasantness that goes along with finding out more about yourself or even modifying your life, and this record chronicles those highs and lows.

The album’s title, Auburn, was inspired by Justin’s late sister, who was always pointed out for her stunning auburn-coloured hair. She lost her sister to addiction, and that awful experience forced Justin to re-examine her own life and make some pretty big modifications. What followed was a big transitionary period; this album is the story behind that long journey.

Auburn features an impressive list of collaborators who contributed to this record. Amongst them is Marcos Curiel, lead guitarist of P.O.D., drummer Ray Luzier of Korn, and Butcher Babies’ singer Carla Harvey. There’s a lot of positive energy surrounding this release, and it’s well deserved, with Justin receiving comparisons to Lzzy Hale and Taylor Momsen.

Today, we swiped the topic of music aside for the moment to speak to Elana Justin about one of her other favourite pastimes, tattoos. She was recently featured on Inked Mag, and today, we discuss her first tattoos, what got her initially interested in them, what her most elaborate tattoo is, and more.

What was the first tattoo you ever got/gave?

Elana Justin: “The first tattoo I ever got was a terrible wrist tattoo on St. Marks in New York. I had just turned 18 and hadn’t really thought it through. Tattoos were always really sexy to me, so I walked into a random shop and got ‘carpe diem tattooed on my wrist. I eventually covered it up; I knew from that initial crappy tattoo that I was hooked.”

How many tattoos do you have on your body?

“I’m not entirely sure how many tattoos are on my body. I’ve covered up a lot and changed certain tattoos so that they became incorporated into larger pieces. I make a lot of impulsive decisions which haven’t always worked out beautifully… they are good for a laugh, though.”

When did you know you wanted to get tattooed/get into tattooing?

“I always thought tattoos were really attractive, and I found that people with tattoos always had the best stories. I guess that sort of formed what I would find aesthetically pleasing as an adult. Interesting people with beautiful art on their skin seemed awfully appealing to model myself after.”

What’s the most challenging thing about tattooing/getting tattooed?

“I think the most challenging thing about getting tattooed is also sometimes the most appealing. I am not a huge fan of pain, but sometimes it feels really cathartic when getting tattooed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve hated sitting for certain tattoo sessions, but there is always that serotonin release at the end.”

What’s the most outrageous/batshit thing you’ve ever had or asked to have tattooed?

“I don’t know if it’s outrageous. It’s actually probably a bit clichéd. I got drunk one night in Hollywood and tattooed the guy I was dating’s initials on my ass. I guess maybe more ridiculous than outrageous, but it was definitely a fun night.”

Motive Black ‘Auburn’ album artwork
Motive Black ‘Auburn’ album artwork

Any shops or artists you want to give a shout-out to?

“My best tattoo experiences have been at Colossus Tattoo in Tempe, Arizona. My favourite tattoos on my body, like my sleeve and the shoulder piece, were done by Chip, one of the owners. The shop has a really great vibe, great music, and amazing people.”

What motivates you to create? What inspires you?

“Experiences inspire me. My album Auburn is about evolving and all the messy, scary, and beautiful parts involved with change and growth. My favourite tattoos all mark events or are a tribute to people who have influenced my life. Change can be ugly at times, but growth from change is really beautiful and contributes to a lot of really incredible art.”

Have you had anything covered up? If yes, what was it and why?

“Like I said, I make a lot of impulsive decisions, which sometimes lead to cover-ups. The biggest cover-up that I have had was originally tattooed during a really dark period in my life. After coming out of it the tattoo would remind me of things that I didn’t want to think about anymore. It became something that didn’t bring me joy… so I had it turned into something that did instead.”

What’s the most elaborate piece you’ve completed to date? What was it, for whom, and how long did it take?

“The most elaborate tattoo I’ve had as of today is the sleeve on my left arm. It’s a mixture of all different protection and feminine signs. It was done in two sessions, though I can’t remember the exact amount of hours. It makes me feel powerful and beautiful, but also acts like armor. It is definitely my favourite piece of art that I have on my body.”


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