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Sad boy band, ELLEH, discusses their recent global success with their new song American Lover

Recently we interviewed Satoru Teshima–a member of a Tokyo Sad Boy band called ELLEH. We asked ELLEH about their globally recognised song, American Lover, and their newly created music video for it.

Although American Lover debuted just last February, it has already received global attention, with reviews from Vice Australia, Bandwagon Asia (Singapore) and constant airplay on TEEZ.FM (Paris).

This 80’s pop-infused Disco track has director, Rj Buckler, to thank for giving “American Lover” a visual as appealing as the sounds of the song itself.

When discussing the American Lover music video Buckler says,

“I want the video, on the surface, to be bright and enjoyable but perhaps connect more deeply with people who look back on those formerly optimistic feelings with some regret or self-doubt. I would like to convey that visually while still having it be fun.There are references in it to American iconography such as James Dean, 90s aerobics videos, Americas Funniest Home Movies, and the Statue of Liberty. The limited colour palette renders them as neo-mythological symbols”.

When we caught up with Satoru, he opened up about his inspiration for American Lover, his thoughts on the single’s newly created music video and where he thinks ELLEH is heading in the future.

When creating “American Lover”, did you think that it would receive as much attention as it did? Why or why not?

“I initially had no plans of releasing it. When I wrote “American Lover”, I was heart-broken and I somehow knew deep within, that the best way to heal was to express myself through music. It just so happened that I also met Bob around this time, who became my songwriting partner and producer.

I showed him the demo on a whim and he came back with a stunning sad disco song. This song eventually shaped our “Sad Boy Disco” aesthetic and we thought we were ready to show it to the world. I didn’t think it would receive as much attention as it did. I think it has to do with the fact that it is a catchy pop song with underlying symbolism of capitalism. This sentiment is especially relevant now, more than it was when I first made the demo back in 2012.”

What was ELLEH’s main inspiration for creating American Lover?

“The lyrics are inspired by my own experience. I wanted to explore the feelings of ‘regret’. In terms of the music itself, I had been watching so many YouTube videos of live music made only by human voice. Those artists kept on adding more and more vocal loops to create beautiful and challenging harmonies.

“I really wanted to try that! I didn’t have a guitar or piano at that time so I played around with very simple loops and let them inspire my lyrics into melodies.”

Would you say that ELLEH had the same vision for the American Lover music video as director, Rj Buckler? What were some similarities and differences in creative interpretations that you noticed (if any)?

“I think it’s a wonderful interpretation. I described our concept of Sad Boy Disco and gave Rj a few animation references and he took it from there.

“He didn’t show us anything until the video was finalised, so we really didn’t know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by the outcome though! All the imagery that appears in the video really keeps you intrigued. You might laugh at the characters and figures at first, but then you’ll find yourself feeling sympathetic and nostalgic. It’s the kind of ‘regret’ I wanted to express musically, too.”

How has receiving global attention changed ELLEH’s future plans and goals? Or if it hasnt, why do you think that is?

“From the beginning, we wanted our music to be listened to beyond Japan. We have the internet, we both speak English and we have something to say. So yeah, why not? Whatever may happen, I doubt this feeling will ever change. We will continue to make noise and it will probably be loud and definitely sad.”

What is the story of how ELLEH came to be? What would you say kicked-off your currently rising Tokyo Sad Boy Disco Duo, and in this reflection, is there anything in particular that you would have done differently? Why or why not?

American Lover has definitely kicked off and has helped us shape the Sad Boy Disco concept. We feel like we have ownership of this micro-genre that we invented. We are exploring those introspective 4:00am moments when you are subtly (or painfully) intoxicated, dancing away the moments until that first train arrives to take you home. By sharing our music, we are discovering that this is a story people really relate to.

“As long as we stay true to our concept, whatever we create will embody Sad Boy Disco, even if it might not be what you expect.”

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