Last month indie dance duo ELLEH introduced the world to their ‘sad boy disco’ concept with their debut EP “Anthems Part 1”. It grabbed us immediately and we were anxious to get to know the duo. So we asked them to tell their story, the story of how they came up with their sad boy disco.
The duo of Satoru Teshima and Bob Willey have been making music since 2012. But their separate musical backgrounds go way back. They both remember enjoy listening to music and teaching themselves to play the guitar. Teshi adds: “When I was around 12 years old my brother bought his own acoustic guitar. I would sneak in his room and practice occasionally. Then I finally got the guitar on my own and I taught myself. I think it was around the age of 15 that I began to write my own songs.” Bob remembers that as a child he had a 45 of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust. “The Chic-inspired bass line permanently warped my mind.”
Teshi tells us how he writes music. “When I’m bored, I just write down what’s in my mind and try to create lyrics around it. One day I found a 4-chord guitar loops that I found fascinating. I began to randomly sing along to the lyrics I had. I think that’s how it all started.” His songs are usually inspired by lyrics first. “I find inspirations from what people say, and my past also plays a huge role.”
When the duo started making music together in 2012, Teshi had a demo of American Lover, which he made with just vocal loops. “I wanted to see it fully realized, so I passed it to Bob”, says Teshi. “We then began polishing it and it sounded like a DJ Hell track in the end. We weren’t so happy with it, so we just let it sleep.” Four years after, when they both moved to Tokyo for different reasons, they reunited. “The first thing Bob showed me was a new vision for American Lover; it became a poignant and sad disco track.”
When Teshi first heard the track, it took him back to “a scene in which I am drunk at 4 AM in a club. All of my friends are already gone and I’m left alone with myself. Around that time, I was reading a Pitchfork article about online sad-girl aesthetic. I thought the idea of Sad Girl is quite fascinating. That’s when I came up with the concept of Sad Boy Disco. We thought it would be interesting to focus on that particular mental zone and create songs around it.”
“4AM is the time when you start thinking about all those could-haves and would-haves in your life. So it’s mostly about what-if of the past and future. Love, regret, failed relationships, yearning, recovery, discovery.”
And when you listen to their songs, that particular (drunken) mental state at 4AM is evoked in every way. The music is so imaginative and powerful that you don’t have to actively visualize, instead images of a sad boy alone on the dancefloor dancing his sorrows away, pops into your mind instantly. One important element are Teshi’s vocals. His crooning is melancholic, desperate but also hopeful, and it has something reassuring. “American Lover” is a closure song that becomes yours as well. And when the night turns into the morning after, there is the slow song “Doors To Tomorrow”, a ‘new beginning, new beginning’.
Although the sad boy disco concept is from ELLEH, the sad boy aesthetic can be traced back to the 80’s, to New Order and Pet Shop Boys (and their collaboration Electronic). ELLEH bring the aesthetic to contemporary dancefloors with pounding beats and basses, intertwining synths and piano melodies. Our favourite song is their latest single “New To This”:
ELLEH are clear about their ambitions and determination. “We are not here to please anyone, but ourselves”, Bob confesses, but “we also want to create the music that moves people and possibly heal their broken hearts”, adds Teshi. Bob concludes: “Our goal is to cast spells on people. Music is magic, I hope we can pass it on. I hope we can make someone feel like I felt listening to my Queen record as a child.”