Say hello to Rilan, a genre-blended, conversant musician that hasn’t been put through the homogenising record-label machine.
Featured in our current print issue – The Dream Issue, Rilan is a walking contradiction. His hair is reminiscent of a decades-old British electronic band and he has a denim jacket collection that would make 80s American rocker, Bruce Springsteen envious. He’s an emo pinup who resonates with cloudy, dismal skies, but lives in sun-drenched Los Angeles.
Rilan is a singer-songwriter, dancer and choreographer, and he’s been tipped as the next incarnation of Lady Gaga. He doesn’t use his surname, but if he did have one, he assures us, that like Lady Gaga, it’s very Italian. “It gets butchered and completely mispronounced”. Rilan is also painting over pop in avant-garde – tunes ready for the dancefloor, but laced with lyrics of sadness and depression.
Our Editor, Courtney Blackman caught up with the artist in LA for an exclusive interview and we take a look at his new video: Money Talks.
You grew up in the American state of Louisiana, in New Orleans; what was that like?
It’s funny actually, I didn’t realise that New Orleans was quite a different place than the rest of the country until I moved away. It’s super, super old, culturally diverse – it’s basically like a big melting pot of Spanish and French and American culture and it’s super dark and quirky and weird, and I think that’s why I’m super dark, quirky and weird.
Who were your favourite bands growing up?
I came up in the teeny-bop Britney Spears era, but I actually listened to my parent’s music. My mom is a big 80s pop fan so I got Madonna and George Michael and Cher – those super-theatrical, big personalities. My dad is a rock guy, so Bowie and Prince and Zepplin and The Beatles. I loved the 80s, even though I missed it. So, their influences really kind of made me into who I am and as I got a little older, I delved in to glam rock and I found Queen, then I found synth pop like Soft Cell and all these 80s bands that had found synthesizers for the first time. I delved into 80s cult movies and horror and Kubrick and so I kinda, I don’t know how to say it, I kinda live in this little has-been world of 80s and that kind of developed into my aesthetic.
And how would you define your sound today? It seems like it has changed since 2015 to now, where it was darker a few years ago.
Yes, yes, so, my sound has definitely changed and I think that honestly just because I’m living in the thick of it now, you never really know what you’re going to get into until you dive right into the industry and if you’re in a hot spot like LA, there are a ton of different influences around you. But at the end of the day, I do pop music, but it’s [laughs] anti-social, angsty pop music.
Your style is a retro blend that you’ve made your own, and would not naturally align with your sound. Can you tell us about it?
My style is a little darker, a little quirkier then the music that I make. I think that’s because coming from theatre, it’s all about melody and it’s all about performance and the larger-than-life aspect when a person is on stage and that’s what I’ve always done, but at the same time it’s not who I am as a person, so I really identified with alternative culture and also 90s grunge, at the same time as 80s New Romanticism..
The male version of Lady Gaga is what you’re being referred to. What’s it like being compared to living cultural icon?
I think it’s really funny when people say that. I’m honoured. I was in the eighth grade when she first released Just Dance and to me it was, I kind of saw it immediately, it was like this is the music I’ve been listening to. It was so reminiscent of 80s pop but also rock ‘n’ roll. She’s a rock star and people forget that because she does dance music, but she is a complete rock star. I’m super-grateful that someone like her came out in 2008 and changed the game because it certainly allowed artists like me who want to do more theatrical music and actually perform on stage. She paved the way for weirdness, commercially. I’ve always been a huge fan and I’m honoured when people say that and it’s super-cool on social media to see some of the Little Monsters gravitating towards my stuff.
You actually showed your jackets at New York Fashion Week for spring/summer 2018.
I showed my jackets and I performed on the catwalk – including my new single. My jackets were shown on the runway. It’s called the Rilan Collection.
So, we should expect lots of your fans wearing jackets from the Rilan Collection. What would you like fans to take away from your music?
I just want people to take away that ‘I get you’, that I understand what it’s like to feel out of place. Whether you’re listening to my music, at my show or watching a video, you feel like you’re in the right place, that you belong with someone who’s as equally weird and misfit as you are.
Do you think that’s even more important now with social media?
Yeah. With the multitude of apps that you can use to make yourself look like a totally different person. It’s sad. My latest single that I just released, the hook that I wrote is ‘It’s a sad, sad city when you’re not that pretty’. And that’s how I feel. It doesn’t even matter if you’re good-looking or not, it’s just how you feel about it because everyone is held to this perfect standard that’s a complete illusion. I just think it’s important for people to realise that you don’t have to try to be perfect to fit into this little niche.
Watch Money Talk here:
What else do you have on?
Right after I came back from New York Fashion Week, I shot the music video for Money Talk [above].
I’ll have a lot of new music and live shows coming up. You might catch me coming somewhere near you.
Follow Rilan on Instagram: @iamrilan
For the full interview (there is so much more), get the new issue in print or digital here.
Tap here to read Courtney Blackman’s interview with Eoin Macken.