LoveLeo Is Crafting His Own Surrealistic Synth Pop World

LoveLeo Is Crafting His Own Surrealistic Synth Pop World

LoveLeo Is Crafting His Own Surrealistic Synth Pop World

Taking a playful approach to creativity, Leo Reilly, aka LoveLeo, is forming his own uniquely vibrant world around his colorful music.

Taking a playful approach to creativity, Leo Reilly, aka LoveLeo, is forming his own uniquely vibrant world around his colorful music.

Photography: Connor Franta

Styling: ARYEH LAPPIN

Text: Gautam Balasundar

This article appears in VMAN46, now available for purchase. 

"I can’t stand not making stuff," Leo Reilly, aka LoveLeo, says from his LA home. Last year the eclectic young musician attempted a break from making songs, only to realize the effect it was having on him. "I was beating myself up a lot, and I thought it was easier for my mental stability to take a break from working. But not creating stuff was slowly driving me insane." Over the summer he released a wide-ranging EP titled Look at This Mess I've Made, with eight songs that move between slow-burn crooning to dance-friendly pop, with a brief excursion into punk. It's the sound of someone teeming with ideas, unabashedly playing with sounds and giving plenty of room for exploration. That ethos is indicative of his creative process; he is constantly seeking out new ways to push his sound. "Lyrically, I’ve been going back and listening to a lot of Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra, just in terms of sleazy storytelling kind of stuff. On the flip side of that, I’ve been listening to a lot of LCD Soundsystem and people who are a little bit more comical with their lyrics.”

Top, pants DSQUARED2, Jewelry Leo’s own

That sense of lightheartedness comes across in his songs as well, which always seem to have a buoyancy to them, regardless of their tempo or style. “I’ve really been really getting into a lot of grunge, deep house, techno,” he says. “And I’ve really been inspired by how that world has been interacting with the bubblegum pop world. I’ve been making a lot of stuff that I’ve never done before." A similar spirit carries over to his trippy visual output. His music videos are filled with bubbly, energetic, and comical scenes.

Top, pants SAINT LAURENT BY ANTONY VACCARELLO, sneakers Leo's own

He superimposes his face onto eggs or bowling pins or a female model, shrinks himself to the size of nail polish, as well as blows himself up so that he peers into his own apartment window on LA’s east side. "I think really that the core essence of a music video is to just have something that is visually entertaining and appealing," he says, acknowledging that his videos don't always need to adhere to the narrative of the song. "I’m already thinking about what the music video is going to be like when I’m making the song, so by the time we get to the actual shooting of the music video, it’s just really a question of, 'What is going to be most visually intriguing?'"

Jumpsuit DSQUARED2, Jewelry, sneakers Leo’s own

Social media is another avenue for Leo to be playful, expressive, and a little surreal. "Everybody would post the same four pictures or a variation of like 'On vacation,' 'With the family,' 'In a parking lot,'" he recalls of his first introduction to Instagram in high school. "It was a lot of the same stuff and it was really boring to me." At the same time he began learning Photoshop and image-altering apps on his phone. "I just started changing my pictures a little bit to the point where it’s not like full, in-your-face, some crazy big thing, but enough to make it a little interesting, make people look twice and just catch people’s eye that way." One common theme he uses—similar to his music videos—is placing multiple images of himself in one image, a seemingly random idea that actually had a logic to it we can all understand. "You used to not be able to post multiple pictures in one Instagram post," he explains. "So there’s always the question of choosing the best picture out of the photos that you take. And adding multiples of myself in one picture was kind of a way around choosing just one picture and a way to include different outfits, different looks all into one picture."

Top, pants SAINT LAURENT BY ANTONY VACCARELLO, sneakers Leo's own

His take on social media innately reflects his teeming creativity. "We as humans have the ability to change how we look at any point, so it’s such an exciting thing to do that,” he says. “Not to become different people, but to explore different parts of yourself." And despite his proclivity to the visual, making music is still his true passion; even if people discover him through those quirky images or his bold outfits or his captivating videos, all roads lead back to music. "Whatever way you hear about me, my hope is that it intrigues you enough to dive into this little world I created on the internet, and that you’ll discover all the other things I’m doing through that."

Top, pants DSQUARED2 Jewelry, sneakers Leo’s own

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