Jelani Aryeh Isn’t Beating the Post-Punk Allegations

Jelani Aryeh Isn’t Beating the Post-Punk Allegations

By Erica CampbellFeb 06, 2024

Jelani Aryeh knows what it means to be “down bad," and in his bright, post-punk guitar track “I’m in Love,” he leans fully into that feeling.

“A couple of years ago, I was seeing this girl, and it was super short-lived and honestly not that exciting of a story,” the Afro-Filipino indie act tells PAPER.“In the end the feelings were not mutual and it really just came down to your boy getting ghosted.”

Still, that experience lasted with Aryeh, changing the way he approaches relationships and sees them in general. “I just get too excited too fast and maybe that’s my Aries moon at play,” he says. “It’s damn near obsessive. I want to know everything about this person and what they’re doing and that’s just crazy. 'I’m in Love' is about how I often only see the idealized fantasy version of who I believe this person is, not who they actually are. It takes real time to see someone, to actually know them.”

That rough realization has been translated into a retro video, set with a live performance from Aryeh and his band and all backed by infatuated lyrics and nostalgic, trippy visuals. Below, Aryeh talks to PAPER about “I’m In Love,” how the track became a video that feels like “George Harrison is present in the room” and what he’s excited to share next.

"I'm In Love" has such a retro, post-punk feel. Were there any bands or artists that inspired the sound of the song?

It’s funny, because I feel like the girl this song is about is the physical embodiment of that time or those bands. She was a goth, her mom was a goth. She reminded me of a cross between Debbie Harry and Siouxsie Sioux. I can finally listen to The Banshees without thinking of her, and that’s been nice.

I’m not beating the Cure allegations at all. They’ve been around for me since my childhood. I blame it on my mom and Auntie Alma. That was their shit. I have some posters from when they were in high school. I have this massive Depeche Mode one from the World ViolationTour, which I absolutely cherish. But yeah, Robert Smith is my GOAT. He's a Taurus — most of my favorites are, though. I think we Taureans are natural-born goths. It’s a pattern I’ve been noticing, or maybe it’s just something I really want to believe and have been telling myself.

The feeling I get when I listen to Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson was important, too. I’ve been telling people "I’m in Love" is just a Kelly Clarkson song sung by a horny, sad Black boy.

The visuals in the video are so captivating. How did you decide on them? What did you hope that they communicated?

Thank you! For starters, I just wanted to show my face. It’s been three years since I’ve put anything out, and it's crazy that people are still around and still very much care about my music. My friend Silken Weinberg, who I made this with, is definitely from another time and an actual angel on Earth. I absolutely adore her. We came up with this just sitting on her couch, throwing ideas out. When we get together, we become this very trippy duo. It's actually hilarious. We’re either four years old or 73, and it always feels like George Harrison is present in the room. We decided to juxtapose the stark performance video with this visual showing love as this chemical reaction. In reality, I think we were more excited to play with dye and make these little cosmic science experiments. The video is supposed to feel like thinking versus feeling, left brain versus right brain and reason versus passion, but we hope everyone will have their own takeaway.

What's your favorite line from "I'm In Love" and why?

“Lie to me and say you believe it exists.” I think I perceived [the girl I dated] as jaded. She seemed almost too mature and had so much experience in past relationships it felt at times like she’d given up on love, or it had lost its meaning. I know you’ve probably said it so many times it's just a hollow word to you, but just lie to me and make me believe it for even a little sliver of a moment.

What are you most excited to share with fans next?

I'm excited to be putting out one of my favorite songs off the project out next. It’s one that never gets old to me. I finally landed on the album last week, and unlike previous releases, I had no clue what this album was called during the process of making it. That was bizarre and I was stuck for so long, but I’ve decided to name the album after this next song.

Photography: Silken Weinberg