John Errol is taking his own painful memories and reframing them in a beautiful way. His new release, “Saturday Night,” follows 2021’s debut album, Inferno, and “reconsiders a relationship in its aftermath,” as the Los Angeles musician explains, “reckoning with queer destruction and how it could have been unhealthy.” Here, he looks at how abuse in LGBTQ partnerships is often overlooked and stares it “right in the face.”
Nostalgic and longing, “Saturday Night” rolls out like a recollection of the past to mirror the ways in which we rebuild history in our minds. Those stories are often equal parts hazy and dream-like, with some specifics sticking out in great, dramatized detail. While the subject matter of Errol’s single is dark, grappling with how he could have possibly kissed his “selfish” lover on a “Saturday night,” it uses slick synth-pop as a vehicle for juxtaposition — ”a way to capture the slow and insidious nature of abuse,” Errol says.
The music video, directed by Nora DeLigter and Faye Tsakas, interprets Errol’s experience with abuse as an emotional, choreographed dance. With lo-fi, ‘80s-inspired filming, the “Saturday Night” visual captures its wistful production and looks like it could have been plucked from a VHS bin several decades ago. “The directors and I also wanted to pay tribute to the skyline of Los Angeles,” Errol continues. “It’s hard to find love here, and it’s just as easy to get consumed by the city itself."
Below, PAPER talks to Errol more about “Saturday Night,” which he notably wrote, produced, mixed and mastered himself.
How does "Saturday Night" build off last year's Inferno?
To be honest, “Saturday Night” isn’t really a pitstop between projects sonically, as much as it is an island of its own. After Inferno, I needed to cleanse the palette a bit and step away from the noisier elements. There’s this early 2010s kind of sound I’ve always loved that’s just drum machine, piano, maybe some pads. Most of my demos begin with this kind of template and something felt right given the song’s subject matter.
Lyrically, what's the significance of this single for you?
The song in its most literal form takes stock of the saying, "It takes two to tango." It’s easy to get wrapped up in convenient victim/villain narratives with any relationship ending. As I get older, I’m more interested in looking at ways both parties play their parts no matter how obvious a person’s crimes appear on paper. There is some lyrical imagery that reveals personal experiences I don’t want to get too into: Orange tubes, black eyes, fists. You can make of that what you will.
How did you want to interpret "Saturday Night" visually?
Here’s where it gets tricky. The video is based on some very real life events for me, and the most concise and obvious way of putting it is that I wanted to reframe those experiences in a beautiful way. I’ve always believed that the people you date are reflections of how you see yourself at that given time, so I wanted to show that. Ryan and I look similar, are dressed identically, mimic each other’s movements. There’s a literal mirroring happening.
Something I talked about with Faye and Nora at length is violence in queer relationships. This isn’t to speak for anybody else’s experience, but I was interested in the ways it might not register because you’re watching two men mangle each other. As for inspiration, I think Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” video is an obvious one. We were looking at a lot of minimal studio-based videos from the '80s given that we shot on DV. Echo & the Bunnymen’s "The Killing Moon" video comes to mind, maybe some 'Til Tuesday.
"I’ve always believed that the people you date are reflections of how you see yourself at that given time, so I wanted to show that."
What's coming next?
It’s probably counterintuitive to say, but “Saturday Night” is my last offering of more typical synth-pop for now. I’ve always been interested in the idea of pop music and have toyed with it in a lot of my music. But something shifted in the last year or two, and it dawned on me that the pop music I love isn’t pop music of current times. Pop music now has little if anything to do with songwriting and melody, more so with marketing. If that’s the case, then I want no part in that. I’m zipping the genres back up.
I’ve been recording a different long-form project that’s starting to shape up nicely. It has a lot more teeth and aggression than anything I’ve ever done. It’s also somehow more stifled sonically, a bit more bare bones at times. Definitely more mature than my debut. It’s really just music to soundtrack your Saturn Return to.
Stream "Saturday Night" by John Errol, below.
Photography: Emma Jenkinson