JELANI ARYEH: A POP-ROCK GENRE CHAMELEON RETURNS WITH ‘ A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY’

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JELANI ARYEH: A POP-ROCK GENRE CHAMELEON RETURNS WITH ‘ A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY’

Photos // Silken Weinberg

Jelani Aryeh, the 23-year-old San Diego-based singer, has crafted a distinctive blend of alt rock-pop characterized by a rich sonic palette and soulful lyrics. His journey into the spotlight began with the 2019 EP “Helvetica” and the breakout single “Stella Brown.” Jelani continued to make waves with his 2021 9-track album, “I’ve Got Some Living To Do,” featuring not only the fan-favorite “Brown” but also hits like “Marigold” and “From These Heights.”

After a compelling 2-year hiatus, Jelani is making a triumphant return with his latest track, “I’m In Love.” In an exclusive interview with Ladygunn, Aryeh sits down for a Q&A, offering insights into his music, experiences, and the creative process behind his latest work.

We are excited for your new music, “Im in Love”, why was now the right time to release your single?

Aw man! I’m stoked as well! It’s honestly just been too long without putting something out in the world. The plan was originally to release it last November , but I had a feeling it’d get lost in the sauce of the holidays. All that to say, top of the year just feels right. Start ’24 off with a bang! It’s like that extra gift your family forgot was still in the closet and you get to have the joy of opening something all over again.

You had such great success with your hits, “Stella Brown” and “From These Heights” – how has your new music evolved and what can fans expect from this project? 

I’d say it’s a much fuller sound. A bit more Hi-fi. Slightly more romantic and obsessive. Sometimes a little dull and poignant. I don’t think I’ve necessarily pivoted away or have drastically changed anything about my sound though, rather just built off what worked in the past. It’s definitely not as naive and optimistic i feel as past records were. 

Alex Craig who worked on “From These Heights/Someone To Hold You” off the last record produced this entire album with me alongside my brother and longtime collaborator , Jack Kolbe who did Stella, Marigold, and the majority of my discography to this point. So the backbone of those songs you mentioned is definitely a force binding this album together. There are some strange surprises in there too. Brad Hale from the Now, Now made one of my favorite songs off the album but i’ll get into that another time.

Your music blends genre lines, seamlessly flowing from indie rock, R&B, hip-hop, pop and experimental sounds. How would you describe your music and how to do you stay true in an industry that constantly wants to put artists in genre boxes? 

I think at the end of the day I just make what I’d want to listen to. It’s not the best answer but its the truth. Its a big stew. Genre is becoming an old idea and a lot of my contemporaries would probably say something similar if you asked them.

To slightly contradict myself though and give an ordinary listener some context, I’d just say it’s my take on some of my favorite sounds from the alternative music of the 80’s, 90’s, 2000-2010’s. I also think you can hear all of that in “ I’m in Love”.

Ladygunn is all about authentic voices. Tell us what makes Jelani Aryeh authentic and why do you think your fans are so passionate about your music?

I just feel like I have nothing to really hide and I try to put as much as I can in the music. It’s kind of hard for me to separate Jelani the artist from regular Jelani, to be quite honest. It’s really just me at the end of the day for real. To create that space between the two and still come off as authentic and real is a trait I admire in most of my favorite artists. I think it’s a gift or talent of its own.

Hope this doesn’t come off as arrogant, but the reason I believe people are so passionate about my music is I think they hear themselves in it. At its best it’s super visual and tangible to latch onto. I’m not this hyper intellectual who bestows this big grand idea on his listeners or is so niche and untouchable. I want to be consumed and a friend of the everyman. With this new record I can say there’s a little something for everybody. 

You have a great sense of style, tell us how you would describe your style and what are some of your favorite designers?

I appreciate that. I mean comfort over everything. I’m a taurus after all. That also means big spending though and if i see something I like and have the funds, I’m buying that shit! 

I go from goth-chic, to ima put on these baggy pants and a dickies workwear jacket and grow out the little facial hair that I can, to 70’s football shirt with flares, to a I just threw whatever on but it still looks crazy cause I’m just a cool nigga at the end of the day! Is it bad to wear these Celine jeans three days in a row ?

At the moment I’ve been obsessed with Miu Miu. I like watching the shows in the late 90’s.

CDG SHIRT, HOMME PLUS and Ann Demuelemeester. I want one of those gray Thom Browne suits with the skirt so so bad. yes I know, incredibly basic but still. I have a few things from Kiko Kostadinov that I cherish. Acne Studios I will always love. Have a soft spot for the swedes for some reason. 

What’s in store for fans of Jelani in 2024?

An album. Its always been a dream to release an album in the spring. Shows on Shows. It’s become my favorite part of all this mess! I NEED to see my people again. Who knows maybe some vlogs too. In typical jenia fashion , we’ll see as we go along . Just know that i’ll be around.

CONNECT WITH JELANI ARYEH

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