In an increasingly crowded queer pop arena, Gregory Dillon is creating colorful splashes by matching his heavy voice to his light songs, with great effect.
Recently signed to London-based independent label Afterlife, Dillon, 26, released “Alien Boyfriend” in February as the third single off his upcoming album Send Me Letters. Excellently produced by Dillon, “Alien Boyfriend” is an upbeat retrowave ballad referencing queer love, dating, and self-acceptance in the 21st century.
Today, Dillon dropped his music video for “Alien Boyfriend” premiering below. The video (co-produced by Dillon and directed by Jake Sofaer) shows a lonely gay boy (Dillon), longingly gazing through a telescope towards the heavens when, as if by magic (or by the “magic” of online dating), an alien makes contact (i.e. swipes left) and asks Dillon out on a date. (Dillon has cited Contact, the 1997 sci-fi cult hit that’s been championed by “UNHhhh” star Katya Zamolodchikova as a major influence). The pair meet for a meal, run and dance around Brooklyn, and generally seem to get along famously — as two gay aliens might.
In a time when queer storytelling is becoming increasingly dour, pessimistic, and grayscale, Dillon’s brightly lit tale of love, hope, and self-acceptance feels like a breath of fresh air. The video’s color-blocked green palette is relaxing and soft on the eyes. The song’s tempo and tender lyrics lend well to the video’s themes of feeling like an outsider yet finding another as different as you to be with. The story ends on a happy note as we watch Dillon hugging his new Alien Boyfriend; it seems they end up together.
Billboard spoke to Dillon about his new music video, his artistic inspirations, and what it means to be telling LGBTQ stories through music in 2019.
Who are you listening to right now? Who are you inspired by?
I’m really loving singers like Kim Petras and Troye Sivan right now, they’re awesome. But what made me want to be a songwriter was Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die album… I’m really inspired by music artists who take on the whole production of the world that they live in, it intrigues me. So people like Lana and Lady Gaga are definitely big inspirations for me.
You’re involved in many parts of your artistic process, not just the music. Can you talk to us about your visual inspirations?
I’m a big sci-fi fan, and I love 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although, obviously, the budget isn’t the same as a big studio film, that’s the look I was going for. There’s a lot of visual symmetry, much like [Stanley] Kubrick. A lot of high contrasting and color, which comes out of my love for retro designs from the 1960’s. As you can see from the video I really love color blocking, that’s the other visual identity I’m trying to build. Each of my music videos is going to have a different color theme and a different emotional theme, and I’ll explore how those are related.
What does green mean to you?
Green is the color of the heart chakra — plus I feel like green is a very healing and earthy color, yet can also be alien-like. It made sense to me for ”Alien Boyfriend.”
And who plays your Alien Boyfriend?
That’s my roommate, Josh! He’s a burlesque performer. Despite having his whole face covered, he really went into it. There was chemistry.
Your video seems more upbeat than most queer media. Is it important to you to show positive queer experiences?
When I wrote “Alien Boyfriend” I wasn’t thinking of how it might impact others like that, but the song and video are inspired by curiosity, searching for the unknown. In the sci-fi world, they’re looking for intelligent life. But I think people go through that in love. You really wonder if there’s someone out there for you, someone who will accept you for you. Dating in the 21st century can be really confusing.
In the video I wanted to show someone who’s dealing with that modern-day search but is also having a positive experience from it. Like, it’s not all bad. I think everyone is looking for their loved ones online these days and technology can be really frustrating… but the video basically says that if you put yourself out there, and be as honest and real as you can, the universe will provide. Because you are amazing as you are!
How has your LGBTQ identity affected your artistic expression?
I’m sure I’ve been shaped my whole life by my queerness. Growing up in New Hampshire outside of an apple orchard, I didn’t know any other queer people and I definitely didn’t have anyone to identify with like that. I was essentially represseed into not thinking about my sexuality, but my queerness, of course, was always there.
I’m glad and grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to learn about music and art at a young age. I’m an artist and have been my whole life, but I’m still dealing with a lot of self doubt in regards to my sexuality, like a lot of us do. That’s a long journey. My music gives me space to explore the concept of a lonely wanderer, lost, looking for others like him, seeing what it means to go out on his own to experience the universe as he is, without anyone defining him. That’s the overall theme of my music, and I hope that resonates.