Leo Reilly grew up in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles, sharing backyard space with black bears and coyotes. He records cross-legged on his bed, directly into his Macbook microphone, over whatever wild combination of a type beat he can find on the web.
After its release at the end of 2019, “BOYFREN” went viral and paved the way for second single “ROSIE,” which acts as a sort of sequel to “BOYFREN”. “I recorded ‘ROSIE’ in the same place as ‘BOYFRIEN’” he says. Reilly’s penchant for melding familiar phrases to singsong melodies that never leave your brain is what made “BOYFREN” such a hit, and “ROSIE” follows suit. Over a muted guitar and a subtle undercurrent of digital funk, Reilly sets his sights on the psychological warfare of dating apps, and how that manifests in real world relationships.
On his new eight track EP, LOOK AT THIS MESS I’VE MADE, Reilly continues to tap into a rich wellspring of personal moments of growth, filtered through his unique sense of humor. In the video for “LEMONS,” filmed entirely in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reilly’s apartment turns into a playground full of odd props, including a creepy mannequin head and exactly 127 fake lemons. True to form, the song probes deeper ideas of frustration even as it pokes fun at tried and true aphorisms and flips them on their heads.
Elsewhere on the EP, Reilly genre hops: “AHHHHHHH” is a distorted stomper reminiscent of the best, quirkiest Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head-era studio experiments, and “Head Over Heels” is a tropical disco funk track that already feels like a classic for late nights that turn into early mornings. “‘[Head Over Heels]’ is a story about getting ready for a date,” Reilly says. “Knowing that this is the make or break date where I’d have to come clean and say how I feel very vulnerably and basically just cross my fingers that the person I’m talking to feels the same way. That’s the part that I was more scared about—being head over heels and then telling them and running the risk of them not feeling the same, contrasted with the feeling that it’s amazing to be head over heels in love with someone and that kind of euphoric, big bright feeling that you get from that.”
LOOK AT THIS MESS I’VE MADE, its singles, and their kinetic and innovative videos, all of which Reilly co-directed, paint a portrait of a rising artist on the cusp of something big. As LoveLeo, Reilly has landed on a sound that is playful and probing, the result of an urge to create music that is not so much reliant on genre as it is a reflection of the 22-year-old’s idiosyncratic viewpoint and style. His songs are deceptively simple earworms that probe big ideas with a light touch, but Reilly never pushes listeners toward a revelation. Instead, he offers up a wonky, sometimes-cartoonish world of slick players and devious villains who’re posturing and fumbling through love and life, just like the rest of us.