Leon Else and Suki Waterhouse star in the weird and wonderful first visual from his new record. Take an exclusive look at the cinematic JG Ballard meets NSFW Little Shop of Horrors on wheels.
When he decamped to L.A. not so long ago, Margate-raised singer Leon Else also moved away from his poppy RnB past in favour of creating something a little more him. Having teamed up with producer Francois Tetaz, Black Car is the very impressive result of that. With the track in the bag, he worked closely with director Jordan Behat to create a video that he describes as, "a little fucked up."
In need of a lift home after a late night shift, Suki Waterhouse is Penny, a young waitress who climbs into mysterious Leon's black car and gets much more than she bargains for. "Set my wheels on fire, unleash your desire to the night crawling machine," Leon croons in his newfound dreamy deep vocals. As things heat up, Penny falls for the red leather and glamour as the car comes to life and - complete with headrest face and wandering armrest hands - begins to give her quite a ride. The dark red glow transforms into a gloriously trippy animation before returning to the night crawler in question, alone on the dock. It's a cinematic sexy NSFW Little Shop of Horrors on wheels and we can't get enough.
Take an exclusive look at the video below, and reintroduce yourself to the man himself. Burn, baby burn...
Hello Leon! This is quite a departure from your earlier sound…
Yes, it really is very different from my earlier music. Though I'm extremely proud of my earlier work and its played a big part of my journey of exploring sounds, I felt like I was doing something that wasn't completely me. I felt like I was trying to do what people wanted me to do and what was current.
How did you come to venture off in this new direction?
I spent a very long time working in the studio, just non-stop searching, trying to find sounds and write songs that I felt represented the complex person I am. It's developed into a slight obsession. I needed to create music that could match my emotion, my character, my stories, my highs and my lows, and music that would grow and progress and make you come on a journey with me, because thats what its all about. I'm still growing, looking for the answers in life, and struggling with reality. I know that I'm not the only one that meets these obstacles and I hope that I can show my fans that they aren't alone in how they feel. It's its still pop music, but just a bit more progressive and more me. The album will be my escapism; my own self therapy through music. Because that's how I see the world and deal with things. I think it's more grown up, more honest, and I just feel like I've really put my heart into this and have been given complete freedom to do what I wanted. Scary as fuck… but also the most exciting.
How do you think living in LA has influenced you, both musically and otherwise?
L.A. can be a very lonely place. I've spent a lot of time alone, and that's fucked with me but also helped me. It influenced City Don't Care, and how I felt lost and alone in a vacuous world that would chew you up and spit you out. I was left alone with my own thoughts for so long. On the other hand, moving away from London and my friends has allowed me to be selfish, and to work endlessly on my music anytime I wanted for as long as I wanted. I loved that, that's what I needed.
What do you miss about Margate?
I have a very funny relationship with my hometown. I love it because it was where I grew up and cemented the foundations of who I am, but Margate was very cruel to me at the same time. I guess you could say I love/hate it. I sometimes find myself on Google Earth checking back in, looking at the roads I used to live on, the school I went too, the places I would kick around causing trouble with friends. I do miss my sister and brother, and friends I grew up with; the friends that always believed in me and told me to go chase my dreams.
What is Black Car about?
I originally wrote it about wanting a black car, as I was driving a brown car when I first arrived in L.A. and was so desperate to have a cool looking black car to fit in. I took the song to Frank (Francios Tetaz, producer) and we developed it further into an object of desire. In a world where we are all so impressed by materialistic things, objects of desire make you more desirable and we as a society are all so desperate to be desired by others.
So basically, it's about how my slick sexy black car is enticing you in and clouding your judgement. I thought if i had a black car that was amazing, people would want to know me, like me, and wanna hang with me. With the video we fantasised it and exaggerated it but it still has the allure; you can be blind to the danger you're in, and something at face value can have a whole different story behind it.
What car do you actually have?
Now I have the "black car" which is a Dodge Challenger, all black everything and I love it. It looks like a mean machine.
And what was your first car?
I had a VW GTI.
How did you dream up such a far out video? What were your references?
I had written out a few very specific treatments for the video and sent them out to directors, to see how we could make that a reality. One of the ideas, from a director called Jordan Bahat, came back completely different; so perfect, weird, kinda fucked up. We developed it together and the video for black car was born. I always wanted it to be cinematic, have a story, and to feel different to other music videos. Jordan is amazing and he really got deep into the story and took a risk sending me something I didn't want or ask for. I love that. I have always wanted to be about something new and fresh and do things that aren't being done right now. This video reflects the song in a way that I wouldn't have thought it could. I'm very proud of this collaboration with Jordan.
Did you work closely with the director?
We worked very closely, the whole way from start to end. We both felt the same way about the vision and making sure it didn't get watered down, even when everyone tried to make us do so. It was a great experience to be so involved on this level, and that why I worked with Jordan again on the second video. He's amazing.
Was it always the plan to create something so fun, cinematic and unexpected?
Absolutely. I don't want people to be able to predict what I will do next. That's boring. Every song of mine is different, you'll see. As humans, we feel a lot of different things - sometimes I feel like I'm about ten different people - so I needed to reflect that. I change, so my music will.
Have you been reading JG Ballard?
I've read parts of Crash… it's pretty fucked up! That was a long time ago though and wasn't anything to do with Black Car. I can see why you would think that though. I'm not a psycho.
Where did you shoot?
It was all shot down around the port of San Pedro by the shipping yards. Actually, Jordan bahat (director) went out there and shot a bunch of stuff illegally the night before our big shoot to get all the car-to-car stuff, and the car broke down that night. It sort of jeopardised our big shoot day but luckily we got the car patched up the morning of and went back with everyone.
The animation is awesome. Who did you call on to assist with that?
It's so dope. Ben Bjalajac was the lead animator; he's a brilliant artist who works on shows like Bojack Horseman. I love what he done.
Why Suki Waterhouse?
Because she's amazing and I'm in love with her! I met Suki last year when I moved to LA, and we just hit it off and became friends. I found out that she loves to write and make music too, so we just really hit it off and always have such a laugh together. I was looking for a girls voice to do some speaking parts in Black Car for texture, so I asked her. Then when the video came around, the only person on this planet that I wanted to do it was Suki. She was just perfect for it. She is a beautiful sexy lady but also has an innocence about her and I just knew that she had to play the part of Penny. I knew she could play this role of an innocent girl who has a very odd sexual awakening. She killed it.
What can we expect from your forthcoming music?
Expect the unexpected haha. It moves and progresses, like myself as a person. It's like a journey. It's not like Black Car. I don't want two songs the same. I can't wait for the second song/visual to come because it's worlds apart from this.
You're a dancer. What's your favourite music video dance routine of all time?
Ex-dancer! Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice with Christopher Walken is fucking amazing. And of course Thriller by Michael Jackson.