cehryl on her new video 'satellite'
The Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter cehryl creates a zero-gravity atmosphere deliberately designed to get lost within.
With her hazy, R&B-infused music, Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter cehryl creates a zero-gravity atmosphere deliberately designed to get lost within. Her vocals are delicate but front and center, reflecting the lyric-driven artists who shaped her craft growing up: early Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, and James Morrison. Of course, 2000s punk icon Avril Lavigne made her mark on a young cehryl, who released her latest album Slow Motion in June. “Avril Lavigne was my first CD,” cehryl tells i-D. “She’s the reason I got into writing my own music.”
Today, 23-year-old cehryl is an independent artist who writes, records, produces, mixes, and engineers everything on her own after studying at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. After dropping loosies on SoundCloud throughout college, she released Delusions in 2016, and followed it up with the distorted bedroom-pop killer Wherever It May Be EP in 2017. She’s opened for fellow DIY dreamers like Dijon, Ravyn Lenae, and Raveena. Right now, she's back in Hong Kong working on new music.
“Politically, Hong Kong is just kind of a shit-show right now, so it’s kind of crazy to be back,” she says. In March, the people of Hong Kong began to protest a controversial extradition bill that would allow a person arrested in Hong Kong to face trial elsewhere, including mainland China. The “pro-democracy” protestors have since sustained demonstrations throughout the summer, wracking up nearly two million marchers in June, and multiple violent clashes with police and opposition.
In the midst of the protests, cehryl has dropped her first “proper” music video for Slow Motion’s dreamy, cinematic “Satellite.” i-D caught up with the Hong Kong singer-songwriter on her artistic process, inspirations, and experience back home.
Along with making music, you’re also a fan of cinema. Are there specific filmmakers or films that you look towards for inspiration?
I'm really into directors Wim Wenders and Wong Kar-Wai, who's from Hong Kong. I love music, but I feel like films inspire me more in terms of actually creating music. I rarely look to musicians to try and make my own music; it always ended up that I would imitate a certain thing stylistically. But I feel like whenever I see a film, it's way more about mood. When I make my music, I'm trying to convey something more similar to that—it’s a really visual process. Every time I see a really good film I'm inspired to recreate the moods.
Your latest album Slow Motion is gorgeous. How is this body of work different from what you've released so far?
I'd say this collection of songs is more cohesive in terms of mood than the other ones. Prior to Slow Motion, everything's been, like, “You know what? I'm bored of everything I've put out before, so I'm just gonna put an EP out.” Even though the actual compilation of the songs was unintentional and not planned out, these are all songs that I wrote within the first year that I moved to L.A. I also definitely tried to work on the mastering aspect. I took that a little more seriously than before.
Tell me about the video for “Satellite.” What was your vision behind that?
This video is directed by my friend from high school in Hong Kong. His name is Ran Zhang. I wasn't really friends with him in high school, but he went to college in L.A. for film and then after I moved out there we reconnected. He heard the album before it was released and he really liked the song “Satellite” because he could relate to it a lot. We have a lot of similar influences in terms of film—one of his favorite film directors is also Wong Kar Wai. So, the video is definitely super inspired by that filmmaker’s style.
I kind of let Ran do his thing, though we did talk a lot about mood and what I wanted to convey. This was my first collaboration and the first time I did a video where there was a crew doing lighting and everything. To see something that I kind of just stood beside and tried not to be a control freak about that still ended up similar mood-wise to the things that I like is really cool, especially since it's by my friend.
Hong Kong citizens are mobilizing in a tremendous way right now to protect their democracy. What is it like being back home?
When I first came back, I was confused emotionally because it's really divided between the generations and between people who support and sympathize with the police versus people who support and sympathize with the protestors. But also, there's just a lot of grey area.It’s difficult to just be like, “I fully support this one side,” because there are people on both sides that are messing up. It's been emotionally taxing. My daily life is definitely affected by it. It’s my home after all, so I feel like I can't just sit around and ignore what's happening out there. [Laughs] This sounds so dumb, but when I came back I was like, “Wow, what a time to be alive.” I just never thought my home would experience something like that. Hong Kong has never been that messy, ever.
What are your plans for the near future?
I have a bunch of songs that I really wanna put out and hopefully more videos. I wanna write more with other people.