- Words Lauren Sneade
Gregory Dillon is making the sun-soaked pop anthems that we really knew we needed.
Enter the internet sad boy icon of our dreams: Gregory Dillon. As a boy, he threw three trash bags worth of glazed doughnuts at his queer – bashing neighbour, and now, as a man, he’s making the sun-soaked pop anthems that we really knew we needed.
Hailed as 2020’s answer to Marina and the Diamond’s “Primadonna Girl” or Katy Perry’s Cabriolet-riding “Teenage Dream” era, Gregory Dillon’s sound pulses with the suburban adolescence he left in Fort Wayne, New Hampshire. Now he’s thriving in big-city Brooklyn and his energy knows no bounds. Dillon’s first single, “Alone with You” came out in 2018 and now he’s just founded his own label, Sad Magic Records. Dillon says the label is to be a space for music from Virgos everywhere.
True to his sign, Gregory Dillon is a self-proclaimed perfectionist: “It isn’t enough for this EP to just be euphoric or mysterious; I also hope to relay something very ordinary, very familiar, and very nostalgic”, he says.
Released 13 November, his debut EP ‘Sad Magic’ is an ode to warm nights, riding shotgun, and the Instagram stories we never want to forget.
The first track, “sad magic” unreels dreamy synths backed by confident drums with an 80’s feel. The repeated chorus line “into the endless” feels like it sets the music on the boundless summer highways of yore. Next up, “lovely” builds on the 80’s vibe with keys that are like something out of Depeche Mode’s back catalogue. The release is said to narrate one day from dawn-dusk, and we’re really awake now. “Screenshots”, third on EP shows a more mature production, as we hear Dillon’s echoing vocals agonising over “screenshots from the past”. We’ve all been there. Our favourite, “Plastic Ferrari” pairs elegant strings with tremulous synths that just build and build. This is the denouement track in our coming-of-age movie, for sure. We end on “Sunset”, where Dillon’s vocals take on a more sensitive feel, and we really feel the nostalgia which is at the heart of Dillon’s musical MO.
If you hadn’t felt sad magic before, you will now.
Your label name ‘Sad Magic’ comes from your teen years, are you looking to make music for the kind of teen you were back then?
In a perfect world, I would’ve taken us for an aimless drive around suburbia to pow wow for this interview.
Tbh, my teenage years came with a mixed bag of angst, confusion, and curious solitude. You’d probably find me playing the piano in my empty high school chapel or riding my bike two towns over. <insert bashful sad boy status> Something about that wandering gave me a lot of comfort to my loneliness. I guess in this EP, I’m really trying to navigate that complex time so both myself and listeners can look back and see themselves as the angels they truly were 😉
What keeps bringing you back to the suburban haze of your youth?
Nostalgia is powerful, no? I shouldn’t be telling you this but I’ll never forget this one time in high school, my best/only friend, Katherine, was driving me around town after a severe night of being cyberbullied by my homophobic neighbor. We stopped at a Dunkin’ who happened to offer us all their donuts that were being tossed for the night. We suddenly had three trash bags full of them with absolutely no clue what to do with; the next thing I know she’s racing us back to my neighbors. I don’t know how this side of us came out, but we are now ‘egging’ his house in the donuts; after three minutes of frantic and therapeutic vandalism, his yard, car, and home were spotted in a queer rainbow glaze. I will always cherish that moment of ‘feeling infinite’ in a time where I was so ashamed of my identity. It’s memories like that that make me look back at my youth and see all the beauty in the banality of growing up. Also if I get arrested after this article is posted, just know to send me good snacks in juvee.
Do you think ‘sad magic’ is an inevitable part of falling in love for everyone?
At times I wish sadness wasn’t an inevitable part of life, but if you can wear it on a hoodie, you can wear it on your ‘sleeve’. A lot of fans might think ‘Sad Magic’ is about lost love but I originally got the idea when walking through the House of Mirrors of my childhood amusement park; inside, you’re unable to rush through this bizarre maze and are forced to look at your reflection. This song is a reminder to find an angelic acceptance in where you are and what you see in the reflection.
How did it feel to finally find music at a later stage? Had you always suspected your talent might be there?
It felt as good as Donkey making waffles in the morning. It took a lot of dabbling before I got into music production- most of my compositions growing up were actually classical piano- fun fact, I still remember how to play the Requiem I wrote for my first pet gerbil! But when I discovered the studio and the ability to hear myself intimately on a mic, I felt a lil lightning bolt strike. Now, out of college, that environment is where I feel most at home and could honestly spend the rest of my day in a cave if it had good reverb and an outlet.
The record definitely has all the anthemic confidence of 80’s singers, who are your musical inspirations?
My mom taught cardio step classes through the ’90s and would bring me as a kid. By the ripe old age of 17, I was secretly following her Firm aerobics tapes and 80’s cd collection in the basement; between Hips, Buns and Thigh Part 2 and Duran Duran, I like to think I got the education of spandex demi-god.
The optimism of your music feels like the antithesis to our times. How has your musical spirit prospered in 2020?
That’s sweet of you <command + shift + e-hug> There’s so many times I’m finishing a song about a current scenario and can trace itself back to my past. I released ‘lovely.’, the focus track of the album, because self-judgment was a story I’ve been replaying since middle school. Life turning in cycles is something I’m realizing hard through this album and I believe we need to sometimes go through those experiences again to embrace a different outcome.
You say you’re making music for all the Virgos out there. What are your biggest Virgo traits? And what’s a time when you were your most Virgo self?
Virgo is a sensitive girl to embody. You’re this pure virgin soul but have all this self-doubt and fail to see yourself as the angel you are. It’s ironic that all I want from people listening to my music is to see themselves as beautiful and loved, but when trying to follow my own message it’s not always easy. I hate to admit, but I’ve never felt so much pressure as an artist to go ‘viral’; that comparison and competitiveness on social media can cause some classic Virgo perfectionism. I think I share that with a lot of my fellow collaborators regardless of astrology sign. Two Virgo stories come to mind for you to choose from:
A) My first takes place in my eighth-grade science class when we had to make toothpick bridges using only Elmer’s glue. I was so embarrassed that mine might fall early in the weight test that I illegally hot glued the entire bridge and tried to cover it with heavy blue spray paint and feathers. I ended up winning by like ten pounds but then felt so guilty that I had cheated.
B) My second favorite Virgo story is when I signed up to do landscaping in college for this old lady in the middle of the woods. She turned out to be a Virgo witch and was arranging her garden to star charts. Within my first day, I had to plant, dig up, and re-plant a single five-six times because it wasn’t perfectly aligned to her charts, and by the end of the day I quit… though I’ll probably end up being that lady when I retire lol.
You have always kept journals, do your lyrics ever come from journal entries?
I have journals going back to high school! Let me open one up! *Turning to a random page* ok I’m equally mystified/HORRIFIED. On one page- swear on my dog’s life- is the beginning lyrics to “Sad Magic” (what a funny coincidence)… and on the other is the world’s raunchiest poem;
Feeling you everywhere, sad magic. Lost in your love affair as I stare into the endless.
Page 2 :
Your penis is the sun. Everytime I go to look at it, I sneeze.
I don’t know if this was a good idea but I’m done with myself and burning this journal. Please keep what you deem fit and so sorry I got the idea to open to a random page.
You seem like the soul of the party, where are you running to the second lockdown is over?
Get us into a school gymnasium with electronic dance music and ribbon dancing.
What’s coming next?
Electronic dance music for a gymnasium full of ribbon dancers. LMFAO