Elihu Okay’s music is a product of his Northeastern indie rock adolescence and his gift for writing ghostly and contemplative poems. Elihu grew up playing in bands in basements in Western Massachusetts, spinning early-aughts anxiety into reflective tracks that built the foundation for his sound. He has an endearing appreciation for simple humor, the brilliant and dumb, an aesthetic in full effect on elihus.website. “If you’re not saying something that’s a little embarrassing then you’re not saying much at all,” he told Noisey.
“Oil,” Elihu Okay’s new single, “is about a phone call that didn’t happen,” he said. “Thinking, ‘What would I say if I called this person?’ in the moments after a relationship ends.” With intense breaks and pauses and harmonic bursts of energy, the song is raw and winding, and he recalled processing events through writing about them: “I think really often it is about helping me find a narrative and figure out how I feel.”
The music video encapsulates the song’s elusiveness, drifting between mysterious shots in car headlights in the rain and footage of Elihu in Prospect Park. “With my music, I keep asking myself, ‘How can I be a little uglier, and more honest, and less afraid to make myself look dumb?” he said. “That’s easier for me to do in a song than it is for me to do visually. I actually don’t really want to look at a picture of myself where I feel like I look bad. Whereas I can write a song that is self-deprecating and feel better about it.”
On “Oil,” Elihu drifts thoughtfully into the possibility that his own perspective is flawed. “We’re all building a story about our lives, who we are, and how we act,” he said. “We have a lot of flexibility in how we act and how we think, so I try to be conscious of how I’m building a narrative about what’s happening now. I’d like to be a person who is looking forward and living currently.” After beginning a “skeleton” of the song at home, he finalized it in the company of collaborators he respects immensely, who are all listed in the video’s description. “They all played a big role in shaping what the song became,” he said.
With an album set to be released in early 2023, Elihu Okay is meticulously crafting all his visuals and putting the finishing touches on the project. In just a few released songs, he’s covered extensive ground in his vocal performance, channeling both robotic, Daft Punkesque vocals and smoky country melodies. Pop piano riffs bleed into hazy guitars and quickly turn into chaotic pathways of poetry. Instrumental scenes emerge without warning, and they beg not to be described or defined in words. “Like what you like,” he said, “without overthinking what it says about yourself and your style.”