Julian Daniel soaks in the e-boy aesthetic.
Perusing his Instagram – culled images of internet fantasy, bubblegum pink hair, and over-exposed filters – you quickly learn that it’s more than a passing fad. Daniel is as authentic as they come, employing flashy, modern aesthetics as a means of understanding and establishing identity within a community. He’s a bold firestarter, and his debut EP, E-Boy, out today, speaks to his fearless predilection for usurping pop conventions.
The title track to his debut EP is a magnetic, glitchy, and addicting piece of pop music.“This is not a phase / This is not a trend / Welcome to my world / This is who I am,” he coos through a cotton candy haze. Through glossy immersion, mining the popular subculture of e-boys and e-girls, Daniel finds himself feeling alive and loved like never before.
In simple terms, e-boy and e-girl subculture comments on growing up in the internet age. “We all dress like we’re in the internet age, and we’re very relevant to what’s around us,” Daniel explains over a recent phone call. In his work, he combs the synthetic wonderland in both his music and socials – intertwining them both into an electronic fabric.
“I wanted to create a song around that,” he says of “E-Boy,” now paired with a bright, symbolic new visual. “People think I’m emo, and people think I’m always depressed – but it’s just that we’re e-boys and e-girls who live in this made-up fantasy world,” he continues. “It’s created by the internet and social media. They all come together, and it’s like a big family.”
“Catch me on your feed / I light up your screen,” he also observes, mixing a robotic maneuver with a smooth, silky tone. “When I pop up as an e-boy on your Instagram feed, the people’s faces are going to light up,” he says. “They’re going to see another e-boy or e-girl who is in that subculture living this life they kind of want to live. That little thing can strike happiness in someone, even if it is Kylie Jenner posting a picture. That could be the coolest thing they saw that day.”
The music video, premiering below, was directed by Sideways Studios and guides the viewer through “my days as an e-boy,” Daniel notes, “waking up, getting dressed, doing my social media. We have a lot of different visuals that you’d see on a computer screen projected onto me. It’s basically me looking at myself in the computer the whole time. I’m watching another e-boy doing his day-to-day life while I’m trying to be that e-boy.”
Daniel grew up in Maple, a small Toronto suburb. While downtown Toronto was only 40 minutes away, his hometown felt suffocating and secluded from city life. “When I was young, I loved my town, and now I hate it,” he says. “I feel like it’s really small, and people are more closed-minded there than in Toronto. I always felt more at home downtown with all different types of people. I could walk around the street wearing the craziest outfits and people don’t really look twice at it – if you get what I’m saying.”
His parents remained supportive, allowing him to dabble in musical theatre and dance. No creative expression was off limits. “Since I was younger, my parents always recorded clips of me dancing in our backyard. My dad did music when he was younger, and he plays tons of instruments. So, he was very much like, ‘If this is what you want to do, go ahead and do it.’”
Now 19 and calling Toronto home, Daniel finally comes into his own on E-Boy, a five-song feast of organic-based pop music. Where “Suburbia” aches with the pressures of small town living, “Sad Boy” strikes as a vengeful serpent. “I’m just a sad boy, a fucking sad boy,” he scowls.
Coming of age in the modern era comes with a heavy price. “Sad Boy” speaks to not only the constant race to ramp up one’s social numbers but a falling out with a former friend. “When I was younger, I always felt like an outcast. I never really fit into a certain group of friends. Throwing in social media on top of that, everyone is concerned about numbers,” he says with a sigh, “and if I have more followers than you, you can’t be with us. It’s just something we’re all worried about, and even though we say numbers don’t really matter, numbers do matter for a lot of kids and youth today.”
“Now you go around acting like you’re famous / I don’t want to come across like I’m interested,” he spits in the song. There is a smoldering anger tinted on his vocal, an intentional choice that day in the recording studio. “I had a really good friend, and we were friends all throughout high school. Basically, we were like brothers. He started doing social media stuff. We made a promise that we would never leave each other’s side, and we’d always help each other out,” he remembers. “So, whoever had more followers, we’d always post about each other. At the end of it, he blew up very quickly within a year and had millions of followers. He abandoned me and said, ‘Oh, you don’t have the level of success yet that I have. I can’t be friends anymore.’”
Such emotional pain pulses at the heart of Daniel’s new EP – produced by Andrew Polychronopulous and Brandon Pero. “When I was writing this EP, I was depressed and in a weird space in my mind. I found the best way to get through that was to add in real guitars to show a more raw side of the music. Then, the synth and computerized instruments were a way to show my anger.”
Daniel, who calls Youngblood, Sasha Sloan, Troy Sivan, and David Bowie his biggest influences, marries aggressive pop hooks with messages of self-love and redemption. “I was very conscious about how I looked in pictures. I always wanted to show this image that life was perfect and nothing was ever wrong,” he says of his journey. “Now, growing up doing this, as a career, I learned that people just want to see the real me. There’s nothing to hide anymore. I can look so ugly in a picture, but I can still post that because I was actually happy at that moment. It’s this battle that I’m still dealing with.”
On his Facebook page, Daniel vows to “break the barriers that the industry has put on male pop musicians, through my music and style.” He elaborates on what he means, saying, “When I’m doing music or performing, I love to bring an element of being feminine onstage. I feel like a lot of pop artists are scared or want to follow a certain form. I’m always thinking about how I can twist that around and make it my own. Like in my last show, I performed in heels. It was something I felt most powerful in. I always want to switch around the standards of what people think pop music is. For so long, I was so scared. I’ve never been the most masculine guy. I’m not ashamed now.”
That’s where Julian Daniel’s debut EP, E-Boy, comes in. It’s emotional, empowered, and raw. “I want everyone to know that being you is completely fine,” he offers. “You don’t have to hide yourself from people. There’s going to be other people who accept you and love you.”