Ellington quite literally does it all with his first single, “EMT.” For his solo debut, the musician has traded in his drummer hat alone for that of a director, editor, songwriter, and artist. The result? A brilliant DIY blend of nostalgic sounds reminiscent of rock bands like Soundgarden with the modern alternative flair of Arctic Monkeys, all tied together by the early alt-rock and indie sounds of a fresh and honest era for Ellington.
“EMT,” from a listener’s perspective, seems to tell the story of a life that feels hollowed out by desire, with lyrics like, “I want a house in the hills / A dog with a leash / I want some friends that never tell me everything.” Ellington continues to breathe truth into that theme, later admitting defeat when leaving what felt like the top of the world, only to recognize that the high was mostly surface level. “Oh no / I’ve had a real bad day / Need things to numb the pain / And god I hate it when you think you’ve won.”
Ellington admits that the song is heavy, which is why he chose “EMT” as the song’s title. According to Ellington in a press release for the song, it came about as a way of using his “dark sense of humor” to soften the subject matter of the deeply personal song. Dark as it seems, though, it is an important reflection on the potential damage of ego, and Ellington’s introspection brought that narrative to the forefront of the writing process.
“I wrote this song during a period of my life where I was often alone and left to reflect on my past to see it more objectively,” Ellington said of the track in a press release. “It was strange to look back on times that were seemingly great, but realized they left a bad taste in my mouth. That realization fueled the lyrics and the tone of the song, which is about observing your ego and how that can drive you off the deep end.”
Enter: the upbeat, DIY frenzy that is the “EMT” visual. If the song is the kind you want to turn up to 100 on your car speakers, the video is its perfect chaotic pairing as Ellington takes viewers through his home, his yard, and down the street at max acceleration. The quick zooms, strobing lights, and kaleidoscope shots sometimes feel like the makings of a dream sequence, only further proving the effectiveness of Ellington’s work as a visual creative.
“Even before quarantine I was spending most of my time alone in my house writing and in some ways, I look at my house as a part of my process,” Ellington said of the work leading up to the homemade visual. “So I wanted to incorporate my natural setting in everything, especially the ‘EMT’ music video. I also love music videos that have interesting visuals and I think having the challenge of creating something interesting using what you have at hand makes for a more creative video.”
More than anything, though, the “EMT” video provides a glimpse of the visual world that Ellington can build, literally, in his own backyard.
Though his sound is surely a reminder of the rockers before him, this era is all Ellington’s own. Newly engaged with a spring EP on the way, “EMT” seems to be an early bet for a vibrant year for Ellington in 2021. And if the song is any indication of what’s to come — in both writing and sound — it will be an exciting and contemplative one for his current fans and future listeners, too.