"I was able to dance and feel liberated and free and totally be my queer self," Kiyoko says about recording the music video at a historic location for gay liberation

By Tomás Mier
April 30, 2021 12:00 PM
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Hayley Kiyoko found a friend — in herself.

On Friday, the singer lovingly nicknamed "Lesbian Jesus" released "Found My Friends" and its music video (which she self-directed!) as she starts her newest era. Despite its upbeat, dance-worthy pop sounds, the track's lyrics are introspective and encourage self-love.

"I wrote this song during a challenging time when I realized, instead of being my own worst enemy, I could actually be my own best friend," she tells PEOPLE. "So, it was about discovering and nurturing this strong friendship with myself and embracing that, which was a very emotional discovery for myself and can tend to be challenging to realize that we can comfort ourselves."

The new track comes at a pivotal track for Kiyoko after turning 30. In a recent Instagram post, Kiyoko opened up about the challenges — both emotionally and physically — she faced in her 20s and how the new decade in her life felt like a "restart."

Hayley Kiyoko
Credit: Trevor Flores

"I've really learned that I can be self-sufficient and I can be going through something and still feel proud of what I've overcome," she says. "A lot of times in life, you're waiting to celebrate yourself for the end goal or where you're headed and you should absolutely be able to celebrate yourself while still continuing on that journey."

"It's a very full-circle moment for me because I've struggled with a lot of health issues and just coming off that tour," she adds, referring to her debut album Expectations, which she dropped three years ago. "I really feel like the soundscape of the music presents itself where I am today in my personal and professional life. The sound is a dynamic pop soundscape that I feel is ever-evolving. I feel like that is perfectly mirrored to who I am as an artist and as a person."

Accompanying the track is its equally inspiring music video, which showcases Kiyoko finding herself through dance inside the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. For Kiyoko, filming the video was both emotional and "extremely challenging."

"We filmed on 16 millimeter, which was super exciting, but also another challenge since the lighting has to be perfect, the timing has to be perfect, the shot has to be perfect," she says. "But it was super exciting to take on that challenge."

Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko
| Credit: Trevor Flores

"What was so emotional about shooting the music video is I hadn't shot a music video in forever and I hadn't performed; I hadn't danced. As I was shooting the music video and directing it and putting it all together, I felt like I was discovering and experiencing what I was experiencing when I wrote the song," she adds. "No matter what happened, if things go wrong or whatever we have to navigate, I will always have myself and I'll be able to comfort myself no matter what happens."

And filming the video was emotional for more than one reason. After recording the video, Kiyoko discovered that the hotel had been instrumental during the gay civil rights movement in the early 1970s, when activists interrupted a psychologist conference set to endorse electric shock therapy as a means to cure homosexuality.

"It's kind of crazy because I realized that after we shot. It's just so cool that I was able to be at that hotel and dance and feel liberated and free and totally be my queer self, knowing the history of that location," says Kiyoko.

Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko
| Credit: Trevor Flores

Kiyoko looks forward to a year filled with surprises as she starts a new "cinematic and experimental" era that offers both "comfort and escape."

Listen to Kiyoko's new song "Find My Friends" above.