Even though she works as a featured performer at Disneyland—known as the happiest place on earth—Haylee Joe of Malibu has a bit of a dark side. The singer/songwriter shows it off in her new debut single just released. The song “Norman Bates” is based on—you guessed it—the creepy killer from the classic thriller film “Psycho.” The tune is the first of a six-song EP called “Nightmare” released Oct. 8, just in time for Halloween.
With the closure of the Anaheim theme park in March, 22-year-old Joe had so much unexpected free time that she revisited the song she wrote last year about the famous character. Then, in a burst of creativity, Joe penned five more songs to go with it. “Halloween isn’t really happening this year. I thought it would be fun to write an EP all around my favorite horror movies inspired by Halloween,” Joe told The Malibu Times. “I took Norman Bates as a parameter for what I wanted my sound and story to be like and I went from there. Now, I have myself a six-track EP.”
The lifelong Malibu resident said she’s long had a fascination with the creepy character.
“I had an idea about Norman Bates and what an interesting character he is—he’s one of my favorite characters in general,” she said. “I thought, ‘What a tragic love story to be in love with Norman Bates.’ It couldn’t be a very healthy relationship.”
Making “Nightmare” in the time of the coronavirus took a lot of ingenuity. Joe recorded the vocals and guitar in her childhood bedroom and then Zoomed with producer Michael Arrom, who’s also worked with Keith Urban and Noah Cyrus.
“We connected right away. He was super excited about the music and had a bunch of ideas,” she said. “He specializes in keyboards. All the effects and sounds were decided over Zoom. He’s from Los Angeles but living in New York, so it was a unique situation. A lot of hours were spent on Zoom doing studio sessions you would normally do in person.” Joe’s mother helped design costumes and sets for accompanying videos at their Malibu home. A friend shot the videos and promotional photos there, too. “Everything was literally done in my living space because the circumstances of the world don’t let us do anything else right now. We got creative.”
Describing “Nightmare,” Joe said, “It’s a pop record through and through, but there are flares of darkness, a lot of textures that are inspired by horror movies. There are definitely some iconic, recognizable sounds from horror movies that made it into a pop record. It’s fun and confusing because it’s dark and the words are lyrically dark, but the sound is fun and makes you want to dance.
“I felt I needed to do something with my time and I will never have time like this again,” she went on. “I figured this is the perfect way to experiment with that and give it my best shot. I hope this project gets people excited for Halloween.” Joe is also working on a second half to her recordings that will be “more geared toward Christmas.”
But for Joe, Halloween is where it’s at.
“Because of my regular job and how I’ve always been perceived, people don’t realize I’ve grown up obsessed with horror movies,” she reflected. “Halloween has always been my absolute favorite holiday. How I come across to people is kind of a surprise. It might be confusing to people who ask, ‘Where did this come from?’ But it’s always been there. I’ve just been waiting for the right time to show people this side of me.”
Haylee Joe is on Instagram and TikTok @HayleeJoe