For their Pride issue, Paper magazine has recruited one of the most prominent queer voices in music today. Years and Years front man Olly Alexander stripped down to a variety of jockstraps and Versace garms before draping himself over a model; very Gianni, dahling.
Olly talks frankly about being a queer artist in current times:
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without all the gay artists that have come before us and broken down so many barriers. But barriers aren’t gone.”
“I would hesitate to say,” he goes on, “Yes, I’m engineering this brave new frontier of queer music to infiltrate the masses with my gay agenda.”
Speaking of his new album San Palo, Olly says that he couldn’t have written his latest work a decade ago. “I only put a few male pronouns in the songs,” he says of Communion, “and it was very subtle. That album was a bit more ambiguous in terms of it’s gay narrative.”
But he wants to change that, moving forward with clearer pronouns and even not afraid to discuss kinky gay sex head-on with lead single Sanctify.
“I’m definitely interested in that part of the human psyche, that pleasure and pain kink zone — our deepest sexual fantasies and desires. And I wanted to write something that spoke to how painful the experience of being gay can actually be. How we kind of interrogate our desires, and there’s a part of us that wants to be hurt and we enjoy the pain.”
Olly then briefly opens up about his struggle with self-harm and bulimia growing up but insists he doesn’t want to conflate those issues with being gay in general; although stats have shown that gay men are susceptible to eating disorders and depression.
Continuing on the themes of his music: “I talk about sex like this a lot — especially in the press — because so many people are afraid of it. I understand that some people don’t want to and that’s fine that’s their choice. I mean, every time I do it I know my family is going to be so embarrassed.”
“I’ve noticed that some people get upset when I talk about sex because they say it’s perpetuating this stereotype that gay men are just promiscuous and want to fuck anything that moves — and I say, listen some gay men are like that and some aren’t and that’s ok.”
This is not so long after the Eyes Shut singer said he loved “big dicks” on the Graham Norton show.
See the full shoot and interview on Paper.