While Years & Years is officially gearing up for a solo project for Olly Alexander in March 2021, the essentials to UK dance-pop costume DNA have never been stronger.
On the third album Calls at night, Falling in January, bright pop music and melancholy electronics engage in a hypnotic tug of war on the dance floor as Alexander unleashes his soul on longing, lust, and loss. The cover art also reflects that push and pull, making Alexander like a mermaid look you straight in the eye and lure you to his lonely rock, evoking the sensuality and intrinsic danger of maritime mythology. there.
One of the key images in Years and Years’ 2022 international tour, which hit the US and continued to Portugal, Germany, Australia and beyond this fall, is another striking dichotomy – that of the public baths, which Alexander says is home to “the bodily functions to which we are repulsed” as well as “eroticism and lust” in gay history and culture. Similarly, when Olly recently celebrated her birthday by releasing a catchy acoustic cover of Lil Nas X “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” it was a pleasant surprise and exactly the kind of thing. The move we’ve come to expect from many – the artist has a face like his.
Talking to Billboards when his Years & Years tour brought him Stateside, Alexander opened up about everything from his eclectic A-list collaborators (Elton John, Kylie Minogue), how he gained more confidence in his role as an actor. how to be a performer and his thoughts on Pride in our complex context.
This is your first Years & Years tour as it is a solo project. Do you find yourself moving differently, acting differently?
As a performer, I’ve matured a lot during my time touring Years & Years and part of that is you just need experience to get better (at it). I watch some clips of myself and I can see how I’m a bit restrained, so for me it’s been an ongoing process of becoming more confident. I always feel free on stage but making an album like Calls at night, You need a lot of confidence and attitude. It’s more of a development than a major change. It’s important to me to have people on stage with me. Mikey [Goldsworth] still playing bass, we have amazing backup singers who play a big part in the show, so I don’t feel like I’m alone.
One of the visual components of the New Years live show is fascinating – the whole public bathroom fantasy. Where did that idea come from?
According to Adams [director of the international performance collective Theo Adams Company/creative director of Years & Years’ tour]. I’m obsessed with toilets and bathrooms as spaces because I think they represent so many things. They are sites for bodily functions from which we are dismissed but also spaces for eroticism, lust, and quirks. As a gay guy, I first imagined what being gay was when I saw these notes written in the restroom. In Europe, we have toilets and dancers on stage, but we can’t bring restrooms to America; sadly, we couldn’t match them on the plane. But we made sure we were able to shoot them for the visual consistency to deliver that part of the show. One day I will bring the whole circus (to America).
I assume toilets are props, don’t stop working after operation?
We’re bringing some of these booths to festivals and I’m worried someone will think it’s a real toilet and use it and then midway through the show I’ll say, “wait…”
The deluxe version of Calls at night not one but two collaborations with Kylie Minogue, “A Second to Midnight” and “Starstruck.” How did those things come?
I first met her in 2015 when we supported her during a performance in Hyde Park. She was an early supporter of Years & Years and we got through a couple of times, I sang with her on her Christmas show in 2016. At the start of the pandemic, when I gave “ Starstruck” out, I said, “will you come up because you memorized the song? ” She said ‘yes’ and I was so happy and amazed. Then she re-released. [her 2020 album] Discotheque and I’ve been working on this song, but I haven’t finished it yet, called “A Second to Midnight.” She heard it and did her own work on it in Australia. We did it from afar.
What does she mean to you?
I’ve idolized her since I was a kid, but working with her, she has a kind and generous nature. She makes you feel so special and so cool. She reassured me in many ways because I was nervous about returning as a solo artist after the pandemic. She told me a lot about that. She listens to me, shares her experiences, and sometimes she still feels nervous. It means a lot to me to share that with her. She has a lot of humanity towards her.
I want to ask about awesome cover art for Calls at night, describe you as a mermaid. Or a German?
I call her a mermaid. We are kings with gender. I love mermaids because I love what they represent: half woman, half mermaid, they live in the sea but on land, they’re always in the middle. She is the doom siren in the ocean on the rocks to lure these sailors to their deaths. I drew inspiration from that as a metaphor for composing and being an artist. When it comes Calls at night, I want to be a mermaid in a music video, but it requires too much funding. So I decided for the album cover and she’s a muse in a way. It was like her revenge – she was having a really good time from her rock.
Like so many others, I was blown away by your performance with Elton John at the UK 2021, as a duet on Pet Shop Boys’ “It’s a Sin”. I assume they blessed the cover?
They did. I love Neil [Tennant] and Chris [Lowe] so many. Neil, I owe him a lot. He is a great man and always keeps in touch.
So how did that happen? Just because it’s related to the drama you called It’s a sin?
[Elton] watched the TV show It’s a sin and really love it. Then it came from his brain: “Let’s do it in England!” And Elton can make that happen. I just received an unexpected call. First, he told me how much he loved the show, then I was on his radio show, and the next time I got a call asking if I wanted to be on the show. that on the British no. And I said, “Of course, can I lie on your piano?” That was the first thing I said. I just know that I have to play the piano. Bless him.
Are you nervous when going into it?
Yes, I have a mental illness. I cried. We all shed tears.
I assume those are great tears after you completely destroyed it on stage?
Sure. According to Adams who joined, people put everything in there. Elton is good at this: He’s great at collaborating with other artists and sharing and uplifting other artists because he’s an af-king legend. To be a part of that legacy for him was extraordinary. He is an excellent man. It doesn’t get much better. After we did that, he said, “You raised your game, I raised my game, we’re both there.” For the rest of my life, I will have that moment.
You have received great reviews for your performance as Ritchie in It’s a sin. Do you have an acting error now? Are you considering other roles?
I would love to do something else, but I don’t know what it would be like. It’s a good role and a good project. A lot of the things I like to watch require multi-year contracts and I already have a contract, I don’t want to get into another one. I feel like I’m a musician who sometimes pretends to be an actor.
Do you have new music on the horizon?
Yes, I want to make more music and get started with it pretty quickly. Most artists are the same. You spend too much time on something, it’s labor of love, then you tour it, then you just want to do the next thing. But I’m excited to be doing this year’s show in different places and hopefully in the middle of that, I’ll get some music done.
What inspires you in your free time?
I do not have freetime. All I do is wait until I get to the next gig. [laughs] It feels like that. Just combining a post-Brexit and post-pandemic travel in the UK, the industry has changed. There are lots of new challenges all the time. This time around, I’m more involved because it’s really like a solo project.
If you had free time, what would you do?
Well, I have a boyfriend that I love and hope we go on vacation soon.
You made a splash at WeHo Pride in June, which I heard was amazing. What do you think of the Pride Month performances? On the one hand, LGBTQ artists get noticed and work, but on the other hand, there’s always the feeling of “Well, why shouldn’t we do the same year-round?”
I have a lot of emotions. It’s very complicated. It’s inevitable now. And there’s a tension between rampant commercialization and corporatization, but I also really know that if you talk to a person a little longer, they can never imagine that banks will have flags. rainbow. Even now: I’ve met people on WeHo Pride and they’re like “this is my first Pride”. You can be any age and discover your sexuality or whatever.
But, of course, that doesn’t mean equal progress. For gay people, everyone has a slightly different relationship with Pride Month regardless of how they feel about all the rainbows on the windows and branding. It was a bit difficult. That’s when you’ll be most booked, and for me, a random example – while I wouldn’t judge someone taking a brand opportunity – but if you’re a brand and you want me to something to do with Pride , That’s not enough. You need to do something for the rest of the year to show me you’re truly dedicated. Despite all that, Pride is important and it will remain so. But you have to have these conversations every time.
https://www.billboard.com/culture/pride/years-years-olly-alexander-2022-tour-night-call-1235116839/ Olly Alexander on Tour Dates 2022, Kylie Minogue & more – Billboard