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Olly Alexander, Out British singer on band, queer artists
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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British pop band Years and Years is composed of Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Turkmen. Their sound is mix of electronic, pop and dance music.

The first album, Communion, had a hit single with "King" and their latest record, Palo Santo, continues that trend with "Sanctify" and "If You're Over Me."

Alexander—the out and proud lead singer of the band—still lives in London when not traveling around the world on tour.

Windy City Times: Hi, Ollie. When was the last time the band was in Chicago?

Olly Alexander: We opened for Ellie Goulding for her Delirium World Tour and also played Lollapalooza two years ago.

WCT: I remember I saw you perform at a little hotel show in the past here in town.

OA: Yes, at the W Chicago.

WCT: How did Years and Years begin?

OA: We met in 2009. I had just moved to London the year before and was making new friends. A girl I moved in with was working with Mikey, who is the bassist. He wanted to start a band. Originally we were five members. We toured for years before putting out a single and getting management.

WCT: Is everyone involved in the songwriting?

OA: It depends, but mostly just me. The lyrics have always been me. Some of the songs we all collaborate on. Emre plays guitar and keys. Mikey plays all forms of bass.

WCT: What was the concept of the album Palo Santo?

OA: The songs are inspired by personal experiences. It's a collection of emotions during the 18-month period writing the album. I wanted to make individual concepts creating a world called Palo Santo. It is a fictional world that is science fiction. It has androids and a Judi Dench voice over. What more could you want?

WCT: How did she get involved?

OA: I worked with her a while ago because I used to be an actor. We were in a play together so I had her number. She's an amazing human being.

WCT: Where did the fashion come from in these videos?

OA: It has been a process. I work with a stylist named Nick Royal. We pulled clothes that almost cyber punk, Victorian goth, space-alien outfits.

WCT: You are really into collars from what I have seen.

OA: I love a collar and a bondage nod with an S&M reference. [Laughs]

WCT: There's a lot of dancing in the videos. Was that a challenge?

OA: Definitely. I did dance when I was in college so I had a tiny bit of experience. I liked challenge to pull off some dance routines. If the girls can do it, then why can't we?

WCT: What are your thoughts about the recent National Coming Out Day?

OA: There are people that can't come out in their home countries or places in the world where it is not safe. I think it is great to reflect on that.

I have a slight triggered reaction to National Coming Out Day where people might feel forced to come out. It is a problematic message. It is not really meaning that now, but I would never want to force anyone to come out. I just want people to live their authentic selves.

WCT: What do you think about the wave of out artists?

OA: The last few years have had queer artists breaking through. Some of our most influential artists have been gay like Freddie Mercury and George Michael. With these new artists hopefully they can feel safe to be out from the very beginning and build a fanbase that is very connected to that. Now they can access that audience through social media. I am excited to see how that develops in the future.

WCT: Do you think the world is ready for a trans pop artist like Kim Petras to get major radio airplay?

OA: There is a tendency to group together LGBT artists, but each artist is so different. When you measure success it is so much more than someone's sexuality or gender identity. It is hard to predict, but I would hope that it's not as big a barrier as we think. You never know until it happens.

WCT: Young artists are making videos in their bedrooms, then playing Lollapalooza the week after.

OA: Exactly. It is a volatile time to be discovered in music. There are winners and losers. On my side of things, I am just trying to have fun.

WCT: What do you want people to know about you as an artist?

OA: We make unique pop music and there is something for everybody. Check it out!

Follow more of the tour and music at .

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