Interview: Shamir Explores Identity on New LP, ‘Heterosexuality’

Shamir’s new album Heterosexuality is the first in his discography to directly confront his queerness, though that’s not to say he hasn’t already talked about it. 

It’s kind of just me yelling from the mountaintops for the first time,” Shamir says. I’ve been out—nonbinary, queer—and talked about my identity since the beginning of my career. You know what I mean? Especially in my debut, it wasn’t even exclusively about my queerness. People only want to talk about my identity and my queerness, and I would never talk about my music, and I’m just like, ‘Yeah, that’s annoying.’” 

In that sense, Heterosexuality (a name Shamir says he landed on for the sake of trolling) acts as an exercise of working through trauma, and initially, he had some reservations about putting his queerness thematically at the forefront of a record. 

I’m just like, ‘Oh God, am I gonna revert back?’ Because I had worked so hard to finally, for the last couple records, finally [people] started talking about the music, you know?” 

The record was produced by Hollow Comet, a member of Strange Ranger, and the timing was ideal for Shamir, who called music a solitary, introverted experience,” a silver lining and compliment of sorts to the isolation of the pandemic. 

The more time I spend alone, the more that I have on my own, the more creative I am,” Shamir says of the album pouring out of him. Sonically, he notes that all of his albums are so different, though it’s never on purpose. 

This was also the first record where Shamir worked with a singular producer since 2015’s Ratchet, and in doing so, it was important that Shamir incorporated Hollow Comet’s artistry into the record as well. 

We’re not trying to outdo each other,” Shamir says. I’m not trying to be like, ‘You need to iron out all of your individuality to be what’s best for my songs and he’s not like, ‘You need to make sure your song is doing my production justice.’” 

Instead, it was perfect blend of creative brainstorming and collaboration, Shamir noting Hollow Comet’s really specific cosmic palette” that he didn’t want to lose, nodding to some of the more industrial and metal elements that fit nicely with Shamir’s more ‘90s-leaning pop influences. 

Heterosexuality also comes after a year of Shamir exploring other endeavors outside of music. He released his first book, But I’m a Painter, chronicling his paintings and the stories behind them in 2021. In retrospect, he says it was overwhelming but affirming to release a book this early on in his career. 

It feels like a nice first step, and I definitely want to expand on that,” he says. 

To add onto his growing resume, Shamir also partnered with the AI design studio, Urbancoolab, to launch the Bipolar Butterfly clothing line in 2021, which donates a portion of the proceeds to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. While he says he’s always felt leery about approaching apparel given the prevalence of fast fashion and sustainability issues, he says their process was something he could feel good about. 

It was just very me, and so wild. I was like, ‘Yes, this is something that I would wear. This is something that feels like me.’” 

Shamir looks back to 2021 and says, for better or worse, he said yes” a lot.  

I’m more tired than I thought I would be by the end of this year,” he laughs, but I’m glad because it was really cool to kind of try all these different things I never thought I would be able to do.” 

Watch the video for “Gay Agenda” here:

For more from Shamir, find him on Instagram, Facebook, and Bandcamp.

Photo courtesy of Shamir and Marcus Maddox

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