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Every so often you hear a sound that’s fresh but familiar and spirits you away to past musical memories, whilst making you appreciate the nuance and individuality of the new music. Listening to Billy Lloyd is one such experience. With an ethereal and pressing sound that invokes comparisons to Patrick Wolf and Lana Del Rey, as well as rich lyrics and an evident personal investment in the message behind the music, Leeds-based queer artist Billy Lloyd is one to watch. I had the pleasure of interviewing Billy about his sound, influences, queer motivations, Beyonce and what lays in store for the up and coming musician.
Vada: Hi Billy. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by Vada! How would you introduce yourself and your music to our readers?
Billy Lloyd: I’m a 20 year old queer composer, producer and musician, making dark, experimental electronic music with pop vocals.
It is easy nowadays to pigeonhole queer artists and confine them to a diluted label of ‘gay’ music. Whilst it is undeniable that ‘Normal’ shows a fluid take on gender and its expectations, I found it an understated perspective, and all the more powerful for it. How do you react when critics identify you as an LGBTQ artist?
Personally, I don’t mind it. I think being an LGBTQ artist gives me a purpose for my music and helps other members of the LGBTQ community find my work and hopefully get something out of it. It’s also given me a community to be a part of, which is something that I’ve never really had before (having grown up in an isolated village of 400 people). I think a lot of artists don’t want to let their sexuality define their work, but I find, at least at the moment, a lot of what I want to talk about are issues related to the LGBTQ community, so I’m happy with the label.
How do you see yourself within that community?
I see myself as a part of it, but I’m only just starting out so I haven’t had a chance to properly make my mark yet.
Last question on sexuality, promise, but ‘Normal’ evidently looks at the stylings of differing from the ‘normal’ in a whole host of ways. Is this a personal confession? How do you relate to the ‘normal’?
Yeah most definitely. I think most queer people can relate to not feeling ‘the norm’ growing up and I think most people of all identities can relate to feeling a need to conform to a prescribed norm. Personally, I was lucky enough to have very open minded parents that let me express myself in the ways that I wanted. But outside of my home was a very different experience for me.
Nowadays I see the value and importance of being a visible member of the LGBTQ community. I try not to let the way I choose to express my identity be hindered by a fear of not appearing normal. I think the concept of ‘normal’ is a very interesting one though, I think it may well be a concept that only really exists in theory.
In ‘Normal’ I love the crossover between the ethereal floating moments with nature as the backdrop and then the quiet calm of the domestic scene. How would you summarise the journey captured in the video?
The video for ‘Normal’ is about acceptance, both from yourself and from the people around you. We (the director, Jan Klos, and I) ultimately decided to be fairly understated with the gender experimentation shown in the video to mirror the understated nature of the song. But it’s supposed to be about someone experimenting with their gender, and showing the shame and confusion that can come with that, along with the eventual acceptance from the other character.
Your sound evokes heady thoughts of Patrick Wolf. How has he influenced the development of your music?
He’s always been a really big influence for me, both as a person and as an artist. He was probably the first visibly queer person I ever really knew about (except maybe Lily Savage, but I remember at the time not realising that she was a Drag Queen) and stylistically, especially his early work, he’s really influenced my taste and ‘sound’.
Where else have you found inspiration?
I try to consume as wide a range of mediums and genres as possible, which don’t necessarily give me direct inspiration, but put me in my ‘place’ in my head where I’m able to create work.
In the past few years I’ve been reading a lot of Dennis Cooper, who writes these fascinatingly violent and disturbing books. We used to speak quite a lot on his blog actually, he’s an incredibly supportive person.
I’m also very inspired at the moment by old high school teen films. Jawbreaker and Brick are my current favourites, they make me feel weird and really thoughtful and powerful, which is where I need to be to create work.
For me, your voice has an understated power to it. The hushed tones resonate and bring ‘Normal’ to life. Is this a conscious calming of your voice i.e. can you still belt them out?
I learnt to sing by being in musicals and then I had classical singing lessons for a year before I decided to go into this style of music, so I’m constantly having to remember to do the opposite of everything I’ve learnt, so in that respect, most definitely! I guess I can belt them out, but I wouldn’t really describe myself as a singer particularly, I sing because it’s the best way to get my message across, but first and foremost I’m a composer and pianist.
What’s your go to karaoke song of choice?
‘You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful’ by One Direction or ‘Love on Top’ by Beyonce, proud to say I can sing the entirety of ‘Love on Top’ (an octave below, but come on).
How do you see your sound evolving as your career progresses? Would you like to explore different genres?
I try and consciously make music that isn’t really obviously ‘current’ or ‘trendy’, and instead try and make music that could sound timeless (for want of a less arrogant word). Sort of like how Bjork’s old music still sounds new today.
I wouldn’t say different genres necessarily – you’re not going to get a reggae album from me any time soon – but I love experimenting and trying new things. I really love classical minimalism, so that’s something I’ve been wanting to explore, and I really want to write a musical at some point.
Is there an album in the works?
There is! I’m about halfway through the initial writing and producing stage and I’m really excited to see where it goes. I’m very interested at the moment with identity, both personal, societal and generational, so that’s what the album is going to be about as a whole.
At 20 and with a voice like that, you’re definitely one to watch for the future. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years time I hope to have established myself fully as an artist and have found a platform with which to spread my message, and thus have started making a positive change in the world.
What’s the dream?
The dream is to be able to realise my ideas creatively, without being hindered financially or any other way and to make a positive, marked change in the world.