Years & Years' Olly Alexander Talks 'Casual Homophobia' in The Music Industry: It 'Exists in the Fabric of Everything'

Olly Alexander Paper Magazine
Joshua Wilks for Paper Magazine

Olly Alexander photographed for Paper Magazine.

Yesterday (July 9), Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander became a cover boy -- and a provocative one, at that -- when he graced PAPER magazine in a silken Versace shirt while sensually resting his head on a model’s bare thigh.

In the interview, the singer gets serious, firing shots at the passive homophobia that he still sees lingering around the music industry.

"In many ways, this is the very best time to be a gay artist ever," he says. "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. Particularly for less privileged members of the queer community. There is this very insidious casual homophobia that exists in the fabric of everything including the music industry.”

Such discrimination isn’t so overt anymore, he adds, but nevertheless continues to detract from his capacity to commit himself fully and honestly to his music, a frustration many queer artists have recently vocalized.

Joshua Wilks for Paper Magazine
Olly Alexander photographed for Paper Magazine.

“Labels and people in positions of power pay lip service to supporting LGBTQ artists. And that's great,” he continues. “But when are we going to see a gay artist really thrive and succeed? Selling out arenas, hitting number ones. I guess that kind of happened with Sam Smith, but I just think from my personal experience, the amount of comments like 'Oh, this is very gay' or 'This is going to turn some people off' is a real problem.”

Alexander says that such treatment caused him to approach male pronouns and explicitly queer language with more caution when writing for the band’s debut album Communion, which landed at No. 1 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in 2015. Now, the singer aims for a more ambitious, more candid, more transparently gay horizon.

Joshua Wilks for Paper Magazine
Olly Alexander on the cover of Paper Magazine.

“I would hesitate to say, Yes, I'm engineering this brave new frontier of queer music to infiltrate the masses with my gay agenda,” he says. "But that's kind of what I want to do and has always been one of my goals. Now seems like the right time."

Years & Years' new album Palo Santo is now available to stream on Spotify

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