Philadelphia-based indie-rock figurehead Shamir recently released a video for the new single “Running” from his upcoming album, “Shamir” out Oct. 2.
Shamir’s new album reimagines ‘90s pop and rock for the modern world, in what he alludes to as his most accessible album since 2015’s debut “Ratchet.”
“I felt like it didn’t need a name, cuz it’s the record that’s most me,” Shamir said.
It’s been a long road, over the last six years, to finally make the album that matched his vision – from becoming a globe-trotting touring act, taking a hard left turn stylistically, confronting his mental health issues and moving from his native Las Vegas to Philadelphia.
“‘Running’ is a song I wrote about a time in my life when I was a part of a toxic friend group where I was the only non-cis person,” Shamir said. “The song is from the perspective of me now realizing how much it affected my mental health after being a few years removed and realizing how much I was dulling myself down so I did not stick out any more than I already did – and also how that directly made me experience gender dysphoria for the first time ever.”
Coming together when Shamir met up with a songwriting hero, Lindi Ortega, this full-length (with some tracks produced by Kyle Pulley – Hop Along, Diet Cig, Adult Mom, Kississippi) is his most intimate, most crafted and a huge step forward in a transfiguration for the artist. Having adopted the iconography of the butterfly, the chrysalis has fallen away, and Shamir is floating. And he’s barely 25 years old.
Even though Shamir launched a label in 2019, Accidental Popstar Records, the LP will be released on no label at all. For becoming widely known for R&B dance pop, the one constant through his move back toward guitar-driven indie pop – through the critically acclaimed and ever-relevant “Resolution,” “Revelations,” “Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw” and all the way to this year’s surprise release “Cataclysm” – has been his unmistakable voice, a countertenor piercing straight to the heart.
Though there are still flashes of synth and punctuated drum beats, ala his early releases, Shamir has taken a turn toward the post-hardcore ‘90s for further inspiration – from Olympia, Washington, cult heroes Unwound to bands of the Kill Rock Stars orbit, taking everything into his own hands in the DIY tradition. Having delved into outsider music, country and punk, Shamir continues to create raw and vulnerable tunes, stripped down to their emotional core.
Earlier this year, Shamir also appeared in the Netflix documentary “I’m With The Band: Nasty Cherry” and has toured with indie giants like Stars and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. A multi-talented artist, he acted as the voice of Draca on the Tiffany Haddish Netflix show “Tuca & Bertie,” appeared in a group cover of “Document Journal” shot by Ryan McGinley for Dior Homme, and runs a TV column for Talkhouse – with much more to come.
PW recently caught up with Shamir to talk about his career and new music.
I’ve read where your family was an early influence in getting you interested in music. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career as an artist?
Yeah, I think I knew as early as kindergarten when my aunt would let me sit in on recording sessions she would have with her friends when I was growing up.
Your new single, “Running,” was written from a unique perspective, about a time in your life when you were a part of a toxic friend group where you were the only non-cis person, and the impact the experience had on you. How have your fans responded to “Running”?
People really have been loving that one. I think the song is about that very specific experience to me, but I think more universally it’s about feeling isolated within a group, and I think a lot of people can relate to that.
You’ve described your self-titled album due out next month as “the record that’s most me.” Why do you feel that way?
It’s the closest I’ve come to how I always wanted to sound sonically.
Why did you settle in Philly? Is there something about the city or the city’s music scene that especially attracted you?
Yeah, I just instantly fell in love with Philadelphia the first time I came, I didn’t want to leave. I also love how there’s a legit DIY spirit and ethos to the music scene out here. Everyones really encouraging and pushing each other to make cool stuff.
How has the pandemic affected you? How have you spent your time during this period of self-isolation?
“I just instantly fell in love with Philadelphia the first time I came, I didn’t want to leave. I also love how there’s a legit DIY spirit and ethos to the music scene out here.”Singer-songwriter Shamir
Well like most musicians right now I would’ve loved to be touring, but other than that I’m blessed to not have been too affected. I’ve just been doing all the press and work for this album roll out with all my time.
What’s ahead for you after the album is released next month and, with luck, life begins to get more normal after the pandemic passes?
Yeah, fingers crossed I’ll get to tour it for a little come spring, but I’m not too hopeful about that. I kinda resigned myself to the fact that I won’t tour this record at all, so if anything I’d probably just start immediately writing the next album.
What are the best ways for people to keep up with what you’re doing?
Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, I’m most active there.