The sound of Heterosexuality

Image | Courtesy of Shamir

Shamir is an artist brimming with energy.

His self-titled LP dropped in 2020; he then released a chapbook of essays (about his paintings) in 2021, along with a collaboration with Macy Rodman. Letting no time go to waste, he’s releasing his 8th full-length album, Heterosexuality, on February 11. And he’s only 26.

His previous records touched on youth and navigating mental health difficulties. Heterosexuality addresses his queerness explicitly, but rejecting categorization and typical confirmation of today’s gender politics.

Heterosexuality feels nostalgic and futuristic at times. Pulling from 80s new wave and 90s pop and rock, he also pushes ahead of the sound of his contemporaries to give a glimpse of what the future of indie rock and electronica could look like. It’s wide-ranging, with distorted guitars and drum machines mixing with Shamir’s voice as he croons, unafraid to go high and low as he sees fit.

Now living in Philadelphia, the Vegas-born artist talked with PW about his new album.

In “Cisgender,” you sing, “I’m just existing on this godforsaken land/And you can take it or leave it/Or you can just stay back.” There’s a strong individualist streak throughout your album, either in breaking norms or controlling your life. Does this come from a place of frustration at limitations, or is it from a desire to show people that they have the choice to live life as they see fit?

I think it’s a combination of both. I think I get frustrated when people try to box me in despite clearly being a person who doesn’t care about conventions, but I’ve also learned to channel that frustration into trying to inspire others to do the same as opposed to just resolving to anger.


What’s your writing process like?

It really depends, I don’t have a tried and true situation, which is probably why all my records sound so different. But I do however love to write in bed at ungodly midnight hours.


What inspires you?

Just life in general. I try to stay open to what my mood and the universe is showing me.


What’s 2022 look like for you?

Who knows honestly. If 2021 taught us anything it’s that we can’t really have expectations anymore.


You’ve put out LPs, albums, a chapbook, you paint…how do you prioritize and find the time? What do these different artistic mediums offer you?

I think I’m just a person who’s really good at making the most of my free time. I live with the philosophy that boring people get bored. Like time goes by so fast and life is so short so why not spend our free time creating as much as possible!


How has Philly’s music scene influenced you?

Immensely; I think the Philly music scene is why I moved here. I’m constantly inspired by all of my creative friends out here in ways I’m simply not with my artist friends in LA or NYC.


You’re a Las Vegas native; how’d you end up in Philly, why did you come here?

Yeah as previously mentioned I moved here after feeling a sense of kinship with other musicians here.


What do you want listeners to take away from your album?

I’m not trying to dictate a feeling with this one. I want the listener to take what they need from it.


Who are some of your favorite artists right now? Who are you listening to?

I mentioned a couple times on Twitter that Julia Michaels debut album from last year was my album of the year for 2022 for me. It’s such a perfect album.


Reviews of Heterosexuality have been very positive; Paper called “Gay Agenda” “unnerving and brilliant,” while Nylon called the album “a moving revelation of identity.” How do you feel about the focus on identity, acceptance, and social issues? Is the way we talk about it, ideologically and politically, too limiting? Or is it useful?

I guess sometimes it can feel limiting, but I definitely feel like I put it into my music so I don’t have to talk about it, but obviously that’s hard to get around when I’m doing press so I just take the conversations in stride.


Is there anything you wanted to talk about that you couldn’t include on the album?

Not much else really!


“Nuclear” has such a different sound from the rest of the album. Why did you choose to end the album with it?

It just felt very epic and I think the record overall is probably my most sonically cohesive record, so I thought adding that oddball at the end felt true to myself.

    • Anthony Hennen

      Anthony Hennen is executive editor of Philadelphia Weekly. He is managing editor of expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region. Previously, he was managing editor at the James G. Martin Center, a higher ed think tank in Raleigh, North Carolina. Anthony grew up on the Ohio/West Virginia border. @anthonyhennen.

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