Cardiff-via-London visual artist alekxandr shares with YASS his authentically queer pop anthem, “Disney Love” – released today independently and distributed with AWAL.
Blending jazz lounge piano sounds with marching electropop drums, dreamy harp plucks and twinkling synths, “Disney Love” is a glittering pop banger created for the queer community. The lyrics explore the concept of Disney love from a queer perspective, denouncing it for its romanticised superficiality whilst yearning for it at the same time: “You kissed me to life, the boy of my dreams / You love like Disney / You taste like Disney / What happens after happy-ever-after?” alekxandr’s bold vocals declare in the track.
Talking about “Disney Love”, alekxandr said: “However much we think we’re past it, it’s what we were bought up on and it’s in our collective psyche: two heterosexuals meet, fall in love, dance through an enchanted forest and live happily ever after. Fresh heartbreak made me realise that real love is about communication; about acknowledging past traumas, triggers and navigating them together. That’s the real dance through the forest. When making the song’s bridge, it felt mischievously subversive to sample a 1949 USSR version of Cinderella.”
The “Disney Love” artwork imagines a queer Disney love story, inspired by an online hoax which heralded a “new” gay Disney movie called Princes which, if real, would have felt like real progress. A video for “Disney Love” is in the making, set to be a celebration of queer love which focuses on elderly LGBTQ+ couples, juxtaposing shallow, youthful Disney love with an enduring, wiser connection.
alekxandr emerged with the murky and evocative ‘s a l t c r y s t a l s’ in 2018, followed by the dystopian dancehall-inspired ‘If’. Last year saw the release of his PRS funded debut EP Little King, which received critical support from NYLON, THE LINE OF BEST FIT, DIY, I-D, NOWNESS and CLASH with The Jo Whiley Show on BBC Radio 2 making lead single ‘Tell Jackson’ their Track of the Week. With a sound crafted from haunting vocals over skeletal piano, beats, orchestral swells and fizzing synths, alekxandr’s dreamy, yet muscular sound has drawn comparisons with Perfume Genius, Anohni and Björk.
Who is alekxandr as an artist?
Alekxandr is romantic, honest, emotional – gray, pink and blue.
How would you describe your music and what song would you recommend to new listeners?
It’s always in the scale of pop. Whether it’s alternative, dream, art or indie, if I have to commit to a genre, which I probably don’t, I would say pop.
I began in a place of sheer experimentation with s a l t c r y s t a l s. Over the years I learned more about form and how some of my favorite songs are built and now I’m unexpectedly in a place where I’ve made a straight up radio pop song.
I would always recommend the song that’s happening now.
And ‘End of the Blue’. I feel like nobody’s heard that song and I love the production we did on it. It’s full of recordings I made on the tube.
What does the name ‘alekxandr’ represent?
Practically speaking – it’s my name. But spelt fucked up because Alexander and most actual words in the English language are already registered bands or artists. Plus I’m dyslexic so correct spelling seems unnecessary.
Also, at the time when I had to choose an artist name there were reports coming from Chechnya about the brutal treatment of LGBTQ+ people. Russian art is inspiring to me and I had an incredible, formative experience and made some special connections whilst working on a play out there when I was 19 – so in my own small way using a Russian feeling name felt like internally reaching out to our Russian Queer brothers and sisters.
I used to spell it with Cyrillic letters but that made it impossible for people to search. It’s difficult enough to find me in the English alphabet.
How did you decide to enter the music scene?
It happened naturally over a long time. I’ve always written words but they were never particularly coherent. I found songwriting allowed for blunt honesty as well as poetry and the form is short enough for me to keep a grasp of.
A few years ago I was living in a house full of artists and we would put on nights where we would share whatever we’d been working on. The reason I decided to put my songs on the internet was because of the support and encouragement of my friends.
Do you feel more like a queer visual artist or singer?
Both. The song is Queen. Sounds come to me with images and colours so creating a visual around them feels natural and fun.
Who are your role models and inspirations?
Mostly amazing Women. I was brought up exclusively by women, have my most inspiring relationships with women and tend to prefer female artists. There’s usually more vitality, emotion and drama. My heroes are Amy Winehouse, Björk, FKA twigs, Anohni, Lana Del Rey, Maya Angelou and Julianne Moore. Also very much into Frank Ocean, The Beach Boys and James Blake.
What is the message behind “Disney Love” and what do the lyrics explore?
I’m exploring the dichotomy between knowing that Disney Love doesn’t exist and the desire for it.
The song came out of a break up. Naturally. I thought there was deep love but when it ended suddenly I was left feeling like, was that even real? Or was the love I thought we had a fantasia?
The lyrics spell out my dilemma pretty clearly – “I want you to love me as a three dimensional person with my flaws and my glory. I want our difficulties to make us real and strong”.
The experience made me understand the vital importance of communication in relationships. It’s so easy to imagine that because two people love each other that they necessarily know where each other are at internally.
And that’s the thing with these old school Disney films, they meet, they fall in love, they marry and its rainbows and candy floss but they don’t talk to each other.
I feel like schools should have relationship classes that teach communication skills and encourage empathy. It’s relationships that cause the greatest happiness and sadness but most of us don’t know how to work at them. We expect them to magically take care of themselves and that’s why they usually don’t.
Where does the imagery of “Disney Love” come from?
My favorite Disney era is late 1950s, 2D hand-drawn style and I’m lucky enough to have an extremely talented illustrator friend, Mark Glasgow (@mrkglasgow) who loves that aesthetic. We referenced those old movie posters while imagining what a gay Disney love story might look like.
During that time of heartbreak last year I was listening to a lot of music from the 50’s and 60’s as well as talking to older friends who have such wise, worldly perspectives on relationships. I kept thinking how different their lives would have been if they grew up with two men or two women playing the lovers in Sleeping Beauty.
What are your views on queer representation in the music industry – is there enough or do we need more?
It’s getting better all the time and I feel fortunate to be making music now. More would be great.
The industry is still mostly ruled by straight white men but hopefully the evolving conversation about inclusivity and diversity is changing the way those people think and will lead to different kinds of people having those jobs in the future.
Having said that it feels a bit lame when you see pop stars saying they’re Queer as a marketing ploy as though they are trying to make themselves desirable to every possible demographic. It seems like most pop stars are jumping on LGBTQ+ culture but when you look at who they’re fucking – they’re straight af.
The most important thing is what makes the Queer kid feel like its good to be them.
I guess the ultimate progress will be when an artist’s sexuality doesn’t warrant a mention. Although on an animalistic level we’ll probably always be interested in sexuality.
What do you think is missing from music at the moment?
The industry feels a bit boring. Maybe the algorithmic streaming situation is homogenising songs a bit.
There is lots of great music coming out but not much that feels wildly fresh or daring.
Do we have an emotional hero like Amy or Jeff?
What are your future plans for 2020 and beyond?
I have a few songs I would like to put out this year. Visuals I would like to make. I would like to perform live. Would love to play a festival.
Travel the world and make new songs.
More of alekxandr here:
*all images are courtesy of alekxandr