London based LGBTQ pop sensation Le Fil, returns with the triumphant ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’.
Following on from his previous stand out gem ‘Undercover Lover’, the singer cements his name even more in-depth into pop here with infectious hooks and a chorus melody which will stick to you like gum on a boot. It comes colourfully, and it’s robust fundamental adds a base which will get you tapping along within seconds.
Cleverly, the singer puts his money where his mouth is, with a track which shouts mystique. It contains an irresistibly charming piano lead and an impressive vocal. Finding influences from a myriad of sources including the magnificent ‘Elton John’, the singer adds just about something for everybody while keeping originality close to his chest.
Le Fil is taking giant leaps with each release, and this one catapults itself to a place of feeling good with its nostalgic elements and contemporary hooks. So, if you are looking for the most elegant pop which comes with an edge, look no further than the new release ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’.
Who is Le Fil and how do you identify?
Hello, I’m a British-Chinese androgynous gay male with he/him pronouns. I was born in Yorkshire and now based in London making music that is a queer love letter to pop culture!
You have a very impressive presence in the London drag and arts scene. How did everything start and when did you start performing?
I started singing along to Kylie as a little toddler when I only spoke Cantonese. I joined all my school choirs and even made a Spice Boys act at junior school. I left school to do musical theatre but then joined art school because I wanted more control over my creativity. Playing other people’s vision or roles wasn’t fulfilling enough. Throughout art school, I always performed, but it was mainly live art shows where I wrapped myself in clay and cling film, and danced to epic industrial music. I always wanted to make pop music though.
How have you changed and developed your persona over the years?
Confidence is something that takes time. For a long time, I wasn’t confident enough to make music. As a kid, I felt that no one was interested in me or would want any Chinese gay guy singing songs and that feeling carried with me throughout my studies. It left me feeling quite depressed and stifled. I felt like I didn’t have a voice, but singing was my passion. I wrote a song called “Future Is Now’ and realised I was the one in control of my creativity. I realised I shouldn’t let the fear of anyone else’s judgement impact my happiness. At the end of the day, why waste energy on fear and shame, when you can let go and love yourself and your dreams. Then in doing so, everything’s turned out rather well, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and doing some fabulous work now.
You are part of Sink The Pink, the international drag collective with great LGBTQ+ presence in the UK. How did this collaboration happen?
One of my friends who filmed my ‘24/7’ and ‘Beautiful Game’ music videos occasionally works for Sink The Pink and asked me if I’d be up for going along one night to do some go-go dancing on stage. I had such a fun time so when Glyn Fussell asked me to come back permanently, I was thrilled. We’ve been on such an adventure these last couple of years and Sink The Pink has really taken off with some amazing projects.
What do you bring to the Sink The Pink collective and how is it to be a part of this team?
Sink The Pink is such a large family and everyone brings something so unique. I like to think I bring the popstar sheen. I was never a trained dancer, but I love dancing and music so much that I just give it everything and throw myself into learning things. I’m very professional and focused on details, schedules, rehearsals and staying sober. The others joke that I’m always drinking hot water and eating grapes – and I guess it’s true!
My style aesthetic onstage is a balance of my daily style with a touch of fantasy. Within the family, I’ve always been very vocal about not the fact I’m not in drag, but that I’m just expressing my male gender in ways. For example, I don’t believe skimpy bodysuits or heels are just for girls and putting one on doesn’t make me a girl either. For me, drag is just a sense of campness and OTT that iconic popstars have when they’re on stage, like Lady Gaga is practically drag. Everything has to be over the top when its onstage, and that’s what I like too.
Androgyny is important to me. I don’t believe any gender has one way of dressing, so to me, drag isn’t dressing ‘like a woman’. Some women wear trainers and jogging bottoms – are you going to do that too? It’s like when some performers say they’re in their ‘boy looks’ for their day clothes – personally, I don’t differentiate between gender when I dress offstage or onstage. Clothes are clothes. Garments are just pieces of fabric, so I don’t think they should hold the power to dictate my gender. I’ve never worn pads or dressed specifically to pretend to be female – except maybe for when I’m emulating Posh Spice or Cindy Crawford!
Ever since I joined Sink The Pink, I was very much just doing me, my real hair, minimal make up. Basically giving you my authentic self, just amped up a bit for the stage. I think that’s my appeal, it’s real and not just a costume. And over the years, more of the queens now are also getting into that idea of realness too.
One year ago, you toured the world with Melanie C and Sink The Pink. How was it working and travelling with Melanie C? What are the most powerful moments you shared together and how was this experience?
We had some pretty amazing moments like performing the World Pride Closing Ceremony in New York. I remember a moment when we were performing ‘Say You’ll Be There’ and I turn around to look behind me, and it was like a dream to see all of Times Square around you. It felt like we were on the set of a film. Another incredible moment was when we performed at Sao Paolo pride. The country is traditionally very right wing, but the atmosphere of their Pride was incredible. There were over 3 million people on those streets living their best life. We fed off that, and absorbed it all.
As a life long Spice Girl fan, I was just very honoured to be a part of the whole adventure. I used to wrap my schoolbooks in Spice Girls posters and all sorts. So having breakfast with Melanie C or even just working out in the gym, while she was cycling next to me, was very surreal. It’s not everyday you get to hang out with your childhood idol, and yet, there we were on tour for months. We shared a lot of gossip!
I’m so hugely thankful that we got to do this tour and see how much Melanie C touches people across the world. It was great of her to introduce us to a global audience too. On New Years Eve we even performed on The Graham Norton Show with her. Her fans are so loyal, and I’m blessed to meet so many of them. It’s so inspiring how pop music can connect so many people across so many languages. It made everywhere feel like home. That sense of connection with people really affirmed my passion for making music.
Talk to me about your new song “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”. What does it represent and how would you describe it?
I love “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”. It’s a really bold and defiant song that champions self-love, especially when your partner isn’t making the effort to show you how much you’re worth. The line “you’re not worth my love, if you don’t love me in return” is becoming something of a personal mantra. It’s basically saying if you’re in relationship with me, invest that love and I’ll give you something amazing – don’t cheat, and don’t be one foot in and one foot out.
The production of the song references many eras. I wanted it to sound quite different to my previous singles ‘Boyo’ or ‘Undercover Lover’ – but still be very pop. It’s melodic, catchy and there’s touches of Roy Orbison with the guitar, Elton John’s piano riffs, Motown, Spice Girls, Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse – who I actually dreamt was singing the song. That dream is what inspired the initial songwriting process.
Is the song dedicated to a heart-breaker in your life?
It’s dedicated to quite a few of them I’m afraid haha. As an androgynous person, I do find it hard to date. Gay men see me as too feminine, and straight men tend to treat people like me like a passing phase. Enough for a pit-stop, but most always go back to dating women for full relationships because it’s seen as more valid within society. Our culture’s understanding of gender does impact how our desires are formed and who we consider appropriate to date when it comes to public image. We’ve still a long way to go to address that imbalance. So it’s important to remember that we all, especially those in the trans and non-binary community, deserve equal love and validity as much as our heteronormative cis counterparts.
What does your music mean to you?
Music is my expression. It allows me to communicate. As gay young boy, I often found it hard to be my truest self at school. I never wanted to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant, which would have been the ideal routes for me as an only Chinese son. Having felt so stifled all my childhood, hiding my gayness, and feeling like I could never be truly seen, meant creativity gave me an outlet. Singing made me so happy. I joined choirs and constantly sang to my favourite songs on the radio. It’s so cathartic. Literally, I can spend hours at home singing and it makes me so physically and mentally so happy.
Expression and being the truest sense of myself was most important, and music allowed me to do that. It allows me to create a whole universe where my music exists. It gives legitimacy to my voice and my presence in the world. From the lyric, to the video – I always knew it was important to create something personal and to contribute my experiences to our wider culture.
Is there enough representation of Chinese British artists in the drag scene?
There’s not enough representation of any Chinese artists in British culture in general. We’re hardly ever seen on mainstream TV or media. Can you name any household names that are British Chinese artists, maybe except Gok Wan or Gemma Chan? It’s impossible. We’re a big part of British society, and yet we’re not seen or spoken about. We’re hugely underrepresented.
I often get compared to Gia Gunn from Ru Paul’s Drag race. She’s great, but aside from the fact we’re both Asian, we’re very different people. If there were more representation of East Asian artists, this wouldn’t happen. Bitten Peach, a London collective of Pan-Asian performers do a fab job of promoting East Asian talent, but aside from that, there’s just not much visibility for Chinese artists in general.
Have you faced any discrimination in your career and how did you stand up for yourself?
Most of the times, the discrimination isn’t something I actively face – it’ll happen in pre-meetings where I’m not even considered for a job or to take lead in something, so I wouldn’t even get to an opportunity for someone to tell me that to my face. I’ve had a few occasions where producers have told me to act Japanese though, even when I tell them I’m Chinese. One time I was hired to host at an event. Only when I arrived, did I find out it was a Japanese theme party. I told them I couldn’t speak Japanese and I was simply told to mumble something that sounded like it, as most guests wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Even on a major film I worked on, I was told by a producer to say I was Japanese if the director asked. They said if I felt uncomfortable, then I shouldn’t respond at all. These exchanges just flummox me, but I needed the paycheck so wasn’t in the position to complain. Unfortunately, when you’re not in a position of privilege to challenge something, it’s hard and you have to choose those battles to save your energy.
Sometimes though, I have been in situations like during rehearsals where the people of colour are constantly put on the ends or the side of the stage and never centrestage where the white people are. That happens a lot. Sometimes I let it slide or I will just gently point it out. Most of the time, they’ll adapt because it wasn’t a conscious racist decision to begin with, but once they see and acknowledge it, they usually change it. I think most people are generally good people, they’re just not conscious of these things, but people of colour are – so once you can point it out, things do change.
Who are your inspirations and role models?
I love people who challenge expectations and tradition. Musically, I love strong iconic females like Gaga, Kylie, Madonna, Beyonce and Spice Girls. I’ve always felt more akin to their work and style than male singers. Generally though, I look to a wider range of references from art and culture – Matthew Barney, Wong Kar Wei, Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen, Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry. I’m also really inspired by a Canadian Chinese artist called Terence Koh too. His work explores similar themes of sexuality, gender and identity.
How has this pandemic and the recent lockdown affected your life?
I was so thankful to be able to work on ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ during lockdown. I started planning the video when we couldn’t really leave the house, so I wanted to make an escapist adventure to jump into. Filming it took over three weeks, all from my kitchen. Then my friend Lucy Stokton, who’s an amazing graphic designer, helped to edit and do the graphics. That took about a month to edit too. I spent a lot of time learning software and designing lots of the elements you see in the video. It was definitely a labour of love.
Are you in love?
Just with my work. I give everything to my art and music!
Who would you like to work with?
I’d love to work with some legendary producers. Making songs with someone like Biff Standard, Max Martin, Xenomania or Stuart Price would be amazing. Imagine the magic we’d create.
What are you most proud of?
At the moment socially, I’m really proud of everyone’s increased awareness and support for of minorities against racism, transphobia, homophobia – all the issues in our current climate. I think a lot more people are switching on, being braver and speaking out about injustices and I like that. Like our queer community in London. Despite its pitfalls, I still think we’re a strong community that is rising and making people take notice of a lot of issues that face us. We’re spreading the word. When the world is full of conformity, I think it takes a lot to embrace the individuality within yourself and to love it and to share it. That is the most rebellious act. So our strength to go against the grain is what I’m most proud of.
What are your future plans?
Making more music and spreading more p-optimism. Keep an eye on my socials and also my new Patreon page where I’ll be making new and exclusive work for my Patrons!
‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ is available to stream and download from August 7, 2020.
Download and stream links:
Stream on Spotify: https://bit.ly/spotifypymwymi
Download on Apple: https://bit.ly/applepymwymi
Watch the music video: https://youtu.be/5nSBqflPNfU