Since Years & Years’ debut album Communion hit No.1 in the UK back in 2015, frontman Olly Alexander has become a visible role model for queer youth.
People assuming he was gay was something the British singer admits “scared” him when he was growing up, but as the band prepare to release their second collection Palo Santo, he has become fully comfortable with his identity.
“It’s less conscious, or direct,” Olly told Shortlist about his queerness being at forefront of who he is these days. “There was never a moment when I said, ‘This is what I’m going to set out to do.’”
Olly added: “I get a real thrill for being ‘overtly queer’ in my aesthetic. I used to be scared of people thinking I was gay but now I’d be shocked if they didn’t. I’d hesitate to say I had a more developed sense of self, though, because how I look doesn’t take into account my mind, or how I develop internally.”
As he revealed earlier this year, Years & Years’ single Sanctify was inspired by a sexual experience Olly had with a straight-identifying guy – a topic that has interested the songwriter during the creative process.
“We’re talking about how men express desire for one another. I find the exchange fascinating – what each person gets out of it, or what it makes each person feel,” Olly explained.
“With Sanctify, I wanted to write something about the journey of coming out. It’s so drawn out. You come out to your friends, family, then the world, again and again, in hotels and on holiday and to cab drivers. And that can be painful.
“Sometimes I wonder about the guys I’d had these… sexcapades with, who identified as straight, and I wonder where they are now, in their own journey to understanding their sexuality.”
Years & Years will release their second studio collection Palo Santo on 6 July.
It includes their recent singles Sanctify and If You’re Over Me, as well as new track Hypnotised which debuted as part of H&M’s Christmas campaign last year.