“The amount of time it’s taken me to get into this interview and my phone is still playing up!” It’s 2021, so VINCINT having an absolute nightmare with his Zoom connection is an experience many of us can relate to by now. But hopefully this socially distant ‘new normal’ is something we can wave goodbye to very soon, as a very real optimism that the lifting of lockdown restrictions is upon us. And what better timing for an album packed to the brim with big pop anthems ready to soundtrack the summer?
VINCINT’s brilliantly titled debut album, There Will Be Tears, is out now and features a raft of LGBTQ+ collaborators on a joyous collection of songs filled with lyrics of love, friendship and solidarity. Since 2018, VINCINT has served us sky-soaring pop, but for this album he’s managed to take it to another level yet again.
When we catch up with the American singer-songwriter, it’s been a few days since the release of his euphoric new single Higher; soon to be a dancefloor staple at gay clubs across the world. VINCINT celebrated with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s (cookie dough, obviously) in anticipation of returning to the stage during Pride Month for some big shows. It’s about bloody time!
Hello VINCINT! How are you?
I am frazzled beyond belief, but I am here and I am ready!
That’s good to hear. I usually ask what have you been up to during lockdown, but you’ve been busy writing and recording an album.
Yeah, I started writing this album in January 2019. I had already finished The Feeling and it was about to come out, and I was starting to write new material because I didn’t really have a thought process behind it. I’m always writing songs, so I thought, ‘I’ll just start a completely new thing and see how it goes.’ And then the world shut down. I decided I needed to find somewhere else to be that’s not my house, so I drew up this whole different world in my head.
How did you find the writing and recording process during that time?
I don’t think it was challenging at all if I’m being honest with you. It was nice to just sit with my thoughts for once. Most of my album has been executive produced by Storyboards; she’s a trans producer and artist out here in Los Angeles. Every day I went to her house and would be like, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do today, but we’re going to make something. It may be really bad, so have an open mind!’ I found that I was able to sit with her and just pour out all of the things that have happened to me in the last few years, and everything that was happening last year. It became a therapy session every day, which I’m pretty sure she did not sign up for! But we wrote the most amazing stuff.
You’ve been thinking about this moment of releasing your debut album for years now, but considering the events of last year, have you written and recorded the album you always thought you were going to?
No, I didn’t record the album I thought I was going to record. When you’re seven and you want to be a pop superstar you’re like, ‘I wanna be a pop star and I’ll make an album like this.’ Everyone has that vision in their head, but you go through life and you grow up. Things happen to you, a worldwide pandemic happens, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m feeling certain ways and I should talk about that.’ With me, I never go into writing any song being like, ‘I know for sure how this is going to sound at the end.’ Because I don’t. I have an idea of what I want to say and how the music should somehow go, but it never ends up being what I thought it was going to be. There’s a song on the album called You, which wasn’t going to be on there at all. I had written in the middle of the Black Lives Matter protests last year. I had just come from a protest in Hollywood and I had gotten shot by a rubber bullet, and I was freaking out. I had to go home and decompress and for the next couple of days I wrote this song. I thought it was bad and I just didn’t write it. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t like, ‘I’m gonna write this song for the album and it’s gonna be exactly what I want to say.’ It didn’t turn out to be what I wanted to say, but it was what I needed to say. I think having an open mind when it comes to doing anything music-related is really understanding that you don’t have full control. And that’s the best part about it. Just let your mind do what it needs to do. At the end of any therapy session that you have with yourself or someone else, you’re going to say the things you need to say to feel better. You just have to be willing to accept that you’re not fully in control of the moment. It’s been weird. I listen to the album now and I’m like, ‘What? Who wrote some of these things?!’ But I’m really proud of it because I know that each song is a part of me, each song has a purpose, and it’s from a timestamp in my life that I needed to talk about.
You’ve said that You was both the easiest and hardest song for you to write. Why was that?
The easiest part was putting the instrumentation and all of the pieces together. When we were writing it, I remember being in the session feeling so confused. It’s rare that in sessions for the entire time I am in my head. I was like, ‘This is really bad. We should stop writing it.’ But then I realised that it was me feeling uncomfortable, and if I’m uncomfortable that means I’m doing something right – especially when it comes to writing. I get into the headspace of like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t say that, or talk about that. Maybe people won’t like that – they can’t dance to it.’ I tend to hinder myself sometimes. For this session, Sam was like, ‘Just say it!’ So I wrote it all down and Sam was perfect at writing his parts as well. I remember leaving the session thinking, ’That was a bad song – I’m not going to talk about it anymore.’ I didn’t listen to it for a month. As I’m putting the album together I listened to the demo of You and was like, ‘Oh, this is really good.’ We went back and finished it up. What made it so hard was knowing that I was going to talk about something that was really important to me, and I was scared to see how my fanbase – I think my fanbase is predominantly white, which is kinda crazy – and I was like, ‘Will they like it?’ I was nervous that they wouldn’t accept it. I had to realise that that’s a part of it. That’s a part of me, that’s a part of my experience and it’s a part of who I am. I want my fans to know what it feels like to be a parent and have to go through all these things, and see your children watch you suffer and know that it’s for them. Knowing that everything you do is for them. I want you to know that when your friends who are African-American and people of colour and they go and march and they go to things, I want you to know that they want you to be by them. They want to see you seeing them and being there for them. They want to know you’re in it for them. It’s kind of wild how the song came about and it taught me a great lesson on being so communicative with myself. Even more so than I already am, because I’m an emotional mess 24/7! But it was an eye-opening thing for me to realise in myself that you need to not be afraid to say the things that really need to be said.
The big dance numbers on the album slap hard! You must have had fun recording them – particularly last year.
So much fun! The writing process was so easy for those songs because we were trapped in this cell-like living. We were all in our homes and I’m like, ‘I can’t wait for the first time when we’re all together dancing and what that will feel like’. In my head I was like, ‘I’m going to write a song for that moment!’ It’s like a cool movie moment where it’s the finale and everyone’s happy and making out.
There Will Be Tears is a brilliant album title. How did you settle on that?
I had 17,000 titles for this record! I was sitting with my best friends, we were at Zuma Beach in the car watching the sun set and we were all just talking about what we’re going to do when all of this is over. As I’m thinking about all of it, I just start crying. And that’s it! That’s what’s going to happen when we get to see all of our friends and I just thought about every human experience that’s gonna happen after we’ve been separated for so long. I haven’t seen my mom in a year. I’m getting emotional now. So it’s like, ‘I’m going to cry when I see you!’ For the first time in a year. It will be tears that aren’t sad. It won’t be anxiety tears from a bad presidency, it won’t be tears from all the bad shit that has happened. It’ll be the most beautiful euphoric release. What a moment and what a feeling that will be. I realised in that moment, ‘There will be tears.’ It means something. The album reflects that. It reflects that sentiment throughout the whole album for each song. It’s just knowing that it’s ok to be happy again.
It’s healthy to lean into those emotions.
It keeps you alive, man! Truly.
It was a nice surprise to see Tegan and Sara feature on this album on Getaway – and it came about from you tagging them on Twitter!
Here’s the thing, I’m fully trash and I’ll tweet anything that comes to my mind! I’m like, ‘I’ll just tweet Tegan and Sara because I’d love them to be on the song!’ I know them, but I’ve never spoken to them about being on a song of mine. So I tweeted them and I’m in the car with my friends, and a tweet comes back and all it says is: ‘Great, let’s do it.’ I thought it was a joke for Twitter. But I go to my DMs and Tegan is like, ‘Send me the song’. So then I’m like, ‘Um ok, I just have the demo but if you don’t like it you don’t have to do it!’ The next day they asked me what I wanted them to do on the song and my jaw just dropped. I have this really bad habit of not believing anything until it’s done. I just couldn’t believe this was happening. The next day they both sent their vocals back and they sound perfect and I’m like, ‘Oh wow, this is real. They’re on my album.’ They’ve just been the sweetest, most professional, nicest ever. It blows my mind that Tegan and Sara – who I listened to forever since I was a teenager – are like, ‘Yeah we love the song and we’ll be on it.’ I’ll believe it when the album is out!
Who are you going to try that tactic with next? Rihanna?
Everyone! I’ve already messaged Adele! Did you say Leona [Lewis]?
I said Rihanna, but we’ll go with Leona too.
The way that I would cry if Leona Lewis said to me ‘I’ll be on your song.’ That would really stress me out! I was in the fan club and I literally went to every show she did in New York. I lived in Boston at the time and would take seven-hour bus rides to see this woman sing Bleeding Love in the middle of Times Square! This is what fandom is. I’m still a huge fan.
You’ve spoken about how Getaway was inspired by a date you went on to a furniture store…
So it sounds crazy, but there is this furniture store that’s a four-storey, crazy beautiful and expensive place, but you could walk around it all day. They have a rooftop where you can go and read a book and stuff. So I met this guy who was in town for the weekend and went for a walk, and went into this furniture store. As we’re walking through there are living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms and little backyard setups, so as I’m walking with him we’re connecting and I’m watching the sun go down. I’m walking through what a life would be like with this guy – because I’m crazy and that’s where my mind goes! – but in my head I’m like, we’re walking through a lifetime and how beautiful it is where we haven’t gone anywhere, but it feels like I’ve been on a vacation with him. And it’s only been 4-5 hours! I got home and I was like, ‘That’s probably one of the best dates I’ve ever been on.’ It felt like I could’ve done it forever. That’s what love should always feel like – even on the shitty days. It’s like, ‘Great, we’re not going anywhere but how exciting it is that I get to walk into my living room and see you there.’ That should be the feeling behind most relationships in my opinion. I got to a writing session and was like, ‘Ok you psychopath, this is great but never tell him!’ But also, it’s a good song so it’s on the album!
You’ve worked with some much great LGBTQ+ talent for this record. Why is it important to you to collaborate with members of the community?
Because I think we’re the best.
I think we’re incredibly talented, and these are all friends who I have collaborated with. I was very intentional about who I wanted to be a part of this project because it is my first baby, and I love my friends’ music and I think they’re some of the most amazing musicians I have met in my life. I wanted to make sure that the people I have on it were there for a reason – and it was a special reason. The songs that they leant their voices to were meant for them. I wrote the song and I heard that person on it. And each person I asked was an immediate ‘yes’, which is insane to me because I am just always shocked when people are like, ‘Sure I’ll do this.’ I wanted to make sure people saw us on this album full of LGBTQ+ artists – and every song is great and feels like the songs we listen to every day. It’s music, it’s not LGBTQ+ music. It’s music for everyone, it just happens to focus on us.
Over the past four to five years there has been a wave of LGBTQ+ acts who are much more unapologetic about their queerness in their music. But not only that, it’s successful and people are celebrating it. Do you feel that support in the music industry?
I do and I see it as well, which is really nice. I’m ready for there to be more. I feel that may be a little selfish to say, but I’m not satisfied with how little we have, with how much we have to offer. I think we deserve to be pushed just as much as Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift. I think it’s time for that, and I want that to be for me and anyone else who wants to do music who is from our community.
I’m not going to lie, when Lil Nas X debuted the Montero (Call Me By Your Name) music video and it was so queer, I did worry that it would be considered going too far for a mainstream audience. But then it became this huge hit and kind of smashed through that glass ceiling.
It’s kind of crazy that there’s a limit for what they can accept. It’s sad, but it’s also amazing how much he’s moved the needle. It’s wild that there was so much backlash, but then what do you expect? It’s America and half the country is right-wing Republicans. You take what you can get, but also it going to number one wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. It wouldn’t have happened five years ago! So it just shows you where we are now, and it’s kind of beautiful. Hopefully there’s more.