I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Reece in the middle of August of this year. He is a rising singer gearing up for the release of his debut album IT BOY, a pop album where he glides his lilting voice over throbbing beats to lose yourself to in the basement of a sweaty club, and hooks you with a lyric or a riff that keeps you company if you find yourself walking back home alone.
As things go when two queers sit down for a conversation, we quickly found ourselves running the gamut to talk about the latest updates from our favourite divas, healing from the trauma of relationships and what it’s like to be a queer person making pop music today.
Khalid: What struck me about your debut is how centred in queerness it is; it is about queer love, queer joy, and queer sadness. Tell me a bit about that
Reece: Every other project I’ve released didn’t even have any pronouns or anything [specific] in it because I was so worried about making people feel alienated. I felt like with this project I was ready to say something that was meaningful. That’s who I want to be as an artist, someone who speaks the truth. The artists I loved growing up were the ones who did that. I want to be that type of artist that inspires me.
We’re also experiencing a moment in culture where ‘queerness’ as a topic is occupying a larger part of mainstream narratives than it has before. How do you navigate around the idea of ‘how mainstream’ you want to go as a queer person making pop music about being queer?
There is pressure, and that’s why I felt the need to keep it quiet for a long time. There’s also fear about if the community will support it, and that’s like who this album is for [ultimately]. At the same time as an artist, you’re like, ‘everybody has to see themselves somehow’ because queerness is not all I am. But then there’s also the pressure of fighting against people’s opinions like my queerness makes my music, you can fight it but it’s a fact… But the pressures are there and you have to find your way around it.
That said we really don’t have enough songs that just present queer sex as just healing.
It is! It does ultimately depend on the person. I think there are certain people that it isn’t for. For me, it helped me embrace myself by learning and experiencing what I like and what I don’t like. It’s also connected me with my queerness in a way. I came out when I was 20, so it’s a bit like catching up for the lost time. But also, just enjoying myself.
I found it really interesting how sex would come up as a topic on the album. Sex is innocence and play, but when you sing about relationships there’s always a bit of paranoia in the background.
Not to have everything come back to queerness but in some of my past relationships, the pressure of making them work to ‘prove’ that we are valid became a thing in my mind. I think that came out in my writing because it was part of that specific relationship that I was writing about. It was about getting to that feeling to say that both things can be true; yes, queer relationships are valid, and some relationships are toxic and shouldn’t last.
So, queer intimacy in relationships, sex, and otherwise in all its facets is the central theme of the album. What’s on the other side of it all?
That’s kind of what I’m trying to figure out. I don’t know. That’s what [the album’s final song] ‘Be Happy’ is about. Beyond all that, I just want to be happy, I want to be content.
Is that the song that means the most to you on the album?
Yeah, today it’s probably Be Happy. It’s been my mindset for the last few months. Because the things that do matter to me don’t matter to me as much anymore.
And what about the musical landscape? You’re a young artist releasing your debut in an industry that is actively changing and looks a lot different than when we were growing up as pop fans.
I don’t know. I’m very neutral. I think we’re going in a direction that’s cool. I think about people like Bree Runway, Charlie XCX and Rina Sawayama and I’m excited and I hope they get the push because what they’re doing is so creative and fresh.
But before all that, there’s IT BOY. So, what is it that you really want people to take with them before they press play?
I want to express how excited I am for everyone, but especially the queer community, to listen to this project. This was made for us. I hope that when they listen to it they hear themselves in it. If they do then I did my job well. I hope they like it. I just really want it to get the gay seal of approval.