Sitting across the table from me in the heart of central London is singer-songwriter-producer Atlantis Gandhi (yes, that’s her real name). The 19-year-old blue-haired up-and-coming artist from South East London, who is currently studying Popular Music at Goldsmiths University is ready to show the world that queer black singers have a voice. Her background is as unique as her name, hailing from Jamaica, Barbados, Switzerland and India. Back in November last year, Atlantis performed at our monthly event AZ Hub to an audience of QPoC and I caught up with her to talk all things music, being black and queer, inspirations, new projects and much more!
You performed your song Blurred Clouds at AZ Hub back in November, tell me about the song and how it came about?
Blurred Clouds came about a year ago and it’s actually about my ex-girlfriend. I actually didn’t plan on writing a song about her at all, it just kind of happened. Around that time when we were together, I was thinking about her a lot and so when I went into the studio, I just started messing around with different sounds, seeing what I liked and what would work. At the time, I wasn’t playing professionally at all. I’m one of those people that plays something and if I like it or think it sounds pretty cool I’ll work with it. I came up with the cords and added loads of other little bits to the song because I wanted to make it sound really dreamy and that’s how the song came about. I wrote the song really quickly too which was surprising, it took me two weeks. Usually, it takes me like around two months but this one came really quick.
How would you describe your sound?
I don’t like to use the conventional word ‘R&B’, I like to throw in the ‘alternative’ because I don’t like to stick to one genre. Yeah, I make R&B sounds but sometimes I make trap, sometimes pop, my sound changes all the time. I love what I do so much that playing with different sounds make me happy especially when I’m producing. I like to say I’m alternative because I want whoever is listening to my music to interpret what they hear and see for themselves. I’ve also been writing for a while and when I started taking it more seriously, around three years ago, I decided to start uploading my music to Soundcloud and be more open with my sound.
Talk me through your music because a lot of your songs are very personal. Is that something you always aim to do when you write and record a song?
Yeah always. Back in the summer, I went through this crazy experience that really inspired a lot of my songs on my EP. Honestly, before then I was very unmotivated and even though I was writing songs prior to what happened, my mind wasn’t in it clearly but as time went on I realized that I wanted people to know what happened and I wanted to share my story and tell people that yes, things do happen and situations do occur but you can push through it. I didn’t want to just write mainstream songs, I wanted to put my music out with people hearing the proper true meaning behind what I was saying.
One of my songs which is called Offender and it’s about my experience with the police where I was stopped and searched and told to my face that it was because I was black and they thought I was a guy. It was the worst experience. On top of being profiled, they were really abusive, very violent towards me and from that, I completely shut down and became unmotivated. My music was always the one thing that pushed me to want to do something but at the same time, this experience was stopping me. As an artist, I do have a voice and I wanted to make sure I used it and put my voice to something beneficial that people who have gone through the same experience that I have can relate to and that’s how songs like Offender cames about.
As a queer black woman, what do spaces like AZ Hub mean to you?
I am beyond grateful for spaces like AZ Hub and the many other spaces that provide a safe space for people like me because there aren’t many. Of course, there’s representation in the LGBT community but the majority of it isn’t aimed at people of colour. I feel like it’s important to have spaces like AZ Hub because it makes people in our community feel less alone. It makes me feel like wow, there’s actually queer black people trying to do the same thing as me, trying to connect with each other and support each other. That’s what I’m trying to do by getting involved more with these spaces because as a community we need to build things together.
My music makes me so happy and I just want to be successful at that. Maybe in the far far future, I want to be signed by a major label but as of right now being independent works for me. I love gigging and touring, making music videos and putting them out and collaborating with people I love so that’s where I’m at right now.
Let’s talk fashion! Your blue mohawk is a head-turner. Talk me through your style.
My style is all about confidence. When I was younger, I always felt that I had to dress a certain way like I always had to be girly. Recently, as I’ve grown into me I’ve decided to dress more comfortable and wear what I want to wear. I wear a lot of bright colours. I always want to feel comfortable and stand out. It’s my way of expressing how I feel. At the end of the day, you should just do what makes you happy and I think if dressing comfortable and expressing yourself through your style is what gets you through your day then go for it. For me, having my hair up and dyed the colour it is, makes me feel happy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it because I love it and that’s all that matters. Always remember to stay true to yourself.
You speak about love and sexuality (mainly your identity) in your songs. I wanted to know is it hard for you to be open in your music especially as a queer black woman?
I came out in 2016. I came out for my girlfriend at the time but when I look back, I wish I came out another way. I wanted to be true to myself so I decided to do it. I identify as queer and that has such a powerful meaning behind it. I’m glad that I came out because I was just sick to the point of pretending all the time. Pretending to like boys, pretending to be straight. I wasn’t who I was. It wasn’t me. It was Atlantis Gandhi. I didn’t feel comfortable and so coming out was super important to me. Again, it’s all about being comfortable with yourself. I feel like I have more power now because I own my sexuality, I’m being me. That’s why I talk about and reference my sexuality in my music. I always put the pronouns of what I can relate to so ‘she/her’ in my songs because I feel like it’s important for some people to hear.
What can we expect from Atlantis Gandhi in 2019?
I have an EP coming which, I’m going to try and release mid-January. Originally, it was meant to be released around now, in December, but I didn’t want it to clash with all the Christmas music and with all the other bigger artists and then get washed away. The EP is called ‘Offender’ and it consists of five songs, No One Needs to Know, Offender, Bad Fathers, In Your Dreams and Talking to Myself. I named the EP after one of the songs I recorded because I felt it was very relatable. The sound of this EP really sums up my current style. I feel like my look is strong and I want my artistry to be exactly the same. I feel like when I perform, I’m quite sassy and I want that to be a continuous thing so I’d thought I’d apply that to the new EP.
Stream Atlantis Gandhi on Spotify.