Can you tell us about who you are and what you do?
My name is Shura. Half-Russian, half-English, born in London and currently living in Brooklyn, New York. I make music and generally pretty gay music videos.
You’re currently isolating with your partner in the US, I’ve been seeing your funny tweets about your experiences, how are you both during this time?
We are both happy and healthy which is the most important thing. It’s not easy being with someone 24/7, especially when you can’t really leave the house but somehow we’re managing it. We nearly had an argument when we made a roast dinner a month or so ago because I kept burning myself and then fucked up the gravy but we survived.
Your songs are anthemic for queer people in love or in heartbreak, they’re also a refreshing antidote to the majority of music which is written through the lens of heteronormativity; what other artists are you inspired by and relate to that our audience may enjoy?
I think Frank Ocean is someone who flipped the lens really effortlessly. But there’s so much I listen to that’s queer or at least feels queer adjacent. I recently released a track with an amazing artist called Ivy Sole. She’s from Philly but we met in Brooklyn. I really love her music so I was stoked that we got to work on something together. I recently got into Raveena through submission to my gay Spotify make out playlist. I really loved Clairo’s debut record. Thoroughly recommend also diving into Claud, who’s a friend of mine but they make awesome music. The last album I was truly blown away by was Moses Sumney’s new record Grae. Listening to that was a pretty transcendent experience.
You’ve mentioned that your album ‘Forever’ was “a queer love story, with the backdrop of the US at its most horrific.” Do you believe this precarious time will affect your future sounds and have you been writing during isolation?
I’m finding it hard to write in quarantine. I always think of musicians as plants that need watering. Experience is the water in this imperfect analogy. It’s difficult to feel inspired, or at least it is for me, when the most exciting part of my day is maybe leaving to grab a soda from the bodega. I’m able to work on remixes quite easily though, which has been fun and I feel like you learn something new with each remix.
We all live under this giant umbrella but the challenges we face are all so different and we need to really support and elevate other people in that umbrella anywhere we can.
What is your earliest memory of the queer community?
I grew up in Manchester and there’s a gay quarter of the city called The Gay Village. So my earliest memories are of here. I remember being 16 and going out underage and having a group of slightly older queer people shepherd us. It was great to have that guidance, people looking out for us. I’m not sure if we were straight we would have had that.
If there is one thing you could say to oppressors of queer people, what would it be?
I think Frank’s T-shirt said it best. ‘Why Be Racist, Sexist or Transphobic When You Could Just Be Quiet?’
You are an inspiration to so many people, but who inspires you?
So many people. I love Hildur Guðnadóttirm, her film and TV scores are amazing, Mica Levi too. I’m inspired by films and TV. Westworld has been an absolute trip, I still don’t think I fully understand what’s going on but I love it. I completely fell in love with Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I’m inspired by people I work with – Ivy Sole, Marta Salogni (who mixed my record), Chloe Wallace who’s directed two of my music videos. I’m also very inspired by my friends who keep sending me photos of the bread they’re cooking. I get a lot of inspiration from books too. The last book I read that I’ve been meaning to for years was Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. It’s beautiful.
What parts of the queer community do you feel needs more representation?
I feel like we need more representation full stop but it’s especially important right now for us to see more diverse representation. We need more stories representing the trans and nonbinary people, we need more stories that represent the experience for queer PoC. We all live under this giant umbrella but the challenges we face are all so different and we need to really support and elevate other people in that umbrella anywhere we can.
Although the mainstreaming of queer culture has resulted in so many positives, it has also paved the way for niche representation of queer identities. What are your thoughts on the mainstreaming of queer culture?
I like to think of it more as queering the mainstream. I prefer that idea. I think it’s important for it all to coalesce otherwise our mainstream will only ever exist adjacent to heteronormative mainstream.
Are you optimistic about the future for queer people?
YES. I am. But that doesn’t mean I’m complacent. I think we have to understand that regression is always biting at the heel of progress.
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