!! OMG, a Q&A with Izzy Spears !!

Izzy Spears by Erika Kamano

Photo by Erika Kamano

Izzy Spears is coming for you and he has no intentions of making you comfortable about it.

After moving to New York from Atlanta, the musician (who also works in fashion) met Shane Oliver—the visionary behind NYC subcultural tsunamis such as GHE20 G0TH1K, from which later emerged his fashion movement Hood by Air.

Their burgeoning friendship solidified Spears’ intent to release music as a solo artist, after an onslaught of collaborations with Oliver and the HBA crew, who recently created yet another conceptually driven art and music collective called Anonymous Club—an amorphous creative community that finds Oliver championing young like-minded artists from a multitude of creative backgrounds.

Izzy became central to this scene, featuring on lead singles such as “Bleeding Out” on their debut drop Screensavers Vol. 1 in 2021.

Izzy Spears Monster coverFollowing short-lived creative jaunts with shitty ex-boyfriends, and the all-consuming umbrella of Anonymous Club, 2022 sees Izzy stepping out solo with a series of confrontational singles and videos and an upcoming EP, aptly entitled MONSTER, dropping early November.

We talked to the restless, rambunctious not-rapper about finding a creative community while maintaining an uncompromisingly distinct vision that aims to creatively pollinate with shameless [email protected], though with clear determination to exterminate what he sees as normalcy in gay culture.

Read the full Q&A after the jump!

Hey Izzy! Its hard to know whether you’re based in Atlanta, NYC or LA these days! 

Yeah. I’m pretty nomadic. I’m in LA right now.

You have all these singles and videos coming out, I read somewhere that you’ve been working on this solo material for ten years now? Can you tell us about your time in Atlanta and how this project has evolved over a decade?

I’ve been working on music since I was like in high school, and I guess before recently, I just didn’t see it as up to par enough for me to share. But, this record I wrote over the last two years, maybe. It was at the end of a relationship. I’ve spent this last year polishing it and like properly recording it and stuff like that.

So, it wasn’t like ten years in the making, it’s just that the record is mostly about my experiences and everything I’ve been through as far as my relationship, and just life over the last, like five, six years.

No one likes to talk about their exes, but before leaving Atlanta you were in a band with your ex, Dead Dogs, and even had a single and video out…

I can’t delete it, so…

That band was super aggressive and confrontational, which of course is your style, but when you listen clearly to these new songs, they are actually sort of tender and romantic in their own way. Can you talk about how that shift happened, stylistically?

One of the reasons that didn’t work out was just creative differences. I sing and I do other shit and I can be more vulnerable than he could. Me doing what I do now and, and him doing what he does just didn’t align for him. I feel like I’m in a more free space to diverge into those feelings, those other sides of myself and my voice.

I don’t have to be up to anyone’s standard. It was hard as to separate myself from what that relationship was, because it was kind of like enforced… So it was tough at first. Like, even with the Anonymous Club stuff, I still felt like I had to maintain a certain level of “crazy” or this sort of angry image, but working on this project this last year I feel like just surrendering to who I actually am.

So what came first? Being in this punk band and wanting to do something more sentimental elsewhere—or did the break-up element fuel the nature of the songs after it happened?

It was definitely a bit of both. I feel like I was always gonna do this. I was always gonna be on this route, because that’s who I am and it’s not like the punk sound came from him, but especially us being in a relationship, he didn’t want there to be any type of identifiable stuff in our songs about that.

So we weren’t gonna be in a band together forever.

So were you kind of shy about writing this candid, more emotive stuff after having developed this aggressive punk image?

Well Shane, for example, really influenced the song “Back Door” on the EP. He kind of pulled that outta me, you know, where it was already there, but he encouraged me to take it up to the next level.

I definitely was kind of nervous to share that side of myself, but he actually made me feel little more comfortable to be able to do that and just step out into that realm.

It’s refreshing the way you weaponize your homosexuality, bringing the confrontational, punk aspects of gayness back to the forefront. In that way songs like “FIST,” which has lyrics about sucking dick and spit and shit all take their place as romantic language in a weird way, as opposed to making homosexuality palatable or innocuous, which is more common. Can you talk about your intentions around that?

That’s kind of like my whole bag because I feel like any type of representation for gayness, especially a gay black dude… There isn’t any representation for somebody like me.

Well as confrontational you are about your sexuality, it’s still a bit convoluted because you talk about pussy a lot, too… So…

Well I’m definitely just gay, so you can clear that up. My whole thing was, you know, people look at me, they’re not sure what the fuck I am. Not to say that I’m trying to be ambiguous, because I’m just being myself. But, like I said, there isn’t any representation for someone like me that I can see in the media or even with like, Frank Ocean, sure they’re gay or whatever, but they’re not really jacking that shit like that.

Not that they don’t seem proud, but you know, but there’s just no risk to what they’re doing. The language isn’t there. I want to put it in people’s face, like put it in their lap because it’s who I am. I went through a lot when I was younger just accepting that I’m gay and dealing with a family that wasn’t very accepting of it, and once it came to light I was just like fuck it—i want to shove it in your face.

That’s just been how I’ve been my whole life, and I wanna put that same type of expression in the music or in the visual art, because I don’t want anybody to get it twisted.

It still seems like you get some joy out of fucking with people, though. Contradictions seem to be at the center of your work—which is really funny. For instance, in the video for “FIST,” you’re stomping around a hotel room being destructive and self-destructive but there is also something innocent and cute about it, too, that’s reminiscent of a brat at a slumber party…

Yeah! The reference actually was like kindergarten—you know how kids like draw shit on their face or drawing on the walls or whatever. I just thought it was funny.

There are so many styles and sounds smashed up into these songs, and I love how relentless it is. Although the content itself can be quite vulnerable at times, the beats go hard and never veer into ballad territory. Was that how you wrote the songs or is that something you guys packaged together when you were in the studio with Yves Rothman, who produced the record?

No, I wrote everything, and I think that the main thing was that I started making music and singing when I was way younger, but I didn’t want be R&B. I didn’t really know what I wanted to say or do to have whatever I made be categorized as “R&B.”

I love R&B, but i didn’t want to give that. Like, I listen to Jeffrey Star and I listen to rap, you know what I’m saying? I listen to hip hop. I just wanted to make a point in trying not to be categorized at all. I used to be like, “I’m not a rapper!” But now, I just don’t give a fuck and people can call it whatever they like.

Do you feel like any of that stuff around representation is changing? Do you think there’s a visible youth culture that’s developing in the way that you would’ve found relatable when you were a kid in Black gay guys or just freaks and punks like yourself—or is it just another vibe that’s being exploited as a fashion thing?

I do think it has lot to do with fashion, but there are always gonna be posers. It’s always had a lot to do with fashion, but I feel like before meeting my ex and before Shane, I really felt like I was the only one of my kind, or I didn’t vibe with the other people that were around. But when I met Shane, it was one of the first times I felt a connection or realized that there are more people that are out here like doing this for real.

It’s still slim pickings out here, but I feel like there is a thing brewing and a lot of what you see in the media—and I hate to reference this—but like, with Lil Nas X, they go put spikes in his hair and put him in a latex body bodysuit and they’re like, “Oh yeah, this is punk. This is rad!” And the next day, he’s in a kilt with like bagpipes and shit.

People can put on clothes and pretend to be whatever they want. I do think there is a radicalization happening though, especially with the whole binary and sexuality being such a big conversation right now, people want to express themselves as who they really are.

Shane and the Anonymous Club crew talk a lot about bringing conceptual art back into youth culture and street culture, and taking a higher conceptual approach to making music and art. You modelled in Kanye’s GAP campaign and I wonder how it feels to see Kanye doing that in the billionaire way or if it feels like he’s profiting off the ideas of lesser known and way less wealthy artists?

No, I don’t think it’s weird. I mean, I like Kanye! He pioneered so many different things, I don’t think because he has money now that he should stop. We all wanna make it! I dont think what he’s doing is disingenuous. I think younger people see what he is doing and realize they gotta get on their shit and get to that point. I was really grateful for him to reach out to me. He follows my Instagram.

I just feel like, when has he ever not been doing that “art meets fashion”? He’s been doing that forever. He started fashion being a rap thing. I’m not even a huge Kanye stan, I’m just like stating facts.

I know Shane loves Kanye. Some of the things that he did even inspired what we’re doing with Anonymous Club, too. I think it’s all family. If I see a Black man, whether he’s gay or straight or whatever, just pushing the envelope to that point, it gets me excited. It makes me happy. It makes me want to go harder.

Izzy Spears by Erika Kamano

Photo by Erika Kamano

There’s a lot of talk around The Anonymous Club coming to revitalize New York nightlife and make it cool again or making New York punk again; when you moved there from Atlanta, did you actually see anything missing that you wanted to shake up or is that just a media perception of that crew?

Well, I think that when I moved to New York from Atlanta, I think I was just like in the street being myself, doing me and people were somehow attracted to that and just doing that is how I met Shane. I was looking for something that would excite me, and Hood By Air and all that is what I found. I mean, I was doing casting before, but HBA is what I found.

And then, once I got involved with Shane really, I just had to look around and see that everything is so cheap and mainstream. Everybody is so safe, you know, this one bubble.

I went to New York the way everybody goes to New York—pursuing a New York dream. I went for work and I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna stay for a week,” but then I just never left. So I was thirsty, looking for something more than what I was getting in Atlanta.

And, like I said, everything gay and everything today is so digestible for the masses that it’s just not authentic, and it’s not hard and it’s not like real life. Like people are going through shit. People are fucked up in the head or angry, and we’re just not seeing that.

The gay thing has definitely being distributed to the masses in the most innocuous ways for a very long time, where as you’re combining your sexuality, your hotness, your rage and messiness all into one thing, which is the very opposite of the palatable, inoffensive, well-dressed image that people like in a gay man.

Yeah or like drag and entertainment —not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s no other representation for anything else. And that’s what everyone sees. Like these We(st) Ho(ollywood) gays out here are just a caricature of what Black gay culture used to be.

They don’t even know where the language they’re using came from.

I saw Drew Barrymore talking about cool new terms that were being added to the Webster dictionary  and it was like ‘lewks” and “hunty”…

See? Like that’s some white people shit. Excuse my French.

After Atlanta and NYC, you’re hanging out in LA —do you think that each city has an effect on the tone of what you’re making? Does your new stuff sound like The Beach Boys?

That’s a good question. I think, yes? I feel like what I’m doing lately is different from what we’re doing with Anonymous Club, because the message is still there, everything is still there, but now there’s just a catchy hook where people can sing to it, but maybe they don’t realize what they’re singing along to.

It’s like that song “Stand Back You’re Dancing Kinda Close”— you know they’re singing about their dicks getting hard in the club, but meanwhile I’m like a toddler singing along to it… That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get this spot back into the media.

Like where Marilyn Manson’s on the red carpet. Its like Nine Inch Nails were huge and their shit was everywhere, but the content itself was fucked!

If Manson was coming out now wearing dresses and makeup he would be accused of queer-baiting.

Yeah, exactly.

You have roots in doing fashion, and also film and video stuff, so I wonder if, once you gain some traction with this solo work, will you be incorporating more of those elements into the world of Izzy?

Yes! I’m really, really inspired by by Gregg Araki and I wanna create a world like he did. The visual thing is very important to me. Like the next video, I was just dick hard about it being a very specific thing…

You’re living in LA, so you could probably just call up Gregg Araki.

It’s crazy, because I was just talking to Shane the other day and he sent me a picture of him and Gregg Araki. So I was like, “Oh, I’m only one person away!”

The stars are literally aligning for Izzy Spears!

I think so. I wanted to set a precedent, especially with the first video, the “Bleeding Out” video, like how it was such a big production with such a cohesive story. And it was more cinematic than just like a bunch of dudes popping off in the street. I wanted to keep that going, like, even with the one, the hotel room, which is less narrative but the storyline s all there.

I try to encrypt everything. That video is basically about my liberation from my relationship. I’m in the shower washing all the super toxic and damaged shit off and hitting the streets and being mad and crazy. That’s basically what it’s about.

I wanted to set a precedent with these visuals so that I can start paving a way to my making films.

How are you hoping to expand things in terms of your sound when following up the EP?

I think it’s already more polished. I mean, people out here [in Los Angeles] are just begging to do something cool. I can hit up someone who plays the violin and they’re gonna actually pull up and get on the record, whereas I feel like in New York, everybody kinda gate-keeps the studios.

In New York, it’s always a really like cool clout thing. I feel like here people come out here to fulfill their dreams and they wanna pursue their art and create, and they’re ready. They move here for that. I just want to take what I’m doing and make it better—not more marketable, but just better.

It’s gonna be the same message and it’s gonna be the same vibe, and with the next record that we’re working on now, I’m doing a lot more singing, but it’s all in the same neighborhoods, all the same cul-de-sac but in different clothes or whatever.

Well the more palatable the sound the easier to infiltrate the normals!

I never really go out, but when I have stepped out into that WeHo scene they look at me like I’m a fucking monster! They’re like intrigued but also, like, scared. I’m just like, “God, get me outta here.”

— Q&A by Kevin Hegge (@theekevinhegge)

Izzy Spears’s EP Monster is out November 11th. 

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1 Comment on "OMG, a Q&A with Izzy Spears"

  1. I’m a new fan! thanks for this

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