Keir on challenging gender norms, taking inspiration from Prince and more
Fusing inspiration from Prince, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and more, Keir is already on the path to greatness. Filling his discography with releases that exemplify his vulnerability and values, Keir is pushing past intolerance and creating a space where he and his fans can be exactly who they want to be—dresses and all.
Through each release, Keir allows his soul to drip playfully from his infectious lines, and if there’s one thing he’s particular about when he’s creating, it’s that he needs to wholeheartedly believe in his words and in the song’s ability to connect with fans before it sees the light of day.
His single “Boys Will Be Girls” is no exception. The thought-provoking title and empowering visual partner with one another to evoke a sense of self-acceptance despite what others may think. While Keir’s intention with the track was to relay his own ambition of being himself, regardless of what that looked like, he unknowingly sparked a much larger conversation in the LGBTQIA+ community.
I wanted to ask you about the “Boys Will Be Girls” track and video. Growing up, did you feel pressure to “act boyish” or dress according to societal standards?
Definitely. But I want to say as early as possible, I have incredible parents, and I was always effeminate from pretty early on. I knew really early on [that] I wanted to make music, and all of the heroes I had were also effeminate. I liked Bowie and Prince and obviously loads of others. But these were feminine artists who are also really inspiring to me.
I had amazing parents that were supportive musically, but also supportive in that if I want to fucking walk around in a dress, my mom was buying dresses for me on eBay. I don’t know how rare that is because it’s quite easy for me to take that for granted, but I had bloody amazing parents that were just like, “Express yourself.” They couldn’t care less. But in school? Yeah, extremely. It wasn’t bad-bad, but it was a small town, and I remember a lot of casual racism [and] casual homophobia. It sounds sad to say, but those were my main memories of growing up.
On “Boys Will Be Girls,” you seemingly challenge these stereotypes of gender—what it means to be a boy or what it means to be a girl—especially in terms of love and self-acceptance. And the clothing particularly leans into stereotypes of young boys and young men, the masculine attitude, the emotions that men are allowed to exhibit and, also, visually the separation between what boys and girls wear. Between the lyrical context and your decision and your comfort, what were you overall trying to establish with the release?
It’s strange, but I was just drawn to certain imagery and certain things. Nothing was planned at all really with this video or with the song even. There was no conscious effort to come up with something political. Writing is a very subconscious, weird thing. Nothing was really too thought out. I think it was just there. I’ve by no means had experience of bad prejudices happening on a daily basis, but I have had a few things happen, and I think it was just there in me whilst making the song. I wasn’t trying to do anything profound at all.
I wasn’t really trying to prove or say anything much. It just naturally happens. And often with songs and music, I don’t enjoy specific meanings. It’s a very dull thing to do with art to try and pin it down. But I realized pretty soon that it says everything that you’re saying without me ever having really tried to do that because no one wants a preacher. No one wants this. This is art. It’s a song, but it has that inside of it. It really does feel like a song, a message to anyone to find a way to be yourself because life’s too short to not.
I also want to mention that there are other celebrities like Harry Styles, YUNGBLUD and Machine Gun Kelly, just to name a few, who have notably been photographed or posted on their social media wearing dresses and skirts and makeup and jewelry. They are going against what the societal standards are. But they’re also criticized at the same time because they’re seen as “feminine choices.” What do you think the importance is of yourself and these other artists making these public decisions and going against the grain?
Well, first of all, it’s scary, and anyone that says that it isn’t is lying or fucking very brave. It’s a scary thing to go against general conventions in any way. It’s scary, and it shouldn’t be. But I think the thing I found really interesting about talking on Instagram a lot is that there will always be disagreeable people. There will always be silly billies. There will always be this abuse. It’s good to have the democracy of ideas. That would be insane for wanting the opposite. But my point when I was chatting on Instagram was like, “When someone is like this, if there is a way for you to not allow hate to breed hate, this is the best possible way.” However, that might be a conversation or a smile. I don’t know what the best thing is to not allow it to descend into this anger against anger, hatred against hatred, because it’s nonsensical.
Yeah, I agree with you. I think that, a lot of times, a simple conversation rather than hate with hate can promote a lot. It goes a long way if you talk to somebody and they see that you’re just another person. There is humanity within us all.
Yeah, I get it. I feel like I get it even more if I’m coming from a small town because I had it more. I feel like that’s the thing—I don’t have that small-town mentality where you get more shit for wearing eyeliner or whatever it is. Even my actual mates would be like, “You are such a queer.” It wasn’t even deflecting. It was so normal.
You can’t just cater to who you are and your personality and who you are inside and what you are comfortable with based on what everyone else is comfortable with.
Yeah, but one thing I found [is] I never meant to have these discussions. When it was released, these discussions started to happen naturally.
You never intended to have these conversations?
Yeah, never meant to have these discussions, but it started to happen naturally, and I’m loving it. I’ve had so many people sending me their stories, their interactions with homophobia, particularly in small towns. Or not even—a guy contacted me saying his boyfriend had terrible experiences but also understood growing up that it was never the right way. And there were good ways to deal with this stuff. It doesn’t always have to be a terrible war. People got mental in a beautiful way.
When you were gearing up to release this song, what was your intended message?
I understood the message more the day after it was released because of what people were saying. It’s difficult when you’ve been in it and you’ve listened to it a thousand times in the mixing process, and it’s hard to know what it is anymore. You just know you love the song. And that’s as far as it goes. I didn’t know, but I understood it more, and I’m understanding the meaning with the people who send me messages. It’s just crazy because they know better. They know better than me in many ways because, for me, it’s a bit of white noise. I’ve heard it so much [that] I have to let it go.
So you are still in that process, and then you let it go to the fans, and then they bring it back to you and tell you, “This is what you were able to do with this.” And it completely revamped the song almost.
I fall in love with it in different ways.
In terms of upcoming releases, what's coming down the pipeline? Are you going to be continuing themes of self-expression and acceptance? What else can we expect from you this year?
I’m so inspired. Getting messages from a song like this, these types of messages like deep, dark stories that people are sending me, sharing [with] me the stuff that I never ever would have expected. This is inspiring, and I’m not going to force it in the studio. I’m not going to force myself to try to make it a thing. But when you’re inspired and you feel awake to this, to these stories that people are sending, it’s probably going to happen naturally.
This interview appeared in issue 397, available here.