You might know the name Oliver Sim from him being 1/3 of the British indie-electronic group The xx. His smooth voice has stuck with many of us beyond our formative teen years and this month, he’s released his first solo album, Hideous Bastard. In an interview with Dazed, Sims talks about the emotional journey he went through while making this album and how creating albums like Hideous Bastard is the opposite of shame.
“It’s about fear and shame — the stuff that makes me uncomfortable about myself, makes me feel ugly, or like I’m unlovable in some way. Making an album about these kinds of things is kind of the opposite of shame. It’s not hiding or trying to conceal them, it’s airing them out, to feel a bit lighter and less overwhelmed by them. I see this, the whole process of exorcising these things, as embracing my little monster — the hideous — in the bid of feeling less hideous.”
The solo album has a short film accompaniment, directed by Yann Gonzalez. Sims shares how he was inspired by the female rage that was expressed in the horror movies he grew up watching — more particularly expressed by Sigourney Weaver in Alien and OG scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. He admired how easily they were able to lean into the femininity and beauty while maintaining the space for themselves to be angry.
“Seeing them on a screen and being celebrated was like a real empowering thing for me. They were who I wanted to be.”
A lot of the self-acceptance that Sims had to grow into came from struggling to live with H.I.V. and the stigma/shame that comes along with it. The last verse of his first song “Hideous” goes, “Been living with H.I.V. since age 17, am I hideous?” Sims has been living with it for 15 years, and while his family and many of his friends have been aware of this for some time now, this is the first time he has come out publicly and spoken about it.
Speaking with The New York Times, Sims reminisces about his headspace while writing that track saying, “I wrote that song knowing that a lot of this record had to do with shame and fear and I knew I was dancing around something that causes me the most shame.” The first person he played “Hideous” for was his mother and he recalled a piece of advice she gave him — “How about you have some conversations before you do this?” Mother knows best, I suppose. After hearing that, Sims spent the last 2 years having hard conversations in preparation for his solo album release and the release of his innermost struggle.
This deeply personal record is perfect to add to your fall playlist.
Photo via Laura Caulston