Musician Oliver Sim offers new music and shares his HIV journey

Hideous Bastard, the debut album from Oliver Sim – best known for his work as songwriter, bassist, and vocalist of The xx – is set for release on Friday 9 September via Young / Remote Control Records.

Produced by bandmate Jamie xx, Hideous Bastard is the culmination of two years of writing and recording, inspired by Sim’s love of horror movies and his own life experience, unpacking themes of shame, fear, and masculinity.

These themes are front and centre on new single Hideous. Enlisting the help of lifelong hero and “guardian angel” Jimmy Somerville on guest vocals, the single sets the scene for the forthcoming album and sees Sim speaking publicly for the first time that he’s been living with HIV since the age of seventeen.

It debuts with a video by another personal hero, French director Yann Gonzalez, who has also collaborated with Sim on a forthcoming queer horror short film of the same name that premiered as part of the Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Film Festival.

Talking about the single, Sim shares that he realised there were some clear themes in his writing.

“Early on in the making of my record, Hideous Bastard, I realised that I was writing a lot about fear and shame.

“I imagine that might paint a picture of a dark, “woe is me” sounding album, but in recent years I’ve become a firm believer that the best antidote to these feelings can be bringing them to the surface and shedding some light on them.

“I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time. So, I hear a lot of the music as joyous, because the experience of writing and recording it has been the complete opposite of what fear and shame have been for me.

“Two thirds in, having a good idea of what the record was about, I realised I’d been circling around one of the things that has probably caused me the most fear and shame. My HIV status. I’ve been living with HIV since I was 17 and it’s played with how I’ve felt towards myself, and how I’ve assumed others have felt towards me, from that age and into my adult life.

“So, quite impulsively, I wrote about it on a song called Hideous. I thought I could release it into the world and be done with it. After playing the song to my mum, being the protective and wise mum that she is, she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

“She suggested that I spend some time having conversations with people in my life first. Either people I hadn’t told yet, or people I had told but hadn’t wanted to talk much further on it. Since writing Hideous, I’ve spent the past two years having those conversations, which was difficult and uncomfortable to start with, but has allowed me to feel a lot freer and has only strengthened my relationship with myself and with the people in my life.

“One of the most special relationships I’ve gained from this has been with Mr Jimmy Somerville. I knew for Hideous I wanted a guardian angel to appear in the song and sing to me the words I needed to hear. Not only has Jimmy been such a powerful voice around HIV & AIDS for decades, but the man quite literally sounds like an angel. I reached out to him as a complete fan boy, but now consider him a real good friend. He encouraged me to do the song for myself. He taught me “glamour” is a Scottish word. And, most importantly, he reminded me to not take myself too seriously, no good comes from that!

“Am I Hideous?” feels far less like a question I’m asking the world now. I know the answer. As scary as it still feels, I’m excited to share this music with you, and I hope you enjoy it. Lots of love, Oliver xx”

Sim unpacks this sentiment further in a new feature with The New York TimesThe Horror and Happiness of Oliver Sim: The xx singer on going solo, disclosing his H.I.V. status and learning that he actually likes people.

Take a listen to the new song. 

OIP Staff, image: Casper Serjersen. 


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