Post by Enero J. Ray
Photo by Erik Kommer
"I want people to feel like they can wear makeup and skirts and do nail art and have long hair and be who they are and create and demand respect in all circles. Because when I was growing up I had to figure that out on my own and there were a lot of pitfalls. Ideally I want that experience to have a soundtrack. If you’re queer, a person of color, strong, confident, or working on it...this one's for you.” - Thair
a conversation with the boy like thair
I sat down to chat with Thair, musician and lead singer of the neo-soul band Astro Samurai via email this week about his new solo project "Boys Like Me". As we cyber conversed I learned more on his background, his influences, his passion and his onetime dream of becoming a zookeeper.
Who is Thair (pronounced 'Tie-Air')?
I’m a 23 year old black, gay musician and songwriter.
Can you tell us a short story about the 'boy (like you)' who came from DC to Chicago?
Not to start off sad, but Maybe my most important story is that I was bullied pretty intensely when I was in high school and I would come home most days and play piano to get through that.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly? I probably always wanted to be a singer or performer of some kind but I thought for a really long time I would be a zookeeper because I loved animals so much.
How was kidlet life?
Kidlet life was pretty good! My dad was very much into playing the classic soul and Motown music. Meanwhile my mom was into like some late 80s, 90s R&B and Rap. Neither of them are really musicians but that became a big part of my musical taste and I’m really thankful. I feel like that’s where a lot of black culture is, in the music and it continues to inspire me now.
Can you describe what “Boys Like Me” is all about?
Boys Like Me! It’s about Boys Like Me! I’m really insistent upon representation in the media because the American public tends to treat celebrities like royalty and they are regarded as role models and icons symbols of excellence….(even if they aren’t good at it). But I feel like until maybe the last couple of years I wasn’t seeing Queer people of color on TV or on the radio or anywhere in those positions. So where was the voice that represented me?
Being queer in black/brown spaces can present some real difficulties… and vice versa… being black/brown in a queer space even presents some real challenges and I want us to have a voice and speak honestly about our experiences.
The sound of this project is coming from a blend of those spaces…boundary pushing electronic sounds that we come to expect from a queer aesthetic blended with soulful vocals and melodies that we come to expect from black music.
Who are some of your influences?
I’m influenced and inspired by virtually any other queer creator of color. We really are out here making culture and we’re so empowered and we lift each other up and we really are so special.
How does art/music give you a purpose?
It’s my method of communicating. It’s how I storytell, it’s how I cry and it’s how I laugh. It’s my job but I also don’t think I would be the same person without it.
How does it make you feel when you are creating/performing?
It feels like magic! Ideally I’m completely zenned out and just channeling all the emotions the music gives me on stage and off stage. Once that starts to flow every note feels effortless. Feeling connected to the audience and myself is important and if I want to connect that means I lose the cheesy smiles and winks and showy stuff and I’m just being myself.
Photo by Sam Auger
"Boys Like Me" will be a multimedia monthly installment? Where will others be able to catch it?
As of now I intend to release one music video per month, and they’ll be posted on my Youtube channel “boyslikeme” for now. Im talking with other queer creators about possibly being featured regularly on their sites but nothing’s set in stone quite yet.
What can we expect from each episode going forward?
I started with a cover just to kind of dip a toe into this creating process, but I plan to feature a lot of my original solo music as well. I take a lot of time to plan meaning and inject a lot of myself into these videos though so hopefully even when it is a cover it feels like an original.
What do you hope we, the audience will feel and experience from this project?
I just want people to sing along and feel validated and heard and represented. I want people to feel like they can wear makeup and skirts and do nail art and have long hair and be who they are and create and demand respect in all circles. Because when I was growing up I had to figure that out on my own and there were a lot of pitfalls. Ideally I want that experience to have a soundtrack. If you’re queer, a person of color, strong, confident, or working on it...this one's for you.
Check Thair and "Boys Like Me" Tonight | Wednesday 01.24.18 | Doors at 10PM!