Olly Alexander Is Ready To Turn Up The Volume

The Years & Years frontman reflects on the power of diversity, the impact of It’s A Sin, and creating the Absolut Choir.

Olly Alexander On The Absolut Choir & The Power Of Diversity
Absolut/Oscar J. Ryan

Years & Years frontman and It’s A Sin star Olly Alexander has been very busy as of late. Not only did he release his chart-topping third studio album Night Call to widespread acclaim earlier this year, but he’s also embarked on his first international tour as a solo artist, and treated fans to covers of Crystal Waters’ 1994 single “100% Pure Love” and Estelle and Kayne West’s late ‘00s duetAmerican Boy.” Now, Alexander’s latest music venture has arrived in the form of The Absolut Choir.

Launched on Nov. 8 as part of Absolut Vodka’s Born To Mix campaign, the Absolut Choir brings to life, literally and figuratively, a simple message: “whether it’s drinks, ideas, or people, life is more interesting when we mix.” It is a sentiment Alexander holds close to his heart. “I fundamentally believe that diversity is the key to helping you understand the world,” the “King” hitmaker tells me over Zoom. “There is so much power in diversity, but society as a whole needs to realise it.”

The Absolut Choir also aims to spotlight inspiring individuals from all walks of life and turn up the volume on a variety of causes and conversations, including body positivity, LGBTQI+ rights, and disability awareness. “A choir is a really nice representation of literally amplifying your voice,” Alexander says of the campaign. “Fronting this diverse collective with some inspiring and creative changemakers has been extremely rewarding for me.”

Those changemakers include the trans rights advocate Kenny Ethan Jones, disability champion Sian Lord, body positivity advocate Nyome Nicholas-Williams, Trans Voices Choir’s members and directors ILĀ (they/them) and Coda Nicolaeff (they/them), as well as creatives from the Trans Creative Collective (TCC).

“Forming the Absolut Choir has been an incredible experience,” add Sebastian and Galabov. “It became a space where we could celebrate our voices and sing fully as ourselves.” Nicholas-Williams agrees, adding, “I hope that people see themselves represented in the choir and know that communities and mixing is such a beautiful thing.”

Together, the 16-strong choir has recorded a new, powerful, and progressive version of Years & Years’ hit single “Shine,” and will perform the reimagined track live for the first time on Nov. 22. Fans can keep a close eye on Absolut UK’s social channels to discover more about the event. “It’s a perfect song choice,” Alexander says modestly. “I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but it’s a lovely track. The song is all about finding light in the darkness. It’s always been one of my more positive singles.”

Championing positivity has become second nature to Alexander, who often lends his platform to spotlight issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. “The media and political sphere have become such a hostile environment, especially for Trans people. The so-called debate around Transgender issues in the UK has boiled down to an ugly culture war that breeds hostility towards the trans community. It’s horrendous.” But there is light among the darkness, he tells me, citing the work of Munroe Bergdorf and UK Black Pride co-founder Lady Phyll. “They are the ones making positive change in the UK. Forget the actual government, the Tories are a complete shambles. I’m watching them opened-mouthed at this point.”

Oscar J. Ryan

Given all this, what advice would he give to a younger generation, and his peers, even? “I want younger LGBTQ+ people to know that they are loved. Remember, you are not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you deserve the same opportunities as everybody else.”

The singer-turned-actor’s words of encouragement will likely be welcomed by fans, many of whom were first introduced to the history of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Britain through his powerful portrayal of Ritchie Tozer in Channel 4’s It’s A Sin. Along with a BAFTA nomination, Alexander walked away from the Russell T Davies-penned drama with a “greater context” of his own life.

“The show explored a period of history that I never fully understood,” he explains. “I was born in 1990 and went to school under Section 28. It was quite an openly homophobic society. Working on It’s A Sin helped me understand the bigger picture of how and why the HIV and AIDS crisis happened the way it did. To this day, the crisis remains a huge, collective trauma for the queer community. Working on the series helped me understand its ripple effects.”

Channel 4

In spite of It’s A Sin’s record-breaking success, he “doesn’t have any immediate plans” to return to acting. Although, if the right role presents itself, he’d “definitely” be open to it. “Maybe something horror related?” he ponders. “I love films like Insidious, The Conjuring, and The Omen — but my favourite scary movie has to be Mulholland Drive. That is frightening.”

As for music, the Absolut Choir isn’t the only project Alexander is plugging away at. “I can’t say much, but I have already started working on my fourth album. It’s quite crazy,” he adds, sharing that, having previously worked with the likes of Elton John and Kylie Minogue, he aspires to one day collaborate with Cher and Rihanna. “I could perform with her at the Super Bowl. Perhaps as a guest... could you imagine?”

Limited-edition Absolut bottles designed by Alexander are now available to purchase online.