In the five years it took from conception to completion of the debut Years and Years album Communion, frontman Olly Alexander did a lot of growing up. Part of this was the simple, pleasing physical experience of seeing huge success at close range. ‘When the album started I was 23,’ Olly notes. He will be 28 this year. ‘I’ve discovered a lot about myself.’ With Communion, Years and Years made a palpable new tribal impact on pop. They mapped out something of the treasure trail of pop’s special inlet, locating a loyal band of brothers and sisters for whom Olly meant more than someone to look up to, glistening on stage. He felt like a friend.
‘I had three years of mind-f&*^, crazy experiences travelling around the world,’ he continues. It all came as something of a shock to Olly. ‘I genuinely thought that those things would never happen or that people would respond to a gay pop star slut-dropping on stage.’ When he stepped aside from touring the record at the end of 2016, he began to think a little harder and deeper about his purpose. ‘It’s changed my beliefs in what I am capable of doing.’
When he began performing, Olly used to take the magical leap of faith all performers must de facto rely on, that they might have a place up there reserved for themselves. ‘I always used to go out on stage and be a bit scared,’ he says. It was all guesswork at that stage. ‘I was nervous, connected to my experiences growing up as a queer kid at school. I was always wary of enemies, of thinking people were going to tear me down or hurt me.’