The interview series “How Are You So Hot?” is a thirsty journey into fascinating people’s attractions, peculiar charismas, and every other thing we want to copy about them.
On a clear, warm day in December, I met Shamir, the musician and founder of Accidental Popstar Records, at a picnic spot in a Philadelphia park where he promised we'd have a field to ourselves. From a block away, I recognized his braids (pastel; waist-length) from the cover of his most recent album, Shamir, and I recognized his jeans (floral embroidery; light blue fade) from the cover of his 2018 EP, Room.
In outfit and demeanor (honest about the tough stuff; warm and funny about everything else), Shamir was exactly who he seemed to be in his art. Shamir’s bright, grungy music dives into tension, then finds reprieves in moments of glitter-falling-from-the-ceiling happiness, and Shamir himself felt like the human version of this mix of joy-and-truth.
Over coffees on our two distanced blankets, we spoke about new quarantine attractions (particularly, to both cold brew and men with unibrows), plans for post-quarantine sex, and main-character music. Most of all, we needed to know: Shamir, how are you so hot?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VICE: What’s something you fell in love with for the first time recently, and what do you love about it?
SHAMIR: This year, I quit smoking cigarettes and quit doing all of the drugs. This is sober for me: other than having a drink here and there, no nicotine, no anything. I’ve just replaced that all with cold brew. As someone who’s done coke: Cold brew is way more hardcore. My best friend from eighth grade and I both fell in love with it; we talk about it all the time. I wrote a song called “Cold Brew” for the new record. I have buckets of it in my fridge. I don’t want it muddied with anything else: no ice, no milk, just give me the black cold brew.
What’s your favorite of your skills or talents that we don’t know about?
I do my own hair; I did this myself. [Shamir flips his waist-length braids, which are shimmering lavender on one side and ice-pink on the other.] It takes hours. This took 13, 14 hours. I don’t really trust anyone with my hair.
Shamir’s braids in his new video for “Diet.”
I do styling and art direction for my artists on the label. It’s just really hard to style myself, but, for someone else, I’m really good.
I knit and crochet. I’m finishing up sweaters that were supposed to be for my mom and her twin back for their birthdays in September. They’re going to be matching, but different colors. My mom wanted green, so my aunt’s gonna get blue.
When do you feel most like yourself?
My thing is going to the post office and dropping off all the records and merch for the label. I love the walk to the post office, in headphones, getting lost, feeling very “main character." Anything pop-rock feels “main character,” I think because of any of the coming-of-age movies I’ve seen. I love “Noises” by Pale Waves and “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus” by Beabadoobee.
Also, older stuff from the ‘90s, obviously Gwen Stefani and Bif Naked—she’s Canadian pop rock, like Avril before Avril. She’s dope, and a huge inspiration to me.
If I go on too long without alone time with myself, I continuously ignore my emotions. I think people don’t like to be alone with their thoughts. I love being left alone with my thoughts. I love analyzing myself and checking in on myself. It’s needed. Comatose in bed with Netflix on the laptop, just, yes. I took a bath the night before last, I loved that. I do bath bombs.
When do you feel least like yourself, but it’s exciting?
Taking photos, modeling, doing anything on camera. I like it because I do like getting groomed, I like looking good and feeling good, but I don’t like attention. [Laughs] I’m like, "I don’t attention," as I sit here with two-toned hair, but I don’t do this for attention.
Being an introverted artist fucking sucks! And then God—whatever that may be—was like, "Let’s make most of them introverted!" I envy extroverted musicians. I think I would be way more popular and famous and richer if I was an extrovert.
Because I am such a colorful person, people think that I like attention. I feel like people are like, Look at this colorful person, he’s probably an extrovert! Let’s pounce on him! No, I’m just trying to exist. Dressing down just for the sake of blending in or feeling anonymous feels depressing to me. I like looking like this for myself. So I’ve learned to pretend to be an extrovert.
What’s a smokeshow quality that you can’t help falling for?
I guess a quiet man. I’m thinking of all my exes. I think they have all in common that they were relatively quiet. Say less. If you’re a man, say less. There is nothing I dislike more than an overly opinionated man. But then the quietest can be the most toxic…
What draws you to friends?
For a queer person, I am deeply, ridiculously, and embarrassingly monogamous. I think it’s because I’m super polygamous with best friends. I have a good seven best friends that I know I can call anytime—and I do call anytime. If they have partners, their partners know they’re basically dating both of us, them and Shamir. It’s easier for me to harvest really deep platonic relationships than it is for me to build romantic relationships. With platonic relationships, we can get really close and never have a need to define anything or say, "What does it mean?"
Is there anything you didn’t care for at all, that you now find unendingly hot?
I’ve reached a point in quarantine where, like, everyone is hot. I thirst-watched that show Dash & Lily, a holiday show on Netflix, because Austin Abrams is in it. Babe. This is no shade, but he kinda has a unibrow, but I’m like damn: That’s a hot ass unibrow. You know what I mean? And I follow this one model with a thick unibrow who is so dope. I guess my answer is: unibrow.
What do you think you're going to find hot in the future?
My bass player became single during quarantine, so we have ho pacts, because we didn’t ho on [our last] tour. I met one of my exes on tour, that was just the one connection. I’m embarrassingly monogamous, and last time we were touring, in 2018, she was in a relationship. So no groupies, no ho-ing, no nothing during that tour. Now, we’ve made a ho pact that we will push ourselves to be hot and make out with people on tour. Do the whole rockstar thing. I’ve never done that. The rest of the world will also be ready to sleep with rock stars. Everyone is making a ho pact.
What accessory (literal or not) do you adopt for a fresh feeling of hotness?
A choker. I like a good cuff, a nice industrial looking choker. I like the normal black jawns. I like the flower ones as well, I like the thinner ones but I really like the cuffs. Those make me feel really like, Mmmm, a little S&M-y!
What’s gone out of fashion that would you like to reclaim into hotness?
Butterfly clips. I wear one every day. I can’t be seen without a butterfly clip.
It’s hard to find a good-quality one that won’t rust or turn green. I get mine on Etsy, they’re handmade. I use butterfly brooches as well, just pinned through my hair. The very, very first [clip] that was in all of those early post-Ratchet covers and press photos, the first one that I found: She recently just kicked the bucket after four years. I’m going to frame her like taxidermy: You’re the first one—you got me through everything. Her shine is fully gone; she’s used through. I loved her.
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