Interview: Lynks Afrikka | LOUD MagazinePosted on: 20 Apr 2020
This article was first published in the second edition of LOUD Magazine, 365Bristol's dedicated music publication.
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The gift [set] that keeps on giving: the mind behind Lynks Afrikka, Elliot Brett, spills the shower gel on the project’s early days, Spinny Nights and life post-university
Everyone wants to catch a whiff of Lynks Afrikka. Just days after I speak with Elliot Brett, the producer and performance artist behind the project, Lynks Afrikka track ‘I Don’t Know What I Want’ features on Elton John’s radio show, Rocket Hour. Lynks was also placed centre stage in The Guardian’s ‘50 New Artists for 2020’ list, and more recently, has been announced to perform at the upcoming Icelandic music festival, Airwaves.
It’s not surprising, of course. Lynks Afrikka is an enthralling and intricate project – without a hint of pretension. Drawing on the legacy of 90s Club Kid culture, Lynks compounds queer industrial pop with theatrical, extravagant performance and (genuinely) funny lyricism to stupefy the DIY scene. Take ‘Str8 Acting’: a frisky club banger armed with a witty analysis of queer culture’s often reductive presentation. Flipping the diminishing and sexualized stereotypes associated with queer culture, the track reviews straight culture. A hot, straight club? ‘It’s a lot like a pub, but with slightly less chairs.’
And god, it’s working: Bristol, despite its love for straight-faced experimentalism, loves a bit of Lynks. Along with a troupe of choreographed backing performers, the Shower Gels, Lynks has played in our city countless times, headlining venues like The Crofters Rights and The Fleece. I guess it’s because the gigs are so fun and entertaining (and weird), but more on that later. It’s something which has led audiences to miss the point, almost. Elliot says the “number one comment” he gets after gigs is: “it was so fun, but the music’s actually good!” Lynks Afrikka is primarily a musical project, after all.
Has Elliot encountered any other misconceptions of the project? Previously, I mention, it appears some have tried to weave deeper meaning into Lynks Afrikka’s music. “But most of the time, you say it’s more about having fun, right?” I ask. “Yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head,” Elliot laughs. “I am just trying to create something really fun.” Though, he notes how in creating something fun, “it’s natural to find some deeper meaning because comedy comes from stuff you care about.” So, despite what tracks like ‘On Trend’ – a half-serious nod to common social anxieties - might suggest, making grand, political statements was never Elliot’s aim. Instead, they’re a natural side effect, accidental even. “It’s really nice that people read so much into it,” Elliot adds. “We like to intellectualise music a lot, I think. That isn’t really my normal way of doing it, but I can see why people like looking at music through that lens.”
It makes sense, given what I recall to be an early Lynks Afrikka’s gig: an effortlessly fun performance, in the basement of a Hotwells student house. It was a show for uni mates, during February 2018. “Was it the one in the basement when I was wearing bin bags? That was the first-ever one!” Elliot says, exuding excitement. “I look back on it, and I find it really crazy that I had the balls to do it, actually.” A 20-minute set of five songs, one of which was a Kate Bush cover, the performance showcased a different Lynks Afrikka to the one we know today. Back then, Elliot had been inspired heavily by drag, which curated a “manufactured” version of the character. Nowadays, Lynks is just “a heightened version” of himself. Elliot references an Oscar Wilde quote, which, he says, “sums it up” well: give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth. If anything, then, Lynks is Brett in his purest form: “I think it’s stopped being a character at all,” he later adds.
Lynks Afrikka's first gig @ the Monty Burns basement, Hotwells
Photos: Guy Woods @prettyguyforawhitefly
Before Lynks Afrikka, Elliot released music under his own name. His single, ‘I Care’, enjoyed a sold-out launch at The Crofters Rights. It was a triumph – until Elliot’s laptop, which stored much of his music, was stolen from the venue. Did this incident force Elliot to conceive Lynks? “You reconsider what kind of music you want to make when you lose it all,” Elliot chuckles. “Who knows? I probably would have arrived at the same point. It might have just taken me a bit longer.”
Bristol, and in particular, local promoter Spinny Nights, has made a significant impact on the evolution of Lynks Afrikka. Spinny Nights, Elliot thinks, is part of what pushed him to cease making “more traditional music” and experiment. Speaking of Bristol’s influence, Elliot enthuses: “I fell in with the Spinny Nights crowd; this brilliant group of creative, driven musicians; people dedicated to making a super exciting, accepting creative space. That scene really encouraged ingenuity and risk-taking.”
Founded in early 2018, Spinny Nights began as an irregular set of student-led gigs, often platforming musicians from the University of Bristol. Since then, it’s evolved into a local DIY promoter, label and management. Recalling Spinny Nights’ earlier days, Elliot remembers going to shows, where occasionally, he’d see performers “do something weird and,” he pauses, chuckling. “Yeah, I’ll be honest! Objectively a bit shit!” But, he resolves, “there’d still be this atmosphere of acceptance. Everyone would give them rapturous applause.” It was a space in which performers - Lynks included - “were able to fail.”
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“I think it’s really important to make creative spaces where people don’t feel afraid to fail. Because if you’ve got a space where people are afraid to fail, then they won’t do anything out of the box.” Take Lynks’ first gig, incidentally also one of the first Spinny Nights events: “that had some real moments of crapness in it,” Elliot recalls, “but that was fine. And maybe in some other scenes, if I’d done that gig, I would have just got a bunch of raised eyebrows.”
It’s those kinds of raised eyebrows which, today, Lynks Afrikka tries to eliminate in the gig space; a refutation of hyper-cool, stiflingly-serious events. Elliot puts it well: “by no fault of anyone there, you can sometimes go to gigs in the DIY art scene, and it can feel like everyone knows each other, everyone’s very cool, and everyone’s holding their cards quite close to their chest.”
And then comes Lynks. “You get on stage, and you act so ridiculously stupid that everyone’s now got a common comparison,” Elliot laughs. “The bar of stupidness is just raised so high!” In short, who gives a toss if you fumble your words, or spill a bit of your drink? Lynks doesn’t. After all, Lynks and the Gels are on stage, mashing together music, theatre and comedy, while Lynks is “covered in sweat, wearing a bike helmet with pigtails coming out of it.” Elliot wants people to let loose, to dance, to “properly wiggle.”
Does Elliot worry that, with the act’s increasing popularity, Lynks Afrikka gigs will become the very sort of environment he’s trying to avoid? “I don’t think so,” Elliot says. “I really hope not! Anyone that’s not up for acting like an idiot probably won’t like Lynks Afrikka very much. And I’m fine with that,” he laughs. “I hope no one would come to a Lynks Afrikka gig to stand at the back and not smile.”
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In two short years, Lynks Afrikka has developed rapidly. Lest we forget: the project began in a crumbly basement as a bit of a laugh. Has this quick ascent caused Elliot any challenges? “I always try to be really positive about it,” he sighs. “I think when there were no stakes to it, I maybe came up with some of the more creative stuff.”
Indeed, there are stakes to it. Lynks’ climb has come at a tricky time: Elliot’s recently graduated. And while peers hoist themselves up the career ladder, Elliot is trying to navigate the world within which Lynks Afrikka sits - alone. “It’s trying to get a business mind on, which takes all the fun out of it,” Elliot explains. “How do I take this up a step? How do I get a label interested in me? How do I try and find a manager? It’s still just me just doing it on my own - in a room. It’s quite a lot.” The timing of it all, Elliot says, “puts an immense amount of pressure” on the project.
“On the bright side,” he resolves, “I’m doing something that I really fucking love.” He does - and that was clear to see earlier this year, at Lynks’ headline performance at The Fleece: “I’ve never had a lighting person before – this is AMAZING!” they announced, after bursting onstage.
When we speak, Lynks’ latest single is ‘I Don’t Know What I Want,’ released on New Year’s Day. So, would it be silly to ask Elliot what he actually might want out of 2020? Apparently not. “I just want to be able to keep doing it, to be honest,” Elliot responds in earnest. “I think all these things have an expiration date, and I just hope that mine isn’t soon.”
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Get in touch with Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.