Josef Salvat: “My experiences of sexuality are very fluid”

Sat with a cigarette outside one of Latitude Festival’s cocktail lounges, where he’d soon take to the stage and win over a far few handfuls of new fans, we catch up with our favourite Australian musical wonder. Screw that, probably our favourite musician. Period. Surfacing to stardom following an impeccable cover of Rihanna’s Diamonds, Salvat is temporarily drifting in musical limbo. Having released two unimpeachable EPs, he’s in the run up to the release of his heavily anticipated debut album.

The 26 year old bisexual musician has had a rollercoaster of a 12 months, partaking in his first headline tour and touring with inside-out girl, BANKS, in the British leg of her Goddess tour.

“It was a really cool tour,” Josef begins, laughing with fond reminiscence. “I was really apprehensive because it the first big tour I had done, I did Tom Odell in Glasgow. I gained a few new fans but it wasn’t really my audience.”

“Banks’ audiences were so much more receptive to new stuff. Manchester was awesome. Birmingham was awesome. London was hard. I was sick and it was the biggest stage I’ve ever been on it was an incredible experience.”

Having won us over in Birmingham, we found ourselves seeing Salvat again in Manchester and London. On record, his voice and production is nothing less than bliss inducing, but live, it’s all eargasm and not wanting him to leave the stage.

Having seen the musician perform unreleased tracks, such as our favourite Punchline, talk turn to where next. The track, which he reassures me he’s going to play, has now been mastered, alongside the rest of his album; “I’m hoping I can release it in October.”

Yesterday, filming for #vevodscvr an acoustic version of something you haven't heard yet (unless you've come to a show, but even then I've never done it just on piano…). omg exciting. A photo posted by Josef (@josefsalvat) on Apr 24, 2015 at 2:11am PDT

The singer explains how his album is all self-wrote but describes himself as “not a snob” about artists who co-write.

“I think the way stuff works and the speed people have to get music out makes it hard. When you’re a solo artist and you have to tour as hard as you do, you don’t have time to always write your own music,” he explains with the Australian tints to his voice. “Co-writing is beautiful.”

“If I cannot completely write an album on my own, then there’s a problem and I shouldn’t be doing this. My label really wanted me to co-write with some amazing people but this is what I needed to do.” [youtube] Salvat has a musical style like none other and likening his sound to other artists is tough. If you’re a fan of the likes of Banks, Lorde, Bipolar Sunshine, RY X and Tom Odell, you’ll definitely fall in love with Salvat. I mean, his surname is three letters off “salvation.” He tells me about his love for older music, listing the likes of Diana Ross, Bob Dylan and Grace Jones.

“Grace Jones doesn’t look a day over 40. She’s stuck to what she does best, hula hooping naked,” he laughs. “I look at Madonna, doing what she does now and I feel like she should have gone old and fabulous, not young and trashy. She was the first pop music I listened to. She had great songs, she wasn’t an amazing vocalist, but she had a gift that she can sell music.”

“Sia’s first couple of albums taught me a lot too,” he explains. “She was writing pop but was breaking a lot of rules which is something that’s important to me. I want to write pop with integrity and meaning.” [youtube] “I’ve always been a good boy in music and I realise I don’t have to be,” Josef tells me with a hint of social rebellion in his voice. “I think masculinity is a weak concept. It’s so fucking fragile. It doesn’t have to be androgynous, but I want to break down masculinity. In some ways I feel incredibly masculine, in others I feel like I don’t fit in with masculine ideals at all. Through making this album, I’ve discovered myself as an artist.”

Salvat describes the album as a celebration of that but claims that it’s not politically motivated.

“Lyrically its quite mundane. It’s about wanting more and feeling unsatisfied and then the romance shit.” June saw Josef play at Electric Carousel, a new Soho venue born from the ashes of Madame Jojo’s’ death. “I loved Madame Jojo’s,” he mourns. “I was really sad when it got shut down. I had never played in Soho. I lost my opportunity to play at Madame Jojo’s, so I was very lucky to play at the Electric Carousel. It’s so interesting; it’s a beautiful venue. It’s lush.” “I got the gay crowd and the fan crowd. A lot of my audience are gay.”

“I never really associated Madame Jojo’s with sexuality. To me, it was just Soho, it was a beautiful venue. I think the gays in my crowds weren’t there because it was a gay venue, but because they were fans.” Our time together rounds off with talk on his newest music video; Hustler. In the video, Salvat walks around a darkly lit club, making out with both guys and girls. [youtube] “The song is about sexuality.

My experiences of sexuality are very fluid. At times I felt bad about that and I needed to make a decision, but that didn’t work. I was like, I don’t fucking care about this anymore. That’s what Hustler was about, judging yourself one way or another.”

“The original pitch came through having me running around kissing all these girls and I was like, we need to make it representational. It’s a matter of fact. There’s nothing exceptional about that but I think it’s the first time a male artist has kissed a guy in a music video.”

“There’s a lot of gay kisses, but not with the artist. There’s something wrong with that. There also shouldn’t be anything wrong with me then kissing a girl. “My songs are split down the middle.

I’ve had numerous relationships with both genders so my songs are usually pronoun neutral. For artists like Olly from Years & Years and Sam Smith to use male pronouns, is great. It gives texture to their sound.”

Check out our second interview with the musician here, where we chat sexuality, Olly Alexander, #FreeKesha and Sam Smith.

Make sure you check Josef out and buy tickets to his October shows here.

Words – Dean Eastmond