If there’s anyone that it can be said had a hand in shining a revealing light on The Lizard Lounge in Bristol, and the drinking habits and sexual desires of its attendees – it’s Lynks Afrikka.
When everyone’s favourite musical drag act right now burst onto the scene with the bold and provoking single ‘Str8 Acting’ – an empowering and definitive statement on society’s perception of queer culture – it had a reeling impact. The bursting and uncompromising production, completely obtrusive delivery and Lynks own bold and inventive appearance made an immediate impact in circles in the know and identified Lynks Afrikka as an enticing, and perhaps most importantly, inviting prospect. One that wasn’t afraid to say what they felt, but also be absolutely hilarious while doing it.
Lynks Afrikka in reality is the work of producer and performer Elliot Brett – a previously Bristol now London native who eviscerated the Bristol experimental live scene before deciding to see how the capital would hold up with his increasingly more colourful and animated project.
Behind the mask, Brett is warm, humble and incredibly sociable – an embracive person who we can also all thank for letting his imagination run as wild as it possibly can. As Lynks grows in stature, the fruitful ideas become grander – glammed up nativities, religious sermons worshipping the might of the character itself and many other ideas that haven’t come to light yet that are increasingly crazier than the last.
Through all the endless fun Lynks and the Shower Gels have, there is an open desire to be honest, empathetic and to empower – whether in queer culture, society as a whole or simply to the uninitiated that have suddenly shown up at one of their shows without any idea of what to expect.
Thats what makes Lynks Afrikka such an exciting prospect – Brett is a voice of understanding as he himself tries to work out what the hell our futures are in for, and in the mean time, intends on having a fuck ton of fun while doing it.
Q: So the move to London really seems to of paid dividends for you? It seems it’s allowed the project to grow even further with the reception you’ve been getting really warranting that?
E: Yeah it has! I think with Bristol, once you are signed there you can you can make waves and get bigger, because you can get on tours and stuff and play in other cities.
But as an unsigned artist in Bristol all I really was able to do was play as many gigs as I could, and there are only so many small to medium size venues in Bristol – and there’s only so many promoters – so until you get signed you can only really play gigs at Crofters Rights, Love Inn, all these places, and just hope for the best.
Whereas with London, where the small artist music scene is so much bigger, there’s a lot more capacity to make waves without having a label or a manger or a tour you can go on. Not That I wouldn’t love all those things! I’m finding also that everyone here is so fucking on it. In Bristol you’d be doing well if you did a gig every month, but in London, groups like PVA do four gigs a week.
But it’s good, because there’s so many more venues and so many more nights, you can really hit the ground running so much more. Also, there is a queer scene in Bristol, but in London it’s a lot more centralised and localised so it’s a lot more easier to hit.
Q: Do you find it to be as accommodating?
E: I’ve been really lucky, because I’m originally from there, I just happened to have a few friends who already did music and knew people, which meant I had quite an easy in? Also I’ve got quite a smiley face and I’m quite an approachable person so I think I’ve had quite an easy time working my way in.
Also because my act is so ridiculous and silly I think it does break down the awkwardness of first meeting someone, because once you’ve seen someone flailing around in a mop outfit onstage you can’t really be particularly awkward – it would be weird. It gives you something to talk about quite easy.
So I’ve had quite an easy time moving but on the other hand it is oppressively cool, and I think all the cool people are all really nice, but I do think that I’m not a particularly fashionable or trendy person at all. You can be in London and everyone looks amazing, it’s crazy.
You know what it is actually, in London the music scene is basically the same as the Art scene, well at least that’s what I’ve found – most of the gigs i’ve been to the people i’ve met have been to a London art school or are still there – whether that’s a degree or foundation or whatever.
Q: It’s interesting that it intertwines?
E: Yes, it kind of is and isn’t, Goldsmiths for example has a massive music course – most people in that want to be musicians so they’ll all meet each other and start bands and obviously they are all fucking amazing because they are all musicians.
I think my main thing is I thought the London music scene was going to be very unfriendly, and I prepared for it to be. Then I got here and it wasn’t the case at all, everyone was really really nice while being very cool.
Q: Which is almost a blessing in a sense?
E: Oh for sure, absolutely, I thought I was a medium fish in a medium pond in Bristol but I thought I’d come to London and go small fish in a massive fucking lake, river, ocean, and I wouldn’t be able to get any gigs and everyone would be like “what the fuck is this act?” but everyone has been so much more accepting and encouraging than I could have ever anticipated.
Q: On that note as well, obviously the project, on the face of it, is a mask to express your creativity through, but it’s still personal to you and I imagine that is quite exposing? Would you say you are becoming more conscious of that as the audiences grow?
E: Not really, I used to do music just as myself. I was doing gigs where the audience was entirely my friends, classic uni gigs. After those, I’d feel so much more exposed. Mainly it was because the material was classic sad boy stuff about being heartbroken or sad, and I think that is a lot more exposing cause that is you, and you’d hope that if you are writing what I’d call confessional music – which I’d say most music probably is to a degree – that’s exposing, because you are laying your soul on the table.
Whereas what I’m doing now, most of the songs weirdly do come from a personal place, for example something like “sexy from behind”, it’s a stupid song that doesn’t mean anything but it does come from a place where one day I was feeling insecure about the way my face and the front-half on my body looked. But when you take that and twist it into a song like that which is just ridiculous, call and response cheerleading, it means firstly I know that no one in the audience is reading into it like that, and secondly if, a few days later, I have those same thoughts, I think about singing that song in front of people and that thought seems just as ridiculous as the song does.
Q: So would you say the music allows you to gain this understanding and almost lets you re-evaluate those insecure feelings that you have?
E: Kind of, I don’t think it’s anything as deep as that to be honest. I think it’s more that in the past, if I wanted to write a song about not liking the way my face and the front-half of body looked, I would’ve written a song like “I’m so sad, I hate my face, I’ve been looking in the mirror for eighty days”. Then you just come off the stage and know that everyone in the audience were thinking “oh god, he doesn’t like the way his face looks, that’s so sad for him, let me go and tell him I liked his song”.
Whereas now I do this, everyone’s dancing and enjoying themselves, we come off and everyone’s like “dude that was so good I had so much fun” and that’s great because its had the same catharsis for me, but in a way that’s completely non-exposing and keeps all my thoughts completely private. It’s great that I’m telling you this now because it’s now the exact opposite.
I think what I’ve found is I’m finding new ways to talk personally, that aren’t quite as exposing, and that’s the whole Lynks Afrikka thing. I love performing, but I remember when I used to come off the stage as me I’d feel very exposed – I’m a very sociable person but hilariously don’t really like being the centre of attention in a conversation. I like being there but have all eyes on me when I’m not performing. So I remember that feeling when you’d come off stage and it was lovely that everyone was coming up to you and everyone would say “that was so good” but I would be so overwhelmed and not sure of what to say that I’d feel pretty uncomfortable and weird.
But now, for example with last nights set, I came off stage and I can choose whether I want to hang around and heap up praise and keep the costume on. But last night I wanted to enjoy the rest of the night and I was feeling a little hungover and not up for a lot of chat with strangers, so I got upstairs took my costume and make-up off, and then suddenly I wasn’t getting served at the bar and it was just like before.
So it’s nice to have that option of anonymity, and everyone still enjoys themselves as much and I get to see that cause I’m on stage, but I don’t have to do the awkward rounds of “thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it”, which is sometimes really nice but also a nice thing to not always have to do. I just don’t like being the centre of attention when I’m not in my costume pretty much.
Q: It does allow you the opportunity to remove yourself from it all?
E: And I’m a fucking control freak, so I love that.
Q: Lynks for me, first and foremost, is a wonderful amalgamation of music, performance and theatricality. Do you feel you can express yourself in different ways through these different forms, or is it quite seamless and interlinked?
E: I don’t think it’s separate, I think it’s one thing. I think for me it all comes together. I love producing, and that’s something completely fun, I’ve done that since I got my first laptop. I love making dance beats and stuff. I don’t really see it as separate, I make the beats, and then the idea of the song comes separately, I’ll normally write the entire song before I have the beat. Then I’ll have a bunch of loops that’ll all be about eight bars in Logic, then I’ll take the song and work out which beat will go over it best.
So I guess the songwriting is seperate from the producing, but when it all comes together on-stage it’s all one thing. I don’t really over intellectualise the writing of it. It’s a bit of fun isn’t it, ideas for songs come everywhere and it’s the stupidest shit. I was with my friend Archie and we were chatting about potential band names, and he said “B.L.L.T” and that the first album should be called “Heavy On The Lettuce” and straight I away I asked him if I could use it (laughs). Then literally on the walk home I wrote the entire song and sent him a screenshot of all the sandwich lyrics. So he gets a co-writer credit on that one when it finally comes out.
But no, I don’t really sit down and try and create stuff, it all comes very organically and then I stitch it together afterwards. With the performance, although we have choreography, it’s all pretty chaotic and organic on-stage. With me and the Lynks Shower Gels (Ella, Laura, Phoebe, other Ella and Kate), in our rehearsals we come up with little bits of choreography, we just come round to my house and dance around to the music, so when it comes to being on-stage it’s sort of a free for all.
Q: It shows the true personality of it doesn’t it?
E: I think that’s part of what people enjoy about it, is that it’s purely fun.
Q: And I guess in some ways it’s endearing, it’s people finding fun in the ecstasy of music?
E: I like the idea that there is something almost naïve about it, like when you and your friends would put on a play for your parents on a playdate or something. I feel like there is an element of that where it’s really scrappy, you can see all the themes and it’s rough around the edges and that’s what makes it relatable and likable and that’ll bring the audience into it.
Q: It makes it quite interactive doesn’t it?
E: I hope so, that’s part of the reason why I dress up so crazy. Gigs can be a very oppressively cool environment and sometimes when I’m in an audience I can be quite self-conscious, thinking “should I be dancing to this?”, should I be nodding, smiling, clapping, what’s the ok thing to do? But I think as soon as we are there looking as ridiculous as we do, there’s no way anyone in the audience can feel feasibly uncool because there is something so absurd in front of them. So hopefully no one is thinking about themselves, or feeling anxious or in their own head, cause hopefully no one is looking at you in the audience when I’m up there in my mops.
Q: Its liberating in its freedom?
E: Yeah! Hopefully a bit cathartic too, my main goal for my gigs always, whenever I have a decision to make about the act, I always look at the two options and think which one is going to be the most fun for the audience, it makes all the decision making so easy. That’s the whole goal of it, I want to create the most purely fun, escapist space I can, and hopefully as things progress, fingers crossed, and we get any money behind us, we can start being more creative in what we do. In December we did a nativity, and we can do big concept nights where the whole night is themed. More props, more special effects, a foam party, an ice rink party. I just want to do some crazy stuff with it. There’s so much shit that can be done that I can’t do yet, but I want to see how far we can push the ridiculousness of it.
Q: And at the forefront of that is the music, but it explores so much more than that, its not in anyway linear, it’s fun and extravagant.
E: I grew up obsessed with Flight of the Conchords. I watched every single episode as a kid over ten times, I know every word to every album of theirs, and when I was that age, I never really thought of them as a comedy act. I wasn’t really into music when I was little at all, and to me they were the best because it was music but it’s also really funny. Then as I grew up I realised people don’t even see that as music they see it as a “comedy album”, and I felt the songs were really good so why does that make sense? Where’s the separation?
Then you look at more musicians, like Courtney Barnett, where there are moments of her album that makes me laugh out loud. That’s kind of the way I’m looking at it, I don’t want to call it a comedy act but I am trying to see how far I can push putting comedy into a music space before people stop calling it music.
Q: If we take a look at the singles, ‘On Trend’, is an intense and anxious statement. To me it’s message is clear, that we do need to stop burying our heads into this escapist culture that’s such a focus. As important as self-care is of course, it’s difficult to find a balance though isn’t it?
E: I make it very clear that I’m as culpable as everyone else in that song. I’m actually not anti making yourself happy in all those ways, that’s not the point of it.
I wanted to try and capture the weird time we live in, it’s the interlink of personal responsibility when personal action can have zero effect. But we are stressing personal responsibility so much that it creates this paradox where, we all feel we need to do something but it’s completely pointless, basically. We all want to go on marches, but do they actually do anything? Who knows. Are we all just heading for complete annihilation horribly?
Q: While there are these things that we do, you see all the massive corporations and businesses that do nothing to change and don’t intend on doing so?
E: Or they do something that’s “on trend”, like putting in paper straws. That’s great, cool, but at the end of the day you are still one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuel in the industries, and that’s the real issue, that’s the thing that’ll actually kill us. So why are we putting all of our time and effort into the plastic stuff, which is obviously horrible, but it’s not going to kill us.
I wanted to capture that and just think about the ways we distract ourselves and collectively forget about it. Also it’s all interlinked, humans are such sociable creatures that we’ve almost created a social culture surrounding sustainability and surrounding those little personal things you can do.
It’s lovely, cause it reassures us, everyone going around with their chilli’s water bottles, and the brilliant vegan fast food things that are exploding. It’s those little things where there is a culture coming out of it where people feel like they can relate with each other with it, and that’s collectively soothing everyone’s existential anxiety, which is nice but also ultimately kind of pointless.
It’s really depressing, when it comes to climate change I’m a pretty fucking pessimistic person to be honest, but it’s like what I was saying before, that’s my way of getting it out and I feel a lot better about it to be honest.
Q: From that I’ve found you addressing your own perceptions and approaches within this culture and questioning your own hypocrisy in the matter to be quite bold but empowering it’s in honesty. I don’t feel like there is a lot of that currently?
E: Everyone’s lying if they pretend they don’t have all of those secret shameful things that they do. I’m “pescatarian” at the moment but I definitely break it every week, probably more. I try and not buy plastic but then I’m drunk at night and I go into a corner shop and buy some crisps, cause i’m hungry and I want some crisps and I think “whatever fuck it”.
I think almost all of us have that exact instinct, and people seem to find it relatable. I don’t think it’s anything revolutionary, I think we all know that’s how it is, but saying it somehow and putting it in a song feels a bit more out there. I hope it’s a relatable thing. Everyone’s still getting planes, and they are the worst.
It comes back to what we were saying before, it’s not our responsibility, it shouldn’t be. We can make our points heard, we can do everything we can, but why are we going to collectively ruin the well-being and happiness of our entire generation because of decisions that are out of our hands.
It shouldn’t be our responsibility to fix this so let’s not all become sad, anxious and desperate because of stuff that ultimately isn’t our fault. The ones that are at fault probably don’t feel any of that, so it’s kinda fucked up. They aren’t going to bed thinking “Greta Thunburg, I feel you babe”.
Q: ‘Str8 Acting’ is a really animated and provoking introduction to Lynks Afrikka, it captured something modern and pertinent?
E: It was everything that I wanted Lynks Afrikka to be. It was unapologetically queer, it was funny, had a big message at the heart of it about the hypocrisy of some aspects of gay culture and it was also a really fucking fun party anthem at the core of it. You can either it as this really fun party song or you can go a level deeper and hear all the stuff about the way that society views gay culture and how gay culture views itself.
Q: And it feels important that you are exploring these deeper themes through quite immediate and infectious music?
E: I hope so, pop music I think is one of the best places to explore it because if you are making music with a message, surely the aim is to get it to reach as many people as possible? As if with anything with a message. So what better way to do that then with something that is really really accessible and hopefully really catchy, cause after you’ve finished listening to that song and you’ve got the chorus stuck in your head, you might then be thinking about for the rest of the day rather than three and a half minutes.
Q: You’ll want to know more and explore that? I feel like with pop music, a lot of it can be derivative and a lot of it can be foundational, it is what it says on the tin, it’s there to get into people’s minds. But then it is such an easy form of music to explore something different within?
E: It’s the power of pop baby. I’m a firm believer that you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar you know. There’s a lot of incredible, brilliant angry punk music that has a lot of political lyrics, which is great, but only if you think that already.
If you don’t already agree with it and someone is shouting that message at you in a combative way, that’s not going to change people’s minds. They are going to think “why is this person shouting at me with this opinion that I don’t agree with”. So it’s brilliant and galvanising for people that agree with you.
I’m not really trying to change anything so this is ridiculous but I think maybe pop music has the capacity to get into someone’s head and make them feel happy before you whack them with a message, so they might be more receptive to it.
It’s the same thing with comedy, there was an interview with Phoebe Waller-Bridge when she was talking about Fleabag, where she said comedy is the best vehicle for a message and social change because when you laugh with someone it opens you up to be vulnerable. That was what was so amazing about her show, she used that comedy to get everyone completely emotionally vulnerable then she’d smack them with the most heartbreaking, poignant shit about mental health and being female. I think that’s why it hit people so hard that show, why they got into it so hard.
That being said, I think I’m really overselling how much of a message my music has, it’s just that the last two songs that i’ve put out do. But i’m not going to sit here and pretend that “How To Make A Bechamel Sauce” is a big critique of the dairy industry (laughs). I’m a big believer in the power of comedy and pop music.
Q: Again looking at the music itself, you’ve stated previously how the music itself isn’t purposefully rough around the edges and minimal, but it was almost out of necessity?
E: (Laughs) That’s a great quote from me isn’t it, I definitely should’ve made it out like it was purposeful shouldn’t I?
I’m completely self-taught with music, I got a laptop when I was sixteen for my birthday, and I literally just fiddled around with it. You can go on my old soundcloud, and there are these old house remixes that are still my most viewed tracks by a long way, it’s hilarious. What I did was, I started copying Disclosure, I loved them because everyone else my age did. So I just started copying their music and trying to make stuff as close to that, and through that I learnt about EQs and filtering and all that shit. Gradually after I got bored of making shit house music, I started making my own singer-songwriter stuff and then it brought me here.
But I think the interesting thing is now, the few times when I’ve been with a few of my producer friends, they’ll look at what I do, my ways of making stuff and they’ll go “what the fuck are you doing that’s such a terrible idea”, then I’ll do it and they’ll think “oh that does sound kind of cool”.
Basically I’ve got all these little tricks and things that are done through trial and error, that only me or an equally insane person can do, which hopefully gives it a unique sound. I used a lot of distortion and bitcrushers and that’s why it sounds quite crunchy and booming – which I think is quite a big no no in music, I don’t think you are meant to just distort your bass sounds and hi-hats, things like that that you aren’t meant to do but have become my thing.
Q: That’s the thing, it doesn’t sound shit, it sounds great?
E: It’s a little rough around the edges. But I do like the way it sounds. It almost sounds like i’m parodying club culture, but it’s because I’m trying to copy it. I’m proud to say it, I definitely rip off of other people, everyone does.
Q: The live show is ridiculously exciting, it’s welcoming and it’s pretty ecstatic. Like we’ve said, it’s a good time. How do you think the songs translate live?
E: I think I get a lot more rowdy and it’s get more shouty, and my vocals become a lot more nice, it’s like a classic drag thing of referencing the lyrics as your saying them. As an example, in ‘B.L.L.T’ where I say “I am a croque monsieur, I beat you all to death, love my music”. I can’t speak French, which is ridiculous, I had to use Google Translate for that. I was just trying to find lines that fit that sounded kind of braggy? But then in the live show, I say after that “that was french bitch!” and everyone laughs, but that would never be in a recorded version. There’s an element of commentary to the song.
Q: It gives the songs their own idiosyncrasies?
E: and a bit more of a cabaret, light hearted flare to it all. There’s a bit of a self-awareness of the song I’m singing live I guess. Rather than just performing the song I’m trying to explain it as I sing it, which screams security of the quality of the music.
Also, I think something that is quite unique to me, I perform my music at gigs but then I also perform it at drag shows. At drag shows, you don’t do a 45-minute set, you do a song. Then you might do another half an hour later when everyone’s had a few more drinks. There, at a drag show, you’ve got an audience that’s sitting down, aren’t looking to dance, aren’t really looking at it as a musical thing. It’s more of a performance about dance, comedy and lyrics.
So when I do it there, it’s much more of a thing about making sure every single word is understood and every single joke lands, and then also I have to choreograph what I’m doing onstage, so I have to come up with a gag – and a gag in the drag world is something you do like a surprise on stage to get a reaction. So that’ll be something like taking off an item of clothing and revealing you’ve got a whole other outfit on underneath, or pulling some confetti out of your pocket or whatever.
So I’ve had to learn a lot about how to read an audience, and even in gig shows, with a friendly crowd, where everyone is very friendly and it’s in a club setting so everyone is jumping around and dancing, when I’m there I know I can climb the speakers, yell into peoples faces, jump in the crowd, I could probably crowdsurf if I wanted to but don’t want to break my outfits.
Compare that to gigs that i’ve had where I’ve supported quite a big artist, and no one in the audience knows me, and they are just waiting for an act to come on. There is no prerequisite that they are there to dance or to see you. When I’m in that stage, I need to make sure i’m poised and be a welcoming act that gets them on side, maybe chat with them a bit and be a lot less like “I’m a fucking party animal”. So that’s something I’ve learnt about live, you can tailor it to a crowd, whereas when you have a recorded piece of music it’s the same every single time.
Q: What would you like people to take from Lynks Afrikka?
E: Hopefully escapism and happiness, apart from that there isn’t a huge amount. I know when I go see a queer artist and they are very good I leave with a sense of pride in my community in seeing the power of queer imagination and that is so empowering because we do stuff that the whole straight world don’t even think about. So for queer people to come and see it I hope they get a sense of, at the very least enjoyment, but feeling empowered and represented.
For most people, I want you to lose yourself, get sweaty, have some catharsis and also make a good memory. There’s a lot of gigs i’ve been to where I’ve loved it at the time but then ask me about it now and I wouldn’t remember it and memories are a great thing cause it’s half the point of doing it isn’t it so we can reminisce. I hope my gigs are quite memorable when in twenty years people look back on the crazy shit they got up to when they were younger they can remember the time they were in that little grotty basement and there was that drag queen doing an oat milk baptism over techno.
Without getting too serious about it, we are in a mental crisis and I think we have a habit as a society of glorifying sadness and gloominess in what we see as cool, so at the heart I want to bring back a bit of fun to club and gig culture.
Words : Ross Jones Photography: Amia Watling