Shamir: The Non-Binary Superstar Who’s Back to Save Alt-Rock

Shamir, the 25-year-old Las Vegas native rockstar/songwriter/self-manager, first hit the public eye with their single, “On The Regular,” from their 2015 album Ratchet. Since then, Shamir has released three more albums, with sounds that range from alt-rock to grunge, to electric dance-pop. 

Shamir’s song “Running,” channels the musical sound of late 90s/early 2000s alt-rock and their latest single, “Other Side,” is full of rocking country spirit. Shamir’s Black queer perspective is seriously underrepresented in alternative music, and their visual aesthetics are a beacon for Black people who reject the idea that there is any one way to be Black. 

Their latest release showcases a sound that is personal and energetic. Shamir is a courageous spirit, who is not afraid to carve their own trail and live their life the way that they want to. Having already released one album this year and now in the midst of recording another, Shamir is a powerhouse musician by any standard. 

By way of email, we got a chance to talk about artistic independence, mental health and healing.

Hi Shamir, and thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions

No problem! Thank you for having me!

I wanted to take a moment to ask you what your pronouns are. How do you identify?

He/Her/They and I Identify as non binary.

I read that your hair has become important to you, and in your latest videos, you’ve got long beautiful braids. How has your identity shaped your aesthetics and artistry, especially in regards to the hairstyles you choose?

I think I really like to have a balance of masculine and feminine energies with my aesthetics. Like, even though I like to wear a full face of makeup, I also like to keep my facial hair. As far as my hair, I just found braids are just the best protective hairstyle that is also very versatile, it’s really as simple as that as far as my braids.

Self portrait taken by Shamir for Subvrt.

Has your exploration into music impacted the way you see yourself at all? Have you learned anything new about yourself over the course of writing this album?

I think I learn something new about myself with each release. I think each record I have is a snapshot of where I am on my road to personal growth. I think I learned a lot with my self titled because it achieved how I always wanted to sound sonically and that has given me a lot of confidence as an artist.

You once parted with a label because you wanted to pursue your own artistic freedom. What moments have made you feel most triumphant about having this degree of control over your career?

I think just the overall confidence that I’m paving a truly unique career path that most people haven’t seen. I think it’s important to show you can still be successful despite not following industry standards.

I see that you’ve mentioned staying busy under quarantine. How do you balance managing your own record label while releasing music independently? What’s your time management strategy been since you started managing yourself?

It’s been a lot and I get flustered all the time, but I make sure to put my mental health first, if I truly don’t feel like doing something, I’ll give my time the space to get to a place where I mentally can deal.

What’s your recording process like? Do you have any essential habits during recording? 

I literally just record at my kitchen table. I don’t have many habits, but before quarantine I’d usually record late at night after a night out when I’m a little buzzed.

You’ve mentioned that your latest single Running is about leaving behind toxic friendships. Was it hard for you to come to that decision to leave? 

No, it wasn’t because they all eventually faded away once they felt like I couldn’t be useful to them (typical toxic behavior), so that really cut my job in half. Really the hardest part was coping with the pain of that, but it also made me appreciate my friends that were always there even more!

Non binary artist.

You’ve been very open about your journey with managing your mental health. How were you impacted and do you heal from something like that? 

Well I’m bipolar, it’s kind of something I’ll always have, but I just continue to learn ways to manage and cope. It’s really all you can do.

How have your intentions in song making changed from Ratchet to now? What do you want people to get out of listening to one of your records? 

Well I’m way more hands on in the production of my records now. I don’t think there’s a specific feeling I want people to feel, I just want people to feel SOMETHING when they hear me.

Are there any specific influences that you’re channeling on this upcoming album?

I’m channeling a lot of 90s and early 2000’s alt-rock, which has some of my favorite stuff.

What are you looking forward to the most in the post-pandemic world? 

TOURING. I haven’t toured in two years.

Are there any artists now that you’d consider touring with once the world opens back up? 

I’m not sure, I haven’t really thought about it much. I think there are so many artists I could possibly play with!

Do you have any goals for the end of the year? 

To be in the mountains somewhere.

Check out the video for Running below:

Stay tuned with Shamir’s adventures on Instagram

Interview by Ricky Barajas

Photos by Shamir

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Ricky Barajas

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