Lynks: Let’s Ride

A gender non-conforming, performance art-embracing pop maverick, Lynks has spent the early part of their career pushing every envelope available. With sexy, saucy and singular debut ‘Abomination’, they’re creating a space like no other.

Lynks talks debut album 'Abomination’ for DIY's In Deep digital cover

“I don’t wanna be in my casket / Wishin’ I’d got more dick,” Lynks spits on ‘Use It Or Lose It’, a hyper-horny highlight from their brilliant debut album ‘Abomination’. When the uncategorisable drag-pop firecracker tells DIY their songwriting style “isn’t very poetic”, it’s neither disingenuous nor self-deprecating. Lynks may conceal their face with a gimp mask, but they don’t prettify their queer desire, shame and rage with unnecessary metaphors. “For me, it just gets in the way of meaning and connection,” they say plainly.

On the same song, Lynks sings about seeking out “hot boys” of “any age, language, size, type or colour – no man’s safe ‘cept my dad and my brother”. And on ‘New Boyfriend’, another stunningly blunt ‘Abomination’ banger, they tell a persistent ex: “I think you need a new boyfriend / So you can fuck your new boyfriend / Not try to fuck me instead”. Set to savagely catchy self-made beats inspired by avant-pop pioneer M.I.A. and electroclash icon Peaches, Lynks’ long-awaited debut is a thrilling, invigorating, life-affirming listen.

In person, Lynks is a softer presence than their deliberately brash music might suggest. Their conversational style – witty, inquisitive, a little bit existential – makes sense when they say they studied psychology at university. "I know we should be talking about the album, not the science of gay self esteem issues," they caveat later on. When we meet at a south London pub that looks bare in its mid-afternoon lull, Lynks (who also uses he and she pronouns) is happy to show their face, though they have no intention of ever going maskless in their art. "I've got rid of all pictures of my face from the internet so no one's gonna find it," they say, before lamenting the fact that their government name is already "out there" thanks to previous interviews. "I'm trying to get rid of that [too]. I wanna be like Banksy.”

So, why no mask today then? "It just feels a bit self-important," they say. "When I do Zoom interviews, I don't put the camera on, but I'm not gonna sit in the Sun of Camberwell with a fucking gimp mask on." Lynks the person may be less spiky than on record, but they're just as funny and plain-speaking. When we ask about their surreal but surprisingly soothing 2020 bop 'How to Make a Béchamel Sauce in 10 Steps (with Pictures)', they reply: “I had a gig in two days and I had the béchamel sauce recipe open on my laptop because I was making a meal. So I just hit play on the beat and read through the whole recipe."

For the record, they don't really see Lynks as a persona or alter ego. "It's more like putting on a green screen suit – you know, the ones with dots on them that let you turn into anything [with CGI]," they say. On stage, Lynks is a frequently topless choreo demon who makes any venue feel like a mosh pit in a gay club. They liken their live set to "a big pop diva show, but kind of thrown in a wood-chipper". And because Lynks draws from avant-garde performance art – before they sing an 'Abomination' song called 'CPR', a dancer pretends to faint so Lynks can bring them back to life – they can be as "manic and mad and gothy and punky" as they want.

"We're so limited by the bodies we're in and [notions of] what someone who looks like you is meant to do," they say. "I hate to say it, but people would cringe at the stuff I do on stage if I wasn't in a Lynks outfit. It would feel so incongruous, like, why is this very sweet-looking boy doing all these crazy sex songs?"

Lynks talks debut album 'Abomination’ for DIY's In Deep digital cover Lynks talks debut album 'Abomination’ for DIY's In Deep digital cover
"We're so limited by the bodies we're in and [notions of] what someone who looks like you is meant to do.”

This pithy couplet from the album's title track is a case in point: "Every time I see the British Heart Foundation / I'm reminded I'm an abomination." Lynks says they wrote it because they felt "so angry" about the UK's discriminatory blood donation restrictions. Until 2021, any man who'd had anal or oral sex with another man in the past three months was barred from giving blood. The rules have since been loosened, but a person of any gender still isn't allowed to donate if they've had anal sex with a new partner in the three last months – a proviso that effectively rules out many gay and bisexual men. "[The authorities] screen all blood for HIV anyway, so it's not about being worried that people might get infected," Lynks says today. "It's about a wider discomfort with the idea of a gay man who's having anal sex giving blood."

The odd political zinger aside, Lynks says their overall aim is less to "change the world" and more to create an "escapist queer space" at their live shows. Beginning on 12th April, the day their album drops, Lynks' upcoming UK tour contains their biggest headline gigs to date, including a huge hometown show at Camden’s KOKO. "That's mind-blowing to me because I remember going there as a teenager," they say. Lynks was born and raised in south London, not far from where they live today, but their artistic identity blossomed at Bristol University in the mid-to-late 2010s. The initial idea was to marry the outrageous alpha camp energy of '80s performance artist Leigh Bowery – whose most infamous bit saw him "give birth" to his wife Nicola live on stage – with "really spicy club music".

Before this creative breakthrough, Lynks was making "more respectable and quote-unquote 'meaningful' sad pop songs". Everything changed when they played some "crazy electronic beats" they'd concocted just for fun to a club promoter friend. "He was like, 'This is so much better than your heartfelt stuff. And it doesn't sound like anything else'." What could have been taken as a backhanded compliment actually gave Lynks the confidence to embrace the punky, poppers-scented club music he should have been making all along. There was a brief overlap period, they explain, of trying to hone both styles simultaneously, but fate put a stop to this when a laptop containing their "old sad music" got stolen. At this point, they threw themselves fully into their new musical identity as the chaotic drag-pop renegade Lynks Afrikka (shortened to Lynks in 2020).

“I'm doing something that's clearly fucking with gender and sexuality at a time when gender is an ammunition pack for the Tories.”

Lynks' outlandish image attracted interest from the very beginning, but they readily admit it's taken time to build a substantial fanbase. They set out their stall with 2020's debut EP 'Smash Hits, Vol.1', which includes their breakthrough banger 'Str8 Acting'. Here, Lynks perfectly captures what it's like to be queer at a straight club; "It's a lot like a pub but with slightly less chairs," they perfectly deadpan. In 2021, Lynks underlined their punk credentials by featuring on a Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes tune, 'Go Get a Tattoo', and released the sequel EP 'Smash Hits, Vol.2'. Their third and most recent EP 'MEN' followed in 2022, yielding their most streamed solo song to date, 'Silly Boy'. A crisp evisceration of toxic masculinity, the lyrics take aim at the "kind of boy to shame a sex-worker making porn, then jack off to it 90 percent of his alone time".

So, why is now the right time to release a full debut album? "I could have made the 'Smash Hits' EPs into an album or something," they say. "But if I'm being furiously practical about it, we're in this crazy attention economy right now where there's no point dropping an album until you've got people actually paying attention. And to be honest, my first three EPs were just about throwing every outrageous song into the world until I got a bit of grounding." Lynks was finally sure they'd levelled up when they headlined London's LGBTQ+ superclub Heaven in 2022. "I'd kind of made peace with the idea that it might be, like, not even half full," they say. "But then I came out and it was packed with people screaming all the words. It was the most overwhelming thing."

Lynks talks debut album 'Abomination’ for DIY's In Deep digital cover Lynks talks debut album 'Abomination’ for DIY's In Deep digital cover
“Are we surprised that gay people dress up as demons and monsters when religion has been so intolerant of us?”

They double down on this idea on the album’s title track, a wonky electro bop with a chorus that sounds like an unhinged hymn. When Lynks brands themself "unholy" and "the only low-key gimp that could make Sean Cody" - a reference to a famous gay porn studio - it's a thrilling riff on the centuries-old tension between religion and queer sexuality. "Are we surprised that gay people dress up as demons and monsters and do satanic [kinky] stuff when religion has been so intolerant of us? It makes you want to be un-sacred," Lynks says.

Other songs also explore the "complicated" intersection between queer shame and sexuality, but with a generous helping of humour. On 'What Did You Expect (Sex with a Stranger)', a brash banger about their ambivalent relationship with Grindr hook-ups, Lynks wonders whether a stranger on the DLR can tell they're on their "way to fuck a stranger". "I was like, 'What's the least sexy way to get to a hook-up? Obviously the DLR,'" they say with a laugh. "And if I'm talking about something really dark [in a song], I always want to include a joke."

Fittingly, the album ends with its most reflective moment, 'Flash in the Plan', on which Lynks wonders whether their designated 15 minutes of fame is up. Today, they say they were being a bit premature when they fleshed out this Soft Cell-esque electro bop during the 2020 lockdown. "I hadn't had 15 minutes at that point – I'd had fucking nothing," they chuckle. "You know, my ultimate goal was always to be able to do this as a [full-time] job and I'm doing that now, so I think I need a new goal. But I know most artists have a short shelf life and I'm at peace with that." Really? "Well, no, obviously I want to carry on because I love doing this. And come on, think how many more crazy places I can push Lynks into."

‘Abomination’ is out 12th April via Heavenly.

Tags: Lynks, Features, Interviews, In Deep