"Believe it or not, before I got involved with Hercules and Love Affair I was really street, really rough, really hood." As it happens, it is quite hard to believe, for Nomi, the 24-year-old transsexual singer fronting the New York hipster disco revivalists' upcoming UK tour, is about as glamorous as they come.
Hercules and Love Affair's self-titled first album rapidly rose from the New York underground to the style press, leaving hyperbolic reviews in its wake. The singer's personal story is just as remarkable. Nomi's childhood – as a little boy – was spent in Brooklyn, growing up with a "distant, macho brother" and without her father. She felt, she says "a bit of an outcast. I was a little black sheep. It was a ghetto kind of a place; so I lived in a protective fantasy world, writing and making music."
As well as her work with the band, Nomi has self-released one album of hip-hop soul, with another in production; and this solo output reflects her troubled youth. "It's all really emotional stuff – songs about growing up with a single mother, my relationship with my father, how I relate to men; the way that women have been brought up to be insecure. My music is almost like feminism."
She has also just finished working with her "hero" and a fittingly feminist icon, Deborah Harry, on whose next single, "Heat of the Moment" she guest raps. "She's a legend!" enthuses Nomi. "So strong. Really empowering to be around."
Nomi's solo work, heavily influenced by her love of Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige, is a world away from the "super-feminine" dance music she makes with Hercules. But all this genre-jumping, she says, is good for the soul. "[Hercules] has let me step away from all that. It's like a different side of me. My next plan is to put together a huge show that features all my different styles. A travelling circus pitching tents in cities all over the world – with elephants." Glamorous ones, of course. n
H ercules and Love Affair's debut album is out on DFA. They are on tour from 23 May-5 June
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