New York-based and Irish-born, performance artist NEOCAMP towers at 6’4″ and radically creates post-queer, post-Internet music that he’s properly labeled, “Celtic-fag-witch-hop.” Ahead of two forthcoming mini-albums, the musician just dropped a bold taste of what’s to come; “Vocalex,” mastered by Jeremiah Meece (Mykki Blanco, RAHEL, Alex Chapman), sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a Willy Wonka remake if it were directed by Ryan Trecartin and starring Leigh Bowery—completely batshit, but given a club-ready dance finish. Listen, below, and read NEOCAMP’s thoughts on Riverdance, art school and pop music.
How has your Irish upbringing informed your work?
“Growing up in Ireland in the ’90s and ’2000s, we were so heavily influenced by the cultural imperialism of American and British culture and music. I grew up at the time when Ireland went from the poorest country in Western Europe to a prosperous middle class nation. We suddenly all had fancy computers and big TVs and silly extravagances. Now, globalization wasn’t just on TV, it was all around us, and strangely for my generation, it just seemed like this is what happens when you grow up.
Riverdance happened in the ’90s, and my generation was so embarrassed by it. People make fun of Riverdance, but it was truly a representation of a nation with a newfound confidence, marketing itself to the world. I feel like my work is still carrying that torch with a wink. I feel like my work is globalized and post-Internet, but I’m interested in these global notions of Celtic tropes, and how authentic or inauthentic they are is very much subjective.”
Is NEOCAMP a response to anything?
“I don’t think of NEOCAMP as a response to any one specific experience. Visually, I’ve always thought of my queer presentation as a middle finger. I happened to grow up in a very homophobic town. In art school, I was encouraged to be ‘flamboyant’ and I realized that being a gay artist means people perceive your work as ‘gay art’ as opposed to just ‘art,’ but I’m really fucking queer and into dressing playfully, so now it’s kind of a middle finger to heteronormative media. I’ve been told a bunch of times that I should play it more low key ‘to develop a broader audience,’ so its not a past issue, its a present issue.”
Where do you see this project landing within the pop umbrella?
“I identify with the power of pop music as music for the people. Björk once described pop music as ‘modern day folk songs’ and I definitely ascribe to that way of thinking. Like fashion, I think pop music is a fascinating barometer of general culture and like film, a seductive medium to posit complex ideas in a digestible way. For me, pop doesn’t have to mean ‘popular,’ but can exist as a particular viewpoint or vision; I think NEOCAMP is a slightly alternative model of pop. At this point, I feel like NEOCAMP is a queer childhood fantasy figure. It started out as this very academic project talking about contemporary media, but i think I’m too emotional to ever be truly academic in my work. Pop is immediate.”
Describe your sound.
“Post-global alt pop-hop with a nod to Celtic mysticism.”
Talk about the track, “Vocalex.”
“For ‘Vocalex,’ I was working on two separate tracks: one straight-up dance song and another acapella Gaelic experiment. ‘Vocalex’ became a kind of remix of the acapella stuff, which excited me. After performing in clubs for a year, I was definitely inspired to make a banger I could really wrap my legs around, but I like to instill a vaguely transcendent aspect to everything I do. So I was going for the ‘Celtic goddess at the club and she’s cunt’ [sound]. The lyrics are basically about ‘the power of now’ being really difficult.”
How important is the visual component to NEOCAMP?
“It’s all as important as each other for me. I don’t see the difference in terms of what I do. Music, fashion, video, performance, ‘identity’ are all malleable mediums available to manipulate and amplify each other as a total experience. I want to create a total persona, experience and escape.”
What can we expect from your forthcoming larger releases?
“It’s a little bit of a mixed bag. I started off with really specific limitations for myself on a bunch of songs, threw them all out, started again from scratch, then went back and reworked everything. The themes of the songs are ‘authenticity, duality and isolation.’ I’ve now separated the tracks into two EPs or mini-albums and they’re two sides of the same coin. The first collection is going up in the next few weeks and the second a little after. There’s some weirdo pop, house, failed hip-hop, faux-mysticism, loungey-witch vibes and some weird interludes. So business as usual, I guess.”