Arts & Culture

OF METHODIST: “The fantasy falls apart when you know me as a person”.

Way more than just a musical artiste.
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B-SIDE celebrates Pride and the lead up to PinkDot Singapore 2019 in June! This month, we’re dropping a special 3-part series, profiling some Singaporean queer creatives who are making waves in the community. This is Part 2 of 3 – stay tuned!

Read PART 1 – SWING MAG here.

OF METHODIST’s music has a way of sneaking up on you – smooth vocals, dripping with melancholy ebb and flow across the album; sensual R&B beats recall balmy nights bathed in the neon glow of the city. There is a feeling that his music could belong anywhere, and yet the specificity of his tracks (like the wistful ‘Bayfront Stn’ and heavily symbolic ‘SAR 21’) locate the work firmly on our shores.

We’re in love and it seems we’re not the only ones. Clocking an impressive 600k streams across 63 countries just in 2018 alone on Spotify, the singer-songwriter-producer-artist-everythinginbetween shows no signs of slowing down.

His debut album, Soldier Without A Rifle, dropped barely a month ago on streaming platforms via Umami Records, while the 21 year old takes it all in from Chicago, where he is currently pursuing a degree in Architecture.

Audiences have never been as primed for queer artists as they are now. Known as much for his visually provocative explorations of self vis-à-vis his music, the young creative recently got honest about his sexuality, national service and insecurities in a video to his followers on Instagram.

B-SIDE catches up with Chuck, the mastermind behind the persona, on alter-egos, self care routines and representing queer bodies.

Kenneth: 30 second elevator pitch. How would you introduce Of Methodist to someone who has never heard of you? Go.

Chuck: Hi, I’m Chuck and I’m a singer/producer. You can find my music on Spotify and iTunes. Then I would probably leave to them to discover the themes I write about on their own. I like to deal with that conversation over text instead of face to face.

Kenneth: To what extent is Of Methodist a persona?

Chuck: A huge chunk of it. If I carried Of Methodist out onto the streets I think I would get some pretty weird looks. The image of this persona has always been very imposing with leather and the gaze. There’s definitely something charismatic about that Of Methodist that I wish I could be, I think he’s pretty cool.

Kenneth: And what about Chuck?

Chuck: Okay well, I'm very light hearted as a person and I think I'm enjoyable to be around. I'm not overtly political but I'm not afraid to speak my mind. I'm definitely a lot more haphazard in the way I dress.

Kenneth: How important then is it to keep the persona separate from the person? Does it even matter?

Chuck: So important, especially for this album. A lot of the fantasy falls apart when you know me as a person. It’s like getting to know the character versus getting to know the actor who portrays them.

I think its hard for other people to separate me from Of Methodist and it bothers me.

As much as the album comes from deep within me, the relentlessness and intensity that I have created isn’t something I participate in every day. It is meant to be a catharsis.

Kenneth: Hmm, where does that relentlessness and intensity stem from?

Chuck: I really think this relentlessness comes from the fact that I consciously try to withhold information for both personal and political reasons. It becomes very evident after you hear more than a couple songs I write and the tension from that gives my music that intensity. The Of Methodist before the album was a lot more sexual and aggressive in terms of imagery and lyrics but I think after the album Of Methodist will be a lot less rebellious and return to the core concepts of the project of religion and mortality.

Kenneth: Your visuals might come across as highly sexual to some. Is that your way of exploring your sexuality, or an attempt to normalise queer bodies?

Chuck: I love that it gets interpreted in that way especially when I am usually pretty clothed! It’s both a way to explore sexuality and to normalise queer bodies because we still have a way to go. Especially if the visuals that I create are still making people uncomfortable. There is something very private and taboo about the fashion, colour and appearance of the images.

I wouldn't blame the viewer.

Kenneth: And what have you learnt about sexuality and queer bodies through making the images that you make?

Chuck: That our bodies can communicate a lot of power. Even in vulnerable positions there is a way to visually present them as empowering and defiant.

Kenneth: With visibility comes inevitable expectations. How much pressure is there to be a 'role-model' to your queer audience?

Chuck: I don’t think there is much pressure actually. I have listeners who I look up to greatly and are doing really impactful things for us as queer people. They are the true heroes.

I love Alextbh and I feel like he is such an empowering force in LGBT music in Southeast Asia. I also love Alex and Effee here in Chicago, the images they take are very beautiful and progressive.

If there is anything I’d like to show my audience is that I might be a musical artist but I can do so much more professionally than just that.

I also do graphic design, worked with film and am currently studying to work in architecture. I just want people to know that artists of this generation have more than just music going for them.

Kenneth: There’s a growing conversation on self-care and mental health for artists, because the work can often be emotionally demanding. How do you keep things in check

Chuck: Lucky you, I happen to love finding ways to bash my stress into a pulp.

To begin with, don’t take yourself too seriously. If it's art you are making, have fun.

One thing that has really worked for me is creating a physical zen space for myself with objects I find zen. A good starter pack is a fragrance oil diffuser, statues that remind you of serenity, fake plants if you can’t keep anything alive and a bed full of pillows.

Make a place to unwind in, it will help you a lot. Also, develop a skincare routine! When you’re at it you just forget everything else and spend those 5-10 minutes really caring for yourself. I always look forward to going to bed because of this.

Quickfire Round:

Three words to describe the album: Sensual, Clingy, Understanding

Early musical icons: When I was starting out, FKA Twigs and Arca and Purity Ring but my taste has definitely evolved.

Current muse: Changes every second

Leather or Latex: Why not both?

80s or 90s: 80s

One thing that gets you out of bed in the morning: Natural Sunlight

Photography credit: Chris Sim // IG: @Zalindrome

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