The xx's Oliver Sim Announces Debut Solo Album, Opens Up about HIV Status

Sunday May 29, 2022
Originally published on May 23, 2022

Oliver Sim in the music video for "Fruit."
Oliver Sim in the music video for "Fruit."   (Source:YouTube still)

Out musician Oliver Sim, the bassist and vocalist for the band the xx, announced Monday that his debut solo album "Hideous Bastard" will be released on Sept. 9. Along with the announcement came a new single — the title track — which you can check out below.

Sims, 32, also released a statement about making the record, revealing he has been HIV positive since he was a teenager:

Early on in the making of my record, "Hideous Bastard," I realised that I was writing a lot about fear and shame.

I imagine that might paint a picture of a dark, "woe is me" sounding album, but in recent years I've become a firm believer that the best antidote to these feelings can be bringing them to the surface and shedding some light on them.

I haven't written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of some of the shame and fear that I've felt for a long time. So, I hear a lot of the music as joyous, because the experience of writing and recording it has been the complete opposite of what fear and shame have been for me.

Two thirds in, having a good idea of what the record was about, I realised I'd been circling around one of the things that has probably caused me the most fear and shame. My HIV status. I've been living with HIV since I was 17 and it's played with how I've felt towards myself, and how I've assumed others have felt towards me, from that age and into my adult life.

So, quite impulsively, I wrote about it on a song called "Hideous." I thought I could release it into the world and be done with it. After playing the song to my mum, being the protective and wise mum that she is, she gave me some of the best advice I've ever received. She suggested that I spend some time having conversations with people in my life first. Either people I hadn't told yet, or people I had told but hadn't wanted to talk much further on it with. Since writing Hideous, I've spent the past two years having those conversations, which was difficult and uncomfortable to start with, but has allowed me to feel a lot freer and has only strengthened my relationship with myself and with the people in my life.

One of the most special relationships I've gained from this has been with Mr. Jimmy Somerville. I knew for Hideous I wanted a guardian angel to appear in the song and sing to me the words I needed to hear. Not only has Jimmy been such a powerful voice around HIV and AIDS for decades, but the man quite literally sounds like an angel. I reached out to him as a complete fan boy, but now consider him a real good friend. He encouraged me to do the song for myself. He taught me "glamour" is a Scottish word. And, most importantly, he reminded me to not take myself too seriously, no good comes from that!

"Am I Hideous?" feels far less like a question I'm asking the world now. I know the answer. As scary as it still feels, I'm excited to share this music with you, and I hope you enjoy it. Lots of love, Oliver xx

Sim also spoke to the New York Times about his new music and his life.

Of the new song, which contains the lyrics "Been living with HIV since age 17, am I hideous?" Sim added: "I wrote that song knowing that a lot of this record had to do with shame and fear and I knew I was dancing around something that causes me the most shame."

He went on to say that he was inspired by musicians like John Grant and Mykki Blanco, who also write music about being HIV positive.

"For me, this is the opposite of shame," Sim told the NYTimes. "If I were deepest in shame I would have made a record not talking about any of this stuff."

He also revealed that he's been reaching out to other out musicians for both advice and friendship. Saying he "went straight to the top" and contacted Elton John, who then introduced Sim to Scissor Sisters's Jake Shears as well as Perfume Genius and Jimmy Somerville, who founded Bronchi Beat. He contributes vocals to Sim's "Hideous."

Sim has also released other songs from his forthcoming album, including "Fruit" and "Romance with a Memory." Check out Sim's new music below.