Olly Alexander

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Olly Alexander
Tauron Nowa Muzyka 2014 - Years & Years (13).jpg
Alexander with Years & Years at Christopher Cameron Hafizi 2014 in Katowice, Poland
Born Oliver Alexander Thornton
(1990-07-15) 15 July 1990 (age 27)
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom[1]
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active 2008–present
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • keyboard
  • synthesizer
Labels
Associated acts Years & Years

Olly Alexander (born Oliver Alexander Thornton, 15 July 1990), is an English singer, songwriter and actor. He is the lead singer of the band Years & Years.

Early life[edit]

Alexander was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire.[1][2][3] His mother, Vicki Thornton,[4] was one of the founders of the Coleford Music Festival.[5] Alexander attended St John's Primary School in Coleford[6] and Monmouth Comprehensive School leaving to study Performing Arts at Hereford College of Arts.[7][8] While at Monmouth Comprehensive School, he acted in two school plays: Guys and Dolls, as Benny, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, as the Corporal.[9] The New York Times reported that he wrote his first song on his father's Casio keyboard aged 10.[10] His parents separated when he was 13 and he was brought up by his mother as a single parent.[11]

He obtained the services of an agent when he was 16 while auditioning for a part in UK TV series Skins. In a YouTube video uploaded from NylonMagazineTV, Alexander said he dropped out of school.[12] This can be clarified that he actually dropped out of Hereford College of Arts to pursue his acting career as parts were offered: "I started acting when I was young; it just sort of happened. I dropped out of school to work around the world, which was amazing."[13] "I really wanted to become a singer or a musician ... All of a sudden I was an actor. It was never something I’d set my heart on being. I’m still trying to work it out ... I really hated school because I was totally bullied. But you’re never bullied in drama class because the weird kids do well in drama class. That’s a safe place".[14] Alexander was interviewed about his mental health by Guardian columnist Owen Jones.[15][16]

Career[edit]

Acting career[edit]

Alexander's acting career began in the film Summerhill released in 2008. His next film Bright Star was nominated for an Academy Award in the United States (for Best Achievement in Costume Design).[17] He acted in the 2009 released films Tormented starring Alex Pettyfer and Enter the Void. In 2010 he played Evan in the Bush Theatre production of The Aliens.[18][19] Alexander contributed to the script and music[20] for indie film The Dish & the Spoon, released in early 2011. In 2012, he appeared in the theatre production of Mercury Fur, taking the part of Naz at The Old Red Lion, Islington.[21]

From March to June 2013, Alexander starred as Peter Pan in the West End play Peter and Alice acting alongside Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench. Alexander also had a supporting role in the final series of Skins, playing Cassie Ainsworth's stalker in the two-part episode "Skins Pure", which aired in July 2013. Also in 2013 Google Analytics released an internal corporate video which features Alexander as a demanding shopper under the sub heading "That is what happens when you save on usability".[22]

Alexander plays one of the main characters in the 2014 musical feature film God Help the Girl, where he also sings and plays guitar. The film was written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, the lead singer of the group Belle and Sebastian, as part of the God Help the Girl project.

Alexander also appeared in The Riot Club, the film adaptation of Laura Wade's stage play Posh alongside British actors Sam Claflin, Max Irons and Douglas Booth. Alexander briefly portrayed the vampire Fenton in the British-American horror series Penny Dreadful in episodes aired in 2014.[23]

In the indie film, Funny Bunny first premièred at SXSW 2015, Alexander plays Titty, a troubled teenager in the comedy drama.[24] The film was directed and written by Alison Bagnall, who directed The Dish & the Spoon, while Alexander was a co-writer together with the other two leads.[25] The film was shown at art houses during the summer and was theatrically released on 13 November 2015.[26]

Music career[edit]

His band Years & Years formed in 2010, with Alexander joining the band as lead vocalist after guitarist Mikey Goldsworthy heard him singing in the shower and liked his voice.[27] Alexander's voice has been commented on for its unique tone, with the music being described as "Nina Simone ...crooning a melodic lullaby to the folktronic lovechild of Beach House and Terry Riley".[28]

Their debut single proper "Traps" achieved support from Radio 1 and Radio 6, as well as many online publications such as The Guardian and The Fader.[29][30] "Traps" also features on Kitsuné Maison's 15th compilation.[31]

The band released their second single "Real" on Kitsuné and iTunes in February 2014. The music video featured an appearance from Alexander's Peter and Alice co-star, Ben Whishaw,[32] and former Misfits actor Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.[33] Telling the story in The Independent article of 28 July 2015 of the Ben Whishaw effect (most recent James Bond Q actor), the video received eight and a half million views online and in 2014 they also changed their record label from the French smaller label Kitsuné to Polydor as they gained prominence. In January 2015, they were announced winners of the BBC's Sound of... vote.[34]

Years & Years' most successful single, "King" released under Polydor, headed straight to number one in the UK Single Chart in March 2015, earning the band national recognition.[35] Their debut studio album, Communion, was released on 10 July 2015 and entered the UK Albums Chart at number 1.[36]

As a gay songwriter,[37][38] Alexander has stated in interviews he would like to see greater use of the qualified male pronoun in music. He explained that, whenever he used to write a diary, he would refer to "you and I" because he wanted to hide who he was writing about. Several Years & Years songs feature male pronouns.[39] "It is kind of sad to me that we don't have gay popstars singing about men using a male pronoun," he told Digital Spy, "but that could change hopefully."[40] Though his work with Years & Years openly references his sexuality, Alexander "can't speak for all gay people, because there are so many different issues, and experiences, and different shapes and sizes. But I can speak for myself, and that is what I'm doing if I'm going to be writing songs and giving interviews, I want to be able to speak about something I care about."[40]

Advocacy and politics[edit]

Through various interviews and charity campaigns, he has promoted safer sex and HIV screening[41] anti-LGBT bullying initiatives.[42] He has also spoken openly about his own struggles with depression and anxiety from age 13 onwards.[43][44][45] In 2017, Alexander presented a BBC Three documentary investigating the link between being gay and the development of mental health disorders where he opened up about his bulimia.

Alexander describes himself as a "real left-winger" and said in 2016 that he 'had a crush on' Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.[46][47]

Filmography[edit]

Films[edit]

Year Film Role
2008 Summerhill Ned
2009 Bright Star Tom Keats
2009 Tormented Jason Banks
2009 Enter the Void Victor
2009 Dust Elias
2010 The Fades Himself
2010 Gulliver's Travels Prince August
2010 The Dish & the Spoon Boy
2012 Cheerful Weather for the Wedding Tom
2012 Great Expectations Herbert Pocket
2013 Le Week-End Michael
2014 God Help the Girl James
2014 The Riot Club Toby Maitland
2015 Funny Bunny Titty

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Episodes
2009 Lewis Hayden Wishart "Allegory of Love"
2013 Skins Jakob "Skins Pure (Part 1 & 2)"
2014 Penny Dreadful Fenton "Resurrection" and "Demimonde"
2017 Growing Up Gay Himself/Host BBC Three Documentary

Theatre[edit]

Year Title Theatre Also starring
September–October 2010 The Aliens[48] Bush Theatre London Ralf Little and Mackenzie Crook
March–April 2012 Mercury Fur Old Red Lion Theatre Ciaran Owens, Frank Keogh, Ben Dilloway, Katie Scarfe, Henry Lewis, James Fynan
March–June 2013 Peter and Alice Noël Coward Theatre Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw

Corporate video[edit]

Year Film Role
2013 Google Analytics In Real Life Site Search Demanding Shopper

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Hot kids on the block: Years & Years interview". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  2. ^ "the insider: olly alexander". NYLON. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (2015-03-05). "Years & Years: from Riot Club posh boys to No 1 stars". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  4. ^ Alexander, Olly (June 2015). "Vicki Thornton & Olly Alexander - Backstage at performance of Years & Years Shephards Bush Theatre". Instagram. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Good golly, Olly's off to Hollywood!". Gloucester Citizen. 4 June 2009. Archived from the original on 2 Apr 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Chart joy for Years and Years as Coleford singer Olly Alexander's group hits top spot". Gloucester Citizen. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Hereford College of Arts website.
  8. ^ "Hereford College of Arts - Olly Alexander from Years & Years". Hereford College of Arts. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Staddon, Katie. "Curtis Brown Representation CV of Olly Alexander". curtisbrown.co.uk. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  10. ^ Schou, Solvey (1 July 2015). "Olly Alexander Releases His Debut Album With Years & Years". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  11. ^ Robinson, Peter (9 July 2015). "I'm a Convincingly Happy Human Being". Pop Justice. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Young Hollywood 2010 — Olly Alexander. YouTube. 10 May 2010. 
  13. ^ Morgan, Ruth (February 2015). "Singing in the shower got me the Job". redbulletin.com. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  14. ^ Chang, Kee (26 August 2014). "Q&A with Olly Alexander". Anthemmagazine.com. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  15. ^ Jones, Owen (26 January 2016). 'My mental health is a positive part of me' — Owen Jones meets Olly Alexander. YouTube. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  16. ^ Jones, Owen (26 January 2016). "Olly Alexander: 'You start to think you're alone and crazy but help is out there'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  17. ^ "The 82nd Academy Awards 2010". Oscars.Org. 7 March 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Olly wows the critics in The Aliens". Gloucestercitizen.co.uk. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "Interview - The Aliens at The Bush Threatre". The Bush Threatre. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  20. ^ "Music from The Dish & the Spoon: The Whale (Single) (2011) Music by Olly Alexander". Soundtrack.Net. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  21. ^ Bayes, Honour (5 April 2012). "Mercury Fur - Love among the ruins". Exeuntmagazine.com. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Google Analytics In Real Life Site Search". Google Corporate Material. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  23. ^ Barton, Steve (12 January 2015). "Penny Dreadful". Dread Central. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  24. ^ Salovaara, Sarah (13 March 2015). ""You Can’t Make This Stuff Up": Alison Bagnall on Funny Bunny". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  25. ^ Goolsby, Joshua. "Funny Bunny by Alison Bagnall". Indie Film Picks. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  26. ^ "Funny Bunny". Indiewire.com. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  27. ^ Murray, Peter (26 March 2015). "A Frank Conversation with Years & Years Frontman Olly Alexander". The GeorgeTowner. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  28. ^ Oberman, Jameela (10 May 2011). "Disorder Magazine". Jameela Louise Oberman Freelance Journalist. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 
  29. ^ Kitsuné (8 August 2013). "Years & Years new EP "Traps" out on Kitsuné September 9th + exclusive stream on the Guardian!". Kitsuné. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  30. ^ Friedlander, Emilie (10 September 2013). "Stream: Years & Years, "You & I"". The Fader. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  31. ^ "Kitsuné Maison Compilation 15 to be released October 21st!". Kitsuné. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  32. ^ Duerden, Nick (28 July 2015). "Years & Years: From feeling like the weird kid at school and studying architecture to the Ben Whishaw effect". The Independent. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  33. ^ Ortiz, Edwin (4 February 2014). "Years & Years Inspire a Dance-Off In Their New Music Video for "Real"". Complex.Com. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  34. ^ Youngs, Ian (9 January 2015). "Years & Years top BBC Sound Of 2015 list". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  35. ^ "Years & Years' King wins Official Singles Chart Number 1 crown". The Official UK Charts Company. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "Years & Years’ debut at Number 1: "This is the best day of our lives"". The Official UK Charts Company. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  37. ^ Murray, Peter (24 March 2015). "A Frank Conversation with Years & Years Frontman Olly Alexander". The Downtowner. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  38. ^ "Shining Stars: An interview with Years and Years' Olly Alexander - Metro Weekly". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  39. ^ Flyyn, Paul (7 July 2015). "Best Years Ever: With gay frontman Olly Alexander, Years & Years hits pop’s sweet spot". Out.com. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  40. ^ a b Corner, Lewis (8 July 2015). "Years & Years Interview: It's sad we don't have gay male popstars using male pronouns". Digital Spy. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  41. ^ Dunn, Francesca (25 August 2015). "Years & Years dream big and predict the future". i-d.vice.com. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  42. ^ Duffy, Nick (17 August 2015). "Years & Years singer Olly Alexander backs anti-bullying campaign". Pinknews.co.uk. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  43. ^ Hattersley, Giles (28 June 2015). "Sound of summer". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 30 June 2015. (Subscription required (help)). 
  44. ^ Duffy, Nick (2 December 2015). "Years & Years singer Olly Alexander opens up about suffering from anxiety". Pink News. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  45. ^ Jones, Owen (26 January 2016). "Mental Health: This is the NHS: Olly Alexander: 'You start to think you're alone and crazy but help is out there'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  46. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/03/10/years-and-years-singer-olly-alexander-reveals-his-rather-unlikely-crush/
  47. ^ http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/olly-alexander-my-lyrics-are-about-samesex-relationships-because-that-s-who-i-am-a3199441.html
  48. ^ "Mackenzie Crook cast in The Aliens at the Bush Theatre". LondonTheatre.co.uk. 13 August 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 

External links[edit]