The path of least resistance was never going to work for Shamir. Endlessly on the move, the Las Vegas native’s short career has already taken in the peaks of mainstream recognition, disillusionment with the industry and an awakening as an artist forging their own way, all before his third record, aptly titled Revelations, reaches the airwaves. He’s a thoroughly modern musician; progressive, fiercely independent, living somewhat uncomfortably in the shadow of Ratchet, his commercially successful and sweetly addictive debut, and the inescapable hook of flagship single ‘On The Regular’.
For the tumultuous start, Shamir is pragmatic: “Ratchet was more of an experiment to me. It was so unexpected that my debut album did for me what it did, and as bad as I feel to move away from the style many of my fans will recognise, I want to try something that’s more representative of who I am now. That time in the music industry was valuable, if only to figure out that I didn’t want to play the game.”
Shamir doesn’t say this to boast. While ownership over his music and its production isdeeply important to him, he’s familiar with the drawbacks of complete creative control: “I’ve always tried to keep it a small operation. I know how to do every aspect of my music – but I am a master of none of it!” he says, laughing. “I like to work with limitations, and if I can make it work, I will.”
This shift in approach meant leaving the safety of XL’s recording booth and getting back to the bedroom. The predecessor to Revelations, Hope, was written, recorded and mixed from Shamir’s bed in a single, frantic weekend. He played every instrument. “I didn’t leave my bed or speak to anyone for that whole weekend. I just sat with my instruments and got my friend to mix it for, like, $90. It’s nothing but raw emotion – in your face music.”
The record formed an antithesis to the XL Records-produced Ratchet, which introduced Shamir’s sound, perhaps unrepresentatively, to the masses: “After Ratchet I felt like I was done. I didn’t want to do this anymore,” he says as a matter of fact. “The response to Hope showed me that people are hungry for real, emotional music. Music can be really over-produced and I just want to create something that is the exact opposite.”
“That time in the music industry was valuable, if only to figure out that I didn’t want to play the game.”
Shamir considers Revelations a sister record to Hope – which only hit his Soundcloud in April – composed as two radically different snapshots of his life in 2017: “Revelations became an answer record to Hope. Hope is pure frustration. Revelations is the point when that frustration finally burned itself out,” he says. “They are sister records. They sit together in the same realm.”
Shamir talks about the short period between these records in soft tones, his voice as high and delicate as his vocal melodies, but reaching these revelations didn’t come without personal cost. At the conclusion of recording Hope, an explosively creative process, Shamir had a mental breakdown: “I was pretty much manic after that. I fell into psychosis and had a really bad psychotic episode, and I needed to go back home to spend the summer in Vegas. I needed time to recoup and get a new lease on life.”
From this brief period of emotional upheaval, Revelations has emerged as a moment of clarity for Shamir – a lo-fi rumination on personal identity and perception in the world; a return to the comforts of lo-fi production, but with newly-acquired wisdom and a fresh, outward-facing gaze.