Lynks Afrikka: BLTs & Bin Bags
Lynks Afrikka is a welcome addition to Britain’s avant-garde. After bucking Bristol’s counterculture trend in his third year at university, Lynks has maintained momentum from interviews on Radio 1 through to his latest EP, Smash Hits, Vol 1 – “a collection of big, fat, massive bangers. No concept, just hot rage and fire tunes. A quick efficient smack in the face of weird alt-pop...” by his own admission.
Lynks is the brainchild of Elliot Brett, an otherwise modest, middle-class boy from South London. Assuming his alter-ego, Lynks Afrikka (a veritable Mr Hyde for the chem-sex, Angry Birds generation) has taken to a tiring line of work – serving as a conduit for the spasmodic aches and pains, the hopes and dreams, of someone who once took themselves, as so many musicians do, a little too seriously.
“In the beginning, there was an insecure gay boy called Elliot Brett,” Elliot told me jokingly over the phone, the sound of wind peeling up the headset as he paced around his local park. “I’d been making music for a while as myself and the stuff on my laptop was diverging. I had this nice, pretty, sad-boy pop kind of thing, no irony. And then I also had these weird, crazy beats that I was making for fun. A friend asked me if I wanted to do a slot and I thought it would be a fun idea to do a Leigh Bowery0style drag act. So, I took five of those weird beats and cooked them into some half-baked tunes. I wore this bin-bag dress and, yeah, it was really fun. People loved it. From then on, I started doing Lynks more, Elliot less, and now I’m still making music.”
Elliot touches on something important here. What makes Lynks so special isn’t just the catchiness of his beats (which are indeed catchy), nor his ability to get you dancing for a BLT with extra lettuce. Nope, what takes pride of place in the Lynks Afrikka catalogue is the unwavering desire to have fun. This may sound a little SpongeBob of me, but as Elliot puts it himself, be it ironic or ironically un-ironic, “It’s pretty liberating thinking about what the audience wants, rather than what will make you seem like a good artist”. After all, it’s his refusal to pay any lip service that has likely played a pivotal role in his recent ascendance. “Performers owe it to the audience,” he went on, “to think about them first, and too often people worry about maintaining their own artistic integrity.”
That’s not to say that Lynks Afrikka doesn’t take his subject matter seriously. Even when expounded through a veneer of playfulness, many of the songs tackle genuine societal problems. ‘On Trend’, which came out last year and features on the album, discusses rising income inequality and environmental collapse whilst launching a tongue-in-cheek hit-and-run assault on conceptions of mainstream relevancy. ‘Str8 Acting’, on the other hand – also featuring on Smash Hits – explores the process of queer alienation in straight spaces, with “Being a hot str8 boy’s gotta get taxing / You’d have to keep up that front even when relaxing / And that’s that / So why the fuck should I ever wanna be str8 acting?!”
Photo by Emma Swann
Queer empowerment is something of a call to arms for Lynks Afrikka, as he shadowboxes his way onto the scene. Having grown up seeing a distinctly limited set of variants for queer characters in films and on TV, it’s something that’s stuck with him well into adulthood. “I do think LGBT representation in the media is absolute shite. At the moment, the LGBT representation we have is quite sanitised. Gay characters aren’t given depth or complexity. A good character is complicated and insecure and contradictory, something rarely afforded to mainstream gay media representation. Gay people you see on TV are either the sassy best friend, or they’re in a conversion camp crying their eyes out, or they’re some resentful and closeted weirdo like Jafar or Scar.”
With his gnawing sass and a parade of grotesque DIY textile creations, Elliot has orchestrated some sense of pushback against such beleaguered conceptions of queerness. In a sense, Lynks Afrikka is a bigot’s worst nightmare; a charismatic, self-effacing queer spectacle, capable of stirring the crowd into a frenzy and whose ridiculous nature leaves him happily immune to ridicule.
Lockdown has been tough for Lynks, no doubt. He, along with the rest of his industry contemporaries, misses gigging and looks forward to when he can once again give the crowd a good time. “I really miss doing gigs. I hate not being able to perform. Though I have gotten really into fermentation recently, I’m really good at it now.” he muses. Kombucha aside, Lynks’ ‘Isolation Tapes’, recorded almost daily during London’s lockdown, have kicked off online, presenting him in front of a green screen with impromptu beats, riffing on the absurdity. One of the early tapes, ‘Pandemic’, proved a hit and springs a juicy ‘bonus track’ on Smash Hits. The new album is currently trending hard, still riding the ‘new releases’ podium in the shop window of Spotify.
Lynks Afrikka is an important piece of the puzzle for the continuation of the London music scene. He safeguards a truly inclusive approach to music production, one that is truly about the audience, and not the artist. One where people are allowed to have fun, breaking the gloom before life gets all-too-real once more. And as it happens, Elliot is a nice boy too.
Smash Hits, Vol 1 is out now on LynksCorp.