Los Angeles singer VINCINT first established himself as one of contemporary pop's most powerful voices on his debut single, "Marrow," with its earnest lyrics and deeply emotional vocal delivery. "I'm so deep, I'm in your marrow," he wails obsessively on the chorus, his voice nearly growling above glistening synth production with such intensity that he, in fact, finds his way beneath your skin with every lyric. Now, the Philly native is back today with another track, "Remember Me," which brings the same level of rare authenticity to a more upbeat staccato-strings bop.
The song was written by VINCINT beneath a disco ball in West Hollywood's gay nightclub Mickey's after the rising artist saw a man he loved leave with another person. Flooded with emotions, VINCINT wrote all of "Remember Me" into his iPhone in 10 minutes, before handing it over to producer duo Oskar Flood (Peter Thomas, Kyle Moorman) to transform the intense lyrics into a euphoric dance song. "Before I go, say that you'll remember me," VINCINT pleas, rationalizing heartbreak as a cyclical process of passing love throughout the universe until it eventually gets back to you.
Listen to the PAPER premiere of VINCINT's "Remember Me," and learn more about the name you'll never forget, below.
You come from a catholic background. How closely do you identify with the classic Madonna rebellion narrative in pop music?
It's so funny because I'm not catholic. That's the best part about all of this [Laughs]. I just got a scholarship to go to catholic school in middle school and high school, so when I was there I was surrounded by this ideology that I never agreed with. I was always on the outside of it. I grew to hate it a little bit, because it's just the craziest thing ever — the idea that the church runs everything in your life. You can't be who you are ever, because you'd be excluded. So I was thrust into it because of financial situations, but it also helped me find a way to step out.
How do you think that experience changed the way you approach making music today?
I think it made me a strong person, because what they believe is so deep-rooted and strong. It made me step out, have a strong voice and be combative with what they believe because it's a crazy world that they live in. The music I wrote freed me from it, because I kind of got sucked in when I was there. When you're a kid, you're taught to believe something and I was never on board that train. I was like, I'm going to figure out things for myself, and it kind of taught me to write the way that I write and feel the way that I feel.
What's your music background?
My dad is a singer, and I have been around music my whole life, but I joined this traveling boy choir in Philly, and it kind of opened me up to the world of music and how people connect to it, and the different forms and genres. After that I was like a goner. After growing up on Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Shania Twain I was like, If this is what you get to do... be fabulous like these women, then I'm in. Sign me up.
Did you have formal voice training? You have such a powerful voice.
I wasn't trained until I got to college. I went to Berklee in Boston, and it wasn't until then that I learned how to actually breathe right and sing so I wouldn't pass out — and stop mimicking Beyoncé in the "Bills Bills Bills" video, and try to be a real person and really learn how to sing [Laughs].
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Berklee has really pumped out the talent. Is that how you met Betty Who and Brayton Bowman?
It's so wild, because they're my best friends. I knew Brayton before we got to Berkeley, because he's from Philly too. I met Brayton at this random competition at his school, and I just happened to be there. We hit it off and stayed close until we went to college together. I met Betty the second day she got to school. I ran into her room and didn't know her, and sat on her bed and was like, "What's up kid? you're tall. I like you." She played cello at the time, and we were two music geeks.
How much did that school help shape who you are today as a musician?
The goal was always to be able to do what I do now, and the school itself is great. For anyone who goes to college, it's more so the people you meet. There are kids from all over. We had a Japanese princess who went to school with us, and I got to hang out with her. It was the craziest experience meeting so many different people from so many different cultures. It influenced everything I did. I listened to Indian music, I listened to native american chants and hymns, I learned Russian sonnets. We all chose to take what we wanted and needed to fashion our music careers, and I think it worked out well for us.
Those friendships are fate.
It's serendipity. We talk about it often: Imagine if we didn't know each other or if we never met. But we all met each other at different times and we all bonded together. Everything just took off from there. We kept running into each other and being in the same circles. Brayton started off in music theater. He wasn't who he is now. Betty was a cellist, and I was like, "I'm going to be a dance major. I don't know if I want to do singing. I don't know if I'm good enough." We built each other up and promised one another that we'd be there for each other when it finally happens.
"Marrow" is such a strong lead single. What led up to that song?
I've been writing since I was 7, and trying to get better and better at it. I had demos in school and I had demos from when I lived in NY for about a year. I had a writing session, and we were in our living room and I was talking about this crush I had been through. I'm a lover lover, so I want to be there for the person in every way that I can, and I wanted to let this person know that I will love them past everything. It doesn't matter what you've gone through, it doesn't matter what you're going through. I will be there and I love you so deeply that I feel it in your bones. And then it all played back with catholic school, where I thought about the love people have for jesus and the love people have for each other. We wrote it in 20 minutes sitting there. It was this piano ballad song and I took it over to Pretty Sister, and he finished the track. Nothing has ever happened that fast with a track of mine, but it happened so quickly.
"I'm so deep, I'm in your marrow." The lyric is inherently queer because it's reflective of your life experience, but it's also universally relatable. Do you think about that when writing?
I think about that often because I write music for LGBTQ people, so they can relate and have people out there that they can look up to, but I also don't want to exclude anyone else. I write for myself mainly to get the things in my head out because mainly it will drive me crazy if I don't. But I write it because I know that other people are also in that same position and they need to hear something that they can connect to. It's almost a therapy for them. I wrote it because I needed the person to know, and then I realized that the song got out and people were posting and doing covers where it's nothing like the original. But it's how they feel it and it makes me happy that people can relate to it so well.
You shot the "Marrow" music video in a church. Why?
I was thinking about my background — what I went through and how I felt when I went to mass every god damn day because that's what catholics do in catholic school. Let's pray and not leave the church. Let's be on our knees all day. I was like, "We're here and I feel like I'm not accepted," but I have to be here and worship and abide by your rules where you don't accept people who love like I do or people who're trans. You won't let them be who they are, and that seems kind of fucked to me. So I wanted to make a video where we're all accepted. I had trans people in my video. All different colors. Gay and straight. It sends a message that we're all allowed in here and the love we have is just as good as yours. It's equal to yours. I think god loves us the same. You don't speak for god. We all have a direct line, and that's what I tried to portray in that video. I'm literally reclaiming the space — reclaiming the cross.
Where did you write "Remember Me"?
I wrote "Remember Me" in Mickey's in West Hollywood. I wrote it under the disco ball — the entire song, and it's the weirdest thing. I've never written a song that fast with no music and not sitting at a piano. I wrote the entire thing under a disco ball because I saw a boy that I fell in love with leaving with another boy, and it broke my heart because I felt like I was getting left behind and the love that I was giving wasn't being appreciated. It was a moment of divine intervention where the song just spilled into me.I wrote it in 10 minutes into my phone. I was crying and my friend was like, "Are you fucking good sis?" And I'm like, "Nah, I'm going through it girl, but this song feels really good so let me have my moment." That song came out of heartbreak, and letting that person know that even though you're with someone else take the love that I gave you and at least give it them. That way I won't feel like I wasted my time with you. That's the message I wanted to get across. It's like, I love you and I did my part. I gave you what you needed, and hopefully you give it to someone else so that it keeps spreading and hopefully one day it will come back to me, and I'll be able to feel that way.
That's such a healthy way to think about heartbreak.
It took a bitch a long time to get here! [Laughs]
Do you write songs for other artists, or are you primarily focused on your solo career right now?
Right now I'm focused on getting my stuff out. I've written for and with others, but right now I need to focus on me and letting the world hear my voice and story and who I am. I've been doing this for the past 10 years in Boston, New York and now LA. It's time. I'm so ready for the world to hear me and know me as an artist. It couldn't come at a better time.
There's been a big conversation online about the gay songwriter brunch with all white men. What are your thoughts?
I think there's still work to be done, because obviously that picture showed a lot. But I know some of the boys in that picture and they all have good hearts. I know the intention was good. They were not being malicious. It just came across that way, as they literally missed the mark. A lot of them stepped out on Twitter saying we messed up, and we're going to fix this. I think the conversation needs to be held where instead of getting mad at them, it's realizing that this is not what our community is. Yes, you're a part of our community, but there's a bigger community that needs to be involved, too. I think hopefully they get that and they'll work harder at making that a more inclusive situation.
It's nice that we're moving into a time when these important conversations can happen openly.
There are asian writers in the community. There are puerto rican and latin writers in the community. There are so many different people. It's not just black and white. There are so many more people of color out there that are never included in these narratives that should be there. There are trans artists and trans writers that should be included in the narrative. Things like this shouldn't happen, but they do happen and once they do then the conversation is in the forefront and it depends on both parties to stand up and fix that. There are kids around the country who look at this and say, "I want to be a part of that, and I don't see myself at that table." It's a sad thing because I know those boys and have love for those boys. I know their intention wasn't bad, but it looked that way and it's hard for people to not think that's what was going on. But I know them and I know that wasn't the case.
The more we include these voices, the better the music will be. You want music to be universal, and in order for it to be universal the door needs to be open to all kinds of people.
Genre comes from different cultures, it's not just one thing. When you exclude people from music it's like, I'm sorry, but music loves everyone, and if you try to do it one way it becomes so boring. You need these people, and most of these people that are excluded started the culture. How are you going to cut it out? That's not how it works. Music doesn't belong to you. Music wasn't assigned a gender or a race. It was assigned to everyone, so share it and make it better.
Photos Courtesy of Jon Sams