“I walked into a room wearing these boots and a friend of mine said ‘who’s bad?’” says James Bay, lifting his feet off the couch he’s sprawled on to emphasize his buckle-adorned DSquared footwear. “It was the best Michael Jackson reference you could make.”
The 27-year-old English singer-songwriter has taken on many a new inspiration — both stylistically and musically — for his second album “Electric Light,” released last week. The record, which comes three years after the release of his first, “Chaos and the Calm,” is, naturally, an “evolution,” one Bay hopes plays as much to the old fans as it will excite new ones.
“The new record is full of different sounds and things that people wouldn’t have expected. And I’m like ‘good’ — if it was what people expected I feel like I’d be doing it wrong,” Bay says. “Who wants to hear what they’ve expected? There are those people out there who will be like ‘but what happened to the old you?’ And I think it’d be interesting to ask those people what happened to the old them. Because their answer would be just as boring as mine: I got bored of it. So I did something else.”
As the name might suggest, “Electric Light” sees him exploring electronic sounds, as well as showcasing his guitar playing more liberally.
“I’m inspired by all sorts of artists who didn’t inspire my first album, like Prince and David Bowie and Michael Jackson, and coming forward to people like LCD Soundsystem and Frank Ocean and Lorde,” he says.
As the sound changed, his approach to fashion had to match. Having wrapped his initial record’s tour and with some downtime as he worked on the new album, Bay was finally able to commit to designing a line with Topman, after years of requests from the fast retailer.
“I only found I was able to do it by drawing every little thing as well — I was in, 150 percent in,” he says. “I can’t do anything by halves in that respect.”
He’s been wearing the brand since he was 16, and it perfectly matched much of the aesthetic he aspired to achieve with the debut album. “They do a skinny jean and a little T-shirt and a pair of boots quite well, and I was wearing a lot of that with my first album,” he says. That said, the look of “Electric Light” is “slightly elevated,” he says; case in point, the Topman jeans he paired with his DSquared boots have been deconstructed and reworked with Saint Laurent patches and zips.
The tour looks will also evolve. While the past few years he’s stayed loyal to “little band T-shirts and battered skinny jeans and desert boots,” his recent performance outfits have included Comme des Garçons, Coach and more Saint Laurent. One thing that will stay the same throughout the tour, though?
“I’ll be wearing these boots.”
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