The Sparkling Balladeer
The pianist-composer (and son of Sam the Record Man) has a few things to say about style
My style philosophy
The most elegant style icons are people who can dress beautifully but not draw attention to themselves. I like the new Gucci stuff—but it’s out there. You see Jared Leto wearing head-to-toe Gucci at events and he just looks goofy. There’s a way to be elegant. Donald Glover does a good job of it without waving a huge flag saying, “look at me.” Most of the people I admire look like they just threw it on, that Italian Sprezzatura thing. They look like they’re not trying too hard.
How I styled my record cover
I recently went to California to work with a photographer for the cover of my new record (Blood Crush, just released). I love the high desert—where it’s dirty and dusty and kind of weird. I thought the best foil against shooting there would be sparkly clothing. I had some sparkly stuff already—a Comme des Garçons jacket, a pair of sparkly silver Saint Laurent pants I’ve had for years—but I couldn’t find a sparkly silver jacket. It was driving me crazy. I was in Los Angeles getting ready to drive out to the desert, and I saw this store on Melrose that was just full of sparkly clothing. I looked in the window and the lady who owned it waved me in. This whole store was floor to ceiling sequins. She had a silver Comme des Garçons jacket for $200.
Why I love to shine
I love the contradiction and the juxtaposition of sparkly clothes against the desert, or sparkly clothes against ballads. It cuts the ice a bit. Elton John did that a lot. You can connect with your audience through how you dress.
How I think about fit
Putting on a well-tailored piece of clothing makes you feel good about yourself. Nick Cave dresses conservatively, but if you look at his tailoring, especially his super-high shirt collars, I think he is very conscious of how he’s dressing. And he looks great. You can be super–well dressed and beautiful without looking too obvious. People who go to a designer and get outfitted head-to-toe are not necessarily confident about their own style. Like Beck in head-to-toe Saint Laurent. You don’t need that, man.
My first Rolex
When I was 17, I was travelling with my father in Hong Kong, and he said, “When you graduate university I’ll buy you a Rolex.” I never take it off. It’s a simple stainless steel one with a plain white face. A teenager having a Rolex is kind of gauche, but my father had a set budget for what he was going to spend. It wasn’t like he bought me a Daytona.
My high-low strategy
Who can afford high-end fashion? It’s so expensive. You can get a really nice piece from Zara and mix it with a high-end piece and look perfectly beautiful.
My favourite high school outfit
Dressing well was the best way to try and attract girls. When glam-rock hit it was all about satin pants. I saved up my allowance and bought a pair from a store on Yonge Street. They attracted good attention and bad attention.
My advice to style seekers
I’ve edited so much out of my wardrobe to make sure that whatever I own is going to be timeless. You don’t want to look creepy. You don’t want to look out of character. Am I feeling like Charlie Watts or Keith Richards or am I feeling like the Duke of Windsor? You have to be comfortable in your clothes the same way you have to be comfortable in your skin. No matter what body type you’re working with, if you’re comfortable in your own skin that’s automatically cool.
My Japanese couture obsession
When I was invited to play in Japan in February, I decided I was only going to take Japanese clothing. I have a collection o f Japanese clothing going back to the early ’80s, including a great Matsuda coat that’s lasted for 40 years. Good pieces stand the test of time. Some of it is not really stylish now—big boxy suits by Yohji Yamamoto or Comme des Garçons. These pieces were a way to identify yourself outside of normal fashion back in the ’80s when Armani and Versace were the most well-known designers. When you saw David Byrne wearing those boxy suits, that was definitely Japanese-influenced.
Why I think style is substance
I see fashion in everything. To me, fashion is the nexus between the art of clothing and the use of music. Those Alexander McQueen shows throughout the 2000s were really art shows. The ability to use fashion as a form of expression, as a form of art, is a really relevant thing. I don’t think fashion is superficial. The work that goes into the creation of clothing, all the thinking behind it, the historical referencing, is amazing. It’s a collaborative effort on the highest degree.