London-based, Sydney native Josef Salvat single on selfless, consuming love ‘in the afternoon’ is our newest UNCO[V]ERED feature. It’s a sultry pop delight that emits Josef’s signature energy of electronic-pop music with a human pulse.
“I’ve always, ever since I wrote my first song, wanted the widest number of people to hear this,” Josef says. “That’s how I write.” He doesn’t see the distinction in making light music with a dark undertone. “I don’t distinguish between listening to music to feel seen or to dance,” he says. “You can do both. I need songs. I want brilliant fucking songs.”
Josef Salvat has always struggled with the notional prison cell of masculinity. In his 31 years, he has taken the scenic route to finding where or, indeed if he fits in, anywhere. “I really don’t know how to talk about my sexuality properly, apart from to just tell my story.” In a world of activists, clicktivists and online empowerment, Salvat is touched by the curiosity of the unsure, the clouds of the questioning. “I identify as gay,” he says. “But not only do I not want to be a role model, I don’t think I can be. I just want to be OK. I just want to be myself. I think I’m finding that through music.”
Josef Salvat was born into a culture at which every corner he turned felt weighted down by overbearing machismo. “The gender balances in Australia were very rigid when I was growing up,” he says. “Before the internet, we were 15 years behind culturally and there was one way to be a woman and one way to be a man.” He didn’t see himself reflected in the mirror put in front of him. “I had facial dysphoria, body dysmorphia. I was this funny-looking, wrong person who wanted to please people. But I was skinny, small and me.”
Success would be his revenge. “I wanted to be powerful and make tonnes of money and piss off all these men who didn’t think that I was good enough.” Uprooting himself from home was the first step. “Coming half way round the world was connected to feeling like I was a problem.”
Performing songs that glistened with disguise began to take its toll on his self-worth. “I was really desperately unhappy.” To ease the pain, Josef threw himself at love. There was the long-standing boyfriend he knew he didn’t love from the first date. The girlfriend who shared his bohemian appetite for self-discovery. The alt.rocker he met at a party thrown by one of his earliest mentor’s, TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, while suffering a crippling bout of imposter syndrome. The sister of his best friend. The Danish pop star who decided he was in love with his straight friend during a night on MDMA. And for a flourishing finale, the New York dude who got in touch on Instagram, asked ‘do you want to be my boyfriend?’, proceeded to take Josef on the date of his dreams, art-directed like the opening scene of a movie (“met outside the Vice building, a power move, went to the last dive bar in Williamsburg, took a yellow cab across the bridge and had oysters in some trashy bar before walking back to my hotel in the torrential rain”) and then promptly told Josef he had a husband. That one probably lasted longer than it should’ve.
All of it, he decided, this time, would go into a record. “These are a series of postcards, snapshots of my life,” he says. They could all be addressed to himself. “Music is my way of finding out who I am.”
UNCO[V]ERED premieres on Saturday at 12pm, right after the Offical [V] Top 50. Channel 801, only on Foxtel.