Making music in a white-dominated world, Black queer artist Loraine James uses music to create a space for herself. Through her music, the London-based electronic artist is working to find confidence both as an artist and in her sexuality. Still figuring herself out, her latest album Reflection, which comes out today, takes the listener on an inward journey through a year of emotion for James, as a young Black queer woman in a world that suddenly stopped moving. Made in the summer of 2020, Reflection is a candid expression of introspection for the artist.
Growing up in London where there aren’t a lot of spaces for queer or Black women, James recorded her immediate thoughts and feelings, interweaving them throughout her unique pop sensibility and combined R&B sounds. Letting the music take its own shape, the artist’s creative process includes separating herself from her work, allowing her to act as a listener rather than the creator to gain a deeper feeling. Read on as she tells us about her evolution as an artist, gaining confidence and using music as an outlet when the world was at a standstill.
Could you tell us about your childhood and what it was like for you growing up? Growing up in London where there aren’t a lot of spaces for queer or Black women, how did you create your own space with your music?
My childhood was ok. My dad passed away when I was 7 but my mum has always been my number one and raised me to be the person I am today. I grew up in Enfield my whole life, there isn’t really much of any kind of space there.
Living in the Alma Estates in London, which have a reputation for housing people neglected by the state, as tabloid newspapers encourage racist and classist stereotypes of them, how did that shape or alter your perspectives of the world around you as an artist?
As you get older you realise how unfair the world is, and how differently you are treated. There were definitely instances when I was younger where I was treated differently because of my skin colour but had never put together the pieces because I was only a kid. I remember when I was about 13 and went on a school trip to France, I had some water thrown on me. It stayed with me for a long time because I couldn’t understand why and I hadn’t done anything.
My work now is much more personal and political – before I’d never really include myself in my music.
Your work realises a unique pop sensibility while also combining drill and R&B. How did you first develop your artistic style and discover your sound in the music world?
It’s developed over time; it’s taken some years to be somewhat happy with the music I’m making. Many things inspire me, and music is always changing. I like to always listen to what’s ‘current’ because I think it’s interesting and pop music is intriguing to me, as I find it difficult to make. I like to listen to the sounds that make a pop tune and use some bits of that in a Loraine James kind of way.
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Your music speaks about queerness through an imaginative fusion of styles. How do you use music to interpret the world around you? How has creating music helped you in your acceptance of not only your sexuality but also your identity of being an artist?
I feel like I’m still figuring myself out but compared to a couple of years ago, I know more of what I like and even just understand my feeling better – if that makes any sense (laughs). Music helped me through a lot of 2020; it's the most music I've ever made and for once I’m kind of happy with it. Making music has made me be more confident musically and as Loraine James – the artist. It has made me more comfortable with my sexuality because I don’t really hide it in my work.
The late artist Sophie seems to be a big inspiration to you. How has Sophie’s music influenced your work as a musician? What other artists and queer icons inspire your sound?
Sophie was a big inspiration to me but, also, how could you not be inspired or at least intrigued by their work. I’ll never forget listening to Sophie for the first time and thinking: what the fuck is this, this is amazing and how are those sounds even made! Other people who inspire me are Sherelle, Lyra Pramuk and Object Blue – they’re doing amazing things.
Your latest album Reflection, which has just come out today, takes the listener through how the year of 2020 felt for you as a young Black queer woman in a world that suddenly stopped moving. What can we expect from this upcoming release?
You can expect my voice a lot more on this album. A lot of my vocals sound really rough as I wasn’t in Enfield and didn’t have my microphone, so a lot of the vocals were recorded directly into my MacBook or my phone.
Also, don’t expect this album to sound like For You And I, that was a different time for me and plus everything is constantly changing and this sounds different.

The album was built during the sudden standstills of 2020. Could you tell us about your creative process during this time and the inspiration behind the album? How did it come to be?
I started making the album around May or June 2020 and took a few months to finish. There was no real inspiration to start it, other than I had all this time and I’d already made four EPs that year. I was kind of on a roll and had this energy to make music, an energy I’ve never really had before and definitely do not have it right now in 2021 (laughs). I made the whole album just with the MacBook and its keyboard – I was staying with my partner so I only had some clothes, a laptop and my phone.
I never really know what a project is going to be at the start, it has to take its own shape, and over time, I’ll gain feelings by just listening to the stuff as a listener and not as the person making the music.
The lead single of the album, Simple Stuff, centres around the equal rights that have not yet been granted to marginalised people, coming as a minimalistic call to be treated equally. How does this song reflect on your personal experiences as a Black, queer woman? How does your music allow you to digest your own emotions?
I like to record on the fly a lot; that’s how the lyrics to Simple Stuff came about. I record immediate thoughts and feelings and that’s how I feel and felt. A lot of these emotions and names for these songs come after I’ve made the track, so I can just separate myself from making the music and actually listening and digesting it.
Reflection appears to be an introspective review for you during a period of great uncertainty and isolation. What did you learn about yourself both personally and artistically from the creation of this album?
I’ve learnt that I’m kind of a sensitive person and anxious. I'm now more confident in my music.
The album starts positively with the gentle beats of Built To Last but then takes a melancholic twist into songs like Simple Stuff, Self Doubt and Insecure Behaviour and Fuckery, concluding with We're Building Something New, which offers a sense of hope. How do these transitions and contrasts reflect the thoughts and emotions you were feeling during this time?
The order of the album came pretty quick for me, I knew I wanted those two songs to be first and last. The song titles are self-explanatory; you can’t put us down, we’re always creating new things, surviving and the blueprints.
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The album features eleven tracks. Is there one that resonates most with you? Do you mind sharing with us why it stands out?
It constantly changes, sometimes I listen to Black Ting a lot, Running Like That or We’re Building Something New. Recently, I’ve been listening to it from beginning to end, listening to it as one thing.
The overall arc of the album is the idea of a new world being shaped. How is your music working to depict this new world? What other social issues are you hoping to speak to through your work?
I’m a Black and queer person, so that will always be in my work whether it's vocal or not. I’m making music in a white-dominated world but I’m just doing my thing at the end of the day.
How are you hoping to inspire others to follow in your footsteps? What message are you hoping to send to the world through your music?
I’m not really a great speaker, so I don’t know if I inspire or will inspire people, but my message is you don’t need all this money and music gear, that doesn’t equate to making the most amazing music. Just do you.