To celebrate the release of her newest album, instrumentalist musician Emily Wells sat down with Tracy E. Gilchrist of Advocate Today to discuss how activists during the AIDs crisis inspired her art.
Wells began writing Regards to the End shortly before the Covid-19 outbreak. The album was inspired by modern turmoil such as the pandemic and climate change, but Wells also drew inspiration from the past and current work of HIV activists. She believes that modern activists can still learn from their messaging.
"The record is kind of trying to paw at these answers — or questions rather, I don't have answers — these questions about particularly what the early AIDs activists did, and what we can learn from them in our time," Wells explains. "Particularly thinking about climate, but obviously there's a whole host of other things that we need their guidance on, because they were so effective, and so daring and brilliant."
Wells shares that writing music and expanding on her creative visions gives her a "daily purpose," which is why she believes it is crucial for her work to reflect her beliefs.
While Wells was too young to experience the height of the AIDs crisis, she says it is something that still affects queer people today. The activism of those who came before her inspires her greatly, as Wells recognizes that their work paved the way for hers.
"Just being a queer person, and slowly realizing how [AIDs] is my legacy, in a way. My history, my elders — those are humans beings that forged so much for me," she says.
Emily Wells – "Come On Kiki" – Official Video www.youtube.com
Wells' music mixes classical orchestral instruments with modern hip hop influences, in a style she calls "combining cultures." Her queer identity motivated her style, as she felt she didn't fit in with any community.
"Part of it is not really belonging to any of the cultures fully," Wells elaborates. "Part of it is being really interested in invention. Obviously, invention doesn't happen out of thin air, it's created out of what has come before."
Above all else, Wells seeks to evoke joy through her work, even as the world experiences difficult times. Those in queer communities have been particularly disenfranchised as of late, but Wells believes in pushing through, and finding light in the darkness.
She says: "In terms of intent around the activism that was taking place at that time, and my intent around this record, is to infuse it with some kind of joy. Music is what I live for, it's also what unites us and creates bonds between people."
Regards to the End is available to stream online through Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Prime. Check out her full interview with The Advocate Channel below.