Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Vivek Shraya launches his first collection of short stories

Toronto-based artist tours God Loves Hair across Canada

Vivek Shraya released his album Keys & Machines in 2009. This spring, he's launching his first collection of short stories, God Loves Hair. Credit: Juliana Neufeld photo

Vivek Shraya has got his hands into everything. When the Toronto-based artist isn’t throwing down electropop beats, he’s penning short stories. His first collection, God Loves Hair, hits independent bookstores this spring.

God Loves Hair explores gender politics, queer theory, religion and regionalism. He’s celebrating all things hairy with launches in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Shraya describes the process of writing songs and stories as similar, “in that way they feel like hunting.”

“With songs I usually sing a word of phrase over and over again — my neighbours hate me — either acapella or over guitar or keyboard chords, until I find a melody worth chasing and then build off that,” he says.

“With writing, I will spend literally hours in front of my laptop working on a sentence, trying to find the right arrangement of words. It can be an exhausting process, but once the perfect word or melody is captured, I always feel like a new man.”

After reading Leslie Feinberg’s groundbreaking novel, Stone Butch Blues, on a plane ride from Toronto to Edmonton and back, Shraya found himself deeply moved by the work. It was one of those pivotal moments in Shraya’s life that everything came up. His own story began churning, he had to write himself down.

“It’s beautifully written and it named things in me that I didn’t realize needed naming, showed me a history I hadn’t learnt,” he says. “Unlocking those doors facilitated the further personal exploration in God Loves Hair.

“There is something queer and quirky about those words together. As the project evolved this title began to encompass that playfulness and some of the recurring themes of religion and hair.”

As an English literature graduate from the University of Alberta, Shraya moved to Toronto from Edmonton a few years ago and found a clean slate in the city. He found a sense of home in the queer community.

“Queer visibility is paramount,” he says. “I think about the difference Michael Stipe talking about his sexual fluidity in the ’90s made on my life then, as a queer teen growing up in pre-Queer As Folk Edmonton with no other role models, and it was immeasurable. Suddenly my worst fears felt okay. Something I could even flaunt, like telling my friends that I wanted girls and boys to like me.

Most often the weight of an experience propels him towards writing as a means of release, to further examination and resolution. By making music, he fused his lust for language and club beats.

“I grew up singing Hindu devotional songs and listening to my parent’s Bollywood soundtracks,” says Shraya. “My real introduction to Western music started with early ’90s R&B, then riding the Lilith Fair wave and ending up at art rock acts like Radiohead and PJ Harvey.

“In recent years I have been inspired by electro/dance artists like Goldfrapp but my heart belongs to that big pop song — hello Beyonce!”

His brassy follow-up 2007’s If We’re Not Talking, the album that found they synth player touring with Tegan and Sara, Keys & Machines is a nine-track collection that tumbles into the underbelly of late-night Parisian clubs and in-between the crevices of fractured hearts.

“I opened for Tegan and Sara for a US tour in the fall of 2005 and they have been tremendously supportive,” he says. “When I started working on If We’re Not Talking, I recorded a demo of ‘Your Name’ with Sara, and she emailed it to me a week later with her vocals unexpectedly on it. I am in love with her voice and it really accented the song so I forced her to sing on the album version.”

Vivek Shraya.

Watch the video teaser for God Loves Hair:

Catch Vivek Shraya on tour:

May 27. Toronto.
God Loves Hair launch party.
The Ossington (back room). 8 pm. Free.
With Kathryn Payne and Karine Silverwoman.

June 1. Ottawa.
God Loves Hair reading.
Venus Envy. 6:45 pm. Pay what you can.

June 3. Vancouver.
God Loves Hair reading.
Little Sister’s. 6:30 pm. Free.
With Amber Dawn and Daniel Zomparelli.

June 4. Winnipeg.
God Loves Hair reading at Pride Winnipeg.
Crossways in Common. 7 pm.

June 6. Edmonton.
God Loves Hair reading.
The Artery. 7 pm. Free.
With Karen Campos, Ted Kerr, and Derek Warwick.

June 29. Toronto.
Bent International Rights After Party.
Melody Bar. 9 pm.

July 4. Toronto.
“Proud Voices” at Pride Toronto.
James Canning Gardens. 6:15 pm. Free.