pure xtc: Synthesizing the Urgency of Queer Desire

pure xtc is the brooding electropop brainchild of queer singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Hughes. Originally based in New York City, Hughes relocated to Kansas City, MO in the throes of the pandemic, after the dissolution of her former project, the Brooklyn-based indie dance pop outfit Exnations. 

Since the release of her debut EP, Nobody’s Home, in November 2021, her career has steadily gained momentum, amassing thousands of streams in less than a year and performing alongside the likes of Dashboard Confessional, Dayglow, and Jenny Lewis. Last month she concluded a tour with a performance at The Dinah in Palm Springs, one of the world’s largest annual festivals for lesbian and queer women. 

pure xtc’s latest singles “get lost,” and “shadow,” showcase her uncanny ability to write irresistibly catchy synthetic earworms that exist in a liminal space between ’80s synth-pop, the modern sugary sonic walls of Fletcher and the lethal claws of Jesse Jo Stark. The former single is a cinematic ode to rapturous infatuation and the latter deals with torturous overthinking and inner confrontation.

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with pure xtc to discuss the battle for authenticity, artistic integrity, and why she decided to leave New York behind and migrate to the Midwest.

Welcome to A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I’m Taylor Hughes, aka pure xtc. I’ve been a drummer for the last 17 years and recently refocused on guitar and vocals to front my new project. I love 80’s goth, craft beer, low budget movies, and going to museums. This honestly would have been a fire tinder bio [laughs]. 

How and why did you start creating music? 

I’ve been doing it so long that it just feels like it’s always been a part of me. I started playing piano when I was in 3rd grade. My dad got me a Fender strat when I was in kindergarten (let’s be real, he got it so he could play it, lol). Music has just always been there. When I was fifteen I started playing drums and that’s when things really started going. 

Your sound is very eclectic. Do you have specific influences you can pinpoint or do your inspirations evolve? 

Inspirations definitely evolve but I’ve had a few focal artists in mind while I was conjuring pure xtc. I can pinpoint a few, Metric, MUNA, Phantogram and Red Hearse are bands I can play on loop forever. I definitely feel their influence in my writing. 

I’m loving your latest single “get lost.” Can you tell me a little bit about how the song came about? 

Thank you so much! I think “get lost” combines my love for sugary pop, synths and guitar-driven music. 

I imagine that migrating to Kansas City, MO from New York was a big change of scenery. Do you see a lot of live music there, and how has performing live changed since the pandemic? 

For sure. I find that there’s way more community in the music scene and people love to support one another here. I go to more shows here than I ever did back in NYC. I moved here when shows just started coming back and the scene was hungry for it! 

What can you tell me about your upcoming EP Shed My Skin

I’m releasing it track by track. There’s only 2 songs left! You’ll notice a stark difference in the tones and pace. It’s definitely more upbeat and brighter than my first EP. It’s kind of neat seeing the growth between the two, writing/ timing wise they’re only a few months apart from each other. 

What can fans expect from your live shows? 

Lots of banter and song meanings. I love explaining what went into them / how they came about and all the behind-the-scenes stuff. It just feels like I’m hanging out with a room full of friends. 

As an openly queer artist, would you say your identity shapes your creative process as an artist?

I find it to be a great source of inspiration. It allows me to create the songs I wish that I had growing up. There weren’t many songs that I could identify with – women singing about women. I wanna write songs that everyone can relate to, but I think the queer community deserves [more of a] spotlight.

Since your debut you’ve gained a lot of traffic pretty quickly. What’s it like to process it all? 

It feels wild, because this is all I’ve ever wanted. Before pure xtc I thought I needed other people to make it happen. Going solo is the scariest and best thing I’ve ever done, I almost feel like I’m trying to make up for lost time? I just got home from some west coast dates and I’m finally starting to process how much has actually happened.

What is the most important message you want to convey to your audience? 

I’m just being myself, loving who I love, and sometimes I write songs about it. I think everyone should be able to express their true self without the fear of losing loved ones or “offending” certain people. It needs to be normalized and I hope that I can lend a hand in making that happen!

What does the rest of the year have in store for pure xtc? 

The rest of the year I’ll be focusing on writing and planning 2023!








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