Gen Z: Piers Murphy

19 April 2017

Photographer Cecilie Harris
Words Brogan Anderson
Model Piers Murphy at SUPA Models

He’s an intellectual, there’s no doubt about it. Wise beyond his 19 years, contemplating the individuals around him with such delicacy and deep understanding, Piers Murphy at SUPA Models, possesses unique musings of his generational companions. With no personal social media and an appreciation of the quality of being alone, it almost feels as though Piers was maybe born into the wrong time… or is this the way all young boys will evolve and he is just ahead of the curve?
A writer constructing dystopian worlds and foreign landscapes, fictional characters within the mind dance about, all channelled into the paper beneath the nib of his pen. His drive in poignant, it means a lot, and it has become part of his makeup. Intriguing curiosities spark an excitement within him. Having dabbled in psychomagic and getting lost in psychedelic worlds, his creative mind goes far beyond your average teen. Time is invested in discoveries, getting caught up deep into the logistics and understandings of the way things are, and he speaks with such eloquence.
An abundance of revelations tumble out in his words, including pilrimages embarked upon through Spain, and that, after a childhood growing up in London and a short stint at a countryside boarding school where the birds wake you in the morning, a prospective future at Cambridge University studying French and Portuguese lays ahead for Piers. For now though, he'll enjoy his time off. No plans. No schedules. Can deal with that later.
How would you describe generation Z?
It’s difficult. I think most of the narrative of how it’s described is kind of controlled by older generations, and they kind of think of us as a bit more shallow than we are. There is an element of shallowness, but I also think there’s a deeper understanding of cross-platform living and a different way of life. I think with some time and a bit more maturity, it could be better than anything we’ve seen so far.
Where do you think this shallow misconception comes from?
The social media thing is definitely a big deal, I think a lot of people are quite scared of that in a way. It does have downsides and it’s not something I’m hugely interested in myself, but as a generational thing, it can have quite a lot of positives. I think there are some differences in attitudes between the generations - as far as emotions and stuff goes. I think we’ve got different priorities, especially in relationships and sex and things like that.
What sort of challenges do you think this generation faces?
Mostly questions of self-esteem - either too low or too high - that’s a big problem. If we can just figure out where we are and work from there, we could do a lot of great stuff.
What are the best things about growing up now?
I think there’s more equality of opportunity than there has been. I don’t think it’s a finished process yet, there’s still a long way to go, but it’s definitely better than it’s been in the past.
You’ve lived in London your whole life, what’s it like growing up here?
It’s nice. I went to boarding school for a bit during sixth form in the countryside and that was far out in the middle of nowhere. It was a really weird experience, because I’m usually very ‘inner-city’ and involved in that kind of stuff, but it was cool and much quieter. I actually woke up to the sounds of birds one time.
That’s actually a thing?
Yeah! I was like; ‘Jesus, I didn’t know this happened’. It's really nice to be able to go wherever you need to really quickly, and it’s a lot of freedom at the same time as being quite crushing. It can be lonely when you’re surrounded by a bunch of people, but I think overall it’s something I wouldn’t really change for anything.
You wouldn’t have wanted to have a different upbringing in the countryside? Have those birds from day one?
No, I don’t think so, I’m not that kind of person. It’s weird ‘cause when you’re in the countryside there’s a demand to be more sociable in a way, and I enjoy my own company as well as actually doing stuff.
Do you think those who have spent their whole lives in the countryside would have a bit of a culture shock coming somewhere like London? How do you think their lifestyles differ?
I was only there for two years, while most of the other people had been there since they were 11 or 13. It’s definitely weird for them, especially watching them come out of it and trying to get jobs in the city, but to be honest, they get the hang of it pretty quickly. It’s more of a cultural thing, it’s a different way of seeing interactions than the actual technical stuff of getting around and looking after yourself.
How come you decided to go to boarding school for sixth form?
I don’t really know. I just kind of needed a break; it was all getting a bit heavy. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to go get some space and regroup. I don’t think I could have handled it for longer than I was there, but for the time that I was there it was really nice.
What sort of things are you passionate about?
I like to write in my free time. I’m going to be a writer after uni. I’m on a gap year at the moment, but after uni I’m going to put all my energy into that. I haven’t started yet… actually taking a double year off, pushing it as far into the future as possible until I eventually have to face it. But yeah, I love writing and expressing myself through that, and I get quite passionate about certain issues that I try to put into my work.
What sort of writing do you do?
Fiction. I haven’t had anything published, but I’m working towards it. I’ve got a couple of things that are finished.
Where did you want to go to study?
Cambridge to study languages; French and Portuguese.

What have you been doing in your time off from education?
I’ve been doing a bit of travelling and modelling, which came out of nowhere. I don’t even know how that happened, I was just in the cinema - and writing as well. I’ve only been modelling for a couple months now, but it’s nice. I’ve met some really cool people and had a cool time. I kind of expected a bit more unpleasantness, but everyone’s been really nice so far.
Whereabouts did you go on your travels?
I went to Venice for a bit - that was really cool - and then I did a pilgrimage through Spain, which was heavy. It was really fun. I went alone and met some people along the way, but it was really great.
Who is Piers?
I guess I’m a product of my parents, it was pretty unavoidable, but I feel like most of what I am comes down to. Sometimes trying to be like them, but mostly trying not to be like them. I’m someone who likes to listen and be listened too, but I don’t love noise. I like being by myself, but I also like having the freedom of being with other people if I need to. It’s difficult. I think writing is a big part of my identity. I’ve only been taking it seriously for a couple of years now, but as I grow I feel like it’s becoming a bigger part of me.
How would you describe your current lifestyle?
It’s mostly just sleeping and hectic, going from one place to another. It’s 0-100 - you’re doing absolutely nothing and then something pops out of nowhere and you’re off in the middle of nowhere doing crazy shit. It’s nice! I’m not normally someone who plans very well, so it’s good that if I’m not doing anything, I can just end up somewhere random. I don’t really like any long-term plans in advance. It’s pretty hand-to-mouth.
How do you want it to change in the next 5-10 years?
I guess uni is going to be a big shock. Hopefully I can cling on to some of my identity when I go there. I think spending a bit of time abroad in the future would be ideal, would get me out of my comfort zone if I spent a long period of time living in another country. It would be good, sometimes I feel like I’m a little too comfortable and complacent.
Who do you see as influencers to your generation as a whole?
There’s a lot of credit to given people like musicians, definitely, but that’s always been the way as long as they’ve been around. People look up to celebrities quite a bit, wanting to be like them. In a way that can be a good thing if someone uses their celebrity to push positive ideals on people, but at the same time it can be bad if you’re looking for it just for its own sake. Some people want to do things without really having a passion for it, they just want the end result. There are really some people who challenge things creatively and challenge preconceptions and ways of looking at society, pushing it forwards and I think that’s a really good thing.
What about those who are personal influencers to you?
Allen Ginsberg, the beat poet - I love his stuff, it’s great. Every time I feel like I don’t know what to say, I look to his stuff and it really helps me. Kanye West is… I don’t even know where to begin, he’s a visionary. He’s going to change the world, frankly. He’s not the most popular guy, but I think if he just keeps doing what he’s doing and ignores everyone else, it’s going to be great. There are a few more people like, Don DeLillo and the whole post-modernist movement is really interesting to me. I’m not exactly a post-modernist myself, but I think of myself as the next step in that progress.
We touched upon social media earlier, but I’m wondering how you think it effects the generation?
There’s definitely a link, a correlation between how our generation thinks and social media, but I think there’s a tendency to see it as social media influence the way that we are instead of the other way around. To be honest, it’s much more likely that we shape social media to be the way that we are, as opposed to the other way around. I don’t think it has a huge influence on the way we live our lives to be honest and we’d be exactly the same if we didn’t have it.
You said you don’t really use it much yourself. Is there any reason for that?
I don’t know, I guess I just don’t want my life to become a display for other people. Like I said, I’m very into my own company and I do things because I like them. I don’t like sharing those things with people very much, I’m quite private.
What do you do to make yourself happy?
I love just heading down to the library for a day. It sounds so uncool. I can just camp down in the library, crack a bunch of books and spend the whole day in there, it’s awesome. I like hanging out with my friends, having stupid deep discussions about nonsense and how we’re going to change the world.
How’s that going?
Pretty good! We’re moving forward, making some steps. But yeah, I’m really enjoying where I’m at at the moment.
Would you say you were quite an emotional person?
I’m not a big sharer, but I do think that I feel quite a lot if that makes sense. I don’t know if you can really say that someone feels a lot if they’re not sharing it with other people. It’s a difficult way to classify it, but I think I have some strong reactions to certain things. I get pretty emotional about some things.
You say you don’t tend to outwardly express them, what sort of things do you do to deal with the emotions that you are feeling?
Mostly channeling them into something creative like writing, sometimes drawing and stuff like that. Sometimes I bottle them up, because it’s just easier in the short term. I try and make it as healthy as I can, but sometimes bad stuff just manages to squeeze it’s way out - I try and bat that down as quickly as I can. I think I do okay.
Considering your control over them, what are your physical reactions to your emotions?
I’m not a big crier. I do have a bit of a temper. I don’t necessarily take it out on people who don’t deserve it, so I don’t feel a lot of regret afterwards. If I’m angry with someone, I’m angry at them.
When it comes to stress, how do you handle that?
I like to have the freedom to get out of a stressful situation, so I’ll just take some time, give myself some space and think about what I’m doing while at the same time not focusing too much on it, because that can just lead to it getting worse and worse. Not exactly distract myself, but take myself into a different situation.
Boys by Girls is very passionate about mental health. Is it something that is quite close and personal to you?
Definitely, yes. It’s played a big part - positively or negatively - on who I am who in terms of myself and my family and the way different situations and different phenomena effect the people around me. I’ve learned a lot from it. I don’t feel like I’m damaged in any way, but it’s definitely impacted me quite heavily I’d say.
How do you think the generation as a whole encounters and discusses mental health?
It’s interesting, I feel like there’s a big throwing around of terms that don’t really apply. I think there’s an understanding that goes underneath the surface of the words that we use to express it, and I think that we’re kind of more in touch with that than we have been in the past even though it might seem outwardly that we’re just making fun of it or it’s all big joke. It’s a step forward.
Within your generation, gender fluidity is more prominent. How do you feel about gender identity and fluidity?
I don’t really have any particular feelings toward it, which is such a my generation thing to say! It’s just a perfectly normal thing. Sometimes, certain people can use concepts like that as a way of addressing certain other problems that they wouldn’t necessarily use it for normally, in past times for example, problems that they would have just to work out for themselves. I think in the majority of cases, people just feel the way that they feel and that should be celebrated. Some of the time there’s a lot of unhappiness behind certain issues, but generally, I feel it’s something people are adjusting to pretty easily and society is, gradually, becoming more accepting of it.
How do you think masculinity has changed?
I don’t feel like it has changed a great deal. At the same time as there being a lot of pressure to be masculine in a certain way, there’s also a big relaxation in other areas. I feel like that just has more to do with how young we are at the moment and how unsure we are of ourselves as a generation because, of our youth and any generational/cultural ideals that we’re pushing forward, I think we’re struggling a little bit to find out who we are. By the time we’re fully fledged adults, then everything will pretty much fall into line. I feel like identity is a big part of society, how you identity and the person that you feel who you are. I don’t want to limit that for anyone and I don’t think my generation wants to limit it for anyone, but at the same time, if too many liberties are taken with the way you behave and the way you use the concept of identity then it can cheapen it in a way. We’re really exploring what it means to identify as something, but we have to be careful that we don’t go too far and deconstruct the concept till it means nothing.
Do you think ideals have changed and that men are able to ask for help more now?
I don’t think these gender roles will ever really go away. I’m not saying they’re inherent to genetics, but they’ve been a part of culture for so long, that it would take something really dramatic for it to properly go away. I don’t think the concepts themselves are positive or negative, but I think it can have some bad effects, if you know what I mean? If you apply them in the wrong way to the wrong situations, then it can be quite harmful if you’re telling people to behave in a way that isn’t in line with who they actually are. That can be quite dangerous. Generally I feel people will just do what makes them comfortable, and a lot of the time, that is conforming what’s gone before.
Are you spiritual or religious?
I am religious, I’m a Catholic. I go to church pretty much every week. It doesn’t really dominate a huge part of my life, it’s just I devote that time to it and I spend the rest of my time leading a normal life. I’m not constantly thinking about what God thinks what I’m doing or anything like that. Spiritual… Kind of I guess, especially creatively when I’m trying to find new avenues and new ways of pushing myself, I can go quite deep into that. I’ve experimented with a lot of stuff, and some of it works, some of it doesn’t.
What kind of stuff?
The last thing I got into, I’m still kind of in to it, is ‘psychomagic’, which is bizarre as shit. It’s trippy. But it’s really enjoyable and takes your mind to places that you hadn’t gone. It’s manipulation of your own mind. Normally when people talk about magic, which I don’t really buy into generally, they’re talking about influencing the outside world and controlling stuff, but this is more about turning it inwards and changing who you are and exploring different parts of your mind that you hadn’t really thought to go into before. It can get quite psychedelic, trippy and outrageous, but I really enjoy it and it has made me create some really cool stuff.
How did you come about it?
It’s funny, I was actually looking up some stuff behind Kanye West’s album ‘Yeezus’, and I came across a name that I’m familiar with, Alejandro Jodorowsky. He’s a phsycomagician and was an inspiration in certain elements of the tour behind the album. I realised a few years back, I’d seen one of his films, this trippy Western movie called ‘El Topo’. I dug that back up and I hadn’t understood it at all the first time and I watched it again, getting more and more into it, thinking, ‘okay, I can see where he’s coming from’. I looked up some of his other work and some rituals and things like that, and it just kind of snowballed from there.
Deep; have you ever been in love?
I’m the last person who would know. I guess, maybe? I spent a lot of the time feeling like I had been at one point, but now as I’m moving forwards and blossoming a little bit emotionally, I find it harder and harder to tell whether it was real at all or just my mind going crazy. If I end up dying not having felt anything like that ever afterwards, then that was it.
How was that feeling?
It was horrible. It was like the worst feeling in the world. It made me so uncomfortable. Like I said I’m not a big sharer of that kind of stuff, and when you have this thing, it’s like, ‘oh God, what do I do?’ I wouldn’t swap it for anything, it was an important learning experience. It’s interesting that you can fall in love with someone and they can change; do you still love them or do you love who they were when you fell in love with them?
What is your dream?
To become better than I am. To be constantly evolving. As far as writing goes, I want to keep getting better and I want to influence people and effect people, making them feel good things. Spread love and happiness all over the world. Keep moving forwards. I don’t think I’ll ever be finished with who I am, so just always learning.

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