Binary-shattering musician Harry Hains' Antiboy project lives on

Family, friends, and kindred spirits have found lightness in the Antiboy dream of a label-less world. Here’s how they brought his vision to life.

When her son Harry Hains died in January 2020, Jane Badler knew the world wasn’t done experiencing his vision.

Hains left behind a mountain of creative work, some of which he had released under the name Antiboy, a moniker he’d coined as a summation of his views on gender. The Antiboy project’s most pressing question: How can we push against our boundaries and binaries to find breathing room and, ultimately, freedom?

Antiboy was more of a passion project than a fully realized professional ambition; Hains was much better known for acting in series like American Horror Story and The OA. Hains had dropped out of medical school in his early twenties to pursue a career in modeling, which he did find some success in; he also studied gymnastics, played the flute, and memorized Sylvia Plath poems. Badler describes him as a Renaissance man: “beautiful, talented, and deeply complex.” In January 2020, he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. He was 27 years old.

Antiboy’s first single since Hains’ death, “Dream,” dropped at the tail end of 2020, after a full year of tireless work from Badler — herself an actor and singer, best known for playing Diana on the 1980s sci-fi series V — and a team passionate about bringing the Antiboy fantasy back to life.

“Dream” — with its romantic, longing lyrics and electronic undertones — is a fully realized entry point into Hains’ body of work, which Badler describes as an “empire.” Antiboy’s latest single, “One Love,” drops today. It’s another catchy anthem, this time produced by industry favorite Red One. On it, Badler sings along with Hains about the boundary-breaking power of love.

“We were sitting on full films, poems, scripts,” Badler tells me via Zoom. “Sitting on that and sitting with our profound grief, we felt it would be healing. And we felt like his voice needed to be heard.”

Badler found she wasn’t alone in that feeling. Many people — both those who knew Hains personally and those who only knew of his legacy — found something to be passionate about in the Antiboy project. Hains’ brother, Sam, for one, wanted to use his background in animation and visual effects to bring Harry’s dreaming to life. Harry’s longtime manager used his art world connections to fill out the Antiboy project’s roster with talent, culled in large part from the LGBTQ community, that lined up with Harry’s own artistic sensibilities.

The result of this nearly year-long collaboration is Antiboy’s first full-length project, A Glitch in Paradise, an album equal parts dreampop and electronica. The album, along with a few accompanying music videos, is a meditation on all the possibilities we open up by breaking down the barriers we’ve long taken for granted. The “Dream” video communicates this by literally trapping its lead, a blonde-bobbed housewife played by trans model Andreja Pejić, inside a colorless house.

Hains in the film Lulu (2018)Ground Hero Film

Pejić’s character is imprisoned by her house and, more largely, by societal pressure to fit into that box. “I think about, God, if I had to be a housewife and cook for everyone, I would have a nervous breakdown,” Pejić tells me, laughing. Her character’s only escape is through dreams of the outside world — filled with possibility, color, and, notably, queer people.

The Antiboy mentality is one where restrictive labels surrounding gender and sexuality are instead limitless, where we are not held back by who we are but instead celebrated for it. Above all else, it’s a work that finds freedom in letting go of tension-bound binaries.

As one of the world’s best known trans models, Pejić fit perfectly into Hains’ world. Although Pejić and Hains had never met, they were in the same orbit. They were signed at the same modeling agencies in Melbourne and New York; they had many friends in common and moved through the same artistic spaces. She joined the Antiboy project after reading, and connecting with, some of Hains’ work.

“She reminds me of Harry,” Badler says of Pejić, “and she is a true artist in every sense of the word.”

Central Paradox

The central paradox of the Antiboy project is Hains’ future-forward visions being brought to life despite his no longer having a future. That tension in particular is one Badler says not only changed the final product but actually drove Hains’ artistic expression all along.

She recalls Hains playing some of his early music for her while he drove them around town. Other than fearing for her life — Badler says Hains was the “worst driver on the planet” — the memory stands out for her in that early music’s ability to express complicated emotions: the full, intersectional spectrum of fear, anguish, and love.

She was surprised by the raw talent in that early music, and also by his ability to express a paradox she had long seen in him: that he was getting in the way of his own dreams, despite knowing exactly what he needed to achieve them.

Hains was drawn to this ability to be anything and everything, all at once.

Perhaps this is why Hains found himself so drawn to the breaking down of binaries. For these tensions, which we struggle to consolidate in our minds, are only at odds with each other if we think of them as opposites. The idea of being genderless, which informs much of Harry’s work, isn’t just the state of being without gender — its inverse, the state of being all genders, is just as pertinent. The character of Antiboy — as a robot — can be whatever gender it wants.

Hains was drawn to this ability to be anything and everything, all at once; he wasn’t attached to any pronouns, Badler says, and often identified as gender fluid. This urge to be free of label and gender standards resonated strongly with Pejić. “I’ve been trying to escape my whole life,” she says.

Hains is more than a year gone now, but his dream of a world without boundaries lives on. The future of the Antiboy project is by no means certain, but Badler and the rest of the Antiboy team have some projects in the pipeline. Pejić and Badler just finished filming a short based on one of Hains’ scripts. Once again, the pursuit of living free is a major theme, Pejić says.

“If we just go with the waves,” she adds, “nothing will ever change.”