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His Voice Can Stop You in Your Tracks

His Voice Can Stop You in Your Tracks

The louche, dark-haired singer Loren Kramar has a confident, feline saunter onstage. The Angeleno can pitch his voice lower than Lou Reed’s, or project it like Fiona Apple’s.

At the Eckhaus Latta fall 2024 fashion show in February, he wowed the jaded crowd with covers of Lana Del Rey and Leonard Cohen, practically stealing the show in loose brown pants, a corduroy blazer and an insouciant boa that dragged behind him as he performed.

“He’s such a showman that any song would have been good,” said Zoe Latta, who co-founded the brand and has known Mr. Kramar for several years. “But at our rehearsal, he threw in “New York, New York,” and we were flabbergasted.”

That afternoon Mr. Kramar thought the songs should be “a story of a painful struggle for belief, the process of believing,” adding, “We can personify it with New York.” He made many new fans among the editors, influencers and assorted famous people in the audience.

But at 36, he is far from an overnight success — or an ingénue.

Mr. Kramar’s first album, “Glovemaker,” comes out on April 26 on the independent label Secretly Canadian. Samantha Urbani, who works in A&R for the label, remembered hearing Mr. Kramar sing for the first time. “Everyone stopped in their tracks. ‘Who is this guy? Why is it so fully formed?’ His music is so classic and timeless but not pastiche and retro,” she said.

“The head of the record label, Chris Swanson, I was on the phone with him maybe a month ago,” Mr. Kramar said in February over oatmeal at a cafe in Manhattan. “I was like, ‘I’m so terrified that you think that I’m ancient.’”

“He’s like, ‘You are ancient. I don’t even know how old you are, but if you’re not 19 when you’re starting the music, you’re ancient.’”

Mr. Kramar’s album is full of songs about conjuring fame and stardom and being loved. Blame it on growing up in Encino, Calif. — close enough to Hollywood to feel its pull, yet at a slight remove. His mother, an art teacher and homemaker, is from Transylvania, and his father is from Detroit. The family business is scrap metal, and his older brother works with the family now.

Mr. Kramar, however, took chorus and joined the gospel choir, with dreams of starting a two-person music group. He had his first crush on a boy at around age six. Mr. Kramar spent a lot of time with his best friend Danielle Duclon whose father, David Duclon, produced the sitcom “Family Matters.” On that set, he once met Whitney Houston, he recalled. “I had planned what I was going to say — ‘I will always love you’ — but I was too scared to say it,” said Mr. Kramar with a laugh and an expletive.

He funneled family tension and adolescent awkwardness into art, making “a lot of emo drawings of eyes,” and was accepted into Cooper Union’s art program in 2005. Once in New York City, Mr. Kramar became a regular at The Beatrice Inn and a loyal attendee of the party Misshapes. “I once went with a couple friends, and they didn’t get in, and I went in anyway. I was like, ‘This means far more to me than it means to you.’”

After two years of college, he took a year off. “I needed to prove that I could do something outside of being an artist. I wanted to work in fashion, or maybe magazines.” He went to work for Zac Posen. “My big idea, because they were talking about a diffusion line, was that it should be called Jack Rosen By Zac Posen,” he said laughing and shaking his head.

Mr. Kramar never became a designer, but he remains a collector of archival T-shirts and other vintage items including “lots of Keith Haring, Vivienne Westwood’s witches collection from ’83 and Stephen Sprouse,” he said.

The actor and comedian Kate Berlant met Mr. Kramar in 2015 at a party at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood and was completely entranced by him: “Almost no one has personal style, I would argue, at all. He might be the only person I know who truly has personal style. It’s not something that’s found in the algorithm.”

The inspiration for Mr. Kramar’s day-to-day outfits, usually an antique-looking white blouse and brown pants, is “to dress in what Patti Smith sleeps in.”

Tuition at Cooper Union was free at the time he attended, so Mr. Kramar lived off an unused college fund from his grandfather. He spent much of the decade between graduating from Cooper Union and 2020 working various jobs. He started an online arts magazine in 2012 called “Megazine” with friends. By then Mr. Kramar was recording music on GarageBand.

“I realized I care too much about being an artist myself to commit to championing other artists,” he said. “But I was internalizing an alcoholic, shadowy, darling, niche, tragic, gay identity to my own detriment. I’d already been writing songs that were more melodic and vocally driven and less like these monologues that I’ve been doing. It was like, I want joy, and I want as much success as I can achieve.”

So he moved back to Los Angeles, where he currently lives, in Hollywood. He does not drive, instead using a Bird scooter to get around. (His dream collaboration, he said, would be to make a sound for when the scooter unlocks.)

At 27 he secured a record production deal, but with visits to record labels and meetings with notable industry figures, the promise of a mainstream career felt like it could only come at the expense of his identity. He recalled that one creative director told him, “‘If you’re asked if you’re gay, just say that you’re not — don’t answer it,’”

“We went shopping together. He said, ‘You almost look normal.’ I mean, these words will haunt me forever.”

He recorded an album that never came out, and the management deal was dissolved in 2018. Now he’s introducing himself while at the artistic helm.

“He’s the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker of his whole reality,” said Ms. Latta, who appeared in the video for his single “Glovemaker,” for which Mr. Kramar directed and dressed himself in a clown costume from Bode. “I have a picture of him from that day looking at a monitor, directing the film crew and extras while getting his makeup done.”

He toured last year with Josh Tillman, who performs as Father John Misty. Mr. Kramar sent Mr. Tillman a mix of his song “Hollywood Blvd.”

“Before the song ended, I texted to see if he wanted to go on tour,” Mr. Tillman said. “I’d watch him from the side of the stage every night. Halfway through the first song, looking at the crowd, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it wasn’t his crowd. You don’t generally see that.”

Despite having charmed the snobby fashion crowd at Eckhaus Latta, Mr. Kramar is nervous. He feels the pressures of being a late bloomer but has grand aspirations to play the Hollywood Bowl and Kennedy Center Honors.

“Some friends are starting families,” he said. “They are living the rewards of the seeds that they planted a decade ago. I’m embarrassed and frustrated and scared.”

He continued: “This is the extreme nature of the validation that I require. You know how badly I need to feel accepted and worthy? A record-deal worth, that’s how much.”

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