Queer music icon Perfume Genius finds the light

In the space of 10 years, Perfume Genius has gone from tortured singer-songwriter to critically-acclaimed queer icon.

He's spent much of his career singing about his past struggles with sobriety and homophobia - but for his new album No Shape he wanted to step away from the darkness.

"A lot of the older music is about bad memories, and I have enough of them maybe for one-and-a-half more albums," he told Newshub.

"But it didn't feel exciting or inspired - it felt kind of easy to do. Being positive and warm and writing this joyous pop music, weirdly to me it felt a lot more scary and uncomfortable."

No Shape is much more poppy than before, and has songs dedicated to his partner of nine years Alan Wyffels, who's also his only permanent bandmate.

"We're around each other 24/7 and I wanted to make sure that I stepped back and really thought about all the goodness of that, and all the magic that it comes with," he explained.

Real name Mike Hadreas, Perfume Genius is in Wellington for two New Zealand Festival shows. He says audiences can expect a more screaming, writhing performance, compared to the minimal piano-based shows he used to play.

"I would just kind of get up there and make sure that I did it. But now I can relax enough to be up there and look at everybody else and have a shared, cathartic thing."

Ten years sober and a champion of the LGBT community, he says he's overwhelmed when fans tell him his music helps them with their own struggles.

"By being explicit in my lyrics about my experience, 100 percent not changing anything or censoring it to make it potentially more universal, maybe that will help people that need it connect to it."

He understands the importance of finding connections to music.

"I remember looking for music when I was younger to give me that feeling, and I remember just obsessively needing music to make me feel less lonely and less anxious or ashamed or whatever.

"Things that I was having a hard time getting from actual human beings around me."

His increasingly higher profile means his music's popping up in some odd places.

"They'll put it in a Major League Baseball ad or something, but the lyrics are really messed up. And I love that all these dudes are watching sports at home and being tricked into listening to my stuff."

Next stop in his rising fame game - brand endorsement.

"If Diet Coke asked me to do a commercial, I'd do it," he said.

Given that he drinks at least six cans a day, it could be a very successful relationship.