YOU only need to spend a few minutes with Lauren Lakis…
to realise she has experienced much adventure and wonder. I have been chatting with her about her transition into music and what her single, Lead Us On, is all about - Lakis reveals what we will hear on her upcoming album, FEROCIOUS.
She talks about L.A. and how it differs from her home of Baltimore; if there are any gigs booked in the diary; which new artists we should keep an eye out for; why her latest track carries serious emotional significance – Lakis explains how she spends her time away from music.
Hi, Lauren. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey there, Sam. This week has been utterly ridiculous, but I can’t think of a week that *hasn’t* been over the past few months! This week, in particular, I mailed about 430 advance-promo C.D.s to radio stations around the U.S. I can only liken it to watching your child head into their first day of school; you hold your breath and hope that your creation goes out into the world and does something great…
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hell. I’m Lauren Lakis. I’m an artist unbounded my any specific medium and find most of my time devoted to performance and expression of some sort - whether it’s music-making, acting in films; shooting photos, or writing. My hope is to make art that helps us to connect with our hearts and each other.
Can you talk about Lead Us On and how the song started its life?
Lead Us On was the fourth song I wrote for the full album; at a time when I was going through the grieving process due to a break-up, as typical as I realize that is. I was vacillating between anger, denial; pain and loneliness and finally found myself in a state of surrender. I was resigned to the idea that, perhaps, I didn’t know what was best, perhaps I wasn’t right in my opinion; perhaps my partner was, indeed, smarter than me and knew something that I couldn’t accept.
The song was my way of declaring: “If this is what you want, then I trust you to lead the way and I will follow…lead us on into the night”.
FEROCIOUS is your first full-length. What sort of themes, stories and ideas influenced the songs on the album?
Oh, this is definitely a break-up album. It’s all about loss, the dark night of the soul; summoning inner-strength to rebuild and create a life that is even better than what previously was. I explored the full spectrum of the grieving process with this album. It was pure catharsis. I had honestly never been so inspired.
I was so in love, maybe for the first time with both feet in, and thought I had found ‘my person’. But, that relationship became incredibly co-dependent: we both relied on the other to feel happy and whole. It was bound to implode. My ex was facing some internal struggles and, while I don’t intend to air any of his dirty laundry; he had a breakdown of sorts and became this unrecognizable person to me. It felt like he had died. Looking back, I know that his struggles had nothing to do with me but, at the time, it didn’t seem that way.
I personalized it all. I remember lying in my bathtub, perfectly still, imagining being dead; thinking about who might find me and what people would say. It was all highly-dramatic, but made for excellent songwriting!
Then, just as I was feeling okay with being alive, my mom was involved in a car accident and suffered a spinal cord injury. So, I immediately flew from L.A. to Baltimore to be with her in the hospital for a few weeks. That snapped me out of any residual self-pity left over from the break-up! I had no choice but to learn how to be strong for my mother.
Needless to say, it was a whirlwind of a year - and I had a lot of material to put into song.
Do you recall the moment music hit you? Why did you decide the industry was the one for you?
I can recall, actually! My mom’s boyfriend’s mother had given me a couple of C.D.s for Christmas one year when I was a kid and, randomly enough (I don’t think she knew much about music - my intuition tells me she picked out whatever looked cool!), she chose Fiona Apple’s Tidal and Garbage’s debut album. Those albums hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t stop playing them and singing along. I wanted to be just like Fiona and Shirley.
It’s interesting; I don’t know if I decided that the music industry was the one for me until this past year! I’ve been so reluctant to commit to it for so long and wrote my album out of sheer necessity, just for myself. I had no idea it would snowball into what it is. I wasn’t even sure I would record it in a legitimate studio! But, I did, and now I find myself completely entrenched, living and breathing music every single day.
You could call me a late-bloomer…
How vital is Baltimore in regards your drive and sound?
Baltimore city is absolutely vital; it informed me about the world and laid the groundwork for the rest of my life. It’s where I started creating art. It fascinated and terrified me. I’m so grateful to have grown up there as I was never a sheltered child and was keenly aware at a young age that the world could be a very unforgiving place. I have street smarts. It takes a lot to shock me. I’m pretty courageous. Those are all direct results of my hometown.
I used to always compare Baltimore to Gotham City but maybe that’s a harsh comparison to make. I’m just aware of the darkness that is so prevalent in that city. Perhaps that’s why I’m attracted to dark/moody sounds and imagery.
Baltimore also has a thriving community of artists working in all mediums - it’s an extremely supportive environment for anyone working in an artistic field. The rent is cheap and there is an actual community, which I miss after so many years in L.A.
Do uncomfortable moments and challenging situations propel and compel songs? You taught English in Prague and hung in warehouses with junkies – writing poetry and shooting the breeze. Do you collate all these lives and experiences when you create songs?
Oh, boy - is ‘junkie’ even a P.C. term anymore?! I guess it is what it is. I think that any life experience can be fuel for song-writing, absolutely. The more experiences, uncomfortable moments and challenges etc. that we face…the more fuel for the fire. I also think that, having had a multitude of different experiences and different ‘lives’, it has helped me to keep an open mind and not be so quick to judge how others choose to live. It’s increased my powers of empathy, which helps me to be a more inspired artist all around.
Every time you head into the world and experience something new and wonderful. Is it a search for songwriting inspiration or your natural personality looking for new light and colour?!
Ha, ha; that’s just my natural personality. I’m not sure if the credit should be given to my zodiac sign, but I fit the Sagittarius description to a tee! I love to travel, learn about people and expose myself to new experiences. The richness of experience is what makes life so fantastic. I want to die with zero regrets. There is too much to see and do to fit into one lifetime!
Which artists did you grow up listening to? Who do you rank as musical idols?
I know she has a sorted reputation, but Courtney Love has always been a Punk-Rock goddess to me. Her voice and lyrics are so raw, so powerful and I love how she created her own opportunities. I was really into all the Riot Grrrl bands like Babes in Toyland and Bikini Kill. As a teenager, I listened to a lot of Against Me!, Coheed and Cambria; From Autumn to Ashes and Interpol - and got really into all the Alt-Rock of the '90s, even though it was slightly before my time. Portishead and Sneaker Pimps were on-repeat. Trent Reznor is forever a genius, in my book. Elizabeth Powell from Land of Talk is such a prolific songwriter. Peaches was a pioneer…
I’d love to make a covers album of my favorite lady musicians - it would include Cat Power, Hole; Fiona Apple, Björk; Heart, Garbage; Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush; Juliana Hatfield, PJ Harvey and The Cranberries etc.
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
I’m embarking on a West Coast tour in July. We’re starting here in L.A. with the album release show (June 30th at the Handbag Factory in DTLA) and making our way through NorCal; a few stops in Oregon, Seattle, and then, a Denver show in August. I’d love to plan an East Coast tour after that and, eventually, a Euro tour….and, then, a world tour, if all goes as planned.
Might you come to the U.K. and play here?
That would be a dream. I’ve only ever had layovers at Heathrow: never a proper visit!
Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?
Hmmmmm….I try not to get ahead of myself, because I certainly have the tendency to do so and keep my expectations low. However…if I could set high goals for myself I would love for one of my songs to become the theme for a T.V. show and have my songs played on national radio!
I’m also working on the next album, which is currently titled Taiwanese Night Market; so my goal is to spend some time shooting some film and video in that part of the world before the year is over.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
There are so many small moments that I cherish. It’s hard to say. Perhaps, my favorite was driving from L.A. to Austin last year with my producer and his sister’s boyfriend (whom I had just met), on a whim, to play a SXSW showcase. We decided, on a Friday afternoon, to leave that evening and drove straight through for about 24 hours. It was hilarious, and difficult, and it bonded us for life.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
Hole - Live Through This
Nine Inch Nail - The Fragile
Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I feel like a new artist myself! But, for anyone else, I would tell them to just take it one day at a time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re first starting out - and realize how much work you’ll have to put into this endeavor if you’re ever going to get anywhere with it.
Just write for you; no thoughts of how it might be received. Keep doing it for as long as it’s fun and feels good. Keep it simple. Write from the heart, trust your instincts; work hard and be a good human. The rest will follow…
IN THIS PHOTO: XHOANA X
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
These days? Nope!
Kidding. Sort of…I love taking day trips - or even longer road trips. Driving on the open road is peaceful to me. I love to read, especially French authors of the 1930s and ‘40s like Jean-Paul Sartre, Antonin Artaud and Anaïs Nin. I also love to escape into (Haruki) Murakami’s stories.
Naps are vital...
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I would love to play a show with Emma Ruth Rundle someday. Here’s one of her tracks -
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