Laurel has been through many phases.
Chatting to Clash on the phone, she recalls her pop interests, her teenage years spent writing and recording EPs, hand-decorated at home.
She's always been building towards something, working out how best to use her voice, and how best to pursue her goals.
Debut album 'DOGVIOLET' is the culmination of this. Out now on Counter Records, it's a stark statement of independence, with Laurel herself handling production and mixing duties.
Veering from frozen blues to subtle folk, and on through more dynamic realms, it's a tour de force, a record that has been worth the wait.
Here's how it came about...
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Well, the album is finally here – do you think you’ve found a definitive sound for Laurel?
I think so! I guess you never really find your definitive sound because hopefully it changes, I don’t want it to stay the same. For the meantime, though, I’ve found Laurel! I’m pretty happy with the sound of this record.
When you set out to make the album did you have a settled idea of what you wanted to achieve?
I think it’s more of an open space. The next album I do will probably be more project based. This is the first album, so with that comes years of songwriting, as there’s a lot more time to write your first album. The last song on the record I wrote four years ago. It’s more of a space to finally create a full-bodied piece of work, and it’s very cohesive in that a lot of work has gone in to making it sound like an album.
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This is the first album, so with that comes years of songwriting...
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Written and recorded at home, we are told.
Yes! I wrote it all in various houses around London, and then I produced it all here – and mixed it all, too. But in the middle of that I recorded drums in a studio in Hackney, which I did on tape machine. So I put all of the takes through a tape machine, then I took it back out and finished mixing. It’s a pretty lengthy process.
Did you always mean to take such total control?
Not from the start of being a musician… I never really had my eye set on being a producer, to be honest with you. Or definitely not mixing.
It just kind of happened that way. I produced a lot, so when it came to making the album I really wanted to produce it, I had my eye set on that. I think it’s the way I work best, I’ve really got out what I wanted. I couldn’t imagine that someone else would reach what I envisioned in my mind better than what I could, so I did it myself.
I do that with a lot of things, though – people get very annoyed with me!
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Recording at home gives you that restrained sound.
It does. Plus, I’m an independent artist so I want to record only when I feel like doing something. When you have a studio and you’re paying to be there for like a week you really have the pressure of getting everything done in that space, and I think sometimes that doesn’t work for me because I come up with something which isn’t as genuine.
When I’m in my house and it’s 11pm and I’m working on one of the songs, I might be doing to a gig or something but I’ll have half an hour and I can just blast out some production. I think that works best for me, in terms of making something which I enjoyed making at the time rather than thinking, oh I have to get this done.
‘Same Mistakes’ led the way for the record, do you remember writing that?
Yes… I’d not long broken up with somebody. I think it was a Friday night and there’s always that first weekend when you’re imagining the person you were with – you’re both single now, so what are they up to? But the reality is you’re both at home doing nothing apart from being upset. It was quite an angry song, I had a lot of emotions inside.
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I think sometimes your influences aren’t intentional...
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There’s a blues element to it as well.
Definitely. It’s a bit bluesy. Somebody said it sounded a bit country, which I thought was quite funny.
Where does that influence come from? Is it more recording solo that gives it such a raw feel?
It hasn’t been anything intentional but I think sometimes your influences aren’t intentional. My mum listened to a lot of country music when we were younger. I used to listen to a lot of folk music, and it was just guitar and vocals. That’s where I started, and I think it’s just in me still.
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‘Crave’ was on the flip – was it written around the same time?
No I think ‘Crave’ was written quite a bit before ‘Same Mistakes’ which was one of the last we finished for the album. ‘Crave’ is about that feeling that no one can ever give to you as a human, no matter how hard they try. That was written probably about a year ago, I think.
Given the different approaches and feelings on display how did you bring the material together to make something so coherent?
It was actually quite difficult for me. When I came to mix the album I realised that a lot of the songs weren’t coherent with each other, which is what I really wanted from my first album. It did actually take me quite a long time to mix the album – in comparison to writing and producing it – because I wanted to make them fit alongside each other a bit.
Which for me was helped by running it through a tape machine, compressing all the stems into sections, and kind of putting it back to how I would have if it had been played by a band. So that kind of helped me a lot, but also while the songs were written in different periods of my life the songs are quite similar. I draw on more negative feelings, emotional feelings.
They're all in different periods but they’re drawing on the same sorts of emotions that make me want to write.
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This is more like therapy, I do it to get emotions out of me and feel sane...
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Is songwriting a release for those feelings, in a way?
I think so. And sometimes it might not even be a negative emotion, it’s just moreso emotion. And I think sometimes we can be the most emotional when we are feeling upset or if something has happened to aggravate us. To be honest with you, when I was super happy the last thing I would think about was writing songs.
A lot of people ask me why I write such sad songs, and to me this is more like therapy, I do it to get emotions out of me and feel sane rather than just to write a good pop song.
When you’re happy you don’t want to be fiddling with a tape machine.
When I’m happy I’m in the pub with some wine!
The finished record is quite sparse – was there a temptation to join in the dots?
It’s weird… To me, I don’t see it as sparse. A lot of people say it’s raw, but I don’t even see it as raw. The perspective I’ve got on it is kind of long gone! It’s just how I wanted it to sound – I don’t know what words would describe, it’s just how I saw it in my head. Sometimes I think it sounds super poppy and clean… but that’s just classic, isn’t it?
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A lot of people say it’s raw, but I don’t even see it as raw...
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So… have you started to think about a potential follow up yet?
Oh yeah. Definitely! I’ve already decided when I’m going to figure it all out. You’ve got to be like that, though, you can’t hold on to these little projects and creations that you’ve done, it just makes you go crazy.
Are you methodical as a songwriter?
I’m more spontaneous. I mean, I do like having fun, and going on holiday! But when I come back, and I haven’t written for a while, that’s when I get the most inspiration. So I won’t write for a while and then I’ll come home and literally write five songs in a week. Saying that, when I’m home I do sit down and try to write every day. I enjoy doing it, and I do think it’s good to practice. You have to be a bit professional, I guess!
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Laurel's debut album 'DOGVIOLET' is out now.
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