LAUREL Won’t Be Boxed In

laurel interview

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LAUREL is not what you expect. And that’s how she likes it. 

Since 2014, when she was a leading indie-pop darling, LAUREL has been slowly defining who she wants to be. PALPITATIONS is her arrival. Her final form, so to speak. The sweeping sophomore album is an adrenaline shot to the system. One moment you feel like you’re running through an open plain towards your lover during sunset and the next it’s 3am at the club. 

Over the years she’s carved a space out for herself in music by fusing grunge-folk, 80s synth, and pop. But she’s not one for putting herself in a box. Instead, she wants to keep you guessing, to take you into the uncanny valley where some things feel familiar but something feels a bit strange. Like listening to her new song ‘45 Degrees’, which, from all accounts, is a fun pop love song. But then in the music video she’s walking on the beach in pleasers licking a rock. 

I spoke to LAUREL about being inspired by Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey and finding her new persona. 

Ky Stewart, Junkee: Yesterday I was blasting ‘Scream Drive Faster’ in the car because I got it back from the mechanic and paid an obscene amount of money and I was most certainly screaming in my car. So thanks for that cathartic release. 


Then I saw that you have a song from the new album called ‘New Car’ and I feel like we’re spiritually connected. Either that or you’re taunting me about the fact that I need to get a new car.

Oh my god, maybe when you hear this song, you’re gonna have to go get a new car. I can’t stop singing about fucking cars. I don’t know what it is. It’s a big part of me. I only just learned to drive a year ago so it’s weird that I sing about cars all the time. 

What are your favourite songs to listen to while driving?

Yes, well, right now I’ve been listening to Artemes ‘I Like The Way You Kiss Me’, followed by Omar Apollo’s ‘Useless’, which then goes straight into Justice and Tame Impala with that song called ‘One Night’ but I thought it was called ‘Woman’. I’m doing the same songs every day. Those are my top three right now.

‘Useless’ is such a great song. It’s severely underrated. 

It’s the best song in the world. 

Tell me more about this new version of LAUREL. 

She’s just growing up. It’s funny because I think I’ve changed so many times. And actually, only this weekend I realised how everything is making sense and it’s all coming into one point at this moment for me. Experimenting with music and sound often is something that I always really love to do. Same with fashion. I really love to experiment in so many regards, and I think that’s why I haven’t always wanted to put myself in one genre or one kind of box. I feel like the music is more romantic than ever, but it also is going into a more of a pop sphere but it still has this 80s glisten to it and musically that’s where I feel really excited at the moment.

You’ve traversed so many different genres in your career — what do you feel most comfortable in? What would you love to try in the future?

I think where I’m most comfortable is writing ballads. I honestly think that’s why my music has changed so much. Because I am thinking more about the song than what it sounds like. What that has meant is that my songs have been interpreted in different ways in different moments by different people. I produced some of my music in the past but when you take all the songs to the piano or guitar, they’re always the same. They’re all just ballads usually about love or frustration. So I think at this point in my life, I’ve got really excited about the sonics of music as well. So that’s why from ‘Scream Drive Faster’ to PALPITATIONS, we’ve started to see a development of sound. And I hope that we’re going to just progress with that from now on.

What were some of the inspirations behind PALPITATIONS

I produced it with Chrome Sparks. He has had a really big effect on the sound of the record. But I think what happens is when we’ve joined together, we’re both coming from very different angles. I love writing hot, romantic love music. He likes making synth wavy indie music. We were often clashing in the studio because I was like, ‘No the chorus needs to be bigger, chorus needs to fucking hit. I want this to go loud’. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, but I want this to be cool’. So I think it was this moment where we hit a sweet spot quite a few times, like on ‘45 Degrees’ where you have this really kind of cool bass but then you’ve also got the really sickly pop song over the top.

You have a song with Kita Alexander and you’ve worked with Flume. Are there any other Australian artists you’d like to collab with? It seems like you love Australia.

I love Australia. And I would love, I mean, if you’ve got Tame Impala’s number, I will give him a call.

I wish I did. I’ll hustle it for you though. I’ll try my best. 

Thank you. 

Who were some of the artists that inspired you growing up?

It definitely evolved and changed quite a lot. My first inspiration was Britney Spears. She definitely is the reason that I’m a singer. I remember seeing her when I was four and I was like, that’s what I want to do. I think my mom was like, ‘What the fuck? Yeah sure, you’re a four year old’. But it was that moment I realised my purpose in life. So she’s a big one. As I got older it became Laura Marling, who played guitar and wrote her music and was very lyrical and poetic. That really excited me and got me into playing the guitar. That’s why I bought a guitar.

But then I think Lana Del Rey was a very big moment for me. When ‘Video Games’ came out it had the biggest effect on me musically, probably ever. That whole era of Lana Del Rey was massive and I think that’s what has the biggest influence on my lyrics. I was thinking about the other day because I actually don’t listen to Lana that much anymore because I’m in my synth wavy era, but I still think that the lyrics I write like “music for sunsets” and you know, “red wine at the Chateau” very much [has] come from me listening to Lana. I really think that it’s got that cinematic thing. Also I have to say Florence and the Machine. Another very, very big figure for me in music and she’s got that big voice which not many people go for it like that. That’s inspired me and she’s just so true to who she is as an artist and I love that.

Once again, we’re very much spiritually connected, because just as Britney made you realise you want to be a singer, she made me think that I was gay as a young child. And then Lana Del Rey confirmed it. And Florence’s Ceremonials was one of my favourite CDs. 

Oh really? That’s such a gorgeous album.

I knew there was some connection beyond cars.


Back in 2020, you spoke about your top five books for the summer and had some pretty great suggestions. What’s your updated list now?

I hope I don’t just give you the same books because I don’t remember what those ones were and I reread books quite often. But I’m in my self-help era. In fact, I think I’ve been in my self-help era for fucking years. Oh, I know I’ve read a new book since then which is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. That I think is the best book I’ve ever read in my whole entire life. And also the only fiction book I’ve read in the last three years. But Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth is the biggest, most profound book in my life. I still read The Secret pretty much every week because I really believe in manifestation. I read a lot of science books about health but science [is] boring. 

Well, the list has changed. So that’s interesting. A lot of science.

You know what I said last time?

The Catcher in the Rye was there — 

Oh, I love that book. It’s a good one. 

Your own book was there —

Oh, yeah right. 

I was going to ask… Are there any other plans to write more?

I actually wrote another book. It’s been finished for two years.

Where is it? Let me read it. 

I know. I need to do something with it. I think I’m just gonna start emailing it to people. I’ve just been so busy with music that the writing stuff just got a bit lost and I keep thinking I need to share this but it keeps getting past the point now where I feel it’s even relevant for my life because I wrote it years ago. But I think I’m just gonna make a little zine and give it out at shows because it does deserve to see the light today. I spent a long time on it. 

By the way, the ‘45 Degrees’ music video is so camp. The pleasers on the sand and licking a rock and serving absolute severity at a petrol station. Love it. I’ve never been to LA but it’s what I imagine LA to be. What were the inspirations behind the video because the song is very personal to you and your recent engagement, which, congratulations — 

Thank you!

But it was just funny to read that and then watch the music video and it was like so camp.

Yeah, I’m pretty camp. I just really love extra everything. You might be able to tell. When we were plotting the video — I’ve been co-directing them with my partner — I just had these ideas for the scenes. I was like, I want to rock. I want to get some dead fish. I want to have these ultra sexy scenes and there just be something a bit off about it because I’ve been coming into my sexy era but I’m very chaotic and weird and kooky and fun. I’m not somebody that really takes themselves too seriously. Without really intending that’s how it happened. I was like no I’m gonna lick a rock and everyone’s like, ‘What?’ But to me, it made sense. Just like with the album cover — I said I’m gonna stand naked and a puddle of mud and hold a baby lamb and everyone was like, ‘Why?’ I’m not sure but I’m gonna do it.

I love it. It definitely does give me that Hollywood night femme fatale vibe. 

I love that aesthetic. 

It’s so sexually liberating and fun. Speaking of, I saw that on the announcement you made about PALPITATIONS that Slayyyter commented and then you responded. She actually drew one of these pictures [behind me is a wall of post-it notes] when we interviewed her. 

Oh really? 

It’s a girl wearing a crown with big boobs.

Well, of course. 

Would we ever see a Slayyyter x LAUREL collab?

I would love that. She’s so fucking cool. We met because we were playing Groovin the Moo and I was just before her. Every time we did a festival, which was three days, every weekend for three weeks, we would just be caught in the crossfire. So I met her and she’s just really great. I think her project is so cool and inspiring. So I’m fucking down. I’ll hit her up.

Please do because that would put the nail in my gay coffin.

I think vibes together would be very interesting. It’s kind of polar opposite but it also makes sense. On stage, I was just before her and I’d be up there in my semi-fairy costumes with my guitar being like, ‘Oh my god. I love him. I’m so sad that he’s gone’. And then literally she would come on stage right after — I remember walking offstage as she just shouted on stage, ‘Do you want to suck some dick?’ It was just so funny. 

PALPITATIONS is out now.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and Multimedia Reporter at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image: Supplied