Laurel and Banoffee talk new music, breaking out of tropes and ‘Petrol Bloom’

Banoffee and Laurel

Just prior to the release of her Petrol Bloom EP in late 2020 (which features the exceptional singles ‘Scream Drive Faster’, ‘Best I Ever Had’ and ‘Appetite’), LAUREL sat down with Melbourne/Naarm artist BANOFFEE for a chat. Banoffee also released music in 2020 in the form of debut album Look At Us Now Dad, which featured collaborations with SOPHIE, Empress Of, Cupcakke, Umru and more, and solidified her presence in the world of forward-thinking and innovative pop. With Petrol Bloom, Laurel makes an exciting pivot into this world as well having worked in collaboration with Chrome Sparks to create her most daring, innovative and ambitious pop-centred work yet.

Together, Laurel and Banoffee talk about everything from releasing music in a pandemic, to breaking out of the ‘tortured artist’ trope, to the highs and lows of embracing fashion and beauty as a female artist. Dive into their beautiful conversation below!

BANOFFEE:
Your EP is out today right? Does it feel amazing?

LAUREL:
Stoked, really excited. Definitely a good end to the year.

BANOFFEE:
I knew you were working on your EP. I’m sure when COVID hit, it must have been a really big decision to release it during COVID instead of waiting until everything’s open? But we never know when things are going to be open. What was that decision like?

LAUREL:
It did get put on hold quite a lot because we were anticipating it coming out in June originally, so we are kind of six months later. But I think it became one of those things where I think some people can afford to wait because they’ve got lots going on anyway. But I hadn’t really released a record in two years by this point, and for me it was just a timing thing. I couldn’t wait another year to release anything. Personally, I actually thought that as an industry we were going to survive quite well because everyone was online.

Also, I tour but I’ve never been a touring artist in a sense that all my fans have come from touring. It’s mostly always been online anyway. So, I just thought it was probably going to be chill. I mean, streaming was up more than ever when everything got locked down. So, we just kind of went through with it and I’m really glad that we did because if I didn’t have anything going on this year. I think I would have cried.

BANOFFEE:
You really inspired me. I was like, should have put something out? It seems like everyone’s actually consuming more music than ever.

LAUREL:
The only thing that’s been weird is that I got a bit demotivated at one point because normally you release a song, it goes out, you tour it, you meet a bunch of people, you do so many things. Whereas this time, I released a song and it felt like it just went into a computer. It was just a bit underwhelming; it was a bit weird. I’m only just starting to try and rehearse songs now to do a livestream. I’m having to teach myself to sing the songs again even though I obviously already sung them and wrote them. But it’s not really a natural course of events, so it’s just been a bit strange in that regard.

BANOFFEE:
Bizarre isn’t it. I have a show in a week, and I can’t remember, even the lyrics. I looked up Lyric Genius today to look at the lyrics to one of my songs.

LAUREL:
I do that all the time for my songs. I can’t remember lyrics for my songs. I’m so so so bad at them. Like every time I play a gig, I get the lyrics wrong. So, are you playing shows in Australia?

BANOFFEE:
I’m playing two shows next week. But it’s 50 people capacity, so still very small. But I would honestly pay people to let me play right now.

LAUREL:
Me too, I’m gagging for it. But I always hated touring, I find it really difficult. Just mentally and my body and keeping my voice intact. It’s the first time in my life I’m like gagging to get out on the road and just play this music.

BANOFFEE:
So “Best I Ever Had” is my favourite song. The reason I love that song is lyrically, melodically and tonally, it really captures the feeling of falling in love; like when you first fall in love with someone. What does that mean to you? What constitutes a good love song to you? Because, you obviously have it down.

LAUREL:
The thing is, this is the first love song I think I wrote, which was capturing that sort of essence. And I found it quite hard to capture that before. A lot of my songs were based on love, but more of the darker emotions associated with it. Usually when I’m happy I don’t feel the need to write a song; I’m just being happy or somewhere else. It’s only when I’m so sad and that I need to let my feelings out. But this is a different one, I had decided I really want to write something which is uplifting. And actually, I’m not experiencing all these dark emotions with love anymore. I still want to write about it. So how can I kind of capture that in a new song? It just came out. Weirdly, the first demo you can hear the difference in the tones, it’s so significant. So, the first demo is more sombre. It still had that old side of me in them, which is the demo I wrote on my own and then when I took it to work with Jeremy that’s kind of when we pulled out that real falling in love feeling. He definitely pulled it out of me because he could add those chords, he could make the song uplifting and I wasn’t really used to doing that. So, it kind of took somebody else to come in and let me flourish in that sense I think.

BANOFFEE:
I can only write songs when I’m sad. So, I was going ask how you found that because I know that you have a new love in your life? It’s hard to write when you’re happy, I know that’s terrible. But whenever I’m having a good old time, I’m actually feeling quite anxious about writing songs, because I can’t.

LAUREL:
No, I agree. It definitely makes me think about things. And then I had this feeling quite recently that if I never write another song again, and I’m happy in my life, then that’s the trade-off. But I don’t think it has to be like that. It’s like a crutch, you get used to writing in a certain way. Kind of a bit self-pitying I found with me, I was like “oh poor me, cry me, I’m going to write a song about you, fuck you”. That’s the way I taught myself to write and recently, I’m trying to get out of that a little bit. I rarely write songs that aren’t about love, so for me it’s been an exercise to try and explore some other emotions. But I’m not totally sure. I still take a lot of inspiration from past experiences with other people. I know that “Scream Drive Faster” at the time of writing it, which isn’t a love song, it’s kind of about numbing your emotions, running away and seeking adrenaline filled activities to distract yourself from the way you actually feel. That at the time I didn’t feel was autobiographical, I thought it was like a concept, the longer it’s out the more I’ve realised it’s actually who I am. So, I think it’s coming and seeping out in all these ways. But it’s hard, I think most artists have the same conundrum. We think we need to be sad to make art, which is so sad in itself.

BANOFFEE:
It’s so sad because a lot of us end up sabotaging good things in making music or making art. I’m doing the same as you, I’m teaching myself to be inspired by all the women before us who wrote about being happy.

LAUREL:
I’m reading this book called The Artists Way and there’s a big section in the book about self-sabotage and artists drinking and using drugs and doing all of this because they feel like they need to keep themselves in this situation to make art. That is really helping me to understand a lot. If anyone’s looking something like that, I’d recommend that book, It’s great.

BANOFFEE:
When you were making the EP who were your reference artists? Because I feel like everyone has them but everyone’s a little nervous to say.

LAUREL:
We actually didn’t have a lot of reference artists. Now that I’ve made the record, I’ve found so many people in this realm that I’m obsessed with and I take quite a big reference from. I can understand why people might think I was referencing them to begin with. But at the time, I was treading new waters in trying to figure something out with Jeremy. I guess we had our classic references. I think it’s quite easy to hear Empire of the Sun. I’ve always loved one of their songs and I was listening to it a lot when we were writing one of the songs. So, I think that can kind of come out quite a lot, people have noted that. And then there’s Tame Impala and just a lot of people in the more psych rock realm. In terms of sonically, I guess we referenced that a little bit, but not too many people. Now I would be referencing Caroline Polachek, I think she’s so cool. I’m really, really into that album. So that’s had a big effect on me, but I only heard it after we wrote the music.

BANOFFEE:
Do you have any musical idols that are lifelong references in terms of their career?

LAUREL:
I would say Florence And The Machine has had the biggest effect on me throughout my career since I was quite young. I think she’s so great. She exists in her own world and does her own thing very well, whilst also being quite a mainstream artist. And it always inspired me that she wasn’t compromising on her sound, or style, or who she was to fit in with any mainstream audience. But her sound and her style became the mainstream. That I think is amazing. Obviously, I really love her music and her artistry as well, so she’s definitely a big influence on me as a woman. I think earlier than that I was very big on Laura Marling. She’s definitely who inspired me to start writing music and I got a guitar and wanted to write folk music, which had a big influence on the lyrics I write. And before that, obviously, Britney Spears. She’s the best, it goes without saying, right?

BANOFFEE:
Next year are you going to come back to LA?

LAUREL:
Hell yeah, I hope so. That’s the plan anyway, but I don’t know whether we’ll be moving there or not. It’s really going to depend. We’ve got a house in London now, settled back in. Also being in LA whilst there was a pandemic and then a bunch of protests and a lot of political issues, it really made me realise how far away I was from home. I felt very uprooted. I think we’ll see what next year brings, I have no plans but I’m very keen to do some more travelling when the time comes. I just really want to come back to Australia, I’ve been thinking about it so much recently, I really miss that place.

BANOFFEE:
You’ve been to Australia a lot, right?

LAUREL:
No, I only went when I was a kid and I came last year, that’s it. That flight is too big for me to do often. That’s what was so attractive as well about LA, I can just hop over to Australia in 11 hours. Are you going to go back?

BANOFFEE:
Everyone’s annoyed at me here because I’m really good at compartmentalising. I’m very good at pretending that I go there with my emotions. But if I want to, I can completely shut them off. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m going back and I’m like of course I’m going back. I’m going back first thing next year. And they’re like, what about Covid? If there’s work, I’ll go but it’s obviously more complex than that.

LAUREL:
You kind of just have to live in that way don’t you?

BANOFFEE:
I think I just have to believe it. Because if I sit with the unknown, I find that much harder than just lying to myself about some specific date.

LAUREL:
No, I feel you. It’s also nice to have aims. I think the problem with this year is not having set times and goals and like, “oh I’m going to go to this place at this time”. Everything has been changeable. At least if you have something in mind, like this is my goal and this is where I’m going. It just for your mental health feels a lot better. I’ve definitely had to do that with myself this year even though everything’s always changed anyway.

BANOFFEE:
You like to dress up like I do. I’ve never seen you in real life or on Instagram in an outfit that isn’t like completely put together. How do you feel about it? What’s your relationship with being a visual object within your artistry? Because dressing up is something that I really enjoy, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. But I’m curious how you feel about it because I think it’s something that’s a big part of a lot of women’s careers.

LAUREL:
Actually, this has been on my mind a lot recently because I do love dressing up. I like putting makeup on, I really love doing photoshoots and it makes me feel really great. And it’s just fun. I like doing it anyway, even if I wasn’t an artist I’m pretty sure I’d express myself in that way. Through Covid it’s been so fun when me and Elliot, my boyfriend, we’ll get dressed up and go for a walk, or we’ll get dressed up and have dinner together inside. That’s been super fun. We do it without other people seeing it, it just makes you feel good when you’re wearing something nice.

I definitely miss it because these days, I am really just in a tracksuit every day. But it’s a really tough one, there’s a lot of pressure on how you look, and I think as I’m growing up as a woman, I’m definitely noticing that and already having slight fears about ageing at 26. You know 26 is really young to be worried about getting wrinkles, worried about, is my body going to change? You know all these things happen naturally, but I think the pressure is a lot more significant when you’re in front of the camera all the time.

There’s definitely been times when I feel really good about myself or feel like the outfit looked great, and then you see the video back or you see the picture back and then you go get into a bit of a cycle of self-doubt. It’s a double-edged sword, and it’s a bit of a shame that it exists. But it’s also hard because I’m not saying I bring it on myself, but I like dressing up, I like doing all of this stuff as well. I’ve been thinking about it a lot for my own mental sanity and my mental health. And, as I’m growing up as a woman, how do you keep from just having all these self-doubts and accept yourself while you’re also putting yourself on this platform and sharing it with the whole world? Essentially, you’re opening yourself up to judgement. But it’s such a personal thing, because it’s you. You feel like you are kind of giving some of yourself away, or you’re having to keep some of it back and not give everybody the genuine version. It’s definitely going on in my head right now. I can probably have a more concise answer next year.

BANOFFEE:
The reason I wanted to ask that is it must be a pandemic thing, because I really started thinking about it during the pandemic. And very similar to you, I’m someone who dresses up just for the point of it, because it’s fun. And I like being completely different personalities in terms of how I dress every day.

LAUREL:
That’s the best part isn’t it?

BANOFFEE:
It’s the best, but then it’s funny because since the pandemic, I guess being away from being a physical person, your visual and your Instagram becomes your entire life in terms of who you are. I go through times of being so happy that I am who I am and that my project includes wearing really ridiculous outfits and then wishing I just had put a symbol up and no one even knew what I looked like.

BANOFFEE:
There’s a lot to maintain, especially right now. You know when you’re going out and you’re dressing up or you’re playing a gig, it’s so fun, you get a thrill from that. But when you’re just at home and then there’s this whole pressure of, you need to make Instagram content, you need to make content for your socials to keep relevant and to keep people seeing what you’re up to. But then I’m not really up to this. Actually, I don’t want to get dressed up to see no one, it doesn’t feel fun and it kind of takes that away. It feels like you’re doing it for the sake of doing it rather than for what you kind of intended to do it for.

But I so get you, I get it. Sometimes I imagine if I just released the music under a pseudonym and there were no pictures of my face, no one knew who I was and it was just this purely musical thing. You know with music, it’s 50% visuals and 50% music these days. It is who you are and the music is kind of intertwined. It’s just a lot to keep up with and sometimes when you’re tired and you’ve got more time for self-reflection, you’re a bit like, whoa, what did I create for myself here?

BANOFFEE:
It’s bizarre. It’s a strange little conundrum we have for ourselves. But we get to sleep in pretty much every day. So, our job rules.

LAUREL:
I still don’t do it. I used to sleep in and now I get up at 7am and I’m out of bed. I’m pretty hard on myself in a working sense, I give myself major guilt if I’m not working. I think especially this year when things haven’t been moving very fast, if you don’t generate your own work and if you don’t make your own projects and self-govern things, then you just don’t really get anywhere. Like even less than if you were maybe employed somewhere. So, I think the pressures on this year for people to kind of come up with things themselves and keep things interesting. But also, I haven’t been drinking as much and getting up at seven is a lot easier without staying up late.

BANOFFEE:
That’s the opposite of most people in the lockdown.

LAUREL:
I did the first lockdown and now I’ve mellowed out a bit. The first lockdown was a lot of margaritas, also I just like moved to LA and was super hyped and excited. Now I’m back in London, I’m just home again and I can chill now.

BANOFFEE:
Okay last question. What’s your favourite treat?

LAUREL:
Oh my god, this is my favourite question ever. My favourite treat ever is sticky toffee pudding. I am obsessed with sticky toffee pudding and so much sticky sauce. The problem is in London, they have it in every pub you go to and it’s so amazing. And every time I see it, I feel like I need to get it because I’ve been out of the country. And I’m not always here. So I feel like I have to eat every time I go to the pub. And it’s getting a bit out hand. It’s less like a treat now.

Laurel‘s Petrol Bloom is out now. Buy/stream here.

Introduction by Emma Jones
Images: Supplied

LISTEN TO NEW MUSIC HERE

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About:

Just a Robyn stan who loves going to the club.