beabadoobee’s Next Phase Begins Now

Callum Harrison

beabadoobee’s Next Phase Begins Now

Callum Harrison

Read our interview with Beatrice Laus and hear "Last Day On Earth," the lead single from a new EP written and recorded with the 1975

If walls could talk, Beatrice Laus’s would probably sound a lot like her debut full-length, 2020’s Fake It Flowers. The 20-year-old’s London bedroom, which has served as a muse, a homebase, and a canvas, is covered in abstract cutouts of butterflies, streamers and paper flowers, all illuminated by a massive skylight and a string of Christmas lights. It’s cozy but maximalist, cluttered but curated — a fitting visual for her music, which flits between the driving guitar melodies of early aughts power pop and the subdued, angular chords of indie folk (what some might aptly refer to as “bedroom pop”).

Bea — who performs as the impressively syllabic beabadoobee — is perhaps the artist best suited for a lockdown album launch. She wrote her early singles, like the now-ubiquitous “Coffee” (later sampled on Powfu’s hit single “Death Bed“) in her bedroom, and found incredible success through online platforms like YouTube and TikTok before even booking her first tour. As we talk, a guitar looms in the background, a reminder that the space doubles as a makeshift home studio.

“I feel like bedrooms see the most of you,” she says. “They’ve seen you at your worst and they’ve seen you at your best. So I trust my bedroom a lot.” She’s looking for a house of her own now, and finding an abode that matches the chaotic collage of her current setup seems paramount: “I want to make sure the bedroom is a bigger version of this, or else you can’t be able to create,” she explains emphatically. “I still write everything in my bedroom.”

Still, despite her bedroom beginnings, Bea had bigger, bolder plans for her debut. The choruses of Fake It Flowers practically beg to be screamed in a crowded arena or blasted at a music festival. The sugary punch of “Charlie Brown” is designed for a concert’s collective catharsis; the programmed strings of “Worth It” are meant for the exuberance of a good house party.

But Bea embraced the intimacy and closeness of her strangely restrained release: The sepia-toned video for “Worth It” was shot entirely in one motel bedroom. In the months following the album’s debut, she, like so many other burgeoning acts during the pandemic, virtually invited countless journalists and fans into the confidential confines of her room, performing concerts and teasing small glimpses of her upcoming projects.

That next endeavor, at least in part, will take the form of an EP out this spring, titled Our Extended Play. The EP’s plural pronoun might be a cheeky reference to the record’s collaborative nature: Whereas her previous releases were entirely written and composed by Bea, she created the EP along with Matty Healy and George Daniel, the production and songwriting wizards behind the 1975. “I already had a really nice relationship with Matty,” Bea adds. “You know, we were friends beforehand, and it was just such a comfortable atmosphere to work in.”

The first single from their collaboration, “Last Day On Earth,” combines the trademark styles of the two artists — somewhere between the familiar, breezy soft rock of mid-aughts romantic comedies and the ethereal, reverb-heavy indie pop that’s become a calling card for Dirty Hit releases. While the flourishes — a pitched-up backing vocal track adding “ahs” and “yeahs,” a chorus made up of nonsensical, sing-along ready “shoo doos” — are all Healy signatures, the verses’ easy rhythms are pure beabadoobee. “You made it,” she sings reassuringly. “Your last day on Earth.” As on Fake It Flowers, she has a knowing penchant for melodrama and an unmistakably honeyed voice. Only Bea could deliver the line “You killed someone last night/ You’ve been going to church” like it’s a childhood secret between two best friends.

Both Healy and Bea often draw on the well-worn yet difficult pop trope of writing happy songs about sad situations. “Last Day On Earth,” a song written in early lockdown that envisions a massive raver on the eve of last year’s global shutdown, takes that premise to its logical extreme. “I wanna get fucked up!” Bea shouts halfway through the song, but the tone is less “Party Rock Anthem” and more the Cranberries — a longing, rather than a directive; a confetti-strewn memorial for the debauched parties that never happened, for the drunken memories that were never made. Sonically, she and Healy took inspiration from the “bagginess” of Yo La Tengo’s drumming, and the melancholia of the Cardigans (“They’re one of my favorite bands,” she enthuses).

Though the first UK lockdown was difficult for Bea — it gave her time to explore feelings of “growing up too fast,” which she hints at on Our Extended Play — it was also an unusually creative period. The singer found herself in the rural Northamptonshire countryside with her band, Matty, and George, working on her EP as the world crumbled around them: “It almost felt like we were running away from a zombie apocalypse,” she says.

Releasing “Last Day On Earth” now, as the world is precariously taking its first steps into a version of post-pandemic normalcy, is meant to be a palliative gesture: “I guess it just offers a positive distraction and kind of reminds people of togetherness and unity — you know, alluding to some type of hope,” Bea says. “Me and Matty both definitely wanted the chorus to be something easy that people can sing along to.” After a year of deferred gratification for Bea’s biggest musical endeavors, she sees that earworm of a chorus as a bit of wishful thinking: “If festivals do happen…” she starts, almost hesitant to wish for it too soon. “Sonically, I think that song would just be so nice to play live.” As it stands, she’s booked for several summer fests — including the UK’s Reading and Leeds, which announced they’re full speed ahead for late August — as well as a headlining tour of the UK and Ireland in September.

In many ways, working with the 1975 is a natural progression for beabadoobee — she signed to the group’s label Dirty Hit immediately after “Coffee” became a viral hit, and the two British groups share a similar penchant for technicolor nostalgia. At the 2020 NME Awards, Healy even passed his own Innovation Award to Bea, who he called “the most exciting thing I’ve seen in modern music” (Bea won the “Radar Award” for emerging artists that same night). And as Healy takes on a more active role in Dirty Hit, working with labelmates like No Rome and Pale Waves, Bea’s dayglo chords seem like an obvious choice as the next face for his second coming of Britpop.

For Bea, who’d barely written songs with a full band, let alone an outside producer, the transition to a shared songwriting environment was a bit more of an adjustment: “I find collaborating with art quite hard.” For some of the songs on Our Extended Play, she came into the process after the instrumentation had finished, which seemed alienating for her at first. “I always have the guitar with me,” she says casually, seeming almost surprised that some of these songs were written without it. But writing over Healy’s instrumentation allowed her to focus on her voice as an instrument, and on writing lyrics as an end within itself.

Still, it’s difficult to picture Bea away from her six-string. As part of the press cycle for Fake It Flowers, she recorded guitar tutorials for her songs, which revealed her love for obscure open tunings and strangely specific sounds. But Healy would “play all these amazing simple chords, but just make them sound beautiful,” she says. “There’s a really nice simplicity with chord progressions,” she says, when I ask what she’s learned from working with Healy. “You don’t need such an intricate chord progression to make an incredible song.”

Despite the masterclass in pop songwriting, Bea’s still the same lyricist who penned a viral hit from the softly lit confines of her attic bedroom. “Not much has changed my writing process,” she says. “I feel like I developed from ‘Coffee’ being way more comfortable with my sound and allowing people to give me advice and hearing other people’s ideas.” As an almost symbolic gesture, the music video for “Last Day On Earth” is one of the first to be directed by an outside team (Arnaud Bresson of Division Paris), rather than her longtime boyfriend Soren Harrison. “For this EP, specifically, I wanted to test the waters,” she adds, explaining that even picking an outside director felt like a necessary, if scary, risk. But like a visual motif, Harrison appears in the video along with Bea. Beabadoobee is entering her next era, but it seems she’s bringing the comforts of her bedroom with her.

Our Extended Play is out this spring on Dirty Hit. You can find a list of beabadoobee’s tour dates here.

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