With each new generation, a voice shatters the surface and dives deeper. Lauren Auder’s brooding baritone is this: swimming fearlessly with orchestral scores, ornate croons and crescendos that lead you to the peak, then drop you into oblivion. Across a series of formative EP and single releases are tracks crafted for such depths, waltzing between light and dark, brutality and tenderness, vulnerability and resilience in shimmering reflection of our own human duality.
Born in England and raised in the gothic French town of Albi, it was online that Auder’s creativity ignited, inspired by a distant DIY Soundcloud rap scene making and releasing music on their own terms. It felt new, it felt now. From there the young musician built, layering her own rich tapestry of fascinations and sensibilities into a rich and singular vocabulary: through Scott Walker’s baroque pop, Renaissance classicism and avant-garde noise. Now, with her debut record wrapped, Auder’s world truly manifests: embellished in youthful complexity and ethereal pomp.
Alex James Taylor: I’m fascinated by your upbringing in Albi, surrounded by the Renaissance architecture and gothic Medieval imagery – a line can clearly be drawn through your music. Do you think these this upbringing filters into your work?
Lauren Auder: It obviously would have permeated my internal world, my imagination and the aesthetics I bring to the table, but I would say most of my upbringing was somewhat traditional. I was a teenager doing a pretty normal routine. But I think it’s just the kind of thing you carry with you. Most of the things I was getting up to at that time were probably very far from – I don’t know – romantic or magical. But again, I think part of it inspired the way I write, trying to infuse a lot of that surrealism and magical realism into teenage life. It was definitely an interesting experience. I was in Catholic boarding school for most of my teenage years – not that it stopped me from doing anything that was very un-Catholic, but it’s given me a specific kind of context. You know, these are the kind of things that impregnate your imagination. songwriter, so during that time I was really working towards writing very – in my opinion – traditional songs. That was one of the songs that was born from that, it meant a lot to me. But there’s more of a penchant towards rock music on the new record – it says something different.
AJT: How did that inform your musical upbringing?
LA: I grew up around music constantly. There was always a rich knowledge of music I inherited from my parents, which I’m really grateful for. To be honest, most of the reasons I started making music came from the outside world, from being on the internet, that’s what really inspired me to make music that felt more like myself or felt like it was expressing the things I wanted to explore. It opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. There was definitely no ambient or noise music scene [in Albi]. When I discovered that music, it really blew my mind apart and made me want to make stuff myself. And also the idea that I could do that. Then also discovering a lot of underground rap music really changed everything.
AJT: What was it about this scene that appealed to you?
LA: I guess this was around 2011, ‘12, ‘13, and there was a real effervescence in that field. It felt like you could really create through Tumblr or SoundCloud, and the tools given to these artists allowed them to make more than just the music, there was a whole visual side to it. It was a realm that felt really born of my generation. What was interesting was that even though our experiences obviously would have been a million miles apart, there were so many common references that arose from being chronically online since way too young. It was the fact these people were basically my age at the time and creating something that felt new.
AJT: I’m a bit older than you and remember when the internet really began to feel vast and allowed us to see these worlds we’d never previously had access to. You seem to have a real hunger towards learning and exploring different genres and culture – have you always had that appetite?
LA: That’s nothing new, for sure. I’ve always had a polyglot approach to music in general. I’ve always had many contradicting or opposing tastes and that’s what I find exciting. From time to time I think about what the real goal is, what I want to do through my own art, and I think this is maybe something very aligned with the rap scene: the real desire to make the best music ever. Obviously that’s quite teenage and quite ridiculous, but as I grow older, I realise the real desire is to create something that feels absolute. Something that could only have been made by me and by my very specific combating references. Just to know that what I’ve made is really the fruit of everything I’ve taken in. I think that’s what really makes something unique.
AJT: It’s almost like you’re a blender for all these influences and experiences, mixing it all up. I’ve been listening to your track Hauntology a lot, which is beautiful, and the first thing I wrote down was ‘brutal beauty’ – there’s a lot of duality in that song. Is that balance something you’re aware of when you write?
LA: Definitely. It’s always the balancing act, just trying to hold both those things at the same time. We’re such complex creatures and if anything, I would love to begin to pay homage to that. That’s always been a very important aspect to me. Also, the thing about ugliness and beauty and brutalness and softness, it all just helps bring the other out. Things in contrast become more apparent.
AJT: You wrote that song in 2020 and it came out this year, how was it to sit on a song for that long?
LA: I sit on most of my songs [laughs]. That’s nothing new for me, I’m quite a perfectionist. Also, there was a crazy thing that happened for two years [laughs], so that put the brakes on a lot of stuff. I didn’t really want to release music and then everything to just stop again. I wanted these songs to be able to live properly. It’s obviously strange, emotionally, to be like, “That was where I was at two years ago,” or whatever, but then it can also be nice to revisit [a time] and live it again. Sometimes, I discover new things in those songs I didn’t realise were there at the time.
AJT: And how does that track convey where you were when you wrote it?
LA: I wrote it in a really specific context. It’s about the passing of my therapist and there were a lot of feelings of frustration, there’s a lot of irony in this song and quite a bit of humour, too. It was just me trying to make sense of that situation. The album has a greater overarching narrative, and [Hauntology] just didn’t really fit into that. It was also during a period where I was writing around a song a day and I was really trying to hone in on my songwriting as a craft. I wanted to become a better and more concise songwriter, so during that time I was really working towards writing very – in my opinion – traditional songs. That was one of the songs that was born from that, it meant a lot to me. But there’s more of a penchant towards rock music on the new record – it says something different.
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AJT: You speak about honing your craft and revisiting work, how do you find that learning process as a songwriter?
LA: Before 2020, I would write a song like every four months. It was slow, I’d let things marinate for a really, really long time and it felt like an arduous process. I was denied a tour [due to Covid] and the record I put out that had taken a long time to make couldn’t really live in the world. So I was like, “Well, this is time for me to sit down and how I consider myself as a musician.” I think before then, I always considered myself a singer-songwriter or whatever, but then I realised that I don’t really do that much song writing [laughs]. I wanted to be better, to write more with ease.
AJT: I guess it’s just practice and repetition.
LA: I think it is. As much as sometimes there will be these sparks of inspiration and an image appears that seems like it has so much depth you need to explore, it’s really far less elusive than it seems. I noticeably got better at doing this when I did it every day. You know, it’s like many skills, there are ways to get better. And potentially the truly magical stuff only happens when lightning strikes. But to capture that better, with more ease, that’s when the work you put in helps you become a better songwriter.
“Discovering a lot of underground rap music really changed everything.”
AJT: Do you enjoy the hardship of writing? I know you’re a big Scott Walker fan and he always seemed to enjoy that aspect of really chipping away at himself to create something new. For some people there’s a joy in being tough on yourself.
LA: I hate it [laughs]. I really would like things to be easier. But being a fan of that music, you learn that it doesn’t come easy. Often for me, a great idea will come easy, but then I think most people have many great ideas – then it’s like, can you have the discipline to make that work? And most of the time I like calm, I don’t have that discipline. But that’s why I’ve been working on it.
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“Things in contrast become more apparent.”
AJT: With that in mind, how did you find the process of putting together your debut record? How long have you been working on that?
LA: It’s been four years. First of all, I’ve put off releasing a debut album as long as humanly possible [laughs]. I’ve spent three EPs just figuring out what I wanted it to be and sound like because I’m such a classicist, I really love the album format. It’s how I listen to music. I grew up loving albums and reading whatever long-form shit about them and really do care about that. So that was a daunting idea for me because I knew I really wanted it to say something. I had the title and all the artwork basically figured out before anything else, but it took a while to create the world in which it exists. Once that happened, things could start to emerge. But it was a long process. Luckily I was able to work with so many amazing people on this record – I loved this aspect. It’s really helpful to me to have collaborators and bring other people into my work. I think paradoxically sometimes our feelings are better presented by others. I guess it’s the point of having friends and conversation, right? That exists in music as well. On this record I worked with Dviance, who’s my long-time main collaborator, as well as my friend Alex Parish, who I worked with on Two Caves In [Auder’s second EP, released in 2020]. It was a big collaborative project and I feel really blessed to have many people ready to invest themselves in my vision. Because that’s the thing, it’s a very hyper-personal record. But again, I think it was really born out of having the space to express myself at first to a select group of people, through all these conduits. I hope that will make it more understandable for everyone because I really want universality.
AJT: I really admire how you’ve released music so far, through multiple EPs and singles. With each release, we get to see another aspect of you, it’s an interesting introduction to an artist, rather than the usual immediacy of a debut record. It’s also allowed you to try different things and find your sound.
LA: When I got signed to True Panther, I’d only been releasing music on SoundCloud and I feel very blessed they even gave me a chance. I listen back to stuff and I can see ideas there, but it wasn’t very good. I really had to decide what it was I wanted to do. Five tracks seemed like a big thing to do, five tracks that felt like a cohesive work. So that was the first thing. After that, I explored an avenue I felt was fruitful, working with a lot of string orchestration and baroque pop. I’d never done anything like that before, my music was basically rap beats and ambient music. I did that first EP [Who Carry’s You, 2018] and felt like it opened up a door for me. Then the second one was when I was like, “Okay, I think I’m good at this and can make it bigger.” Even then, I think after that second EP I was planning to make an album, but I wasn’t ready and needed more time to experiment. I also wanted to get away from the shadow of my influences and I guess that’s why the last EP [5 Songs For The Dysphoric, 2021] happened. I mean, there was a lot of personal stuff that also went into that, I had stuff I wanted to put out into the world immediately. But it also presented an opportunity to try a lot of different sounds. I think that’s the least cohesive of all my ideas but that’s also why I enjoyed it – it felt like more of an EP. The two others, to me at least, feel like mini-albums because they have an overall narrative and sound, whereas with the last one, I really wanted to have a final shot at trying out different things before I had to commit to a full-length.
AJT: Can you tell me what you’re into at the minute, what you’re fascinated by?
LA: I’ll go into my phone den [searches through her phone]. So I’ve been reading a lot of poetry, a lot of Georg Trakl. I also just read Ubu Roi, which is an Alfred Jarry theatre piece, it’s really interesting, very political. I’m trying to read more plays – that’s my current thing. Musically, it’s all over the place. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Soul Glo’s record – it’s great. They’re like a hardcore band, I guess, but pushing the boundaries a lot. I’ve also been listening back to Plastic Ono, which is just so good. In my experience I’d underrated it as a record, so that was really great to revisit. The most recent thing I’ve been listening to is Bologna Violenta, who are an Italian grindcore band but the guy is a classically trained violinist and it goes crazy hard.
Hair MOE MUKAI
Make-up REBECCA DAVENPORT