Last December I caught Beatrice Kristi Laus, aka Beabadoobee, live at Gorilla, Manchester, headlining a sold-out package tour of young artists recording for the Dirty Hit label (with the review here).
She was impressive to say the least, leading a three-piece band – then still a teenager, just about – and proving her worth in a dynamic performance, the culmination of a year in which she received along with Joy Crookes, a Brits’ Rising Star runners-up award (Celeste winning out).
Bea’s confessional bedroom pop/DIY aesthetic has been progressively going down a storm since 2017, this artiste certainly on top form now after a meteoric couple of years, with staggering amounts of Spotify streams for starters. And there was no doubting she was on her way that night near Oxford Road station. But then 2020 happened and … well, you know the rest.
After a 30-date US tour supporting Clairo and her first international headline sell-out in New York last year, there were early 2020 UK arena shows with big league label-mates The 1975, including two sell-outs at London’s O2 Arena. But by mid-March everything ground to a halt, and only now is she truly surfacing again … spreading the word about her debut album, released last weekend.
Despite everything, these are exciting times for Bea, born in the Philippines but moving to London as a three-year-old, Fake It Flowers garnering plenty of interest, lead single ‘Care’ setting the tone perfectly, premiered as ‘Hottest Record in the World’ by Annie Mac at BBC Radio 1 and since streamed more than three million times.
Then came follow-up ‘Sorry’, described by The Guardian as a ‘masterfully restrained expression of regret, eventually pushing sardonic 90s alt-rock into the sky-splitting territory’, and ‘Worth it’, just before the album release, carrying on an impressive catalogue of releases that started with her ‘Patched Up’, ‘Loveworm’ and ‘Space Cadet’ EPs.
I was only a couple of listens into Fake It Flowers when I made contact, but already recognised she’d truly delivered. It must be an exciting time, I put to her, having sat there – no doubt impatiently – waiting for this to drop on the world.
“It is exciting! It’s also really scary. This album has so much of me in it, so much of my life up until now. I didn’t know that this would become what it has, and I never thought anyone would care – I mean look at my artist name! So yeah, it’s exciting and a little terrifying!”
Last time we spoke, you told me that after the Dirty Hit package tour you were looking forward to just chilling with family and friends at Christmas. Who knew what was coming next, eh?
“Yeah, it’s been such a strange year and so much changed, none of our plans could really happen. But really, I’m not sure that I was ready to go away for a whole year touring. I’m sad I didn’t get to meet so many people and play those shows but also, I feel like this has given me the opportunity to really build this world around the album visually and also just see my boyfriend and my family.”
Re-watching the December footage from The Dome of ‘Are you Sure?’, there’s that similar feel I encountered seeing you and your label-mates the previous night at Gorilla. That label package tour must seem an age away now, in view of everything that’s happened since.
“Bro, it feels like a different world! I guess it kinda was. My band and I just spent loads of time rehearsing for something really cool that we’ve made, but it’s weird that we won’t then go and play shows. I usually do a little show around anything I put out with, like, free tickets or something, but not this time.”
If anything, what’s almost shocking now is the complete lack of social distancing in that footage. The dance floor’s a writhing but joyful mess. Those were the days – plenty of public mingling, band and audience alike on a collective high.
“I think losing that is the saddest thing, that togetherness and just jumping up and down with your friends and getting sweaty and, aaargh! I miss it. That tour was great, we could just dance to our best friends every night, party afterwards and meet people.”
I mentioned in my live review at the time a feeling of ‘enveloping love for all three acts, not least the collective spirit between the bands themselves who, when not on stage, were often spotted peering down from the room above, partying along with their label-mates’. Was that pretty much how it was each night?
“Yeah, that’s how the label feels generally, like everyone feels like a family. I know people just say that stuff, but it really does. Oscar Lang I’ve known since I started doing this, and even now Louis, my drummer’s girlfriend, is on the label too. It’s like a gang. All the people at the label and Matty too, everyone supports each other.”
Did you manage to get any US dates in before the lockdown? I have it in mind your last date was the Annie Mac presents shows in London in early March with Oscar Lang. Is that right? What happens with the dates you missed out on from Spring onwards – are they rescheduled?
“No! Not since the Clairo tour last year. We had so much fun stuff planned, like Coachella and a headline tour that was sold out. I’m bummed out but, seriously, when we do get over there it’s gonna be so good. Japan too. All these places!”
The first we really heard of the new record was the splendid ‘Care’ in July, setting us up neatly for what’s to follow, yeah?
“I think so, maybe! I guess it just felt like a statement, like something that summed it all up. And it’s kinda fun and angry and just feels like a real moment. It opens the album too, so it felt right.”
The record was recorded in South West London. When and where, how long were you in there, and how did that work in the (trying) circumstances?
“Honestly, most of the album was done before all this happened, like we were already planning everything visually! But yeah, we had to finish during lockdown, so I recorded ‘How Was Your Day?’ in my boyfriend’s garden. There’s literally a dog barking in the background, and it’s kinda dumb but feels like something Daniel Johnston would do. So, fuck it, ha ha!”
I get the impression from what you’ve said, there was an element of ‘word block’ on the songwriting front until you were out touring last year, then it all came relatively flowingly on your return home.
“Yeah, I think I just did so much living and growing up and made a load of mistakes when I was touring, and then it all just came spilling out. It’s definitely very honest, but I don’t really know what else to do with songs.”
Since you served up ‘Coffee’, so to speak (her first track, which gathered hundreds of thousands of streams in a matter of days through a fan-uploaded video, since taking on new life as a sample in Powfu’s TikTok and worldwide chart-dominating hit), it’s been increasingly mad for you, career-wise.
And 2019 was the biggest to date, with the mini-LPs and EPs, the Brits’ Rising Star nomination, the US tour with Clairo, and the sold-out label package tour. Then there were the dates with The 1975. This year we assumed you’d keep that candle burning at both ends, but it hasn’t turned out that way. In the long term, do you think that time to reflect and think on all you’ve achieved so far will work in your favour, creatively, and leave you less burned out?
“It’s been different, but it’s still been a lot. Like we have made five videos and a load of art, and I’ve even made new music that’s ready to go. I don’t think we slowed down, we just had to adapt a bit. But yeah, it’s been cool to be home more too.”
It seems an age away, but live dates are now rescheduled for September and October next year, virus willing, starting at the Ritz in Manchester. Is that something for you that will only be real the moment you step out on that stage?
“Yeah, I can’t wait, we haven’t played a single one of those songs yet. It’s going to be amazing; not touring kills me!”
It’s 14 dates this time, taking in the north and south of Ireland and ending in Glasgow. Do you ever get the feeling before you reach a venue, that people in these faraway towns can’t possibly know your material (but they clearly do)?
“Ha ha! Yes! It’s crazy that anyone would come out and I just appreciate it so much. Just having even one kid or one other girl feel excited or inspired and want to come and see us play makes it all worth it.”
The planned date at The Forum in Kentish Town – like the Tufnell Park show last December – promises to be another momentous homecoming. That must seem pretty unreal. I first visited in the late ‘80s in its Town & Country Club guise, seeing That Petrol Emotion, The Wedding Present and Pixies among others, then Ian Dury and the Blockheads in ‘91, Teenage Fanclub in ’93 (as The Forum by then) and most recently The Undertones in 2016. It’s a big venue. Is that one of those ‘I’ve truly arrived’ moments for you?
“I mean, I used to live in Camden so it’s really just down the road. It’s going to be crazy playing these bigger venues. I kind of like the tiny sweaty shows where everyone just has that crazy energy, crazy London, I call it crack-head energy, because everyone just goes nuts. But polka-ing big shows is cool too. The arena tour with The 1975 was pretty terrifying; on the first night there wasn’t time to soundcheck and I had a full-blown freak out, but then you get used to it. It’s just a different kind of playing. It’ll be amazing to do this, and it’s my show, the Fake it Flowers show.”
The concentration’s clearly there, but you’re very smiley on stage when you allow yourself that, and rightly so. Is that you thanking your lucky stars most nights?
“Ha ha! Maybe. Or just thinking, whoah, this is crazy.”
Talking about the latest single, ‘Worth It’, you said it’s ‘simply about teenage infidelity and the mistakes one can make when they’re tempted to do things. It’s a bit of a confession song but also an understanding that it’s a part of life.’ But I also get the impression from the accompanying video that it might give us a clue to your lockdown – a touch of cabin fever involved, perhaps?
“It’s really just a song about mistakes that you can make when you’re young and working things out. My boyfriend and my best friend made the video, and it’s a weird situation because it’s almost too personal to do, but we also kind of get to tell the story through the art too.”
What’s kept you sane these past few months when you’ve been away from the studio (particularly the times you were stuck at home)? What did your personal lockdown involve?
“Being able to lock down with my boyfriend and still make things really helped. I was sick early on in the pandemic, so I had to self-isolate and it drove me nuts, but even then I just tried to be creative.”
Tracks like ‘Care’ were where you were heading when I caught you at Gorilla, fitting in neatly with your indie roots. But then there’s the more laidback, dreamy, ‘How Was Your Day?’. I described you last year as ‘personifying post-teen spirit and expertly straddling that line between grunge and indie-pop’. You’re clearly no one-trick pony – there’s at least two sides to Beabadoobee, right?
“It just feels like how I made music when I first started, and the video did too. Just stripped back and kind of innocent, I guess? I love that song.”
Talking of ‘How Was Your Day?’, where’s that rope-swing in the video? Doesn’t look like any part of London I know.
“That would be telling!”
Live, I’d say you give extra bite to the recorded versions of your songs, at the grungier end of the spectrum. My sole niggle was that your gorgeous vocal was sometimes lost in the mix beneath your guitar, but I get the impression that’s how you like it – hiding your light under a bushel, modesty incarnate. You’re very much part of a three-piece, rather than some ‘look at me’ rock idol.
“Haha! Maybe. I had just lost my voice too, we partied a bit on that tour! I love my band though, like it’s not a ‘band’ band, but they’re definitely my band, if that makes sense. They’re my best friends.”
If nothing else, the music we’ve heard these past few months has helped pull us all through. What records have you heard in 2020 that raised your spirits?
“I’ve really reconnected with the music I grew up around, like The Cranberries and Alanis Morrissette, and also music from the Philippines that my Mum played, like Itchyworms.”
This clueless clown car Government seem to think if the opportunity’s not there to make money from the arts industry, maybe us creatives could retrain, try something else. With that in mind, do you fancy a spell in a call centre, or have you got your eye on an even better ‘proper job’?
“God, that sucks. I hate it. Art is important, it saves people. I hate that they just don’t care at all. I hope people don’t stop making things. The world is weird right now.”
Finally, we’ve all had plenty of time to reflect this year, take a breather and think things through. Once we’re back to a semblance of normality, if there ever will be such a thing, what’s the first thing you fancy doing other than play live? What have you realised you’ve missed these past few months that maybe you weren’t consciously aware of until now?
“A huge album release party!”
For a link to last December’s feature/interview with Beabadoobee, head here.
Beabadoobee has announced a run of headline shows in celebration of the release of her debut LP, the 14-date Fake It Flowers tour taking place across the UK and Ireland next autumn, calling at: Tuesday, September 7th – Manchester O2 Ritz; Thursday, September 9th – Leeds Beckett University; Friday, September 10th – Nottingham Rescue Rooms; Saturday, September 11th – Birmingham O2 Institute; Monday, September 13th – Cambridge Junction; Tuesday, September 14th – Leicester O2 Academy; Thursday, September 23rd – London O2 Kentish Town Forum; Friday, September 24th – Bristol SWX; Saturday, September 25th – Oxford O2 Academy; Tuesday, September 28th – Dublin Academy; Wednesday, September 29th – Belfast Oh Yeah Music Centre; Saturday, October 2nd – Newcastle University Students’ Union; Sunday, October 3rd – Edinburgh Liquid Room; Monday, October 4th – Glasgow SWG 3.