Photo credit: Trent Stevens

INTERVIEW: Lauren Hulbert

Hi Lauren, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi! I’ve been hanging in there in these crazy times. A bit of cabin fever mixed with family time and many days lounging at the beach and surfing. It’s been challenging with Covid but being in the process of releasing my music has been so rewarding, and I’m really grateful for that.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Gone In One”?

“Gone In One”  is the first single off my upcoming EP Superbloom. It’s a grunge-pop song and I’m really proud of it. It’s edgy, vulnerable, powerful, and driven by a grungy electric guitar. I had a lot of fun recording this track adding flamenco clapping and layered vocals and harmonies. I love the catchy bass line as it has a strong melody all it’s own. The song is a personal account of unknowingly losing oneself in someone else, which is lonely, confusing and scary, and ultimately empowering oneself to leave. The main message I want to come across is that if you are someone who feels lost and confused, you are not alone in that darkness – it is very common and normal. The way out is to find strength within yourself, to give yourself what you need, to leave unhealthy relationships, to put yourself first and to give yourself the opportunity to know yourself and heal and grow. It’s messy, difficult and scary, yet liberating.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I wrote this song while in the throes of a long, unhealthy romantic relationship. I didn’t write it with any agenda in mind – it just came out and I wasn’t even sure what to make of it. As time passed, I continued to see how it can be related to many different things and stages in life – going back to my childhood, friendships, my relationship with myself. I think it’s really cool that the meaning of the chorus has room to morph over time. Like, the lyrics “How fast can you run? Will you remember me?” were written from a place of fear of abandonment and neediness and self-loathing, like this person is going to run away from me and might not care about me enough to even remember me, and that makes me sad and scared. As I continued to grow since I wrote the song, I heard them as more of a challenge like “You wanna try to outrun ME? Try me. I’m fast as f*ck,” which had anger behind it, and still fear. And now I hear it as “Wow. Look how fast you’re running emotionally. You running is about you and not me. I’m not taking it personally. I’m not running this race anymore. I’m good here. You can exhaust yourself and remember me or forget me – it doesn’t matter to me now.” Listening to this song reminds me of what the darkness was like, how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. The chorus has been able to grow and change along with my personal journey, which is cool and empowering. This song is especially exemplary of a pattern I’ve noticed in my songwriting – that many of my songs speak my truth more than I’m conversationally willing to at the time I write them. They often end up being a guide for me to examine myself.

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Yes. The music video premiered on 9/23 on Medium and can be viewed on YouTube. It’s my first legit music video and it was so fun to make. Ryan Houchin (director, filmer, editor) helped me suss out my story and vision. We filmed it in Oakland and Ocean Beach, San Francisco in a day and a half. It follows me through a series of relationships that aren’t right for me, meanwhile losing my identity in each one. In the end I find the strength to break free, rid myself of false layers and return to my true self.

The single comes off your new album Superbloom – what’s the story behind the title?

The name represents a few things. The first is the time it was recorded, which actually prompted me to leave that bad relationship, which was a blooming back to musical life for myself as I hadn’t been in the studio for many years. I originally was going to name it White Flower, from the nickname “Leelawadee” (which means plumeria) that a Thai co-teacher had given me during a year I spent teaching English in Thailand, which is one of my fondest years of my life. Then, before I could release it, I had a terrible foot injury while traveling through Indonesia. I was bed ridden for 6 months and it was unclear if I’d ever walk again. It was terrifying, but looking back I was in need of deep rest. My journey back to health was long and painful but I got there. By the time I was able to start the release process for this EP, I felt it needed a much bigger, stronger name to represent what I’d gone through and to celebrate me blooming back to life, and Superbloom felt perfect. I also think the name well represents the songs’ full, textured, bright and electric sonic qualities as well as me branching out to try new styles and sounds.

How was the recording and writing process?

I wrote these 5 songs at very different times, some years apart in fact. The oldest one, “Demons,” I wrote like fifteen years ago! It’s been dying to have justice served in the studio. The other four songs were written at different times during that long-term relationship I was in. They were all written on guitar, with the guitar part written first, followed by vocal melody and lyrics.

I recorded this EP at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco. I hadn’t recorded in many years and was super nervous, honestly. I didn’t have anything planned for the other musicians other than wanting to try new instruments and styles to make it more pop, and not just folk. I laid down my guitar and vocals first and then we layered each instrument one by one over that. It was very instinctual, creative and on the spot decision making. Compared to my last album, this time I was more involved in the vision for the direction of sound and vibe and Producer/Engineer James Riotto helped execute it wonderfully. James also played bass and synth and I was lucky to get Andrew Maguire as my drummer. It was more experimental than the last album with lots of different, fun instruments, like different synthesizers, Wurlitzer, organ, a variety of percussion like jingle bells in “Honeydew”  and Flamenco clapping in “Gone In One.” I brought in some guest musicians – Helen Newby on cello in “Calling Out to You” and Daniel Mark on mandolin in “Burn.” I especially enjoyed adding vocal harmonies and vocal accompaniment. It was really fun to try different things and bring what I had in my imagination to life and then some!

What role does LA play in your music?

I grew up in the Ventura suburb of Thousand Oaks, lived in Newport Beach during college and have spent tons of time in LA, mostly on the west-side as I love the ocean. So I’d say for me it’s not just LA, but a big slice of coastal So-Cal that plays a big role in who I am, and therefore affects my music. It’s laid back, fluid, winsome and pretty while also being edgy, unapologetic, beguiling and conflicted. It’s bright and warm and charmingly quick to laugh at itself. It’s old-California folk from the canyons mixed with young-California pop from the city.

I’ve played some great venues in LA, such as Hotel Cafe, The Mint and Radio Venice.

How has PJ Harvey and Maggie Rogers influenced your writing?

PJ Harvey has inspired me to not be afraid of my own intensity and to speak the truth, even if it’s ugly. She’s such a badass and really digs into the edgy emotionality of her songs.

Maggie Rogers’ sound has inspired me to explore more pop styles, multi-harmonies, synths.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I mostly write about personal experience – three of these songs were about the relationship I was in at the time, but all explore different themes. “Demons” is about my observation of an emotionally distant lover. “Burn” was inspired by me feeling cooped up, wanting to run free but not being able to, and the resulting fictitious story and characters that came from that.

What else is happening next in Lauren Hulbert’s world?

Musically I’ll be brainstorming my next music video, continuing to refine the songs for my next album which I’ve already written, and figuring out how and when I can get into the studio again to record it. I’m currently deciding between staying in California or heading to New Zealand for a while to escape Covid, as I have dual US/NZ citizenship. Wherever I land I’ll be looking to get some acting and modeling work going. Overall, I’m aiming to be healthy, patient and productive when possible.

Listen “Gone in One” on Soundcloud I Spotify 

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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