Things get beautifully ugly for Laurel’s return to Portsmouth

Laurel is at The Wedgewood Rooms on September 30, 2018. Picture by Kamila K Stanley
Laurel is at The Wedgewood Rooms on September 30, 2018. Picture by Kamila K Stanley

For those paying attention to the local music scene, Laurel’s debut album has been a long time coming.

She won a Guide Award for best solo act (as Under The Laurels) seven years ago when only 17, but has gone on to make waves in the business far beyond Hampshire.

She has released a strong run of singles and EPs and since 2016 has been signed to the super-cool indie label Counter Records. 

And the album, Dogviolet, is worth the wait. She spoke with The Guide just before its release, and explained how she felt to finally release her full-length debut.

‘I’m quite nervous, really excited, but I feel like I’ve been working on this album for so long, it feels out already. I had it wrapped in January, but some of the songs were finished a long time before that.’

Over the years, Laurel, who grew up in Locks Heath but now lives in London, the singer-songwriter’s sound has matured. And her label has pretty much left her get on with it. She produces it all in her home studio.

‘I can definitely hear progression between my piano music and now, and also when I first started writing on my acoustic guitar and how I perform songs is very different to how I used to do it.

‘I can hear progression in my songwriting over a period of a few weeks, to be honest - I’m quite critical of myself, I think a lot of artists are. And it’s good to see that progression, it keeps you moving forward.’

‘Everybody’s left me to it, there wasn’t any other way of doing it, I guess it’s a lot cheaper for the label that way too! We did try to get some if it mixed by a few other people, but I decided to do it all myself in the end.

‘I felt the first album needed to be like this, who knows what I’ll do in the future, but I really wanted to produce and mix this one myself. I’m quite lucky and fortunate to be able to do that.

‘I am a bit of a control freak,’ she laughs.

Although the album was put together in the digital realm, Laurel wanted to give it an old-school analogue touch and fed the album back through a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

‘I was find it quite difficult mixing some of the songs, there’s a lot of parts to it being in a computer. Putting it through the reel-to-reel, I was only allowed six channels so separating it all out was a really big help to mix it. And sonically I think it glued everything together really well.

‘The reason I made it out of a laptop wasn’t because I wanted to, it just happened that way, and it was easier to do it in my home studio. For me the best option was then to feed it through the tape-to-tape because it gives it that emulation of the older sound, it gave it a warmth. I think it gave the album a lot more cohesion, soundwise.

‘I love modern music, but I love older music too so it was a nice compromise.’

And although Laurel is a one-woman band in the studio, and sometimes on the road, she will be taking a full band on tour.

‘I’ve done a ton of shows, but most of them have been solo, just me and my guitar, so it doesn’t really emulate the sound of the album.

‘Now the album is coming out, I’m going to be touring with a full band. People will have heard the tracks now, so I want them to hear them as they sound on the recordings. Before I didn’t think it mattered so much because they were changing so much.’

After going through the lengthy writing and recording process, Laurel was struggling to give the record a name.

‘To be honest, I could not find a name for the album at all, and it was the last thing we decided. Everyone was really on at me! 

‘I was looking through this book of flowers one day, I do really love flowers, and there was a page which had the common dog violet on it, and it was really beautiful, but there was something about the word that evoked something really weird in me, and I wanted the album name to represent something that was ugly for what was beautiful.

‘That’s what the love on the album is – it’s a very beautiful love, it’s all consuming, it’s amazing, but it’s ugly in its effect. So that’s what I wanted, and finding a word that matched that was a nightmare! There was something about the two words put together that provided the contrast for me, the feelings I had when I thought about this kind of love. It was a lucky accident to find.’

And the album is ‘100 per cent’ her –  this all-consuming passion is from Laurel’s point of view.

‘It’s definitely about experiences I’ve had. I find it difficult to write if it’s not something I’ve had – I usually write because I need to get something out.

‘There’s something really very therapeutic about expressing how you feel, I don’t think a lot of people have the chance to do that, and I feel bad for them. The way I deal with my emotions is to release them out into the world. I don’t feel weird about it at all - some people the songs are about might feel a bit differently though…’

Do the subjects know?

‘I always get interesting ones where I hear that particular people think that songs are about them, and they’ve got it so wrong. I get told that someone is telling everyone this song is about them, and it’s really funny because I wrote the song two years before I even met them!

‘I don’t think people are actually very good at spotting things that I think are very obvious. But it’s very metaphoric, I don’t name and shame anyone – if I did, then I might feel different about my love life being so exposed!’

The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Sunday, September 30

wedgewood-rooms.co.uk