Interview by Thomas Troyan
Last month before their solo set in Pittsburgh Lauren from Worriers was kind enough to sit down in an Oakland basement for an interview with our staffer Thomas for WPTS Radio.
Thomas: So this is a solo show. So I’m kind of curious as to how playing solo differs from a full band show. Obviously you don’t have a band, so how’s that experience differ?
Lauren: I mean, I just started writing songs originally by myself and I generally write all of the songs, or the majority of the songs alone, so when I’ve had the opportunity over the past year or so to play a lot of our songs by myself, or just with our drummer Mikey, it’s given me the opportunity to play different arrangements in a way that’s just really fun for me, and is a lot lower maintenance than having a full band. So it’s just a way to have a different experience with the songs. I think that they translate really differently sometimes, some more than others. It’s just a way to let the songs have a life of their own in a different way.
Thomas: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. Also, just going off of different concerts give experiences, tonight you’re playing a house show, so how does playing a smaller house venue differ from playing bigger venue shows.
Lauren: I mean, I feel like the atmosphere is obviously very different. But for solo shows and things like that, I like playing venues like this because this is the opportunity to feel like, there’s no barrier, there’s no stage, we’re all just hanging out, and it just gives you a much closer interaction with everybody. And playing house shows is how I started playing shows in the first place so it just ends up feeling really comfortable. And it’s something I don’t get to do all the time anymore, so maybe it’s just more special in that way. But it’s like, I like playing big venues, but you can’t beat playing a room of friends.
Thomas: Yeah I can definitely see that. Whenever I see a band at a house it’s just like, everyone’s sitting down on a couch then someone steps up and they’re playing music now. But at a venue, even a smaller venue, there’s still this barrier between the artist on stage and the listeners.
Lauren: Yeah for sure.
Thomas: So do you have a favorite song to play live, or one that you prefer solo vs full band?
Lauren: I feel like “Chasing” is the one song that, to me, sounds drastically different solo than live. Like I play it much differently. All the songs I change, but “Chasing” is the one most fun for me, like if people haven’t heard me play it solo but they know the full band version, I feel like it takes a second to know what song I’m playing and that’s exciting for me. It’s almost like I’m covering it or something, but it’s actually the original way it sounded.
Thomas: That’s really interesting. I’ve never really thought about the transition from solo to full band. So let’s talk about your last record. One of the things that really drew me to it was the title “Survival Pop.” So how did you come up with that as a name or idea?
Lauren: Well the name, I had the name for the record or songs were even finished. I think because it was an idea and concept that, before I even understood why, I knew that’s what it had to be called. And I think I definitely came to a point with songwriting where I was relating to music and songwriting in my life as a coping mechanism, and as a survival tactic. So I wanted to write songs that reflected that, and were personal in a way where they’re for me to get by. They’re my way of processing things.
Thomas: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. So to talk about the music scene, when you think of punk as a genre, how do you see that as a way for people of all kinds of identities to express themselves, especially in a time whenever people say “Punk is dead.”
Lauren: Well I think it means, because it means a different thing to everybody, it’s something that I identify with less as like, specific than how a song sounds and more with the background of where I’m coming from. Like, we’re a guitar driven rock band and we come from the punk and DIY world. And I think that I always want to be playing shows where it feels like it can be inclusive and I can speak to my own lived experiences and people will hear that and want to see that. And I think that’s what a lot of friends’ bands that are “punk” bands, but don’t always sound like it, or sound like stereotypical pop-punk, it’s a lot more about the politics going into it, and the kind of scene you’re coming from, and the kind of spaces you’re trying to create which aren’t as intentional coming from other genres.
Thomas: Yeah, I have a lot of the same thoughts. Like when I think of punk in a more, modern sense, like you’ve got 70s punk, but I think about a lot of the DIY kind of mentality and aesthetic, so like making shows accessible and inclusive. So also talking about being inclusive, I’ve seen a lot of criticism towards many bands for having lineups that are mostly cis/white/straight guys. So how do you think we can foster inclusivity without tokenizing those groups if that makes sense?
Lauren: Yeah, I totally know what you’re saying. I don’t ever wanna be included on a lineup to make it seem more inclusive. We’ve been lucky to be asked to on a bunch of tours over the past year or two where I’ve never once felt tokenized, and because of that I’ve been adamant that it isn’t difficult to make a line up for a show or a tour that is not all straight white cis-white. Like it’s not difficult, and if you’re not doing it or you’re not trying to have a lineup that’s inclusive and diverse in some way, it’s your own fault. Like, I don’t think one should be tokenizing about it, and just try to find a band to fit that description into that lineup, but if you’re actually listening to music, or invested in a certain scene, a certain genre, or a certain sound like you’re going to wind up with lineups that aren’t all straight white cis men. Like I think you have to actively try to exclude people to get a lineup that’s all men. That’s the way I think about it, rather than saying “You should be intentionally trying to include people” it’s like, if you were actually giving a crap in the first place it wouldn’t be a problem. And we’ve been lucky that all of the shows we’ve been playing this year, we’re not the only band that aren’t all straight white cis men. And i can feel good about at least that much. We’ve got a way to go, but that much is getting better at least.
Thomas: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. Like when I see a show, and it’ll be three bands and you’ll see a bunch of white guys on stage. And it’s like, there’s music that sounds like this that isn’t made by this group of people. And there’s this issue where people will say, “You’re being exclusionary for focusing on minority groups” which is just an awful statement in my opinion.
Lauren: Yeah it’s like whatever. Reverse-sexism or reverse-racism or whatever doesn’t exist. Like, I can’t even begin with that you know?
Thomas: Yeah, so to step away from that a bit, how did you get into the music scene and songwriting? Since you said some of your first shows were house shows.
Lauren: Yeah, I started writing songs by myself as a singer-songwriter when I was a teenager. And when i was about nineteen some friends asked me to start a band that was based on the fact that we had similar songwriting styles, like solo songwriting styles. And I started playing in a band called The Measure and we were based in New Brunswick, which is a college town in New Jersey, and yeah, it was all basement shows. I know there was a point when we played our first show on a stage at a venue. I don’t remember what it was and I was thinking recently that I don’t remember what it was, but we just played basement shows. So that was always my context for relating to people and to other bands and being able to put on shows yourself.
Thomas: So are there any kinds of bands or artists, that whenever you’re in your songwriting process, or just writing music, that you gain influence from?
Lauren: I feel like it’s obvious at this point. I definitely listen to a lot of punk and melodic pop-rock. I’m drawn to songwriters who have a more literary style, or storytelling kind of style, with folks who are in the same position I am as primary songwriter. Like that’s just the kind of music that I’ve always gravitated towards, so to me it makes sense that I’d wind up in a band that operates like we do.
Thomas: So for my last question, what kind of music are you listening to now? Like whenever you’re driving in your car going from place to place?
Lauren: I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music. And not even necessarily top-40 pop, but I’ll end up listening to, definitely a ton of Florence and the Machine, or HAIM. I’ve been listening to a lot of them, Charli XCX, and Bleachers. Lots of stuff that’s super poppy, and super keyboard synth stuff. I’m fascinated by how people have made that sound or like, I’m fascinated by the songwriting involved with it. So I just end up listening to a ton of super posi-pop rock.
Thomas: Yeah I completely get that. Like when Carly Rae Jepsen’s last album came out that was a big thing. Thank you so much for doing this again, I had a great time talking to you and I hope it was great.
Worriers are currently on tour in the UK with Slaughter, Beach Dog, but you can catch them in the US next month where they’ll be opening for The Wonder Years!