The Artistry Behind Laurel’s Newest Album “Palpitations”

June 10, 2024

Text: Jeremy Whitaker

Laurel is transforming before our very eyes, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, her artistry is a force that cannot be tied down. 

For the Indie darling turned Pop perfectionist, genre is a playground and the new album Palpitations is her uncompromising self-portrait. “Now that I'm releasing the last single of the album, I know who Laurel is,” she says. 

Laurel’s identity is constantly evolving. Watch as she goes from nymphic in her visuals, to pop-idol performer, to quick-witted and relatable all in the run of her hour-long set. Through this evolution, she maintains her intense admiration for nature, and although it has been six years since her last project, her image-inducing lyricism will always encourage listeners to seek nature’s embrace. 

Ahead of her performance at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right and the release of her new album, Laurel and I deconstructed the thesis of Palpitations, musical influences, and the creative process behind her singles.

The Album:

LAUREL: I love to name my records something random. I was struggling trying to name it, and I asked God, I asked the universe to give me a name. Literally five minutes later I picked up this journal and it said “Digitalis” on it. I knew as soon as I saw the word, this word was going to take me to my album name. There was a medication that was made from this flower which resolved heart palpitations. The word just kind of stuck and it just felt like every song was this palpitation. So much of the album was about following your heart specifically, this angsty anxious feeling.

JEREMYWHITAKER: It's very much breathing, it's very much alive.

LAUREL: I loved the idea that something can make you feel so strongly that your heart skips a beat.

JW: Who are your references?

LAUREL: I musically love Lana Del Ray and Sky Ferreira. Just kind of iconic, genre-defining artists. Grimes is genre-defining. I’ve recently been listening to a lot of Tame Impala too, actually.

JW: Who's your dream collaborator?

LAUREL: Omar Apollo.

JW: I'm obsessed with him too. He's so cute.

LAUREL: He's so cute. See, I fancy gay guys specifically, so I'm really fucked. He has done so much different music and he's following what he feels and people are on the journey with him. It’s something I would really like for myself. I have done a lot of different styles and genres and I'd like to keep doing that. I don't want to have to make the same fucking synth over and over. It's nice to be able to experiment in music and have people still want to listen.

JW: I think as creatives, we fear being pigeonholed into one thing. I want to spread out. I want to breathe.

LAUREL: People want you to be easily understandable, they want to know you for one thing, but most creatives are influenced by so much. I just want to explore. 

The Visuals:

JW: The fashion of the album is a breath of fresh air.

LAUREL: It was a process. I have never been so involved in my visuals. I love fashion, but I'm just more about writing my songs. On this album, I just felt really inspired to do everything. It was a weird challenge. I did a ton of research and I watched this specific video that Grimes had done in her early videos from Genesis. There was so much magic in them. There was no money, just friends working together. I realized that all the low-budget videos were the ones that had such magic.

There is this moment where people get given budgets to make a video and it kind of limits the creativity. I wanted to just put that money into more stuff, more experiences. We went dolphin watching, I bought a camera and my fiancé and I shot everything together. I bought all the clothes instead of working with a stylist, I did all my own makeup and hair. Every video we've done, I've learned about myself and I feel like now that I'm releasing the last single of the album, I know who Laurel is. This album is the most me. 

JW: It seems like such a process of learning and evolving.

LAUREL: I must say, I completely broke my back doing all these videos, it's just so strenuous. I'm involved in every single step of it. All the planning, production, directing, making the video, and then editing it, sitting on the grade. It's been awesome because I've learned so much, but I do see that there's a point where I probably need to delegate, but no one's going to care more than you do.

45 Degrees:

JW: Was it important to start the album with that immediate connection to nature?

LAUREL: 45 Degrees was just my favorite track. I just loved it. No matter how this does, no matter what anyone says, this is a hundred percent what I was trying to do with my record. It just feels so good to me and I'm so proud of it even now. I've had it for two years now and I still love it. I like that it starts with a bang.

JW: Thematically, there is so much imagery throughout the run of the album, and in “45 Degrees” with “summer breeze” and “driving with the windows down,” all of those visual elements set the tone.  

LAUREL: I've realized my favorite songs are when the lyrics match up with a melody, and I love these romantic cinematic lyrics where you're listening and you're almost there. I think “45 Degrees” really does that.

JW: It invokes such a summer feeling. Was it intentional, the step towards Pop?

LAUREL: I definitely wanted to make Pop music. I love Pop music and I think there's just this moment where I was like, ‘I'm going to fucking make pop music.’ It doesn't have to be what people expect from me. It just happened very naturally. I'm just going to write what comes out.

JW: As you said, this is your most true-to-self project, and it translates. 

LAUREL: It still has the kooky weird shit. I think the visuals really bring that weird element to it. It's Pop with a bit of chaos.

Wild Things:  

JW: This was my favorite lyrically: “I got a call from God /He wants me to turn myself in.”

LAUREL: This one happened very fast. I write everything at home on my own before taking it to a producer, and then we produce together. This one the lyrics just came out. They really mean something. I often sing about heaven and God and angels, I just kind of love that supernatural realm that's rooted in the world. It was my favorite song at the time, it was all the label's favorite song. There was a lot of pressure to get it right, and it ended up being handed in the last day that I needed to hand it in to get the vinyl made.

JW: The audience is really going to connect with this one. You’re kicking off your tour at Baby’s All Right. What are you most excited about?

LAUREL: I am just excited to be in New York. I fucking love it here. I haven't done any U.S. shows in so long, so it just feels like a big moment. A lot of fans have messaged me that they've flown in from other states and it's a pretty amazing feeling to know that people care about your project so much that they would fly to see you. Sometimes I don't want to fucking drive down the road to the shop, so this is pretty big.

Burning Up:

LAUREL: This one was also a bit of a problem child. We had this idea, but the production we couldn't get quite right for so long. This one also went up to the end. It's special because there are so many songs like that you don't try and finish, but this one felt really unique, and it was actually one of the first I wrote for the record. It kind of set a template. I was really wanting to make more Pop music, and we'd been in the studio for quite a few months trying to figure out the new record. This song came out and I was like, this is it. Don't try and do Pop. Don't try and do anything. Just do what you naturally do, which is this. 

JW: It's interesting after you listen to a body of work, you can't really picture it being any other way, but you've heard every single possible combination of these songs.

LAUREL: Hundred percent. Sometimes after record, you're like, ‘Did I choose the right version?’ Sometimes the demo is really special.

JW: Have you ever thought about releasing your demos on Soundcloud?

LAUREL: Definitely. I love to share my demos. They're really special to me. We actually did it for “Obsessed,” which was on my EP Limbo Cherry. After everything was out I felt like I should have trusted myself to let the demo shine instead of reworking the whole thing. So we just released the demo.

JW: I saw people were asking you to bring “Shell” to streaming.  

LAUREL: I need to figure that out. I don't know what happened to it. It was released on an indie label, they moved to a different label. It's funny how many people still message me, “Put ‘Shell’ back up” and I don't fucking know how.

JW: Oh, bureaucracy! Stream the new music, stream Palpitations.

LAUREL: Yeah! I'm literally releasing an album, stream that! 

Only One:

JW: This is the emotional climax.

LAUREL: I wrote this seven years ago. I just didn't know what to do with it, but I knew it was a very powerful song. Everyone really loved it behind the scenes, but it wasn't the right moment at the time that I made this. It was a time when I also made “Scream Drive Faster” and “Best I Ever Had,” which was more into synth-wave. I was cementing a totally new sound, which really excited me. I had been known for these big emotional love songs with guitar, and so when I had “Only One,” I just didn't feel like that was the place for it without really confusing people as to who I am. I shelved it and it still didn't make sense. Then when we were doing this album, a bigger body of work, we finished it. We changed a couple of things and rerecorded some vocals. The verse vocals are the exact demo vocals I made in my old house in London six years ago.

JW: When I think of the Palpitations, this is really the beating heart of the album to me.

LAUREL: This is the emotional one. I think people who listen to my old music really connect with this song because not everyone wants happy, uplifting tracks. Some people want to cry.

Palpitations is out June 14.

All Photos Courtesy of Ale Washington