Words: Alice Nicolov
Photography: Michelle Helena Janssen
Styling: Ade Udoma
Make up: Stevie Squire
Nails: Angel Nguyen
Lauren Auder arrives on set in the black suit that’s become a signature. Tall, unkempt hair, bare-faced. “Day-to-day, I basically wear black suits because I like not having to think about these things,” the 21-year-old laughs, flashing a gold front tooth. “It's comforting to act like a cartoon character.”
For anyone who’s followed Auder’s story, the east London-based musician’s upcoming EP Two Caves In is a clear step change. Written five years ago but only now seeing the light of day, the songs are heavy with teenage anguish. For their author, they resonate more today than at their inception. “There's a lot of trying to accept past pain, past struggles and coming to terms with yourself on this record. Those things ring even more true to me now.” While such heartrending themes fit comfortably into the artist’s oeuvre, the cradle of music they come in is different. Earlier offerings from Auder have felt insular and sparse, but this new work is a lush movie score; colourful and warm. Paired with the familiar melancholy baritone, guttural and raw in places, the project is a cinematic coming of age story – a choral herald for Lauren Auder.
Reflecting on this recent sonic change, Auder is candid: those first projects were born from isolation. Originally from the sprawling English satellite town of Watford, at seven years old Auder relocated to “literally the middle of nowhere” in the southwest of France. With nothing to do, they would spend hours drawing, wormholing on Tumblr and discovering new music and aesthetics. Take a look back at past interviews with Auder and you’ll find a kaleidoscope of references mentioned – from 60s rock stars like Marc Bolan and David Bowie through to electronic music and UK rap. By 17, the Auder moniker had crystallised and they were dabbling in music-making. “By my last year at school, I was obsessed with the idea of getting out,” the artist says. The music became a vehicle for escape and Auder began to email furiously, eventually striking up a relationship with the team at True Panther. “The day I finished high school, literally the very same day, I flew to New York.”
The work that came after fleeing France would be made in bedrooms, alone. Stark production, pensive lyrics and simple aesthetics spoke to other lonely souls. Now, though, Auder wants more. Inspired by playing to huge live audiences while touring with Christine and the Queens last year, the artist wants to make big music for big spaces to communicate with as many people as possible. “I make music so I can talk to people,” they explain. “It's about finding the most effective methods of doing that while staying true to my tastes and my ambition.”
Top: Kitty Garratt
Since the last release, Auder has been resurfacing those songs written by the solitary 17-year-old and inspired by Scott Walker and Steve Reich. With this record, although it can be universally enjoyed, its creator wants especially to talk to teenagers: the ones who might need it the most. “My dream would be for 13 or 14-year-olds to hear it because it's about my experience at that age,” Auder says before acknowledging, ruefully, that this could be a challenge: “Sometimes my reference points are slightly esoteric and annoying.”
In homage to those teenage years, the musician has been working tirelessly on composition, arrangement and writing songs that are more concise. “I went full throttle to give it a grand treatment. Teenage experience and emotions are often belittled and seem twee, but really they’re extremely formative. They deserve more,” Auder says.
This new iteration of Auder ushers in colour and texture. Ever the romantic, Auder describes the five-track EP’s visual identity as baroque and flamboyant, pulling reference from the glorious works of William Blake. The accompanying video for the lead single, June 14th, is a showcase for this new lens, full of energy and movement. And the palette, opalescent and rich, is a far cry from the bedroom records of before. “It felt natural that if I was trying to open up to the world lyrically and sonically, then I would reflect that aesthetically,” the musician says simply.
Dress: Wed Studio
Top: Kitty Garratt
Trousers and Shoes: Celine
For Auder, making music is a “super visual process”; before a single note becomes concrete, the visual is already decided. That deep-rooted tie between aesthetic and sound, as well as an innate talent for beautiful self-presentation, has seen the musician modelling for the likes of Céline. For this shoot, Auder was involved from the start, tying its vision into the wider Two Caves In project. “The team let me moodboard it all, which is awesome,” the artist enthuses about the bold head-to-toe Gucci looks, an opulent crimson gown especially catching their eye.
When asked about relinquishing control to other creatives, Auder is surprisingly practical. In fact, the musician revels in the power of collaboration as a means of communication. “I try not to have a myopic perspective on these things. Even though I'm pretty precise and clear with what I want, I know that ultimately it’s way more effective to have other perspectives.”
Top & Dress: Gucci
Boots: SILHOU Archive
Entering these new visual and sonic performative realms has felt like a natural progression for Auder. But it has also felt exposing. When we move on to the question of how self-expression can be displayed through costume, makeup and jewellery, it prompts the first pause in our conversation. Auder takes a moment to collect their thoughts, explaining that becoming comfortable has been a long process. “When it comes to my self-expression, it's always a struggle,” they muse. “I’m always trying to feel more comfortable in the way I express myself.”
But exposure does have creative benefits. Citing the visceral, highly emotional work of modern chanson and spellbinding performer Jacques Brel, the musician explains how being stripped bare lets you speak more truthfully. “Looking at the artists that I've always admired, it's in those moments of true, intense emotional expression that I’ve felt connected,” they reflect. “I want to give that to people.”
Two Caves In is coming soon
Glasses: Giorgio Armani
All clothing and accessories: Wed Studio