By: Shayla Lee
When they were growing up, siblings Clyde and Gracie Lawrence played music in the comfort of their living room, hoping that someday they would breakthrough the four walls and be able to perform for others. With a debut album release in 2016 and a sophomore album release earlier this month, it’s safe to say that Clyde and Gracie’s childhood dream did come true.
Pulling inspiration from a wide variety of musicians from Stevie Wonder to Chance the Rapper, Lawrence focuses on putting a modern spin on old-school sounds. Earlier this month Lawrence released their second album “Living Room” which received critical acclaim. The album contains thirteen tracks which contain upbeat and soulful tracks like “The Heartburn Song” to dance-worthy tracks like “Limbo.”
Lawrence is carefully carving out a place for themselves in pop music and redefining the genre along the way. We chatted with Lawrence about the world of pop music, their new album “Living Room,” and what life as touring musicians is like.
Femme Riot: Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and how Lawrence came to fruition? You two are siblings, what is it like to collaborate creatively?
Gracie Lawrence: Clyde and I always played music together in our living room growing up. It was a mostly unspoken, but sometimes spoken, pact of ours that we would continue to do so for the rest of our lives, and hopefully expand outside the confines of our living room too — even though that still is sometimes my favorite place to play music. When I was in high school and Clyde was in college, we started playing small cafe gigs in New York, and then as Clyde started to build the band in college, we started doing mini-tours where we’d play our music at other colleges or parties. From there, once we had graduated from our respective schools, we made our first album Breakfast, went on our first big tour, and have been touring and making music ever since.
Clyde Lawrence: Lots of people expect us to say that it’s really hard to work together as siblings, but that hasn’t really been our experience at all! In fact, we have so many shared experiences and musical references that we’re more on the same wavelength than I could possibly imagine ever being with someone who I didn’t grow up with.
Your Spotify bio explains you two are on a mission to write the music they wish “pop” sounded like. In an ideal world, what would pop music sound like to you?
G: I think pop music these days is lacking a bit of emotional nuance and dynamics. I wish I heard more songs that were about something more specific and complex than just “I hate him, he broke my heart!” or “I’m obsessed with him, he’s my drug.” Not only does that songwriting feel tired to me, it also just doesn’t really feel relatable to me. In my experiences, romantically, socially, whatever — there is usually something more detailed and specific to say about your life whether that be about the relationship you’re in or the friends that you have or the food you ate or the dog you want.
I think sometimes people think the broader and more loud of a statement they make in the hooks of their music the more memorable it will be – but honestly, I feel like it’s the opposite. I love songs that have a catchy hook that is memorable melodically but also lyrically pointed. Because don’t get me wrong — I LOVE pop music and catchy songs and fun vibes. I’m not suggesting that every song needs to be so philosophical, I’m certainly not that high-brow at all. I just want to relate to the music that I hear more, I guess.
C: I agree with all of that. I also think that the process of making music these days is very different than the way it used to be. Most artists seem to make music on their laptops, building loops and writing hooks over them. There are definitely some cool things about this, most notably that the production and the sounds themselves are more baked into the songwriting from the get-go, which can lead to some really cool stuff. But overall, I think that this process leads to a very loop-based type of songwriting, which ultimately I think is a problem.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music? Do you have any musical influences?
G: Well coming off your last question — I’d say, in terms of songwriting, we draw a lot of inspiration from the pop music of the past, specifically late 60’s/early 70s pop music. We love Motown and Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin — people who created really great, substantive pop music. And of course we love the Beatles.
C: Yes those that Gracie mentioned, plus Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Carole King, Ray Charles, Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire, and Joe Cocker. I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of others too. Some newer stuff too — PJ Morton, Bernhoft, Chance The Rapper, and Lake Street Dive, to name a few.
You recently released your music video for your song “Probably Up.” I love the one-shot take of the music video and as a fellow insomniac I really connected with the lyrics – especially “I work until the sunrise and at noon I’m still asleep.” Can you tell us more about the song and your experience filming the music video?
C: Keeping very bizarre hours, like working until sunrise and sleeping until noon, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are totally misaligned with the rest of the world which can cause problems, but on the other hand, anyone in your life who is in need of someone to talk to at an unusual hour knows they can count on you to be up (or at least probably up). That’s what the song is about. As for the video, I’ve always loved music videos where the execution of the video itself is an achievement (OK GO are the best at that), and combining this sort of endurance challenge of making the video a continuous single take from sunset to sunrise with the idea of us bouncing around New York City and hitting all of our favorite spots felt like a really perfect concept for the song. There were definitely some technical question marks going in as far as how to actually make it work and look good when so much of the video was going to be moving at such a fast speed, but our director Travis Bogosian really nailed the filming and editing of it!
What can fans expect from your upcoming album ‘Living Room?’ What was the creative process for this album like?
G: I think Living Room very much still sounds like us in terms of songwriting and style — it’s a soul pop album with a lot of upbeat bangers and some mid-tempo R&B songs and a few ballads — but I think our production choices have become more creative and stylistic in their own right since our last album. A word we’ve been throwing around a lot to describe Living Room is “cinematic” — I think that’s really accurate in describing how much we focus on the dynamics of each song and feel like each song is really telling a story with ups and downs.
C: It’s important to us that whenever you listen to a Lawrence song, you feel like you are getting to truly know us as people. We grew up watching tons and tons of sitcoms, and we really loved how from episode to episode and season to season, you got to know the characters and watch them grow, and while the storylines changed, the overall vibe of the show generally stayed consistent. There’s definitely a parallel to the way we want our music to feel — that this new album is almost like the next “season” of Lawrence. Same main characters, but we’re writing about some new and different things, or writing about the same old things but feeling new ways about them.
You have an upcoming tour and will be hitting a lot of cities! What aspects of touring are you most looking forward to?
G: I know this is like the least original thing to say ever, but my favorite part of touring is actually playing the shows… Typically I find myself really tired during the day right until we go onstage, and then I’m just totally present and somehow wildly energetic — I just love performing so much, and I think it’s the most fun thing ever. And for this tour specifically, I’m so stoked to see people’s reactions to these new songs. I also love touring because by the end of it, I always feel like I got better at singing by just doing it every night and trying new things at each show, so that’s a fun little perk too.
C: On a personal level, I really like how touring forces me to step out of my comfort zone, while always being able to be surrounded by my closest friends and family. Generally speaking, I’ve never been great about traveling, adventuring, or trying new things — probably not shocking coming from a guy who wrote a song called “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?” — and touring has pushed me to be better about that.
What songs are you currently listening to?
G: Off our album? I think the song I’m listening to right now the most is “Make A Move,” not only because I really am into that one right now, but also because we’re putting it out as a single before the album drops and we’re putting out the music video for it that Clyde and I directed, so it’s really in my head right now. In fact, maybe by the time this article is out, it will already be out in the world! As we discussed earlier, I think that song is an example of the pop music I wish I heard more — it’s about something very specific and something I care about; empowering girls to ask guys out more often — but it’s still in the context of a fun, hopefully funny, soulful, upbeat pop song.
C: I’ll assume you don’t mean off our album and say something fairly unsurprising, but I actually re-listened to almost all of Stevie Wonder’s discography today. I was with someone who hadn’t ever dived in beyond the classics, so we decided to really listen through to some of my favorites that they hadn’t heard. There’s something really crazy about experiencing a song (or movie or TV show) that you love with someone who isn’t familiar with it, because you gain a fresh perspective. Sometimes you realize, “whoa, this thing actually doesn’t hold up when I listen with fresh ears,” but other times, like in the case of Stevie, it’s more like: “wow, this music is all so ingrained in me that I actually sometimes take it for granted how unbelievably good it is.”
Anything we haven’t asked that you want to add?
G: Look out for that “Make a Move” music video and single! And I hope you like all of the rest of Living Room, too — see ya on tour!
Stay up to date with Lawrence and their touring life by following them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. If you want to catch them on their tour, more information about tickets can be found here. Listen to their album “Living Room” below!