At just 18, renforshort is showing an artistic courage well beyond her years.
Anxiety, loneliness, isolation. Life is made up of a lot of grey area that rarely sees the light, whether that be through music, media, or even general conversation. But not discussing these all-too-familiar topics just makes them darker, more agonising. On her latest single, renforshort gives a voice to the dark side of the human condition.
It’s what the Canadian songwriter has always done best: telling the stories that are often hidden away. However, Virtual Reality recalibrates this motive into a complete, unadulterated mission statement. Fresh off the press, we caught up with Lauren to hear more.
HAPPY: How are you going?
RENFORSHORT: Great, best I’ve ever been! How are you?
HAPPY: I’m good! You must be so excited to have the single out!
RENFORSHORT: I know, oh my god! It’s the best! I’ve been waiting.
HAPPY: How long’s it been in the bag for?
RENFORSHORT: Not long! I think like two months. Not long at all! It was one of those songs where I was like “yeah!” I was like I know and I don’t want to wait. The date was so close there was nothing I could even do to push it closer because it’s as close as it can be. It was one of those moments.
HAPPY: Amazing! So, was it completely done in the last couple months?
HAPPY: Wow that’s so good!
RENFORSHORT: It’s crazy!
HAPPY: Are you guys still in lockdown over there?
RENFORSHORT: I’m in LA right now so no because it’s America but I still conform to the lockdown rules that they have at home. We don’t really like eating in restaurants when there’s a pandemic. The stuff that shouldn’t be going on is going on here, but you’ve just got to put your own little … I don’t even know.
HAPPY: Yeah, you do your own thing.
RENFORSHORT: Gotta stay safe
HAPPY: Exactly! Could you tell us a little bit about the single?
RENFORSHORT: Yeah so Virtual Reality tackles two fake things. One of them is social media and media in general. How we’re so reliant on it and how bad that is for us. In the song I say “I just want to go outside like a kid again”. I did write this during covid, but it feels so true to how my life was before covid because for me it was always just like I didn’t feel like I needed to go outside because I had everything in front of me. How I’d communicate, how I’d read the news, how I’d watch movies, everything is right here contained in this thing.
There was no reason for me to do anything. I regret it so much because I haven’t seen some of my friends in over a year. It’s crazy because I took advantage of seeing friends and hugging people and all this stuff and going to sit at a park with a group of people and just have a picnic. Can’t do that! What even is that? I don’t know! It’s just been that and obviously those feelings were elevated during covid because I realised “oh you really fucked up before by not doing the things you can’t do anymore”. So yeah, that’s the gist!
HAPPY: It’s crazy how even artists have written all these songs before covid, they come out now and they fit so perfectly with the moment. It’s so crazy how that’s happened.
RENFORSHORT: Yeah, it’s basically just like being sad and lonely which is prime content for songwriters.
HAPPY: Yeah absolutely! I was going to ask because loneliness and isolation are kind of like topics that are a bit taboo to even talk about because they are so stigmatised. What was the mission statement behind putting this song out for you?
RENFORSHORT: When I put music out it’s always about saying something that hasn’t been said or isn’t the popular thing to say. With the first EP, a lot of it was about mental health, anxiety, body image, kind of that whole thing. I feel like at that time when I was writing those songs and putting them out, I feel like it wasn’t talked about enough because I personally didn’t feel like I had an outlet. I couldn’t relate to anything.
I was like, why am I so weird? I feel like it’s our responsibility as influencers or public figures or people that have a platform and can say things, I feel like it’s our responsibility to do that, to say things better, important and helpful. Especially, my prime audience is females my age, I know what they want to hear, you know? Like what I wanted to hear off records. So yeah, kind of just being able to talk about that.
HAPPY: Has the feedback been really good with that motive in mind?
RENFORSHORT: Yeah it really has. I get messages every day! Like “you helped me so much” and it’s honestly the best thing ever! That was like my goal. That was my goal honestly, to help people. It’s awesome! It’s the best feeling in the world!
HAPPY: Yeah for sure! Most of your songs are so honest which is so beautiful to see. When you’re in the studio do you ever come across moments where you’re like I’m just not ready to share that part of myself?
RENFORSHORT: Yeah, for sure all the time! If something is so fresh and I go to the studio next day and I write about it I’m like, “Dude, I actually don’t know if I’m ready to talk about that right now because there’s going to be press and I’m going to have to explain what the songs about and am I ready to do that?” A lot of the content in the songs that I’ve put out I have not dealt with yet. I literally had a panic attack today.
I’m not chilling, I’m not fine, you know. I just know how to deal with my emotions when it comes to that. I can have a song be out about anxiety and be like yeah, I have anxiety, so what? There’re other things where I’m like, nah I’m just not ready like more personal things that are not ready yet but one day it will be because two years ago I wouldn’t have been ready to talk about the things that I’ve talked about.
HAPPY: Is songwriting for you something that comes in the heat of the moment or is it a bit more of a reflection on things that have passed?
RENFORSHORT: It’s both. A lot of the time though when I go into a session it’s in the moment, like what am I feeling and what do I want to write about? What can I give my best to right now? What feeling? What scenario? Or what’s happened? Sometimes I make shit up, honestly, sometimes I just make shit up. Like this hasn’t happened to me but I know that it’s happened to other people so I’m going to talk about it. Song writing and making music you can tell other people’s stories, that’s what’s so awesome about it.
RENFORSHORT: It’s not all about the artist. You’re not listening to someone’s catalogue because you want to know about the artist, you know? Like “tell me more about you in your songs!” I feel like that’s not it. We don’t listen to artists to know their drama in their relationships, you know. Just to feel a connection or to feel like something’s relatable. I think it’s fine to learn from other people and understand how they’re feeling and what it is and write about it.
HAPPY: Absolutely! What does a typical songwriting process look like for you?
RENFORSHORT: I have a note in my phone that has a bunch of words. It’s anything from emotions to just a 7-year-old male actor’s name. It doesn’t matter. Certain things just spark something. It sounds so annoying. Some things just inspire me to write. A lot of the time I’ll just suss out the vibe of the people that I’m with and we can just talk for hours and find something interesting in our conversation and write about it. We just build up a track, pretty interactive you know all of us, producer, writer, artist or whatever and we just go for it, just pull everything out. Like how’s this, how’s this, how’s this. Shit gets weird sometimes. Sometimes I say weird things and everyone’s just like, okay are you sure about that? And I’m like yeah. I love it!
HAPPY: *laughs* So it’s super collaborative I’m guessing?
HAPPY: That’s always the most fun!
RENFORSHORT: Yeah! The thing is sometimes I’ll be like, not even up my own ass, but just so … if it’s something that’s happened in my life that I’m writing about I’m like okay I just need to write about this alone right now. I’ll just sit in a corner and write alone. I just love having a co-writer in the room to find a word that’s better than another word. It goes both ways.
HAPPY: Yeah, absolutely! Well, you’ve got the EP coming out at the end of the year. Can you give us a little bit of a taster of what that’s going to feel like and what the theme is in that?
RENFORSHORT: Yeah! I think that there’s something on that project that your mum’s going to like, your dad’s going to like, your grandpa’s going to like, your brother’s going to like, your sister’s going to like, everyone will like because it’s so diverse. It’s so genre fluid. It pulls from what I listen to. In the content of the lyrics and everything it’s turned out to be pretty cohesive, but every song can sort of stand alone in a different genre but it’s still me, if that makes sense? Honestly, I’m so proud of it. I love it. I love it so much. I’m so excited.
HAPPY: That’s so exciting! So that’s coming out this year?
HAPPY: Yeah, amazing!
RENFORSHORT: Yeah! Really exciting!
HAPPY: Have you got any side projects or live streams teed up to go with that?
RENFORSHORT: Not now yet but I’m sure we’ll put something together. There’s definitely going to be a really good round of visuals coming out that I’m really excited about like a movie or whatever. It’s going to feel like that. I’m super excited. It’s going to be dope.
HAPPY: Love it! That’s so cool! Thanks so much for the chat!
Virtual Reality is available on all platforms. Grab your copy here.
Interview by Emily Elvish