A Psychotically Sentimental Take on Familiar Pop-Punk Sounds

Posted on: October 5, 2023
Filed under: , ,

An Interview with LØLØ: A “Psychotically Sentimental” take on familiar pop-punk sounds.
Written by Matt Dixon.

Lauren Mandel, known publicly as the Canadian singer LØLØ, is making waves with her fresh take on the pop-punk genre. Born in the spectacularly diverse sonic landscape of Toronto, LØLØ was able to freely explore a smorgasbord of musical influence until she found her own voice with a diary, a guitar, and a sprinkle of rage. LØLØ treats her songs as a natural extension of her personal journal, giving her music a unique and infectious vulnerability that breathes life into familiar pop-punk sounds.

Of course, LØLØ has been heavily inspired by her pop-punk predecessors. She is often seen wearing striped arm warmers that mirror Avril Lavigne’s classic “too cool for school” aesthetic, but her most significant influence musically is undeniably Green Day’s legendary lead singer, Billy Joe Armstrong. Take the opening moments of her single “Debbie Downer” for example. Here, LØLØ performs a call and response between her punchy vocals and distorted guitar breaks that echoes the iconic verses of Armstrong’s “American Idiot,” while lyrically spinning a classic punk narrative that harkens back to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi.” What makes LØLØ special is how she has synthesized these influences to create a pop-punk persona that feels both unique to 2023 and respectful of the past, while distinguishing herself with her candid lyricism.

I was able to catch up with LØLØ after she opened for BOYS LIKE GIRLS in Austin, to chat with her a bit more about her development as a musician, her songwriting process, and how she handles the emotionally taxing life of a career in music.

I’m sure you’ve heard that Austin is the live music capital of the world. What do you think about performing in Austin? Do you feel any special energy when you perform here?

Yeah, honestly, I feel like it was one of the best crowds of the tour so far. Seriously, it was a really good crowd. And I’m excited to explore more. Last time I came here, I opened for New Found Glory and it was like peak COVID. We weren’t allowed to really go out or anything. We were very much stuck inside. So yeah, I’m excited to maybe see some live music tonight.

That’s awesome. I am very curious about you as a musician. I wanted to ask you, do you have a particular memory of when you first wanted to be a musician?

Yes, I do! Growing up, I always wanted to be on Broadway. Literally, I wanted to be Shirley Temple because my grandfather would always put on Shirley Temple movies, like old ones. And so I made my mom put me in tap dancing class, acting class, and singing lessons. But when I was in grade nine, I picked up the guitar. And my guitar teacher was like, “you have a good voice, you should try writing songs.” And at the time, I was like, no fucking way. I’m not writing a song. Because it sounded really invasive, people knowing my deepest inner thoughts. And I was like, I would never want that. But then he said to me “you better try writing a song, or I’m not coming back next week.” So I got scared and I was like, oh my God, I better try writing a song. When I tried, I just really loved it. It came really naturally. I always kept a diary growing up, so I think that maybe I was just used to writing out my thoughts. That was the moment that I was like, I want to be a songwriter. I want to be an artist.

Do you credit that guitar teacher with influencing you to choose this path?

Oh, yeah. Talk about him all the time. Shout out to Elliot!

You just mentioned that you felt like it would be too vulnerable to write a song, but now your songwriting style is very much defined by the opposite. How did that switch happen?

I don’t know. I feel like once I started, it just poured out. I feel like songwriters that I really like listening to, like Julia Michaels and Taylor Swift, tend to write songs where it’s just so vulnerable and so personal and filled with intimate details. I feel like that’s what’s interesting to me. So I was like, OK, well, I guess I have to do this too. I have to be vulnerable.

Do you ever feel like you’re too open in your songs?

Yes, I probably am too open in my songs.

Even in songs that you’ve released?

Yeah, but I mean, I kind of like when people are like, “She said that?” Like “she said she would rather fall for an axe murderer?” I like it. Shock value. But yeah, I probably am too open, but c’est la vie.

You’ve got a new single coming out on October 6th called “faceplant.” Most of your songs seem like they have a real story behind them, so could you share what the real story behind “faceplant” is?

So the real story behind “faceplant”: well, I was at a guy’s house, and I was leaving, and as I was leaving, I tripped and my hands were in my pocket so I fell face first into the concrete. And I split my chin open. I broke both sides of my jaw, my nose, and my chin. This was a little bit ago, it was in March. But I couldn’t eat for two months. It was just, like, really terrible. And that was kind of right around the time where I realized I was very in love with him. And then that’s when I kind of wrote down the title, “faceplant,” because I was like, I think that’s kind of funny. Like I didn’t just fall for you, I fucking face planted, man.

That’s an incredible story. I’m really glad that you recovered. That makes me want to ask you my next question, which is how do you think you found your sound as a songwriter? I mean, you have all of these stories you want to share, but how did you find pop-punk as the way you want to share it?

Yeah, I mean, I feel like I start all of my songs like on guitar or on my bed. But, I don’t like sitting on stage and just singing sad songs, even though a lot of my songs are sad. I was like, I want to jump around and go crazy. So it was kind of like working with my producers to achieve that. I don’t know how to produce shit. I always just bring the song in on guitar. To be honest, I wouldn’t even call my music pop-punk. I know everyone calls it that though–I think my lyrics are punk. I think punk is like an attitude rather than a genre. I guess they’re just pop songs with rock elements really.

Interesting. If you could put your music in a genre–and you could even make up a new word if you wanted to–how would you describe your music?

Hm… Someone in an interview once called my music “psychotically sentimental pop songs.” Which I think is really funny. So maybe that. Maybe psychotic, sentimental pop rock songs.

I like that a lot. I know we talked about your development in Toronto with your guitar teacher. I do want to hear more about growing up in the Toronto music scene. Do you have any memories of concerts you saw or influential experiences that you had in the Toronto music scene?

My first concert ever was Hilary Duff. My first concert that I went to by myself though, without my parents, was Good Charlotte opening for Justin Timberlake. So random. That was awesome. Speaking of the Toronto music scene in general, it’s so kind of eclectic and all over the place. I think because we are such a melting pot, you see music from all different genres and all different kinds of people. Even when you’re just walking down the street at bars, you can walk in and there’s a lot of music. Not Austin level, but close. So I think it was just kind of like a good vibe and a good attitude to show that people could do whatever they want. It’s kind of inspiring. It’s like, “I can make any genre I want.” So, yeah.

I can see that, and you clearly have. So, the next thing I wanted to ask you is, since we’re a radio station, do you have any particular memories of your experience with the radio and if it has ever influenced you as a musician?

I mean, honestly, I definitely always am a radio person. I’m always listening to the radio. It’s funny because I discover a lot of music on the radio, but then I also now discover a lot of music through Spotify and stuff. And it’s kind of just different vibes because I feel like on the radio you would hear a lot more of the commercial stuff sometimes, unless it’s like an indie station. I definitely always wanted to be on the radio.

I think symbolically, hearing your song on the radio for the first time has always been a big moment as a musician. But now, as the radio is fading in comparison to things like Spotify, do you feel the same kind of connection to the radio as a musician?

I do. You know what? I honestly do. Every time I hear myself on the radio, it doesn’t get old. It’s always very cool. I think it’s also because I grew up listening to the radio and my parents would put it on, of course. So I think it’s always going to be really cool.

Wow, I’m glad to hear you say that. I want to talk a bit more about your songwriting process. When do you know when the song you’re writing is done? How do you know “I’ve done it?”

I think when I listen to it and I’m like, Okay, there’s no more edits. There’s nothing else I would want to fix or change. There’s no lines that bother me or that are cringing me out.

I see, so you use the cringe to guide you?

Haha yes, I use the power of the cringe. I’ll be like, “Hm… am I going to be okay to sing this in like a year, two years?” Which, of course, you sometimes don’t know. Like, there’s some songs that truly haunt me. Like on my first EP ever. But, you know, what can you do? I would say you just know.

I remember seeing that you have a playlist on Spotify which says “a playlist of all my songs minus the cringe ones.” May I ask, what are the cringe ones you don’t want to share anymore?

Oh, God. Well, it’s funny because I actually just took this down from Spotify, but this one called “Champagne for Everyone.” I just wrote it so long ago, it was like one of the first ones I ever wrote. I don’t know. Anything from my sweater collection EP. That kind of cringes me out. Even though the first time I ever heard myself on the radio actually was “Yours,” which is on that EP, which was my first single ever. I was on the radio in Canada. I was the “iHeartRadio” future star. So they were like playing it on all the main stations. It was really cool. But, yeah, that stuff I would say cringes me out.

I would love to hear more about how you felt in that moment when you first heard a song on the radio, if you can remember.

Oh, my God. I remember when they called me and told me that I won and that my song was going to be blasted for the next two months across Canada. But literally three days before I had a nervous breakdown. I was like, I don’t know if I can do this anymore. It’s just such a hard industry. Like I’m just… I don’t know if I can do this, it’s just so hard. I’m not seeing any results. And then I got that call and then I drove home, probably like sped, got home, parked the car in the garage, ran upstairs to tell my mom. And like I just started bawling my eyes out just like sobbing. I was like, oh my God I’m going to be on the radio. I’ll never forget that moment. I was just like “Okay, I’m not quitting”

That’s an incredible story. Thank you for sharing. Do you ever feel that way anymore?

Yes, all the time. Literally all the time. But then there’s things that happen that make me not want it anymore. It’s just… it’s a really hard industry and especially now with like social media and stuff. Like I don’t think we are meant to know what like five billion people or however many people on this earth think about us, you know? It’s not good for your mental health. And no one is for everyone. Of course, I remind myself of that all the time. And I’m always like, I have to just be like, “I’m hot. I’m cool. I’m not thinking about anyone else.” But obviously you are. And then obviously there’s so much comparison. You’re never looking at the people who are doing less good than you, you’re only looking at the people who are doing better than you. And you’re just like, “Damn, why aren’t I that?” But I think at the same time it also helps motivate. So it’s good. But yeah, I’m obsessed with doing this. So like, I don’t think I’d ever actually quit. Sometimes I just like being dramatic to myself.

You just mentioned how social media sometimes has a negative impact on how you feel about your music, but TikTok is a pretty significant part of your musical career. Now that you are a little more mature as a musician, do you still want social media to be that big of a part of your musical presence or no?

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s like social media is here. And if you don’t use it, you’re dumb in my opinion. Like, you know, why wouldn’t you? Obviously it’s so annoying and it feels soul sucking and you’re like, “Oh my God, can’t you just like write songs and be an artist? Like the good old days.” I’m sure that other artists, you know, before our generation, they didn’t have to deal with it. But at the same time, like we have to deal with it, but it also helps spread the word, you know, to so many different people that maybe never would have heard your music before. So it’s kind of like a catch 22. So, yeah, I’m going to use it even though I want to die sometimes while using it. What can you do?

When you feel that way, how do you handle it?

I don’t know. Sometimes I take breaks, just like breaks from posting. I don’t know, honestly I don’t really deal with it. I just plow through. I keep on keeping on, you know.

(Photo by Justin Alexis)