After a run of killer EPs, Lauran Hibberd has finally dropped her debut album, ‘Garageband Superstar’ – a record so dripping in vivid personality, it’s almost its own movie soundtrack.
Words: Neive McCarthy. Photos: Em Marcovecchio.
As the Zoom connection slowly loads, there’s a pleasant surprise waiting on Lauran Hibberd’s end of the call. “I don’t know if you can see my dog? He’s just chilling on my lap,” Lauran introduces us to Django, arguably the best interview guest you can ask for.
The summer has also been off to a good start for Lauran – a string of tour dates with The Snuts, a hectic festival season, and the release of her debut album, ‘Garageband Superstar’ on the horizon. “I like being busy,” she explains, Django now out of frame. “If I’m not busy, I’ll just be sat overthinking something. Especially after being cooped away for so long writing and recording the album, it feels really good to change the mindset, go out and play live, and hear the album how I thought it would sound.”
After releasing EPs throughout lockdown to much acclaim, it was time to settle in and work on that debut album at last. “I was writing so much at that time because there was nothing else to do. I thought to myself, I could write three albums in this time. I just wanted to jump on the album circuit as quickly as possible and say I’m an album artist. I have so much material sitting in a folder on my laptop. I want it to be in people’s ears. It was very much a ‘why wouldn’t I?’. I felt ready.”
At the crossroads of an abundance of varying influences, ‘Garageband Superstar’ is an amalgamation of everything Lauran has consumed up until now. It’s intrinsically unique, capturing a very specific moment and sound. It’s an early 2000s rom-com soundtrack – Disney Channel reigning supreme, a teen protagonist pulling on angsty attire in a room that looks like it’s been hit by a tornado because of the mess. It’s that moment when her mum yells upstairs that she’s going to be late for school. As she shouts back that she’s ready, the first few notes of a vibrant, punk-spirited pop song play out. There’s no doubt that Lauran Hibberd’s sound would slide right in.
Playful and with shades of both darkness and pure dry humour, it’s the perfect sound for those moments that feel like the end of the world when it’s really just a slightly bad day. It’s for the dramatics and the daft, in the best way possible. “I love funny, weird films like Booksmart and Juno and stuff like that. I’ve definitely grown up with that sense of humour,” Lauran reflects. “I’ve always wanted to write music that I heard in those films because it’s a big reason why I like them – it makes you feel good. Especially, like, Scott Pilgrim – that makes me feel like I want to start a band when I watch that film. It’s that. There are definitely elements of that in it. It’d be full circle. I need someone to make a new TV show that I can do a theme tune for. If Netflix is reading this, I’m available.”
“I need someone to make a new TV show that I can do a theme tune for”Lauran Hibberd
Lauran has already had her first starring TV moment, though – her track ‘Bang Bang Bang’ featured in an episode of the hit Netflix series Heartstopper. “It was so cool. When it actually came out, and I watched the whole show, I felt really proud to be involved in it. Hearing other artists I know and love on the soundtrack felt really cool. It was on a show that I would’ve watched whether my song was on it or not. It’s definitely an important show right now.”
Much of those films Lauran adores have a larger-than-life, fizzingly bright colour palette – blue skies and primary colours. It translates into ‘Garageband Superstar’ perfectly. As an album, it spins on a technicolour axis. Everything is felt in confetti-like bursts, from every sardonically delivered line to each guitar progression. A crucial part of making the album was sheer enjoyment, and it delivers. “We had a great time. It felt relatively easy. It never felt like it was becoming a chore,” Lauran says. “The album’s got a fun tone, so nothing was ever really strenuous. It was like, let’s put a sitar on this, that’ll be fun! We never just didn’t do something, and we made sure we had a good time with it.”
‘Step Mom’ is a fast-paced wall of sound that practically drips in sarcasm – its characters are all too easy to conjure in your mind, a strong point of the album as a whole. It’s brimming with caricatures: ‘Average Joe’ is hilariously scathing in its annihilation of one particular figure. “You know when you’re reading a book, and you make the character look like someone you know or a celebrity? I wanted that effect,” Lauran confirms. She successfully pins these people in your mind, doing so with the heaviest of eye rolls – it’s unbelievably amusing to hear it all unfold.
Naturally, those biting observations are often born from pent-up annoyance. ‘Garageband Superstar’ allowed Lauran to exorcise her feelings, no matter what shape they came in. Whether fantasising about honeymoons to Spain with a drummer on ‘Hot Boys’ or working through concerns of whether you’re on the right path in ‘I’m Insecure’, the album is upfront about each emotion and serves as a means to filter through those.
“When I listen back to the album now, I just feel this sigh of relief,” Lauran admits. “It’s like when you’ve eaten a big meal, unbutton your jeans, and you sit there and let everything fester. It’s gross, but that’s kind of how I feel. On a personal level, that’s the last two years of my life on a disk that I can now just sit with and be like, cool. Now what? Now what have I got? Now what am I feeling for next time? It’s good to look back and be like, I can’t believe I felt like that. It definitely helps you get over stuff faster.”
Getting into a zone where you can feel those weird feelings to their fullest and let your mind guide you down different paths is crucial to creating something like ‘Garageband Superstar’, which Lauran acknowledges. “It’s one of those things. Not being very conscious of everything around you and getting into that space where you can think ridiculous things. I always get it when I’m really bored and on my own – you forget everything else in the world and imagine yourself in so many different scenarios. I was at that level of boredom where I was almost insane. I had a playlist on the go, and I was forever listening to bands like Weezer just to remind myself of what I was trying to do from time to time. It’s easy to write a bunch of songs and get lost in a bit of whatever you’re feeling that day.”
It’s perhaps because of that tendency to transform into what piques her interest at that given moment that Lauran has been able to land on such a unique sound. It’s often harbouring pop intentions but with more alternative attitudes that lend it that snark – it’s heavier but also easily consumed and light-hearted. “You can appreciate the lyricism of Phoebe Bridgers and her vocal as well as the structures and hip-hop choruses of A Tribe Called Quest. You can put Weezer guitars on it, and it will make someone go, ‘oh, that’s cool, that sounds like these three together’. It’s really good to not just be like, I only listen to Weezer, and I only write this. It’s good to keep an open mind.”
Lauran has often been labelled as a ‘pop-punk’ or ‘slacker pop’ artist. They’re both genres previously dominated by men – yet, with a new wave of women at the forefront of a pop-punk revival, there’s hope that the genre might be revitalised. “It’s changed a lot,” Lauran contemplates. “When I think of pop punk now, I think of artists like Cassyette and Girli. It’s great that that’s where my mind goes first. It’s not because they’re female. It’s just because that’s what I’ve been listening to, and I think that’s cool. It definitely feels like there’s way more space now. Girls aren’t a genre, we’re cemented in and around them, and that’s how it should be. There’s a lot of promise now for female artists.”
It’s not just a pop-punk thing, either – Lauran’s musicality is evidently more pliable than that. ‘Garageband Superstar’ touches on more mellow territories, too. ‘Slimming Down’ offers a tenderness that the rest of the album rarely sees, in a style that Lauran has only found herself more empowered to embrace in recent times. “When I first started being a musician, I wrote loads of sad folk songs,” she recalls. “I think as I naturally evolved as an artist, I started picking up an electric guitar and playing in a band, and I thought it was much more fun. But it’s important to show another side and where I originated from musically. I can still do that. Listening to artists like Phoebe Bridgers, she’s made that cool. She’s made me feel like I can write a song like that, and people won’t be like, oh, you’re just a girl with an acoustic guitar. That was how I felt when I went to a music college. I think Phoebe Bridgers has done a lot for me in that sense. I wanted to include it towards the end of the album and be like, I do this too. It’s the oldest one on the album, so it felt nice to put something in there that reminded me of a time before I did all of this other stuff.”
“When I think of pop punk now, I think of artists like Cassyette and Girli”Lauran Hibberd
There was a great deal of freedom in the recording process that allowed Lauran to explore those different sides of herself and show them in all their brightness on the album. “I made the album I wanted to make. It sounds how I wanted it to sound. It looks how I wanted it to look. I can sleep at night knowing that I did the thing I wanted to do.”
The final track on the album, ‘Last Song Ever’, encompasses that satisfaction and release the album is so tied to. As she encourages you to breathe in deeply, at first glance, there seems to be a somewhat peaceful ending to the album. Fortunately, that’s not the case. ‘Last Song Ever’ is anthemic, the musical equivalent of throwing an arm around your mate’s shoulder and rejoicing in total abandon. It’s fiercely angry and the epitome of finding solace in letting everything go.
“One day, I just felt like screaming. That was when I developed the rest of the track. I went for walks, and I’d be ranting into my phone about things that annoyed me – I managed to pick things out of that and use that as a lyrical base for it,” Lauran reflects. “You get to that age when you can’t not go do the thing you don’t want to do anymore because you’ve got a stomach ache. No one cares. You’ve got to go and do it. You’re an adult. It’s a bit like, I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to face that – I want a summer holiday! It’s that thing you miss from when you’re a kid – that get-out card you don’t have anymore. After recording that song, I definitely felt lighter.”
‘Garageband Superstar’ is an album for the times when you want to act like a kid and throw a tantrum over a tiny thing, but have to remember you’re not a kid anymore, and you have to just get on with it. Lauran Hibberd’s debut is the balm that makes getting on with it that little bit easier. ■
Taken from the September 2022 edition of Dork, out now. Lauran Hibberd’s album ‘Garageband Superstar’ is out now.