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Singer-songwriter Beabadoobee reflects on the power of music and accidental fame

For Beatrice Kristi Laus – better known now by her stage name BEABADOOBEE – the past year has been a rollercoaster of huge accolades and achievements, while spending lockdown at her family home. As she releases her next EP, the singer-songwriter speaks to TARA JOSHI about writing music to reflect her reality, the representation she wishes she’d had while growing up and why her career so far feels almost entirely accidental

Last year, Beabadoobee was shortlisted for the Brits’ Rising Star award and YouTube Music’s Ones To Watch

When Beatrice Kristi Laus was a child, she wanted to become a nun. “I used to go on about it,” she laughs over a video call from her bedroom in west London, pushing a hand through her long mop of bright blonde hair. “I was never gonna get tattoos, never gonna get a boyfriend, never kiss a boy. And then secondary school happened…”

The trajectory of 20-year-old Laus’s life to date has been a little different to her former aspirations. Tattoos are etched across her arms and legs, she has a long-term boyfriend (Soren) and, rather than spending her days in a convent, she is widely considered to be one of the most exciting emerging talents on the music scene right now. She says she chose the name Beabadoobee unthinkingly, because she “never thought all of this was going to happen” when she first started uploading music to the internet back in 2017. “Music was never my dream job; it was never the plan,” she explains.

Planned or not, after uploading that first track, Coffee – a tender song that recalls the fuzzy ebb and flow of The Moldy Peaches – things skyrocketed. Last year saw the Philippines-born British artist shortlisted for the Brits’ Rising Star award and YouTube Music’s Ones To Watch, as well as making the prestigious BBC Sound Of 2020 list. Just as inspired by the power of artists like Alanis Morissette as she is the breezy melodies of Original Pilipino Music (OPM), channeling scuzzy bedroom recordings and brimming with the soaring frisson of ’90s pop-rock possibility, Beabadoobee’s music strikes a chord with just about everyone with an affinity for yearning.

She has released a string of acclaimed EPs with indie label Dirty Hit, also home to the likes of The 1975, Rina Sawayama and Wolf Alice – “It’s cool seeing cool people make music so close to me; it’s all really friendly.” Last year saw the launch of her debut album, Fake It Flowers, and now she’s back with her new EP, the deft, sweet but bold Our Extended Play, building on her impressive output and set to win over even more fans to her beautiful sonic world.

Music is my only way of understanding what I’m feeling… I’m not going to understand what my head is telling me unless I put it down on paper or write a song about it

For all the accolades, though, there’s something very down to earth about Laus, perhaps not least her friendly softness in conversation, or the fact that her most successful year yet career-wise has been spent locked down in her parents’ house. “It was a bit shit that I couldn’t throw a big party and celebrate with my friends [when the album came out],” she says. “But also I’m a very, very anxious person. At least I’ve had a base that feels like reality [this year], so I’ve been steady-headed, rather than overwhelmed on tour every night.”

She talks about moving between panic and comfort through this past year at home, desperate to be at a show (“I’ll probably try to mosh whenever I next see any live music, just to feel something”), but also grateful for the slow pace and being able to spend time with her loved ones. Indeed, the room behind her embodies a magic teen dream. She’s surrounded by the golden glow of fairy lights, with colorful posters, bright stickers and cozy cloth hangings saturating her wall. It seems somewhat fitting, given that her soaring, gleaming guitar pop can make you feel like you’re the main character in a ’90s high-school romcom.

Of course, her own school years were a formative part of how she got started. Her family migrated from the Philippines to London when she was three (“They had quite successful lives in the Philippines, but dropped everything they had to essentially start from scratch”) in the hope of getting her a better education. In reality, it meant financial strain and, as a child, having to navigate being a minority in very white spaces while growing up.

The second-hand guitar gifted to her by her father when she was 17 turned out to be the perfect balm to her sadness. “Music is my only way of understanding what I’m feeling,” she explains. “I’m not going to get over this or understand what my head is telling me unless I put it down on paper or write a song about it.” Indeed, her Loveworm EP was dedicated to her boyfriend, processing some of the feelings she had trouble articulating. “We kept fighting loads and I was super-personal in the songs because I couldn’t tell him how I was feeling to his face. Then he listened to the EP and we’re fine,” she laughs.

Beabadoobee performing on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show in November 2020
You can’t just post stuff and then not be active about applying it to your own life

“My relationship is very online; people know Soren – they know he directs my music videos,” she says, “But we’ve started separating work and our relationship a bit because we want to be more low-key… It’s kind of strange seeing loads of TikToks of me and my boyfriend on the ‘For You’ page. I showed him and he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s not post any more pictures.’” While she tries not to pay too much attention to social media for the sake of her mental health, she likes that her followers largely “look like people I could be friends with”.

In a year that’s seen a global resurgence in fighting for marginalized voices, the artist has been vocal on social media in her support of Stop Asian Hate. “All of these things should have been dealt with a long time ago, because it’s always been happening,” she says. “But the fact is everyone’s been home during the pandemic, on their phone, on social media, and it’s become easier to find and read all this information. You can’t just post stuff and then not be active about applying it to your own life. But I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

This is what keeps her playing music and connecting with fans. “It’s, you know, a DM from a Filipino girl from the same city as me, or someone coming up to me after a show, [saying] they’ve started playing guitar because of me. I get quite emotional because it makes me wish I’d had someone like me when I was growing up. I’m glad I can be that someone to at least one girl, or a few.”

This might not have been her planned path but, for now at least, as Beabadoobee, Beatrice Kristi Laus has certainly found her vocation.

Beabadoobee’s new EP, Our Extended Play, is out in June and she will be touring the UK this September and October

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