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March 2020

Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now

During a brief visit to London, we pinned the current-and-future pop megastar down to work out just why he’s so massive.
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Published: 11:37 am, October 07, 2019Words: Abigail Firth. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now

We love a sad boy here, Dear Reader. That's why we end up putting Lewis Capaldi on our covers and hosting gigs for Spector. But our real International Man of Misery is Sir Lauv, the 25-year-old songwriting machine, whose sleeper hit 'I Like Me Better' catapulted him into the spotlight late last year.

With his debut album due 'soon', we got on the phone with Ari (no not that one, would Miss Grande really do an interview with a mag called Dork?) to chat about that, and also his dog and BTS, because that's what the people really want.

When Lauv (real name Ari Leff – Lauv means 'lion' in Latvian) picks up, he's just about to go to the studio to work on his album, which despite three songs off it already being out, is nowhere near done, nor is it actually announced at the time of calling.

He's just returned from touring and is currently in his home state of California, but in LA, not San Francisco where he was born, writing for '~how I'm feeling~'. "I'm really bad at timelines," he says when we ask when the album will be out. "Basically, I'm going to keep releasing songs off of it until the whole thing is done, then I'll drop the rest of it."

"I don't feel comfortable til I've spilled everything"

Since 'I Like Me Better' blew up last year, after being featured in Netflix teen movie 'To All The Boys I've Loved Before', Lauv released a playlist of songs about a long term relationship that he'd been writing over a number of years, a mixtape of sorts that allowed him to share a compilation of singles up to that point and more, everything in one place.

"The last project that I put out was called 'I met you when I was 18', and it was all about my life when I was in one relationship, and all the ups and downs of being in love for the first time. The playlist was like, well I put out my first song in 2015, and that was part of the whole story of 'I met you when I was 18', and I was kinda releasing the songs out of order. Eventually, the whole thing came together last year when I fully put it out.

"The songs were from so many different times, and it took me a while to kinda realise it was all part of one project, so I didn't wanna call it my first album, I wanted to save that for something that felt like it was more concise."

So 'how i'm feeling' is different in that it's an actual album, for a start (god there are too many names for albums these days), even though the releasing process has been similar so far.

"It's not finished! Basically, I wanted to release it as I was kind of making the songs. So I keep putting the songs out as I finish them, once [the album] feels done, I'll put the rest of it out together."

So what's on it so far? We've heard a bunch of songs between these two projects too; collaborations with Julia Michaels, Troye Sivan, and various solo singles, but not all of them are making it onto 'how I'm feeling'.

"Obviously there are songs like 'drugs and the internet' and 'sad forever', and then I have songs about literally everything in my life, like my parents, my best friends, my dog, my favourite bar, it's just like a much more full-on scope of me as a person."

Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now

With it being called 'how i'm feeling', we're expecting it to be pretty deep, which has been true of the singles released so far, particularly 'sad forever', which he finished on the way to his first arena show in the Philippines, and premiered there that night.

The track details a particularly rough patch in Ari's life, that meant he struggled to write the album too. "I wanted to actually do a lot of it last year, but I went through a not good phase mentally, and was dealing with some depression and like was not able to work very much, so a big part of the writing has been this year, and especially the past few months."

Over the past few years, we've seen more and more male musicians open up about their mental health struggles – notably Stormzy, James Blake and Kid Cudi, to name a few – and Lauv is no exception.

"I see each song as a little journal entry, almost, or as a little piece of my life. My last project was so focused on how I was with somebody else and being with somebody else, and this is way more just like me, like as my own person."

He's so passionate about de-stigmatising mental illness that all of the proceeds from 'sad forever' will be donated to mental health organisations, and he takes a box on tour with him, called the My Blue Thoughts box, where fans can drop in notes about how they're feeling on that day.

"I guess I just wanted to make – because for me, writing songs was my way of processing whatever's going on in my life – I wanted to create a space where people could, even if it's like, something that nobody sees, or that's just totally anonymous. Just a place for people to let go of something that's on their mind, you know? Because I think that we all have a lot of stuff going on in our heads that until we acknowledge it in some way, it's sort of just eats away at you. I wanted to create a little space for that."

One of the notes struck such a chord with Ari that he wrote a whole song about it. Last year's 'Superhero' featured the lyrics 'I met a superhero, I lost her, I want her back', which were written by a fan and left at a show in Boston.

"That was a fun song. I think it just came about 'cause I'm pretty sappy, to be honest." He adds, "Yeah, it's funny, because I literally read that 'I met a superhero, I lost her, I want her back', and like, for whatever reason, that really shook me. People write about all sorts of stuff in there; about losing family members, or being in love with their best friend or struggling with their sexuality. People write about a lot of things in the My Blue Thoughts box. But for whatever reason, that note... I can't help what inspires me in terms of the songs that I make, just whatever happens naturally happens, and that song just ended up working out.

"And, you know, it's funny, because it took us a while to figure out who wrote the note, we had to figure out what show the note was from, and then we had to email everybody who bought tickets to the show. And we had to be like, 'somebody wrote a note like this, something like this, if you wrote it, contact us'. Anyways, long story short, it was ended up being this guy from Germany, who was at like, the show in Boston, kind of out of nowhere. It's crazy."

"I see each song as a little piece of my life"

While that track was a standalone single, there are plenty more introspective bops to be expected from 'how I'm feeling'. We've also already heard 'drugs and the internet', a song about, well, being obsessed with being online.

"It's basically me making fun of myself. It was a time in my life where I was super obsessed with the way that I was presenting myself on the internet and super obsessed with like, this self-identity that I had. And honestly, my friendships were suffering, because I would spend so much time thinking about like, what was I going to post on Instagram? What kind of moment can I construct that makes people think I'm this way or that way. It was all about getting validation. And what the song was saying that was that's fucking whack, and not working for me and wasn't making me happy."

It's not all doom and gloom, though. The track was accompanied by a Flappy Bird style game, called Billy Meets World, and features his dog.

"I wanted to kind of make a game where fans can kind of get little things like free merch or song clips if they, you know, hit a certain score. Also, I recently got a dog, and his name is Billy, obviously. I just thought it would be fun to make a little thing around it. Although the game is quite hard. I think that the highest score I've ever gotten was like four, so I suck."

Free merch, huh? Lauv loves sharing things with his fans, that's why he gives them an insight into his songwriting and producing process with his 'making of' videos. He says he's a bit of an oversharer – "I'm the type of person where I don't really feel comfortable and relaxed til I've spilled everything. Like even when I meet somebody new, I tell them all of my life problems, for better or worse" – so songwriting is an obvious outlet for that, but so is letting people in on how he does it.

"I'm very much the kind of person where I want to get people like the full scope of like, this is me, this is how I do my thing, this is why, everything. Some songs are more important than others in terms of the process, because some of the songs, honestly, probably would be quite boring to show how they were made, if I'm gonna be real. I like doing it for the songs that I feel like, are just more important in terms of the process. The way 'I Like Me Better' was made in such a specific and unique way, so I really wanted to show that. And, you know, 'I'm so tired', especially just having dinner with Troye and stuff I wanted to let people in on that."

Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now
Once more, with feeling: Lauv’s time is now

As a true 21st Century pop star, it's only right that the album comes with a few 'collabs' in tow. First up is Anne Marie on 'fuck I'm lonely', which Ari describes as 'a bop' – "the funny thing is I said a lot about being introspective, but it's probably the least deep song I'll ever release", he says of the track.

There's a LOT of speculation around who else will appear on 'how I'm feeling'. Before the release of 'fuck I'm lonely', he made a playlist and said the mystery artist would be featured on there. Speculation quickly turned to the biggest band in the world right now, K-pop heavyweights BTS.

"That would be fucking crazy, I'm a big fan, so that'd be insane. I saw them at Wembley, it was craaazy they're so good." It didn't turn out to be them, obvs, but the love between Lauv and BTS is mutual. "When I met them, they were showing me on their phones, they had Lauv playlists. I was like, no waaaay." Considering we still don't know when the album will surface, maybe there's time? Spare verse, boys?

Of course, speculation doesn't stop there, with many fans hoping for a LANY collab too. "There's nothing I can share right now, but definitely there'll be more collabs on the album, and I'm working on other stuff as well."

He can't work too hard, though. He is, after all, a new father. "Well, I'm probably gonna be taking care of my dog. I mean, really, honestly, I'm so just in the zone of the album. Working on that, taking some time for myself because I realised all I've ever done is make music, and I need to go and do some other shit. I'm trying to take some dance classes. I'm trying to take a surf lesson. I'd love to work on music for some other projects with some other aliases."

And while he's just hopped off tour, he's back for some UK shows in November, Billy by his side. "People can expect three cheeseburgers with every ticket. No, I'm kidding. People can expect new music. It's going to be a totally a new production that I'm working on that I'm really excited about. And I'll have my dog Billy on tour with me. So maybe people could meet him at the meet and greets." Now THAT'S how you shift tickets. 

Taken from the October issue of Dork. Lauv plays London's O2 Kentish Town Forum on 4th and 5th November.

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