Laurel [born Laurel Arnell-Cullen] released her self-produced EP, To The Hills, this past April. Dark gorgeous tracks like “Nicotine Dreams,” continued where earlier releases–“Fire Breather”–left off. Drawn to themes of bad boys and foreboding love, paired with ominous alt-pop and a riveting cinematic quality–in many ways Laurel feels like the UK’s answer to America’s Lana Del Rey and New Zealand’s Lorde (the trilogy of alt-pop L’s). Complementary, albeit simple, comparisons aside, the classically trained musician is bringing her unique style to the international pop scene and she’s garnering increasing attention because of it. Noisey calls her “England’s Alt-Pop Teen with Some Serious Vocal Chops”—sounds right to me.
Q: Have you been to Toronto before? What are you looking forward to seeing or trying when you get here?
A: Never! I’m super excited. Unfortunately we’re only staying for a couple of days so I think I’m just going to try and check out as many bands at the festival as I can.
Q: Can you share a little bit about when you discovered your love for singing and songwriting? And how did you get into the business?
A: I’ve always loved singing, since I was very young. When I was about eleven, I started writing songs on a keyboard [that] I got for Christmas, and then, at 13, on an acoustic guitar. As I got a little older I started moving away from the folk music I was writing (and loved), and took more of an interest in electronic made music. At 17, I put a song on Soundcloud called “Next Time” and somehow I ended up here, making a record! I think through blogs, and more exposure, it catapulted me into the industry.
Q: How has your classical training helped you in the genres you work in now?
A: Classical training was no fun but it’s helped me so much with the control of my voice and knowing its limits. It [has] helped me have quite a wide [vocal] range, which I definitely wouldn’t have had without years of singing scales.
Q: What was the experience of producing your own album like? And what gave you the guts to take that initiative?
A: It’s really fun! I love working [within] my own time limits and not having anyone around to get at me, which might actually be a good idea sometimes!
When you’re on your own you can just delve into the other world and get everything out, I can sometimes sit in my studio for 12 hours at a time and not even realise a whole day has passed. There is an element of pressure you put on yourself though, if you get in a rut there isn’t anybody there to help you out of it but yourself. And, from [personal] experience, you are always way too hard on yourself.
Q: There is a subtle retro essence to your sound. What influences, styles, artists or eras do you draw from musically?
A: I love the music in old black and white films, the string arguments and beautiful soulful voices. It reminds me of big epic love stories where people would die for one another. That passion is what I want my songs to have.
Q: You love fashion and you’ve modelled as well. Who are your favourite models and/or designers?
A: My friend Sunny is a designer and I’m obsessed with his stuff–the label is called House of Sunny. I also am a big fan of Valentino Blue and Miu Miu.
Q: What has been your career highlight thus far?
A: I went into BBC Radio 2 to do their Live Lounge with Zoe Ball the other week–that was definitely a highlight. It was my first real radio debut in the UK so pretty amazing!
Q: What kind of vibe will you be bringing to NXNE 2014?
A: Party festival vibes!