Watch the video for beabadoobee’s new single, the way things go
beabadoobee has unveiled a gorgeous new break-up track, the way things go, with a very classy music video…
Beatrice Laus has always had a colourful imagination. Even as a child, it was more vivid than most’s, and it proved to be a blessing. She was shy, spending a lot of time in her own head, and her mind offered a place to which she could escape.
Aged seven, she created a world all of her own, which she christened Beatopia. A haven of make-believe. It was a stunningly detailed place; from the different countries to its own language and alphabet containing letters inspired by Chinese and Japanese symbols she had seen written down. A young Bea returned to it again and again, building her world a little bit more each time. It was a creative outlet, the first way she learned to express herself, and she loved getting lost in it.
Fourteen years later, the artist now known as beabadoobee is considering it through an adult’s eyes, sipping ginger and lemongrass tea in a Hackney café festooned with plants. "Beatopia was my reality,” she remembers. "I was completely obsessed with it. I was kidding myself that it was actually a real thing and that everything in my life wasn't real."
For a long time, she thought Beatopia came out of nowhere, but now realises it had a greater significance than it just being a fun activity. In fact, the reason this imaginary land consumed almost every waking hour was because she ultimately preferred it to actual reality. Perhaps, in a way, she needed it. "If I didn't have Beatopia to express my creativity, I would have been just a quiet little kid that was sad all the time."
Born in the Phillippines, Bea's family moved to the UK when she was three years old in the hope she would receive a better education. She attended an all-girl Catholic school in Hammersmith, west London, where she was one of very few Southeast Asian pupils – an experience she has described as "isolating". She was often bullied, which set in motion a perennial struggle with self-acceptance, and at the age of seven also went to her first therapy session. "There was so much going on in my life," she explains. "It was too much…"
Bea kept a poster she had drawn of her beloved fictional land in her desk at school. One day, she returned to the classroom after a violin lesson to find that her teacher had pinned the drawing onto the whiteboard for her whole class to see. And in a peak dickhead move, the teacher seemingly decided to join in with the bullying. 'Do you have anything to say? Do you have anything to tell us?' he asked. 'Beatopia?!' his class laughed. Ashamed, she promptly shut the doors on Beatopia, never speaking about it again.
"It was ridiculous," Bea recalls of her teacher's cruelty, before moving on to something more philosophical. "Everything happens for a reason."
That reason wouldn't be uncovered until Bea reached her early 20s. With nothing to do and nowhere to go during lockdown, she had the time to finally process all the trauma of her life – from a breakdown at 11 to being expelled from school at the age of 17 thanks to both poor grades and poor behaviour – and their accompanying emotions. "I had all this time to revisit those feelings and finally accept them. I would never talk about them and get stuck in a cycle."
This cleansing process of self-examination when writing would eventually lead to a full-length second album, and (more importantly) a far healthier mindset. Once again, the catharsis of creativity had done her a world of good.
"I tend to be in my head a lot," she begins. "That's where [my] dependency on music comes from. It's shaped me as a musician but that's all the shit I write about. I'm a very emotional person and I have to talk about my feelings or else they take over my brain. I journal all the time – I write pages and pages every day."
But the work isn't done yet.
"I'm still on the road to full self-acceptance," Bea continues. "It's been really hard, but I think you really need to take advantage of the help you receive. Then you start to understand that the way you act or the way you see yourself can be from something that you don't even necessarily think of straight away. Once you talk to a therapist about that, you can piece the puzzle together and understand why you feel this way and why you act [a certain] way. That's really helped me understand and accept myself."
After briefly mentioning it in an interview, Bea remembered the imaginary world she had poured countless hours into when she was a child. Originally she'd buried it out of shame, but a newfound comfort in herself allowed her to reappraise and reconnect with that aspect of her past. "Beatopia was something that I had never lost, but was trying to find," she shares thoughtfully.
Though it forms the backbone and title of her new album, Beatopia has a different significance for her music than it did in her childhood. The album isn't located in that world, but its essence is ever-present. Bea sees it now as a feeling, something that sparks joy and comfort, but still a release that she hopes fans can lose themselves in as much as she lost herself in the fantasy world she had created as a child.
At its core, Beatopia is Beatrice Kristi Laus in her purest form. While Fake It Flowers was an album about her past, Beatopia takes in her feelings in the present, but the depth of Bea's connection to her younger self goes beyond just the title of the record: "I write songs for that seven year old."
Indeed, she views herself as the person onstage that child so desperately wanted to see. "I always wanted someone who looked like me to look up to, who was onstage and who could make music that I relate to," she explains. "I want to be that person for somebody – anyone who looks like me."
The music Bea returns to most comes from her mum; growing up immersed in the sounds of The Cranberries and The Cardigans, as well as original Pinoi music, a genre that is now used mostly as an umbrella term for Filipino pop. Bea first heard Nirvana when she was seven and she was terrified, but this led her further down the rock rabbithole when she was a little older, following a big One Direction phase, an obsession with The Beatles that continues to this day, and an affection for The 1975 that would prosper into a collaborative relationship with their frontman Matty Healy ("He's like my annoying big brother!”). The first CD she bought was Dookie by Green Day, and by way of Nirvana, she found The Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. It’s quite the playlist.
Her 2020 debut Fake It Flowers was an ode to her grunge phase, but its edges were softened with the charm and sweetness of a soundtrack to a coming-of-age movie. This time around, however, not only are the influences more eclectic and obscure – drawing from the likes of Canadian indie collective Broken Social Scene and cult New York art rockers Cibo Matto – but Bea has carved out her own, more distinctive, sound.
Lockdown was also helpful on this front, distancing her and guitarist/songwriting partner Jacob Bugden not only from watchful eyes but outside expectations. "It felt like no-one was ever going to listen to it," she reveals. “Because we were just kind of stuck in this bubble, we weren't making it for anyone else. There were no boundaries, there were no rules. We just did anything and everything we wanted."
Beatopia positively oozes non-conformity. It's denser and more considered that anything else beabadoobee has released, flitting from one style to the next with a palpable glee. There are flashes of genres as diverse as bossa nova (perfect pair), and midwest emo (Pictures of us, co-written by and featuring the vocals of the aforementioned Matty Healy), while the original Pinoi music from her childhood crawls its way into closing track You're here, that's the thing.
Her own spirit, however, is never buried beneath the experimentation. Lead single Talk is the closest link the record holds to previous material, fizzing with the excitement of mid-week late-night adventures (most specifically Tuesday, Bea's personal favourite night for going out).
She thrives off collaboration, but one of her closest collaborative relationships is having to be put on the back-burner. Long-term boyfriend Soren Harrison had a significant hand in moulding her sound as well as her visual aesthetic – sitting in the director's chair for many of her videos. He appeared in her music in other ways too; Fake It Flowers features a song title that’s a spoonerism of his name, and on Beatopia, he is the subject of Lovesong. They recently split up after seven years together.
Midway through our conversation, Bea brings K! out onto the cafe's patio so she can smoke. Under the low hanging fairy lights, surrounded by even more plants, she relaxes a little more. She talks about her break-up without being asked or prompted – perhaps it's a reflex, from being asked about it so frequently. However, it seems more likely, given what she's already said about how she manages her feelings, that she just needs to offload.
"We owe a lot to each other, because we inspire each other to make music and I'm never going to forget that,” she says in response to whether the split has soured her previous music. “He's always gonna have this special place in my heart, because he made me believe in myself. I listen to those songs back and they're just nice memories.
"I think maybe one day we can be really good friends. We grew up together, we have the same taste in everything. I was blinded by the idea that we were this amazing, creative couple that are into those things. But, you know, those things just never last because it's the deeper feelings that last."
Such an upheaval hasn't dampened the brightness of her outlook; in fact, she remains resolutely positive.
"I'm not a person that regrets anything. I would rather learn from my mistakes than not make any and learn nothing. I think it's important to just focus on the brighter side of things, which I think Beatopia does. It offers hope that everything's gonna be okay. I am living proof that it gets better."
She returns to a point she made earlier: “Everything is meant to happen for a reason."
Music was not Bea's plan A. Her actual plan A was to become a nursery teacher, something she still hopes to eventually do. Writing songs and sharing them online was simply a pastime, until she stumbled into success almost by accident. The Canadian rapper Powfu had used a sample of her 2017 song Coffee in his single death bed (coffee for your head), which blew up on TikTok in early 2020. Bea had already signed a deal with Dirty Hit (also home to The 1975, Wolf Alice and Pale Waves) by this point, but the power of social media put her in front of more people than ever before. Pursuing music properly seemed like the natural direction to go in.
As grateful as she is for the way her life turned out, Bea says that being a full-time musician has been something she's had to learn to love. The unexpectedness of life guiding her in a different direction from the one she was planning was dizzying, and it took some adjusting.
"It was a lot for a 19-year-old girl," she remarks of the intensity that being a professional musician involves – from rigorous touring schedules to relentless press cycles. "This wasn't a plan and I didn't know what the fuck was going on. Now I absolutely love it! There's days where I absolutely fucking hate it but there are days where I absolutely adore it. I've always depended on music, but the fact that I can make music and people say such lovely things… that's what makes me love it."
Bea is all too aware of the role the internet has played in granting her the success and the platform that she has, and it is a subject she approaches with a great degree of savviness. She's deeply conscious of how visible she has become – "So many eyes are watching me, but they don't really know who I am" – but also of what good can come from having the platform that she does. It's partly why she has no issue with speaking about her break-up so candidly; she can imagine the girls out there who might feel comforted knowing that she's been in their shoes and she knows how painful it feels. "A lot of things have happened to me," she explains. "I feel like I have a lot of advice or just, I know what to say sometimes. I feel like I can be that person for these young girls going into the same things."
Though the power of the internet has been instrumental in her success, Bea doesn't let that blind her to its often unpleasant realities. "Everything depends on the internet right now. I hate to say it, because the internet is a horrible place, but it can also be amazing for up-and-coming artists. I think it's a great place to find new music." She sees TikTok as a similarly double-edged sword – while it's smashed down doors for artists to have their breakout moments and the randomness of the For You page has helped to boost the inclusivity of the music world, it is hardly a utopia. "I believe that everything in excess is bad. Too much TikTok is shit because it literally melts your brain. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting dumber the more I scroll, but then there are amazing creatives on there."
She’s disconcerted by the notion that music is becoming engineered to suit TikTok, with run-times decreasing and choruses arriving earlier to improve the chances of a song going viral. "That's fucked up," Bea points out. "Yes, it's a really smart way to look at stuff, but are you really writing for yourself at that point?"
But there's a reason this trend sticks out. It's the antithesis of all the reasons Bea writes music – it is only ever something that she does for herself. She never had global success in mind, nor a scene or target market. She didn't ever imagine being on the cover of Kerrang!, or that her fusion of poppy melodies with grungy guitars and an indie-ish twang would have such a far-reaching appeal that it would leave her straddling both the mainstream and alternative worlds.
"It's important not to cater to those [scenes]. It helps that I don't know what the fuck is going on [in those worlds]. I write what I want to write, and I am gonna keep doing that.”
That sentiment is the essence of Beatopia. It's a celebration of who Beatrice Laus is and always has been, and a testament to who she is capable of being.
This is Bea’s world, and now we’re all living in it.
Beatopia is out July 15 via Dirty Hit.
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