Lauran Hibberd: “I’ve always secretly been a pop-punk kid”

Since 2022 debut Garageband Superstar, Lauran Hibberd has been on a rollercoaster ride to the top. Now armed with second album Girlfriend Material, the Isle Of Wight star digs into recording in Nashville, her ’00s-inspired influences, and having the most fun on tour with her favourite bands…

Lauran Hibberd: “I’ve always secretly been a pop-punk kid”
Rishi Shah
Emily Marcovecchio

It’s touchdown in London town for Lauran Hibberd. Barely a week into life in the Big Smoke, Lauran is speaking to Kerrang! from her work-in-progress Battersea flat, having moved on a whim from the Isle Of Wight where she was born and raised. “Let’s see how that works out for me!” she jokes, still running off the adrenaline of her spontaneous leap of faith. She’s soon hoping to be reunited with her dog, Jango, who is patiently waiting to join Lauran in her big-city adventure: “Let’s see if I can adjust him to being a London boy.”

Poor little Jango had to spend the most part of 2023 apart from Lauran, who was busy globetrotting with All Time Low. After supporting the pop-punk veterans at their massive Wembley Arena show in March, she joined her heroes across Europe, America and Australia for the experience of a lifetime. Bringing unhinged energy to the tour, Lauran recalls how her touring drummer James Porter would religiously get in the pit each night, soaking up every moment of the experience. “I didn’t even realise it was possible to have that much fun,” she grins.

Only Lauran – the ball of hyperactive, contagious energy that she is – would somehow find time to record her second album Girlfriend Material amidst this madness – with the help of production from Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie, no less. Channelling the ’00s pop-rock of Avril Lavigne and her favourite band Weezer, it’s an album scattered with timeless choruses; look no further than 90s Kid and Better Than I Was Before.

Humbly putting this trait down to luck, Lauran does recall some wisdom imparted on her by Aaron. “Imagine you’ve just walked out, at Download [Festival], and there’s 10,000 people there. You’re gonna throw the mic out in a minute, what are people gonna sing back? That’s pop-punk.” It’s a recipe that is working wonders for Lauran, who coexists quite comfortably between alternative, indie, pop and rock spheres, a testament to the allure of her relatable, tongue-in-cheek songwriting.

Yet it’s an album released in remarkably different circumstances to her debut, Garageband Superstar. Sandwiched between the death of her dad and the end of a really long relationship, Lauran’s life blew up. “After the dust started to settle, I had all this stuff to say that I never really felt before,” she explains. ‘Nothing works, I suck at grieving,’ she sings on lead single I Suck At Grieving, the most explicit way in which she could come to terms with her grief: “It is exactly my life, in music form. I think this album means a lot more to me. When making the first record, I was thinking about all these face-value things, ‘Who am I as an artist?’ It was exhausting.”

Avoiding a repeat of such gruelling, high-pressure process, a back-to-basics approach underpinned its successor, underpinned by the “infectious” chemistry between Lauran and Aaron, ever since their first session in LA. “Aaron just cuts all the shit,” she beams, grateful to be rid of the “long, drawn-out days of arguing” about minor details. “He did all the drums in two hours, flawlessly… he’s a machine. The way he works, nothing was overproduced and he made [the experience] so fun. I couldn’t love him more – he’s amazing!”

Recorded in Nashville, Lauran tells Kerrang! how a flurry of “record-worthy” songs just poured out, one by one. “There’s something in the water, for sure. Something really shifted that week.” A far-cry from the Isle Of Wight, Nashville fever crept into every corner of the album, signed off with Lauran’s uber-American accent, which admittedly made Aaron chuckle at times. “He said, ‘Remember you’re British!’ There’s some moments where I’m proper hamming an American accent and then I’ll just go ‘can’t’. I’ve done it forever. Some people hate it. Neck Deep get away with it!”

Embracing collaboration on the record like never before, a number of key characters – from Aaron to songwriters Danen Rector and Sienna Marie – also helped Lauran through the process. “I grew up and [thought], ‘I don’t want to work with anyone else.’ I thought it was a copout when I’d see a few writers on a song. What’s that all about? Do it yourself!” chuckles Lauran, recalling her former mindset. “Aaron always said that it’s like having a best friend who is a plumber, but you still decide to fix your toilet yourself, without his help. Why would you do that?” Enlisting the Underoath drummer on production duties became a no-brainer, but he’s not the only famous face on Girlfriend Material.

For the ultimate full-circle moment, All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth lent his vocals to Pretty For A Bad Day, after the two met up for a session well in advance of the Wembley show. “I’ve never sweated so much in my life in an Uber on the way to a session,” Lauran laughs. “I’m just about to get in a room with Alex Gaskarth, this is mental behaviour!” Friendships blossomed throughout the world tour, and Lauran decided – spontaneously, of course – that the second verse was readymade for Alex to knock out of the park. “It was kind of a shot in the dark, but [he was] such a big part of my year. They say never meet your heroes, but I think that didn’t apply in this case.”

Fundamentally, Girlfriend Material is rooted in fuzzy, nostalgic slacker pop, a sound wholly representative of Lauran’s fluorescent personality and diverse taste. Having just seen The 1975 on their recent tour, she also cites Phoebe Bridgers and boygenius as key contemporary inspirations alongside Avril and Weezer, the phase that she’s never left behind – just like the rest of us, eh? “I think I’ve always secretly been a pop-punk kid. I’ve never grown out of that, and I don’t think I will. It’s hard to shake that off when it’s just rooted into you.”

From the emotional rollercoaster that surrounded her debut, the Girlfriend Material era – touch wood – is ready to take shape. Soon, the name Lauran Hibberd will only ease its way into more conversations in the alternative world, now armed with two albums’ worth of material that’s got a Slam Dunk Festival slot written all over it. Returning to Nashville next month for more sessions, there’s no rest and relaxation for Lauran, as she continues to cement her status as one of the UK’s most motivated, vibrant emerging songwriters.

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