London-based pop singer and producer Laurel has been releasing music since 2014, but she considers her latest EP, Petrol Bloom, the start of her career in a sense. “As an artist, I’ve been around for a while and made albums, but I felt like it was my time to bloom,” she says. The EP came out December 3 via Communion Records.
After self-producing her previous records in her bedroom, she branched out and collaborated with producer Jeremy Malvin, a.k.a. Chrome Sparks, on this one — a decision born from a sense of increased security in her career. “With my last record, I thought I had to produce everything, I had to mix everything, I didn’t want anyone else to touch it because I felt like I had to prove my credibility, prove my talent, prove my independence, and not need anybody,” she explains.
A lot of this feeling of needing to prove herself in the past stemmed from people’s attitudes toward female producers. “People didn’t really think I produced my stuff. It took me a really long time to get the recognition that I was producing my own music, and I did write everything, and I created the instruments,” she says. “I think people are still kind of shocked to find out I did that. I don’t think people are in shock to find out a male musician has produced it.”
Now that she’s established herself as an artist, Laurel has felt freer to take risks. Petrol Bloom has more of an electronic sound than her past work, and she believes Malvin added a funkier flavor to the EP, particularly with his guitar and bass work. “I felt like he had something new to bring to the guitar. I was exhausted by the style I created with my guitar parts,” she says, having played those parts herself on her previous record, 2018’s DOGVIOLET.
Laurel and Malvin had been friends for a long time, then began working together after bumping into each other on the street. For the first two songs they made together, “Scream Drive Faster” and “Best I Ever Had,” they were just messing around, but had so much fun that they decided to create a whole project. They started recording the EP in New York last year, then finished it this year in LA, which she thinks gave it a hot, summery feel.
The title Petrol Bloom is meant to capture the two opposing energies of water and fire, calmness and passion. “My last record was DOGVIOLET, and I liked how you had this ugly word against a beautiful, natural word, and I wanted to do that again because I feel like my songs encapsulate the ugly side of the emotion and how beautiful emotions can be,” she says.
Accordingly, the EP runs the gamut, from “Lose My Appetite” (a groovy ode to a dysfunctional relationship) to the dreamy yet angry breakup song “When You’re Walking Away,” to the light, airy “Best I Ever Had,” a happy love song of the sort she’d always wanted to write but didn’t feel inspired to until recently. “It was never easy for me to write about how happy I was,” she says. “Usually, [my music] stemmed from my deeper, darker emotions, but I started finding happiness, and this was about letting go of my demons and falling in love in a healthy and happy way.”
The EP’s first single, “Scream Drive Faster,” gives off chill ’80s vibes as Laurel paints a vivid, almost fantastical picture of frantic thrill-seeking: “Race through the valley of the stars/Run like a river through the heart/Why can’t I feel it when I fall?” The single is about being numb and chasing adrenaline rushes just to feel something, she explains. “I was just starting to seek that thrill, the magic in life, and I was chasing it — but you can’t find it, you have to wait.”
Laurel’s rich voice and powerful, catchy beats give her music a sound similar to Florence and the Machine, which she credits among her influences, along with unlikelier acts like The Talking Heads, who inspire her with their nuanced and sometimes cryptic lyrics, as well as their poppy but alternative melodies.
In addition to her music, Laurel published her first book, The Mutterings of a Laurel, a collection of journal entries documenting her process creating DOGVIOLET, in 2019. “It gives people the chance to know me for real rather than just through lyrics,” she says. She’s currently working on another book that goes along with her latest music, as well as another EP she’s creating in collaboration with Malvin, which she considers a continuation of the new chapter she started with Petrol Bloom.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a person quite significantly in the past year, and I feel like my head’s screwed on more than it’s ever been,” she says. “I really know what I want right now. This record is not hiding behind anything. It’s just really what I wanted to make.”