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Lauren Auder: “Teenage emotions don’t get the respect they deserve”

The 21-year-old London artist on coming of age, inner turmoil and making music to clarify who she is.

by Douglas Greenwood; photos by Ian Kenneth Bird
05 August 2020, 10:01am

All clothing Raf Simons AW20. All jewellery model’s own.

Lauren’s story originally appeared in i-D's The Faith In Chaos Issue, no. 360, Summer 2020. Order your copy here.

We are just a few days into lockdown in Great Britain when Lauren Auder answers our FaceTime call. The musician is in her flat in London, long hair looming over the lens of her camera as she paces back and forth from one room to the next, never sitting still. She seems restless, but is, she insists, “as fine as I can be in these strange times”.

There is a William Blake print that’s lingering on Lauren’s mind right now. Nebuchadnezzar: a portrait of a beastly human being on all fours, with long hair and overgrown, sharp nails, crawling towards the light out of frame, the outside world just out of reach. It’s how she feels life might look like after we’re allowed back out into the world again. “It’s making quite a big difference to me,” she says, referring to the lockdown. “I try to spend a lot of time outside, just for my little brain, so it’s been a weird one. I’m quite hyperactive and hate being in one spot, but the human brain is extremely adaptable.”

There is a malleability to 21-year-old Lauren Auder, a readiness to change. It flows through her music and persona at such a rapid speed that it’s strange to think that it hasn’t always been this way. In 2018, when she released her debut EP Who Carry’s You, her sound and image felt grander than something dreamt up in a teenager’s bedroom: the lustrous string sections and synths were vast and often melancholy, the lyrics alluding to religion, love and a higher power. It felt like a covert, internal monologue, about the exploration of her identity, something that she wasn’t quite ready to put out into the world, a subject she was still processing. It felt like the work of someone twice her age.

Lauren Auder close up b+w portrait for i-D 2020

Since _Who Carry’s You_’s release, Lauren has retreated indoors, back into the studio, to survey her past and make sense of her next steps, finding space to grow. “I feel like a different person than I did a year ago,” she says. Since her last project, she’s contemplated her gender identity more fully, and is identifying as a woman. “In a lot of ways I’ve known forever, and in other ways I’ve known since I was 12, and in other ways I’m only just figuring it out, but I’m way more in touch with myself and how I feel and who I want to be.” The journey, she insists, has had its ups and downs, “but I think it’s made me more confident and aware of myself. That transition in my life, and becoming an adult, has gone hand in hand with the way I present my work.”

She has spoken in previous interviews of the slight, invisible barrier that once existed between Lauren Auder as a person and a performer during her initial years in the spotlight. By being honest about who she is publicly, that has dissipated slightly: “It’s more direct,” she says of her new work. “I’m more open with a lot of my own emotions now, and maybe, there’s a difference in persona, a lack of mystique... but I think it’s always been brutally honest, even if not with the specific details, at least emotionally.”

Lauren Auder close up b+w portrait for i-D 2020
Coat Les Hommes Pre-Fall 20. Scarf Tom Ford AW20.

Her second EP, just five tracks long but more than two years in the making, is called two caves in. Who Carry’s You felt dense and ominous but this sounds like a weight has been lifted. Written while Lauren was still a teenager, two caves in is a cinematic unpacking of coming-of-age; the most complicated years of a person’s life. “I wrote the roots of the songs a long time ago, but it took time for them to get to the place they are now,” Lauren says of the EP’s creative gestation. “Working in a whole new different way, in a studio with proper string players and proper producers... It was a learning curve.”

Through her lens, these songs sound like the eye-opening revelations that life throws at you at that age: first loves, understanding yourself, making sense of the alien world you’re about to step into. Lauren likes art that delves into coming-of-age, and has spent time contemplating the way in which that narrative is often dismissed as nothing more than “twee”. “Teenage emotions don’t get the respect they deserve,” she says. “I wanted two caves in to be relatable to people going through the same kind of coming-of-age moments in their life, to give that the honour that I felt it warranted — to show the inner turmoil.”

Lauren Auder b+w portrait for i-D 2020
Dress JW Anderson AW20.

The grand masquerade that shaped the songs on Lauren’s first EP is shattered on two caves in. The opening track, titled june 14th is struck with sunny and optimistic violins from the moment it starts, a glorious ode to a couple’s first intimate encounter. And, on meek, she contemplates the complicated, messy aftermath: “It’s a blessing and a curse/ to be loved like this,” she sings. “If I give up first would I miss life’s kiss/ its hard, balled up fist?” The final track, in god’s childlike hands, is purely instrumental, and wraps the EP together in one loving loop. Sirens wail in the distance as horn sections rise up. It’s like letting go.

These songs, and making music in general, is Lauren’s way of “trying to clarify who I am,” she says. “That’s really the whole gambit. To make work so that you can be seen in a real way, and so that others can feel seen.” Does she think identity, be it creative or personal, might be an ever-evolving thing? “I sure hope so. I hate to think I’d be the same person I was at 14 that I am now. That would be a great tragedy!”

It’s taken Lauren four years to put just 10 songs out into the universe. But these are 10 remarkable, incredible songs. Gestation and slowness and consideration, it seems, is important to her. But even the next natural step — a full length album — is a far-flung prospect to her: “I have 10 songs that I’ve had in mind for a year,” she says, “and I’m only just starting to get to a place where a bunch of them feel done.” What she does know is that, whatever it may look like, it will be Lauren Auder’s most conceptual project yet: a sonic world built from the foundations of her miraculous EPs, for a crowd of fans who will be waiting, politely and patiently, for its arrival.

Lauren Auder full length b+w portrait for i-D 2020
Roll neck Asket. Dress Loewe AW20. Jeans Balenciaga Pre-Fall 20. Shoes Raf Simons AW20.
Lauren Auder for i-D b+w portrait
All clothing Raf Simons AW20. All jewellery model’s own.


Photography Ian Kenneth Bird
Styling Max Clark
Hair Soichi Inagaki at Art Partner using Oribe.
Make-up Rebecca Wordingham at Saint Luke using Cle de Peau.
Nail technician Chiara at Beautii using Chanel Le Base and Weleda skincare. Photography assistance Luca Strano.
Styling assistance Marina de Magalhaes and Alicia Terminiello.
Hair assistance Hiroki Kojima.
Make-up assistance Clelia Giampaolo.
Production Christina Barrett.

Lauren Auder