Beabadoobee: "Fake It Flowers is pretty much my whole life in one album"
Ahead of her livestream i-N SESSION performance this Thursday, Bea reveals what we can expect from her emotional debut album and the strangeness of blowing up on TikTok when you don't use the app.
Photography Callum Harrison
At the start of 2020, Beabadoobee was nominated for the prestigious Brit Rising Star Award, had bagged a spot on the Coachella line-up and was all set to spend spring and summer touring the US with Phoebe Bridgers and labelmates The 1975. Then the pandemic swept the globe and changed Bea’s plans big time. Instead of world domination, the 20-year-old British-Filipino artist found herself with a clear diary and time to wrap up her debut album Fake It Flowers -- due later this year via Dirty Hit -- before taking a well-earned break.
Lockdown was spent with her director boyfriend Soren and his family (her own parents are frontline health workers in a London hospital) and so naturally it has still been a productive few months. For starters, Bea launched the album’s cathartic lead single “Care” late last night with a beautiful lo-fi video the creative couple made in collaboration with Soren’s Bedroom Projects partner Amir. In it, a self-styled freckled queen Bea is captured shredding on a rooftop, taking gothy fully-clothed baths and eating flowers. Shot on an old Bolex in his kitchen, bathroom, back garden and around the neighbourhood, it is awesome.
When she called i-D over Zoom last week, Bea had just escaped to the Northamptonshire countryside where she’s staying with Matty Healy and George Daniel of The 1975 in their adopted farmstead turned studio. Now that Fake It Flowers is in the bag and lockdown restrictions have been lifted somewhat, the artists are working on an unnamed future project together (exciting!) and hanging out with band pup Mayhem. Mid-call, Matty walked across the screen behind her, singing loudly to himself. Bea laughed at him, but possibly also at the ridiculousness of the situation, and he apologised for interrupting.
Over the course of our conversation -- ahead of her i-N SESSION this Thursday 16 July on i-D's Instagram live -- Bea spoke to us about how "Care" is secretly a really sad song, explained her complicated relationship with TikTok, and revealed just how vulnerable she's about to get on her debut album.
How’s the countryside treating you, Bea?
I don’t really rate the spiders but I like everything else. I like the horses. Me and my guitarist Jacob got chased by sheep yesterday, which was quite stressful.
Sounds like it! So how was your quarantine?
Obviously I was supposed to go on tour and instead I was just stuck at home, but I’ve been really appreciating it because I’ve got to spend so much time with my family and my boyfriend, and I’ve rebuilt relationships with people that I had lost touch with. Quarantine was actually really good for my mental health!
As you say, it was supposed to be a big year for you in terms of tours and festivals. How was it mentally adjusting to such a massive shift in plan?
I remember it being really sad. I was obviously so gassed about doing all these shows and hanging out with my band in America... but America looks a bit fucked right now, so I’m glad that I had a breather.
And now you’re back at it and about to release the first single from your debut album! When you look back, do you remember what kind of person you were when you released your first song “Coffee” in 2017?
I was still in school and didn’t even think about music as being an actual thing I could do, so I never imagined any of this could happen. I released “Coffee” thinking it was just for fun, and something other than school to do with my friend Oscar. It was all very innocent and young and naive. I’m still kind of the same, but I guess the industry is becoming more familiar now.
Talking of which, your new single “Care” came out last night. What’s it all about?
It’s just stuff that happened in my childhood but presented in a very youthful, fun way. I wanted a song that people can sing along to, and for chicks to rock out and dance to. It’s a really sad song but it’s made to sound super happy. Writing the song helped me a lot -- it came from a really sad place but I turned it into really positive-sounding, happy, dancey music. So I can’t wait for people to listen to it and dance.
You know, it probably wouldn’t sound that out of place on Avril Lavigne’s Let Go.
Yeah? Sick, that’s the vibe. I also think it’s very ‘end credit scene’ for like, a 2000s chick flick where the girl finally gets with the boy at the end and then “Care” starts playing and they’re driving down the road or some shit like that. I did an album listening thing with my boyfriend and he said that it sounded very female; and I love the fact that he said that because I think it is a very female-sounding record, very female-empowering. It helped me a lot, so I hope it helps other girls out too.
Obviously you have the benefit of having a live-in director, but how was the experience of making a music video during a global pandemic?
It was really strange. The house became a studio and we’d work until like 1am in the kitchen, and it was challenging but it was very fun. It was their first time filming on a Bolex and we were so scared the footage wouldn’t come out at all.
You repeat the lyric ‘but you don’t really care’. What're you talking about?
I guess I was just @ing at everyone who I was frustrated about, but now I kind of understand that sometimes you can just never be fully understood how you want to be.
It's true. So tell us about your album Fake It Flowers, starting with the name...
I recorded my demos on my phone and for some reason they all saved as ‘Fake It Flowers’, and I was like, ‘Oh! That’s a cool name!’ So I figured I may as well just call the album that! Obviously, when you save a recording on your phone it saves it as the location you’re in, but it was strange because these recordings were made at my house and in the studio, and there’s nothing near either of them with that name. I got kind of obsessed with flowers actually, especially when filming the video for “Care” and doing the whole creative side with my boyfriend. I have this album on my phone full of pictures of flowers, because I keep taking pictures of them.
"It’s pretty much my whole life in one album. People are gonna know a lot, and it’s fun because I finally feel like this is really genuine."
Bea, if you were a flower, what flower would you be?
I love carnations but I also love the simplicity of daisies. Or the flower that I ate in the video! I don’t know what that was but it looked like tie-dye pink, orange and yellow and was the same shape as roses. I’d love to be that one. I always ask my boyfriend that actually, “Soren, what type of flower would I be?” Like, classic, PLEASE TELL ME I’M A PRETTY FLOWER!
What can we expect from the album then, thematically?
All of my EPs were written during particular phases of my life, but the album is more like a capsule of songs I wrote when I was 17, but also songs I wrote during the recording of the album, and me talking about shit that happened to me as a kid. It’s pretty much my whole life in one album. People are gonna know a lot, and it’s fun because I finally feel like this is really genuine -- the music and the way it sounds is something I’ve always wanted to make. There are some songs that’re completely different to the others -- there’s kind of a thrashy one, then there’s one that’s just me and an acoustic guitar. I’m so excited for it to come out.
Does it feel kind of intense to be laying your whole self out there like that?
I guess, but the whole thing about the album is: everything that I was supposed to tell someone but couldn’t. That’s the whole meaning behind it.
And is it about a particular person?
No, it’s just about everyone; about everyone I know. Something that I was supposed to tell someone but couldn’t. Or stories that people have told me where they couldn’t tell the person that it was about. I wrote about that too. So I suppose it’s not actually all about me, but it’s just shit that I’ve experienced throughout my life.
So it’s a place for sharing truth. And how intimidating was it making 'The Debut Album' as opposed to one of your EPs? Was there more pressure?
There wasn’t pressure, it was more excitement. I literally did whatever I wanted. It was more like butterflies because I was gonna make something that I wanted to be proud of. You know, this is my first album and I want it to be the best thing I’ll ever make. Well… so far at least. It was scary but in a fun way.
You’ve had a fair few collaborations recently. Will there be any features on the album?
No, it’s all me! My band plays on it too and I’m really proud. I can’t wait for it to come out.
You previously said that you want your first record to be vulnerable, that you want to talk about love and acceptance, and that you want it to hit people like a fucking rock. Now you’re working towards its release, do you think you’ve succeeded?
Yes, I guess. There are some very personal songs on there that I probably can’t sing live because it’d be too emotional. There are also some songs that people are gonna find out are about them, so I’m waiting for those messages to appear.
In other news, how would you describe your relationship with TikTok?
TikTok’s cool. I’m like, not involved. I know that remix of my song is blowing up on TikTok, which is so strange because that song of mine is so pure and then everyone’s listening to it, which is cool but also like, FUCK. I think it’s a really great place to express creativity and to meet new people. I am not on the app but I appreciate people who use it and use it for good. I know I’m still young, but I think I missed the TikTok trend by like a year and so it makes me feel really old.
You're absolutely not old. When do you feel most confident, Bea?
On stage! That’s just a given, you know. I’m really not a confident person and I’m so indecisive about everything, but I think I’m definitely the most confident on stage, and with my girlfriends.
And what's your post-pandemic plan?
When this is all over, or when the album drops -- whichever comes first -- I wanna have a massive party. A princess-themed album party.
For friends and collaborators or for fans too?
Just for people that worked on the album and girlfriends from school. And I really want to do a show. I feel like if corona had never happened and Fake It Flowers was coming out, I’d do a show the next day, a random free show. That would’ve been the dream.
"Care" is out now on Dirty Hit. Fake It Flowers will follower later this year. Catch Bea and her band performing live on i-D's Instagram as part of our i-N SESSION series this Thursday 16 July 2020