Delving into areas ranging from queer identity to mental health, Garrett Laurie‘s latest EP ‘Can I Play Too, Or Is It Just For Boys’ is the follow up to ‘Barbies with Betty Finn’, released back in 2020. Recorded using Voicenotes, it has an unusually raw 80s vibe that manages to be simultaneously introspective and exploratory.

The EP came out in September, and since then I’ve had the chance to chat with Garrett about the stories and themes that he draws together on the EP, and why he chose them. I find him in articulate mode, as he examine his music and how it relates to society more broadly…

First of all, congrats on the new EP. It has some fairly stark themes in it, reflected in the title, of course. Can you tell me a little about these?

I think the title pretty much summarises the themes and sonic direction of the EP. Most of the tracks are layered and full of harmonies, ad libs and doubled vocal parts over instrumentals my co-producer and I
crafted really carefully. I wanted to create a layered cinematic world to echo the sentiment of the EP title- questions about identity and sexuality and how the two are connected…and also the unwritten rules within gender identity that still exist even today.

Are the tracks on the EP generally an exploration of your life experience, or looking more broadly at the experiences of a community?

They’re about both. When writing, I usually begin with my own experience and think about how it relates to queerness and gender or even just general unfairness in the world. I have to consider other people’s experience in my writing or I feel guilty and self indulgent. I like the idea of someone coming across my music and relating in some way – there’s a sense of purpose and all of my favourite artists write in that
way too.

Do you think the arts scene has become more accepting of differing identities in recent years?

I think it is getting better, especially in the past two or three years maybe. I don’t think it is all the way there yet though. I still pick up on that ‘boys club’ mentality in the music scene unless I’m in a creative space specifically targeted toward people in the LGBTQ+ community. There are so many quiet expectations people have when you’re a queer artist; that it’ll be used as a gimmick, or as the signifying trait of your music. There are so many creatives now who defy this though, so I try to focus on that.

Can you tell me where your musical style is drawn from – what are the key things that play into the way you construct melody?

One of my favourite things in music is when a sad melody or riff is included in an uptempo song, where if you slowed and stripped back the song that sadness might seem much more clear. I gravitate toward that
naturally in my music as those are my favourite moments that I’m always conscious of while writing.

Are you consciously looking to great vast cinematic soundscapes?

Sometimes. I think leaning into that too much is tempting though and I often have to pull back as I come to the final few mixes. I usually have abstract cinematic moments and visuals in mind from the very early stages of a new song. Chords sound like colours to me so whatever tone I’m trying to capture, I usually use that as a guide too.

Last time we talked, you spoke about samples and their role in your music. How do they play into this EP?

Some of those tracks are on this EP, so they play a major part in this project. I haven’t actually sampled anything in my songs before, but it’s more-so the dark pop hooks and looped riffs from the 90s that I’m inspired by, albeit in a very general sense.

What is a success for a record for you at this stage in your career?

Success at the moment to me is the feeling that things are moving. Every once in a while I feel that and it inspires me to continue. I’m very visual as a musician and it’s a huge part of what I do, so having the means to fund videos and promotional material with the freedom to experiment is what I work toward always. That to me is success at this stage as an early career artist.

How is the Belfast music scene post pandemic?

I think people are more driven and willing to support other artists in the scene. This may just be a result of a general movement in culture as a whole more than anything to do with the pandemic, but in my experience it feels a little more diverse and less exclusionary than it did pre-pandemic.

How far off is a full length album at this stage?

I would love to release my first, full length album within the next year. I am a total perfectionist so I think I’ll know a few months from now if that is a real possibility – once I release a few tracks off of the next EP I’m working on at the moment.

What’s next for you?

I have a few gigs lined up, but I am currently working on a song with Ciaran Lavery that we began back in June when I was at Soft Gut song camp, which will probably be out in the New Year. I’m in the beginning stages of planning some recording sessions with some new producers and working on promotional material for ‘Can I Play Too Or Is It Just For Boys?’ right now. I’m also just finishing up mixing for a few upcoming singles set for release in the next few months.


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