Beabadoobee on tour rituals and tapping into her 7-year-old self for her new album, Beatopia
When Beabadoobee released "Coffee" in 2017 — a track later famously sampled by Canadian rapper Powfu — she never anticipated that her hazy, whistle-flanked debut single would go viral. The song, which has racked up nearly one billion streams, was a game changer for the Filipino-British musician, a.k.a. Beatrice "Bea" Laus, and it wasn't long before she landed a deal with the 1975's label Dirty Hit. Seemingly overnight, she catapulted from humble bedroom-pop singer to indie "it" girl.
Growing up and attending an all-girls Catholic school where she was the only Filipino student, Laus felt like an outsider. She found comfort and catharsis listening to '90s alt-rock acts like the Cardigans, Elliott Smith, and shoegaze titans My Bloody Valentine. Then, at 17, she got her first guitar — a gift from her father to ease her depression. Music helped Laus feel connected again, and listeners, in turn, connected to her airy vocals and tender approach to love and adolescent angst. She dropped four EPs before releasing her grunge-tinged full-length Fake It Flowers in 2020. By then, she'd become a central young voice in an indie-rock scene once dominated by white men, and she'd eventually land collaborations with Cavetown and the 1975.
Now, at 21, Laus is preparing to release her second studio album, Beatopia, which sees her retreating into her 7-year-old imagination to create a world of fuzzy psych-rock laced with catchy pop hooks. Her fantastical concoction stems from an incredibly vulnerable space, but it also allows her to move seamlessly through genres while staying true to herself. "The whole idea behind Beatopia is that it's about something I've learned to accept within myself, and that I've had to take time to find within myself," Laus says. "It's something I think everyone has inside them, but you just have to learn and be willing to accept that part of you."
In addition to work on the album, Laus has been busy on the road. After wrapping a tour with Halsey, she's hitting the festival circuit and will support Jack Antonoff's Bleachers for four dates in July. Ahead of her performance at Governors Ball in New York, she spoke with EW about Beatopia, winning an MTV Movie & TV Award, and getting a little boost from Taylor Swift.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You were partly inspired to make music because of Kimya Dawson's work in the movie Juno. How has that soundtrack filtered into your own songwriting?
BEABADOOBEE: I was 17 when we watched Juno in my religious education class in school. What stood out to me was that the soundtrack was so simple; it consisted of two chords, a really pretty melody, and a quirky voice. That made me realize I could do anything — there are no rules to music. It definitely inspired me to pick up a guitar.
You've been collaborating with Matty Healy from the 1975 for a while. How has your working relationship grown since your career started?
It was definitely very hard for me to collaborate with people at the beginning. I was pretty stubborn with my music, but I think as you grow as a person and as a musician, you tend to be much more open to ideas and opinions. It happened with Our Extended Play EP, which was like my gateway for collaborating with other creators and musicians. For Beatopia, I collaborated very closely with my guitarist Jacob [Bugden]. Only good things can come of it.
What have you learned from working with Matty?
He has taught me to take my time with songwriting — I don't have to finish on the spot — and little things like not overcomplicating chord progressions. He's just really inspiring to work with.
Beatopia was influenced by this world you created as a 7-year-old. How did your inner child influence the record?
I created "Beatopia" when I was 7 because it was a way to escape everything that was going on in my life. I chose to bury it deep within me and forget about it because of how embarrassed I was of it. But I think I've grown enough to really fall in love with Beatopia again — really accept it, see the good in it, and make an album.
Why did you decide to release "Talk" as the lead single?
I wanted "Talk" to be the first single because I thought it was ear-catching. It was hype-y, it was loud, it was in-your-face. I just wanted to grab everyone's attention.
What music or art were you consuming while making Beatopia?
Me and Jacob made a two-hour-long playlist — probably longer — of all the music that inspired us. It ranged from Cibo Matto to Stereolab to Broken Social Scene. I was also really getting into [painter] Mark Ryden, an artist who I kind of riffed on for the aesthetic of Beatopia. I wanted something super ethereal. I looked at a lot of archival fashion. When I thought about Beatopia, I thought about the whole world, from what it looked like to what it was going to wear.
How do you feel like you've grown from Fake It Flowers to Beatopia?
I was 19 when I wrote Fake It Flowers. I've grown a lot [in terms of] accepting things from my childhood and seeing it as less of a burden in my life. I can use it to make myself feel better — as an advantage, really. Fake It Flowers was definitely a phase. I have my own criticisms of it, but I still look back at it really fondly. But it was definitely how I was feeling at the time, and I think I've changed a lot since then.
Your song "Dance With Me" just won an MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Musical Moment for soundtracking a scene in the Netflix show Heartstopper. Why was the song used in that scene, in which the two lead boys [played by Joe Locke and Kit Connor] flirtatiously play in the snow?
I had no say in what song they chose, but I guess they felt like it's the perfect love song for that particular scene. It's snowing and very ethereal, and I remember writing "Dance With Me" during the winter. It was really unexpected because there was so much good music on that show. It's such a cute show, and I think it's really good for teenagers — for everyone, really.
When Taylor Swift was on her way to receive her honorary doctorate from New York University, she used your song "See You Soon" in her Instagram story. What was your reaction to that?
It was really sick because I hadn't expected it. I know she's listened to my music before, and I really look up to her. I remember waking up in the morning being like, "What the fuck?" It was a really cool experience.
You have a lot of live shows and festivals like Governors Ball coming up. Do you have any rituals when you're on the road?
I try to have some sort of routine, whether it's a skin-care routine in the morning or a routine before bed. It gives me a sense of normality. That's the way to survive, especially for someone like me, who struggles being away from home a lot. Anything that reminds me of home and what I do at home, I try to do as much as I can on tour. I like finding a good TV show to watch before bed and reading a book — just normal things.
What has it been like for you to emerge as a voice for Gen Z in the indie-rock scene?
It's frustrating when people say that, but I think people become [these things] when you are unaware of it. There's an inevitability to that, because I am part of Gen Z and I'm writing music from my own perspective. I have the same feelings as everyone else my age. I go through the same things, so I think people relate to that.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I definitely want to work up to making soundtracks for films — or have any involvement in film, really. The fact that I'm doing something I love is helping me get there. That's what I've always wanted. Hopefully, that continues.
Beabadoobee performs June 10 at Governors Ball in New York. Beatopia is out July 15.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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