Renforshort is soaring to the top of alt-pop

Renforshort is soaring to the top of alt-pop

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Renforshort is soaring to the top of alt-pop

Meet the genre-fusing singer-songwriter, perfectly penning the seemingly inarticulatable realities of Gen Z 20-somethings.

Meet the genre-fusing singer-songwriter, perfectly penning the seemingly inarticulatable realities of Gen Z 20-somethings.

Photography: Tyrell Hampton

Styling: Betsy Johnson

Text: Sam Tracy

It’s renforshort, Lauren for long. The 19-year-old grunge-pop artist’s Instagram profile will remind you of this via a quick scroll through her feed of behind-the-scenes screengrabs and bad-bitch mirror selfies, peppered with shots of downtown Toronto billboards majorly flaunting her face. In just five short years, Canadian artist Lauren Isenberg has risen to the top of alt-pop, upgrading from open mic performances in local bars to garnering more than one million monthly listeners on Spotify and releasing two critically acclaimed EPs—all before graduating high school.

Born to a short story-writing, real estate agent mother and music-obsessed father, her mega-success did not emerge overnight but instead has been cultivating since childhood. Her artistry started young, having been bitten by the music bug, as she puts it, before she “could even speak.”

Renforshort wears dress Valentino Shoes Giuseppe Zanotti Gloves, tights, headband stylist’s own

“My parents put me in piano lessons. They were very into music. And then, as I got older, I started doing musical theater at school, and I did that for way too long,” she laughs, noting her disinclination to acting but hunger for the spotlight. Singing, guitar, and bass lessons quickly followed suit until a serendipitous performance at a hometown Toronto pub confirmed her growing suspicion: music is what she is meant to do. “I never saw a different career path for me—there was nothing else. So I just kept going at it.”

And it paid off. Lauren’s lyrics read like a confessional diary entry, expressing what all late-teens, early-twentysomethings want to express but don’t know how. Now, with buzzy singles of laid-bare lyrics under her belt including, “wannabe” and “fuck, i luv my friends,” her prose perfectly encapsulates the sometimes messy, often confusing, always angsty reality of Gen Z teenagehood. “I’m honestly a pretty closed-off person,” the emerging alt-icon says, an unexpected statement for a writer of her candor. “I don’t tend to talk to people about my feelings that often, because I don’t like burdening people. Songwriting as an outlet feels so private because it’s just between you and yourself. Although it goes out into the world and people hear it, there’s something comforting about it being behind music.”

Her influences are like a category-crossing dance of melodies. The soulful crooning of Amy Winehouse and punk Nirvana sonics are intertwined into the tunes of her two EPs that make up the discography of renforshort. As genres blend and sonic specificity melds and molds, renforshort is championing the change as a shining example of ruleless modern pop.

Read the exclusive interview below.

Hey, Lauren! Congratulations on the success of your latest EP—it’s been capturing major attention from socials and critics alike. I understand that this has been a lifelong passion of your’s and you’ve been on the music grind for a while. How did you get started in music? 

When I was younger, my parents put me in piano lessons—like, before I could even speak. They were very into music. We'd watch a bunch of concert tapes. Some of my earliest memories are of watching Amy Winehouse live performances or Nirvana live performances. I was just always so into it. As I got older, I started doing musical theater at school and I did that for way too long. (laughs) I didn't like the acting part—I couldn't really do it and it's so much harder than everyone thinks it is. And then I was like, “I love being on stage, I love singing, I love it all!”. I started taking singing lessons and guitar lessons. All of my brothers were really good at bass drums, guitar—they’re incredible but they never wanted to do it professionally—but I wanted to do music professionally because I loved it so much. I never saw a different career path for me. There was nothing else so I just kept going at it. Then when I was 13, I started writing music. My parents were obviously so supportive. My family was so supportive and they were like, “if you can make this work and you're happy, then go for it.”

And you said you play guitar. What other instruments do you play? 

I play guitar, bass, piano and drums.

A jack of all trades. 

Yeah, but the problem is I've spent minimal time on all of them so I'm decent at it. (laughs)

Listen, you're definitely better than me. I was reading some interviews of yours and what I understand is there was an open mic night when you were a teenager where you had this “aha” moment where you were like, “yeah, this is what I want to do.” Take me back to that moment—what was that like? 

It's actually really cute because every once in a while, that video just pops up of me. I was singing “Not About Angels” by Birdy at an open mic night at a bar in Toronto. I went with my mom after school and I was like, 13 or 12. I got on stage with my guitar and I had the chords in front of me and I was just shaking. So nervous. You can see my legs moving back and forth, swinging. I didn't know what I was doing, but I remember I started playing and the room just went silent. I just remember everyone freaking out at the end. It was just like the best feeling in the world because I didn't know if I was actually good at anything but having that moment of being in front of people and having their attention through music. I'm not doing anything except for singing and playing guitar—it's all just through music. How that brings people together is kind of crazy. That moment for me, it was like, “there's literally nothing else I want to do or can do with my life.” 

That's beautiful. I like that a lot. I wanted to touch on your songwriting because I feel you really capture a lot of the feelings that people in their late teens, early twenties go through. I was wondering what your songwriting process is like. Is there anything that you do to get in the zone to songwrite? 

So a big thing for me is I'm honestly a pretty closed off person. I don't tend to talk to people about my feelings that often because I don't like burdening people, but when I'm in a room with a co-writer or a producer, that's when I’ll open up. I can know the person for five minutes, but then have a deeper conversation with them than I would with a friend. I always do a little therapy session because obviously there's things that are unique to one person's life experience. Not everyone experiences the same thing. I’ll sit and talk to someone and be like, “Hey, so this is what's going on in my life. This is what is bothering me or this is what I love” and they'll be like, “oh yeah, that totally happens to me too!” Or “that's happened to my friend!”—that's a sign that this is a good concept for a song because it is relatable. I'm a very lyric-focused person. Even when I listen to other songs, I really just focus on their words. That's the main thing that grabs me. I like to make sure that what's written is right and is relatable and it encapsulates the feeling or the experience very well. I just sit and get everything out. I tend to have things in my Notes app at all times because I have ideas when I'm going to bed or driving in the car. I put them down in my Notes and then kind of go from there. 

How did you learn that songwriting was a cathartic outlet for you? 

My mom is actually a writer and she used to read me little things that she wrote. She writes poetry and little short stories. Everyone looks up to their mom and I did, too, obviously, so I wanted to do that. I started writing books when I was younger and I just really loved writing. I loved English creative writing. Songwriting as an outlet feels so private because it’s just between you and yourself. Although it goes out into the world and people hear it, there’s something comforting about it being behind music. Writing in general is just something that I've always really loved and it's something that my mom did so I wanted to do that. It was a good way for me to vent at a young age especially. 

That’s amazing. I was listening to your latest EP and it's super genre-blending which got me wondering: who are your main musical influences?

It really changes a lot but for that particular project, I would say that it was a different influence for every song, like “lust to love” was heavily influenced by Arcade Fire and The Suburbs. I didn't have too many influences really going into it, I was more like “I need to write about these things and make something that hasn't really been done before.” [My music] is definitely guitar-forward, kinda pop-y, with blends of folk or grunge. What really lies in the cohesiveness of my music, because sonically that can be lost over time, is the lyrics and the storytelling.

And your latest EP is called “off saint dominique”. Where did you get that title from and what does that mean to you? 

So I moved out of my parents' house and moved to Montreal for a couple months and the street I was living on was called Prince Arthur East. The cross street was Saint Dominique. I started to think about where did everything begin? Where did this year begin? Where did the stories of this project begin? And it was all there, off Saint Dominique. I went through a few ideas, but that one kind of just felt right. 

That's cute. It's like a little geotag. 

Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

I was looking at your discography and I noticed you released your first EP right when we entered the pandemic in March of 2020, and then recently released this one in June. How do you feel that your sound evolved between the two?

I think that teenage angst, my first project, was definitely more cohesive sounding. It was a lot less mature because I did write a lot of it when I was in 10th or 11th grade. Obviously, I've also had more life experiences. It’s a really pivotal age, honestly, between the ages of 17 and 18. I had a lot to talk about and a lot had happened in that year that I moved away from home. For off saint dominique, I started looking at music like art. You know, that sounds so annoying to say but it’s whatever. I spent more time thinking about what makes this unique and how will people feel when they listen to this music. teenage angst felt more like a diary. This one felt more focused on the writing, sonics, the visuals, everything. It was more of an art piece. I think that sounds so annoying to say, that literally sounds so annoying, I sound like a pretentious prick (laughs). 

No, but like, I totally get you. There’s a sense of maturity to it, like you said, and it really leans into that where you're taking storytelling one step further. You're not just writing lyrics down in a rant, but you're delivering a whole package.

Yeah, exactly! 

And I understand now you're currently in the studio working on some new music. Is this like a full length album? Or what can you tell me about it? 

I'm working on the album now. Everything's coming together—the concept’s all together and I've started working on the more creative aspects, making sure everything is more cohesive. I definitely think it's going to be a more cohesive body of work, but not in a boring cohesive way. I’m excited. I've been working every day, in sessions every day and just trying to get everything right and even better than the last time.

check out renforshorts latest release below! 

Credits:

MAKEUP LOFTJET FOR PAT MCGRATH LABS HAIR FITCH LUNAR (OPUS BEAUTY) PRODUCER SERIE YOON (NIGHT WATER CREATIVE) PHOTO ASSISTANT

KHALILAH PIANTA STYLIST ASSISTANT SCOTT BENNETT MAKEUP ASSISTANT AMY RUIZ PRODUCTION ASSISTANT JEAN GRANT LOCATION DUST STUDIOS

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