Seemingly out of nowhere towards the end of 2020, an artist named girlhouse began dropping absolutely fire electronic indie pop singles. There was a fun holiday tune about getting into a fight at an “ugly sweater xmas party,” the nostalgic “mt. shasta dr,” and the 80’s-adorned “knuckle tattoo,” which we featured in our January & February roundup. The lack of press coverage or information about girlhouse kept me insanely curious about who was behind the music and whether the singles were leading up to something.
It turns out that girlhouse is a solo project from Lauren Luiz, a Broadway actress and singer of folk-pop trio WILD (whose debut album Goin’ Back from earlier this year brings me back to 2013 in all the right ways). On May 14, Luiz will release her first EP, appropriately titled the girlhouse EP.
The girlhouse EP is full of fast-paced songs perfect for driving with the windows down and will appeal to fans of Carly Rae Jepsen, Yumi Zouma, and The Japanese House. Luiz’s cozy, sepia-tone-inflected voice is often layered in gauzy vocoder and accompanied with punchy synths and guitar produced by her WILD bandmate Tyler Thompson.
The chorus in the EP’s opener, “pretty girl in la” (“I just wanna be a pretty girl in LA”) sounds like a pretty stereotypical sentiment from a musician and actress, until you realize that Luiz wrote the EP as a breakup letter of sorts to Los Angeles. She moved to the city to pursue her acting career, appearing on the NBC series Grimm and performing at the White House for President Obama through her role in a production of Spring Awakening. After being constantly told she was “kind of pretty, but not LA pretty” and realizing that she was “letting people destroy [her] confidence daily for the sake of the ‘craft’,” she eventually decided to move to Nashville. Though she desperately wanted to call the LA home, she found that the mental cost of living there outweighed the benefits. “I remember the first evening LA made me really cry,” she says in closer “treading water” while driving across the California desert. “Keep looking forward ‘cause they ain’t going to catch you tonight.”
Ahead of the girlhouse EP release, we talked with Lauren Luiz over email about her path to girlhouse through many kinds of music and artistic endeavors.
What’s your path to music been like? Did you take music lessons as a kid, or did you pick it up by yourself as you got older?
My dad plays guitar and I started picking up his acoustic and trying to play when I was a kid. Growing up, I always wanted to be a singer-songwriter but every time I played music for any of my friends or family they would listen to the lyrics and be like, “are you okay?” Like… no I was not okay but naturally I got a little anxious about sharing any of my music lol. It really wasn’t until I started working with Tyler that I started to feel like I could make music my career.
You’ve got another band, WILD, which just released an album in January. How did you get together with your WILD bandmates Tyler (Thompson) and Zach (DeGaetano)?
Tyler and I used to work at the Beverly Center mall together in LA, we had some mutual friends so he and I were always thrown together. That’s how I eventually met Zach too.
girlhouse has a much more electronic sound than WILD; how did you start exploring these new kinds of sounds? What are the musical inspirations and influences behind girlhouse?
Tyler and I heard a band on an airplane a few years ago with a cool drum machine loop, I think the band was No Vacation, we were really enamoured by how simple it was and wanted to try and simplify our sound. So we went back to the studio and challenged ourselves to only use 4 instruments on a track, and then we just didn’t stop. Other people I love right now are KennyHoopla, Phoebe Bridgers, Slow Pulp.
If I understand correctly, you were an actress in the Broadway revival of Spring Awakening (so cool, especially the incorporation of ESL and deaf/HOH actors!), among other things. Are you still acting? Or are you pursuing music full-time?
I’d love to continue acting! I’ve really put it on the back burner lately ever since I started working on music full time. Music moves so fast and shows are so chaotic, and so is theater in a lot of ways, but there are so many beautiful moments of stillness when you’re telling a story that I miss all the time.
What is your writing process like? Does your musical theater background affect your approach to writing pop music?
When it comes to writing a story absolutely yes! I’m not sure how much is too much storytelling when you’re working on a song but that’s how I like to do it anyways.
On the last two tracks of your upcoming girlhouse EP, you say, “I’m treading water / and it’s getting harder” and “I need a big ol’ change / I’m getting eaten up alive this time” (or that’s what I hear; feel free to correct me!) Along with the many references to LA, where you’ve lived in the past, though you’re now Nashville-based, this makes me curious: is there a story behind the EP? Is it reflective of a certain time in your life?
I wrote all of those songs as I was deciding to leave LA again. It was definitely a hard decision that I wasn’t sure I was ready to make, this EP feels like a breakup album with LA in a lot of ways.
And as many releases have been pushed back by the pandemic, I have to ask—was the girlhouse EP finished long before now and pushed back, or was it a quarantine project?
Kind of a quarantine project, kind of something that’s been in the works for a few years now. I definitely don’t think this project would have ever gotten off the ground without the pandemic.
Do you have anything else to add or anything you want to plug?
Our first EP coming out May 14th!