It has been a summer of chaos, even relative to the general state of the world these days. But hey, you’re stuck here anyway so you might as well live it up. That’s the implicit spirit behind this week’s Noisey Mix, a half-hour set from the Chicago producer and songwriter Laura Les.
“I’ve been trying to get out of my house this summer and enjoy our dystopia more,” she wrote in an email. “So I guess the songs in this mix are just some rose-colored glasses to help you have some fun even though everything is going wild.”
That the mix is deliberately centered around the sentiment of partying through hell makes sense, if you’re at all familiar with the tracks she’s released over the last couple of years, both under her own name and as osno1. Like the crew of friends and frequent collaborators she keeps—like our fave chameleonic rapper Lil West—Laura has a knack for creating tracks that feel gleefully anarchic, wholly disinterested in the idea of neat genre organization. As keen to draw on colorful trap beats as she is shattered dance music traditions, emo melodies, and straight up noise, she makes music that could be a mess, but somehow manages to be some of the most piercing pop music I’ve heard in a long time—all centered around the cybernetic squeaks and squeals of her own pitch-shifted vocals. It’s beautiful and terrifying, and triumphant, somehow.
Few are better equipped, then, for the sort of mission she undertook on this mix—a smattering of bubbly originals that echo the debauched digitalist celebrations of her just-released collection BIG SUMMER JAMS 2018. That record, available on her Bandcamp page, is a solid introduction not only to her music but to a whole community of peers (many of whom also turn up on this mix) who similarly provide soundtracks for dancing through the darkness. So listen to that, and then check out the mix below, because there’s nothing better for chaotic times than chaotic music.
Noisey: Was there any specific concept to the mix?
Laura Les: Making this mix for me has sort of been a therapy to escape a lot of stuff happening around me, along with being a way to break some monotony while I’m listening to the same nine songs all day every day trying to finish my album, so I guess the concept is breaking away from monotony and having some summer fun in the midst of it.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
Synesthesia is definitely real, although I’m not sure I have it. I’d like to think that this mix gives off a light blue feel with some pink thrown in (synesthetes should confirm or deny this).
Do you have a favorite moment on this mix?
I have a pretty killer guitar solo over some soft rock vibes and it makes me want to buy a boat.
What can you tell me about the genesis of your music-making? Did you grow up producing?I’ve been making music to some extent since I was like 13, I think. That’s when I got my first guitar. I've kind of always just wanted to be a songwriter. When I was in high school my dream was to be the one that wrote songs for One Direction. I just love so many different types of music. The problem with that is, I never really like confining myself to one musical space, so every time I tried getting a musical project going I would feel like it all didn’t “fit” together like I wanted it to, so I’d just end up trashing it. It got to the point where I just quit for almost a year because I was just tired of failing myself in my eyes. Dylan Brady was a big part of me accepting myself and my music and not being so hard on myself, and he encouraged me to just do stuff! That was the inception of osno1: just the idea of doing something instead of always just doubting myself into oblivion. Now I’m switching to Laura Les because I feel like I’m asserting my own identity into my music more and more. It’s all just a big journey.
In your work I hear so much different stuff: pop, emo, hardcore (both in the punk and techno senses of that word), various strains of extremely internet-y electronic music. Are you a voracious listener?
I grew up loving music before making it. I grew up listening to a lot of early 2000s mainstream rap and country from my mom and rock radio from my dad. I also had a computer in my room really young, so I was getting exposed to a lot of nightcore and mainstream emo from there before I started making my own music. I just love music and want to surround myself with as many different kinds of it as I can, and the internet is obviously the best way to do that, especially because I’m an awkward, stupid girl who usually doesn’t have fun at clubs. I love letting myself fall down weird Soundcloud and Youtube holes at like 4am on a Friday. The music I make is just my attempt at letting these things influence me however they will! It just so happens that I like catchy songs and pop music, so I usually put my influences in a pop-music shaped container! It’s a process that’s very natural and free, but I work very hard at it. It’s much more basic than I’m making it out to be right now lol. I just try to make something and, as much as possible, not let how it'll be classified hinder me.
One of the components I’m drawn to in your work is the way you pitch-shift your vocals. It sounds both chaotic catchy at the same time. How’d you settle on that sound?
I hate my regular singing voice! I wanted my voice to match how I feel inside, so I took a cue from nightcore and did it how they do it. I’ve always loved nightcore vocals. It’s a way of using an element of nightcore to express myself and hide the fact that my voice is disgusting.
I came into your work through the stuff you’ve done producing for other artists, but it’s clear you also care about making music on your own. Is that a delicate balance to strike or is it more just taking the opportunities as they arise?
I'm very protective of my personal music. I like the feeling that I did something on my own and expressed myself in a pure, unfiltered way. I don't think that's how I have to create 100% of the time, though. I guess I kind of think everybody has their own flavor, so expressing my own by itself is super important to me, but it’s also so fun to get together with other people and just see what works and cook something cool and new! Cheesecake? Genius. I wanna work with everybody, the only limitation is time!
You’ve mentioned that you’re working on a lot of new music right now, can you tell us some of what you’ve got in the works?
Well, I’ve been busting my butt to finish this album, which will hopefully be out by the time this gets posted. After that I have a series of EPs with some artists I really like. I’m just excited about music and want to work with lots of different styles right now, especially after shutting myself away to finish the album for so long. Also 1000 gecs is coming :)