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Lawrence Rothman talks new album, song-writing and if genres exist in 2016

“Well in a nutshell, there has been a lot of fucked up shit go down on the making of this record.” The endearing Lawrence Rothman tells me, and he’s deadly serious. “Everything from bloody fist fights, to rehab stints, to deaths, to babies being born.”

This will be an album that may be hard to swallow, but even harder to forget. Working with producer Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira), they’ve been “to hell and back on this one.”

Residing in LA, (“a sunny place for shady people”), Rothman’s working his way to the release of his debut album. Whispered promises lush that it won’t sound quite like anything else at the moment. It’s Rothman’s demeanour that creates responses of wide eyed bewilderment and gasping belief. You’ll believe anything spoken in the red wine vocals.

A true master of magic, Rothman colours a large canvas with splodges of the blues and lashings of jazz. He borders with undeniable pop, and blends in classical instrumentals with eerie shading. The end oeuvre bursts with a mad-cap vibrancy that hits the core with intoxication.

Though he begs the question, “In 2016 do genres still exist?”

Teasing treats from the album, latest release ‘Designer Babies’ features Kim Gordon and additional vocals from Angel Olsen. Its trip-hop rhythm haunts a harmonious, fast kicking choral. Well, it isn’t surprising. He also assembled a backing band comprising Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, producer/bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Warpaint’s Stella Mogzawa, and Active Child. 

Careful to not reveal too much outside of his music, Rothman begins “It’s hard when I am in a vulnerable creation state to not trigger those emotions into my art.” Adding finishing touches with electronic melodies and sugar coat glossing, he continues: “I listen to so many things from jazz, rock, hip-hop, movie soundtracks. When I write a song I let the song dictate what it wants and I follow the lead even if it’s into a sonic palette I have never swam in.”

Diving into the deep end is something that doesn’t scare or deter the musician. Explaining that “the album has been a process of chipping away at myself until the complete uncensored me without thought comes alive on every song.

“There has been 50 plus songs written and at one point I was thinking it may be a triple album. I am excited about this song called ‘Descend’. It’s a very heavy one for me. Just me and a piano.”

We go back a few years, and discover that the earliest memory of a song for the noir-popper is Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, complete with a classic video. A special friendship with award winning director Floria Sigismondi (who’s shot videos for the likes of David Bowie, Bjork, Marilyn Mason, Justin Timberlake and the film The Runaways) has led to his own masterpieces of rich, accompanying visuals.

Spending time with each, stories unfold and new worlds invite you in. Teasing a “Ha!” Rothman begins “My favourite episode, I guess that’s what I would call it… would have to be ‘California Paranoia.’ Before letting us into a secret, that all of the videos connect to each other forming a larger story yet to be revealed.

Thus far, we’ve seen experimental dance troupe WIFE morph into jazz-age mannequins, teasing flirtation with the moustached star. ‘USERS’ shoots us into Joshua Tree, where Rothman portrays a tattooed skin head battling with hallucinations. Showing the achingly real effects of mental health and medication, he portrays a nurse suffering with ‘California Paranoia’.

“I am a very visual person when I create music. I see the whole story of a given song unfold like film when I am writing.” Rothman lushes. “I get lost in these worlds daily much like lucid dreams. I love when I experience an actual lucid dream – these experiences and states get me excited that there is much more to our human story than the reality plain.”

Other videos have shown him take the role of an albino man, Elizabeth Taylor and a red headed goth. These people are his ‘alters’, when some of us sit on these hidden sides of our personalities, Lawrence “lets them exist in the world”.

With the release of the album pencilled in for June, it’ll soon be time to lose yourself in the slightly gauche, but generously detailed world of Lawrence Rothman. There’ll be opportunities to twirl on the dancefloor until feet become numb, and collapse on a bed in a sultry fashion. You’re about to breathe in the real LA.


Words by Tanyel Gumushan

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