Though she is yet to release a full-length album, Renforshort - the moniker of Canadian artist Lauren Isenberg - is already set to be around for the long haul. At only 19 years of age, the singer-songwriter has been applauded by NME for her handle on “raw rock anthems'', and heralded by Rolling Stone as a “grunge-pop star.”
But even behind a heavenly body, there’s a constellation of fellow musical acts reflecting the light. In Isenberg’s case, that’s everyone from Linkin Park frontman Mike Shinoda to production wunderkind Jeff Hazin (also behind rising pop gem Anna Sofia). Isenberg’s most recent musical adventures have also seen her team up with Brazilian virtuoso Mateus Asato for a guitar-heavy reimagining of Gorillaz single Feel Good Inc.
Following the release of sophomore EP Off Saint Dominique, we caught up with Renforshort in her LA digs to talk teenage angst, alternate tunings, and the Taylor GS Mini Series.
Your previous EP, teenage angst, tackled subjects such as anxiety and self-image. How does songwriting begin for you? Is it a digital sound or GarageBand edit, or are you more likely to be noodling on your guitar?
"Most of the time, I get surges of creativity at three in the morning. If I want a certain sound or something that sounds different, I like playing with different tunings. So I'll be up in bed for two hours, trying different tunings and seeing if I come up with anything cool.
"I always end up going for DADFAD. There are so many things you can do in that tuning. I'll record them in voice memos and write everything down. If I'm not familiar with the tuning at all, I'll be like, 'First finger on the E string of the whatever fret.' I will read that and try and translate it, so I remember when I go to the studio to track it."
When did you first pick up the guitar? Did you have lessons while you were at school or was it a self-taught thing?
"My brothers are insane guitarists. I grew up on the piano and then I started playing guitar three or four years ago. I have an incredible teacher. We spend 30 minutes doing theory every other week. I didn't learn theory in school because I never took music, so it was something that I had to pick up.
"[But I know] I need to do the theory to know how to compose my own music. I love having cool musical breaks in my songs. I'm not a bridge writer; I'm more of a musical bridge type of person. Learning solos from songs that I like, that's how you do it."
Last summer you shared Mike Shinoda’s remix of i drive me mad, where the Linkin Park man gave a fresh take on production duties. Was nu-metal a genre that spoke to you when you were growing up?
"It was the weirdest thing because, when I was in history class in grade 12, I was looking at my Instagram and I saw, 'Mike Shinoda followed you on Instagram.' I literally got up. I stood up and I was like, 'Mike Shinoda just followed me on Instagram.' He ended up being such a mentor for me.
"I would sit on FaceTime with him and he'd be like, ‘If you need any help with anything or if you need any guidance, because it's a fucked-up industry to be in, especially for someone as young as you, I'm here for that.’ It's crazy being able to talk to someone who's been so influential in my life and so many people's lives."
Your sophomore EP, Off Saint Dominique, was released this month. What do you feel are the biggest differences between this record and your teenage angst EP?
"teenage angst was a good introduction to myself as an artist. I was young. I made all these songs when I was 14 to 15 years old. There are a few good songs on there, but this project is more advanced.
"Every time I go into that period of making music, everything advances a bit. With this project, that's exactly what it is. It feels more mature and it feels tighter. I listen to it all the time because I'm really proud of it."
The first single virtual reality goes back to the stripped-back roots of your acoustic playing, but then kicks in with screeching electric lead lines. Talk me through how you begin layering up a track like that.
"I did that with this New York-based producer, Pom Pom (aka Kellen Pomeranz). When we work together, a lot of the time we track into voice memos because it gives it a grittier sound.
"It sounds almost fuller because you get the acoustics of the room and then it layers up. We layer the acoustic on top of the electric and make it big to get that grungier, dirtier sound."
How did your collaboration with Glaive – the moniker of 15-year-old Ash Gutierrez – come together on fall apart?
"He wanted to work with my producer, Jeff Hazin, and came with my song Bummer as a reference. Jeff showed me the music they were doing together and I got so into him.
"He's so talented and such a good writer. He's one of my favorite artists right now. I was like, 'Oh my God, you'd be perfect for the song.’ So I sent him the song. He tracked the verse perfectly first time."
You’ve kept in a lot of the natural recording sounds in that track – you hear the two of you speaking and also the plugging in of the guitar. Was it important to keep some of that self-made spirit?
"The funny thing about this song is it's the only song of mine that I haven't been like, ‘Lyrics are so important,’ because I wrote this song with placeholder lyrics. The mic was going because we were doing demo vocals. It had one of those one-take vibes, and then I ended up liking how raw it sounded with those sounds in there – the white noise and the conversations.
"I was like, 'I don't want to even redo these vocals, because it's a feeling.’ It's a feeling song. I wrote it a long time ago but we always knew we needed a feature for it. We just needed to find the right person, and then we found Glaive."
You recently teamed up with Brazilian neo-soul guitarist Mateus Asato for a cover of Gorillaz's, Feel Good Inc. What appealed to you about Mateus's playing style?
"Mateus feels so original and fresh to me, so I knew he could come up with something incredible. When we got the solo, I knew we made the right decision. Every single part of it was so captivating and new-sounding, like nothing I’ve ever heard before. He killed it and was a pleasure to work with!"
The last few tracks, exception and this is just a story, lean a lot on fingerpicking acoustic. What was your guitar of choice?
"I have a Taylor GS Mini with a little pickup we put in. I got it for my birthday a couple of years ago and I love it. My brothers all ended up getting them too because they loved mine so much.
"I also have two Fender Lead series electrics, and my brothers have a lot of cool guitars, so I can get different sounds from theirs as well. We have a decent rig set up!"
- Off Saint Dominique is out now via Interscope Records.