Analogue Music | Lawrence


By Matt Conner

You'll come for the sound. You'll stay for the storytelling.

It's the gospel flair, the R&B grooves, the jazzy instrumentation, the early soul tones—all wrapped in modern pop sensibilities. In a digital era where genre lines are blurred, Lawrence is comfortable owning them all.

But what's just as compelling about this brother-sister duo is their focus on storytelling. They appreciate the nuances. They consider the details. Their experiences are verses to be written, choruses to be memorized, and they offer them freely to their passionate fan base as a way to connect at the most meaningful level.

Together, these stories in song are irresistible, which is why they're converting fans left and right these days. On the verge of releasing their latest album, Living Room, we caught up with Clyde and Gracie Lawrence to tell us more about the band's early success with their debut, Breakfast, and the ethos behind their songs.

Analogue: If I’m putting myself in your shoes, there’s a defined audience now with expectations and excitement. It’s not hard to get online and see people really excited about what you’re putting out now and what’s to come.

Gracie: It definitely feels different putting out this album than putting out Breakfast. I mean, all the important things remain the same. We want the music to be good, and we want people to enjoy it. But with Breakfast, we just had no idea, aside from friends and family, who would be listening.

Putting out this next album, Living Room, we have a fan base that we’ve amassed and established over the past two years, and it’s exciting to feel that maybe this album will reach more than just that audience. Yet it’s exciting to know that they’re there and excited and anxious to hear the material.

Also the making of the album changed slightly. We would never do anything to change or sacrifice what our authentic, creative vision or process is, but it was cool to think, 'Maybe this section of our fans are really going to get into this song, and this section of our fans are really going to get into this other song.'

Our parents both work in the arts and instilled in us the importance of storytelling

Clyde: Yeah, with Breakfast, we were really making the album for ourselves while, at the same time, trying to make something that some at that point non-existent group of people would hopefully latch onto. With this album, we’re still making for ourselves, but we’re also making it for a very real group of people that did latch onto the first one. That’s really awesome to be thinking about trying to respect that fan base and thank them for their support of the last album while trying to evolve and maybe reach out to a group of people that either didn’t have Breakfast enter their airspace. We’re always trying to think about those things.

Analogue: Given that you didn't know there was an audience for your music, did that surprise you on the other side of it?

Clyde: Yes, we were shocked that anybody other than our parents and grandparents would give a crap about what we’re doing. Gracie and I have been playing music together since we were such little kids, and it’s always been the thing that we have gravitated to. I think it’s always been part of our vision and our reality. There was no other real option or vision of our life path that didn’t involve us making music that people latched onto. At the same time, it was really an experience unlike anything we’ve had. After years and years, an entire life worth of playing music together, it was really interesting and gratifying the feeling of starting to have people really come out.

Gracie: I would also add that although we hadn’t really done formal tours in the years preceding Breakfast, we had toured around colleges through friends of friends or people that had heard that the band was playing at Brown, where almost everyone in the band went. We would then travel to other schools. So we had tested some of our material and it allowed us to hone in on the vibe that we were, so that it wasn’t so shocking to us. We weren’t going through that process while making an album.

Clyde: Yeah, although Breakfast was our entrance into the average person’s listening space, it wasn’t just us trying our hand at something. That was after years of playing shows and finding our sound.

Credit: Ray Lego

Analogue: I'm glad you brought up that sound because it's just so compelling. That soulful sound and genre blend makes me curious about your childhood soundtrack.

Gracie: Clyde and I grew up listening to the music that our parents would play us and went from there. Fortunately our parents have really good taste in music like Motown and Stevie Wonder, Carole King, The Beatles, The Beach Boys. We grew up listening to this incredibly amazing songwriting.

Our parents both work in the arts and instilled in us the importance of storytelling, that basically any form of art is just a form of storytelling, so I think that’s kind of informed our whole perspective on music and writing. We’re constantly, in terms of the sound, referencing things we listened to growing up, but just as a through line as we evolve. We always feel like our songwriting is just a form of storytelling.

Analogue: I love what you just said, Gracie, because that's an element that I really connected with in your music: the way that you name the commonplace. It’s when you sing about ordering pad thai or other common daily references that I think help it be accessible in that way. Is that purposeful on your end, to include those details?

Clyde: As a songwriter, as a lyricist particularly, but as a storyteller in general, I’ve noticed that so much art, particularly pop music, tends to be very black and white. If it’s a love song, it’s "you’re the love of my life” and “you’re my soul mate” and “you’re my everything,” but if it’s a breakup song, it’s “I hate you” and “I’m so depressed” or “I’m so over you. I’m so much better without you.”

Songwriting has been such a core way for me to express myself since a young age, and there’s always been a real connection to me between the real things I was feeling and the music I wanted to write. With Gracie as well, we have really made it a mission of ours to make songs that musically and lyrically express something from more of a gray area, one that feels authentic to the ways we feel in real life. If it’s a love song, it can be, “This is a really great relationship we have, but I still have my reservations about it.” Or we could say, “I love going on adventures with you, but really we’re doing nothing. We’re just watching tv and eating pad thai, and that is like the truest version of this relationship that I’m in." Or if I’m going through a breakup, "Some days I feel like I’m really over people, but I get stuck back in these moments where I’m not."

Those are more like the things that I think we feel, and we think a lot of other people feel, and we think those things are kind of underrepresented in music. They’re a little more nuanced and maybe a little less sexy, but that’s sort of the music we’re trying to write. You’ll even hear that tonally this album is a little different than the last one, because the things we’re going through in life are a little bit different than the last one. It’s the same people with the same stories and the same characters being me and Gracie, but the actual events and the way we feel about them are a little different.

Analogue: Do you find that people connect with that? Are people able to name that as they reflect to you what they love about the music or how they’re connecting?

Gracie: I think they may not put it in the exact same terms as Clyde just put it, but like where you just said, naming the pad thai as a reference, I think that we tend to enjoy writing these details that we know are just actually authentic to our lives. I think, weirdly, the more details you give, the more it’s actually relatable.

Clyde: That’s a very true thing that we’ve thought about a lot.

Gracie: Yeah, like I think that even though it seems like if we make a really broad statement, it might appeal to more people, I think when you get into the nuances of emotion, that’s where the relatability really lives. We just put out a song "Try" off of our new album, and even that being the name of the song, trying is just the epitome of a gray area. People will reach out to me like, "Yeah, I’ve never heard something like that, where it’s just about the frustration of sort of this in between." I think that we’re very conscious of that as the writers, and I’m glad that people can kind of feel it.

I think when you get into the nuances of emotion, that’s where the relatability really lives.

Analogue: Clyde, you mentioned earlier the evolution of the second record. Can you take inside that with specifics?

Clyde: Totally. A lot of the songwriting approach is similar and is still coming from our voices. It’s almost like if it’s a TV show that you watch and this is the next season. The characters are doing different things. Much of Breakfast was about a happy relationship I was in, and much of this new record, Living Room, is about the break-up that ensued of that relationship. Gracie has had similar things that are the next chapter of her life. With all of that said, the songwriting is going to feel familiar to Lawrence fans.

I think the biggest evolution on the album is in terms of production. We self-produced Breakfast with a fellow producer named Eli Crews, and he put it really well that Breakfast is a little bit more documentarian; it sounds like the best version of our live sound. This record, Living Room, is a little bit more cinematic in terms of the sounds that we’re bringing in. The studio is acting as more of an instrument. There’s some more digital sounds, more synths, and almost every song has both digital drums and live drums combined. And the vocal textures are, at times, a little bit more saturated in a way that almost sounds unreal or processed. So we played around with a lot of things that we didn’t really dive into on Breakfast. It still definitely lives in the soul realm, maybe pushing a little more into R&B. It’s hard to qualify.