Hot on the heels of a propitious year full of viral TikTok takeoffs, debut album releases, and apocalyptic escapism, (all in the midst of an earth-shattering pandemic), 20-year-old Beatrice Kristi Laus – better known as Beabadoobee – just keeps turning up the volume.
As we chat over zoom, she sits in her teen bedroom, walls peppered with artsy doodles and draped in an eclectic tapestry. Bea is the Manic Pixie of bedroom pop, set somewhere between naughties bubblegum-pop and garage-band sounds for the melancholy “sad girl” sub-genre she embodies. With a body of work delving deep into everything from mental health to hope, and embedded by a ‘fuck it’ attitude, Beabadoobee is an artist with raw honesty at the heart of everything she creates. “I don’t want to hide anything from anyone,” she says.
Bea is often noted for her intimate sound inspired by the likes of The Smiths, The Beatles and Elliot Smith, as well as Original Filipino Music bands such as Itchy Worms and APO Hiking Society. She was raised on a diet of rock and indie classics interwoven with the sui generis sounds of the audacious female bands her mum listened to; The Cranberries, Life Without Buildings and Juliana Hatfield sometimes worm their way into her music. Artists like Alanis Morisette and My Bloody Valentine helped Bea reach a melting point between bittersweet rage and melodic euphoria, blending them together for an intoxicating effect on her unapologetic tunes. From her debut album Fake It Flowers to the viral TikTok track ‘Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head)‘, from Powfu, which heavily samples Bea’s first-ever song, Coffee, perhaps the most striking thing about the artist is her poignant lyrics and utter candour. “I think it’s really healthy to reference other artists,” Bea says. “I definitely spend a lot of long car rides just researching and finding loads of new music.“
The evolution of Beabadoobee’s stage name from a “kind of dumb” Finstagram handle to an illustrious alias began during the era of the iconic children’s film Despicable Me. While brainstorming for a handle for her private Insta, Bea struggled to find anything vacant that also had her name in it. When Beabadoobee randomly came to mind, she thought it was funny and “a bit like a minion on acid.” So when her friend Oscar suggested she needed a stage name, she chose the Minionese pseudonym because she “thought it would be jokes and no one was going to give a shit about it, or me.” Bea never expected such sudden success to come her way. Actually, she had never even intended to be a musician at all, but rather a nursery teacher. When record labels began pursuing her en masse for her “fun side thing” she realised that her music made people happy – a gratifying enterprise, not too different to that of nursery teaching – and it made her want to make more. “It felt really nice, like creating art that made people feel happy,” she says.
Making her way through music one hip hit after another, Bea is a self-made indie-rock sensation, but behind the Gretsch Princess guitar and the saccharine spliffs, her work is about more than teen angst and youthful abandonment. As a British-Philippino immigrant from Iloilo City spurred on by ever-prevalent social issues, she brings her personal experiences and traumas into tune as well. Bea is a simple Philipino-born girl making noise about the colourism and misogyny permeating her life.
In her adolescence, she attended a predominantly white all-girls catholic school out of West London, which at times was an incredibly alienating experience for the singer being an AAIP person. “I was embarrassed about being my own race,” Bea admits. She even used to plaster her skin with light-coloured foundation, attempting to make herself appear ‘more white’ – which is nothing unfamiliar to people of colour affected by subjugation and diaspora in their youths.
Bea turned to music after an unanticipated expulsion from school at the age of 17, using it as an outlet to channel her feelings into a cathartic medium. “When I feel really shit, I get manic and I don’t know what to do. So, I used to do stupid things to make me feel better,” she explains. “But when I started making music, I replaced all those stupid things with creating something and distracting myself, making it way more uplifting than the actual situation… I have to make music for myself to be okay.”
When I feel really shit, I get manic and I don’t know what to do. I used to do stupid things to make me feel better, but when I started making music, I replaced all those stupid things with creating something and distracting myself, making it way more uplifting than the actual situation… I have to make music for myself to be okay.
At that time, Bea’s father gifted her, her first guitar and it was the perfect second-hand find. “He was just like, ‘you seem really depressed, here’s a guitar’,” she laughs – and now she’s repped by iconic indie record label Dirty Hit Records. But it was a strange and transitional period in her life due to the vague circumstances of her expulsion. She explains, “Most of the girls that got kicked out were people of colour and people who were in therapy or counselling sessions and we were collectively not doing too well at school already. All the people that got kicked out weren’t as rich as the other girls.” Forced to leave without just reason in the middle of the year, the girls were unable to apply to go anywhere else and were evidently left “school-less”. Bea was lucky enough to get into a school in Hammersmith, but for her peers it took a fellow expelled classmate’s lawyer mother to counter the unusual eviction. “All of the sudden the school called all the girls they kicked out and said, ‘Oh yeah, everyone come back, this is a mistake.’ And I was obviously like, fuck that I’m not going back.” Beabadoobee suspects that the events were related to the racial and economic prejudice permeating the school. “I wasn’t crazy rebellious,” she explains. “I used to smoke in the toilets, but it wasn’t because of that. It was weird; there was a weird pattern behind it. No one did anything bad enough to get kicked out.”
But these onerous experiences are not specific to her youth. Since the start of the pandemic violence against Asians has risen to an alarming level due to the Wuhan origins of the Coronavirus. For Bea that has meant constant harassment and fear. “Every day I see something happening with some stupid white dude doing something horrible to an innocent Asian person because they’re fucking racist. And because people continually link Asia to the Coronavirus, I constantly feel unsafe.” She adds, “The reason why I get so many Ubers is because every time I go on public transport, I get harassed.”
Every day I see something happening with some stupid white dude doing something horrible to an innocent Asian person because they’re fucking racist. And because people continually link Asia to the Coronavirus, I constantly feel unsafe.” She adds, “The reason why I get so many Ubers is because every time I go on public transport, I get harassed.“
And in the industry, it’s clear that not conforming to white-cis ideals within music, and especially as a prominent social presence, can be a challenging feat often met with harsh criticism and immoral degradation. “I feel like I have to work twice as hard to be heard and twice as hard to get my point across,” she explains. “People don’t always take me seriously as a woman which has been really frustrating when ‘toying with the big boys’. And so many people make microaggressions which are just uncomfortable.”
Unsurprisingly, Bea’s socials are also rife with obtrusive direct messages, often from white men, that sexually objectify her body and fetishize her race. “It’s dehumanizing,” she admits. “Why do you have to include where I come from and my race with wanting to fuck me? It’s disgusting.” This is a statement many people of colour can relate to where they are involuntarily objectified for the colour of their skin. “Social media can be such a wonderful thing,” Bea adds. “You know, for putting your art out there and for people to notice you, and educating people, informing people. But it’s also open to creepy men.”
I want my music to show hope.
Expressing her raw emotions and opening up about the oppressive way in which she’s been forced to walk through the world comes with its own challenges, but there’s a spirited sentiment in her mannerisms and articulation that suggests she’s maintained her innate lighthearted outlook through thick and thin, and of course, Bea’s deep-seated felicity permeates her music through each intonation and baggy drum beat. And coming to the fore of it all is Bea’s main objective. She says, “I want my music to show hope.”
“You made it / It’s your last day on Earth / (…) Well, and if it all goes wrong / And it looks like we’ll soon be gone / Then we should all just get along,” Bea sings, on her new single, ‘Last Day on Earth‘. It’s an uplifting summer anthem that captures a feeling of youthful freedom and Nineties nostalgia seamlessly, inspired by all of the riotous things the singer would have done if she’d had a heads up about the impending lockdown. “Imagine if we knew that lockdown was going to happen a week beforehand, like the amount of shit I would have done, “ Bea explains. “(…) I’d go to every single bar in London and get fucked up. I would appreciate everything so much more. I wouldn’t take anything for granted.“
Accompanied by a music video amalgamating Nineties cinematography and reworked Y2K style – where the clothing was actually the Parisian kids featured in the film’s own – director Arnaud Bresson crafted a nostalgic vision of the idyllic teenage dream, unadulterated. And for Bea, who is obsessed with Harajuku and Y2K ways of dressing, the kids wore just the kind of colourful, laid-back looks she loves so much.
‘Last Day on Earth’ is a track that just might take the summer by storm, but it’s not the only new release on our radar. Smiling from ear to ear, Beabadoobee is quick to assert that she’s crazy excited for the release of Our Extended Play, her newest EP dropping later this year. Our Extended Play was written and recorded on a “weird little farm in the middle of nowhere,” in collaboration with The 1975’sMatty Healy and George Daniel– smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. “It felt like we were running away from a zombie apocalypse,” she says.
From the get-go there was a chilled atmosphere about the Oxfordshire farmhouse: “We had loads of great food, loads of funny videos, loads of weed,” Bea says. Spent mostly making music, but also bush-whacking in the woods and raving over ‘the Pancake Chef’s – AKA Matty’s – peng crepes, the young musician admits that this was one of her best musical experiences yet.
It doesn’t take much more than a glance or a snippet of sound to know that Beabadoobee is an artist with style oozing from her every step, be it in art, fashion, or music. Her future gleams gold with COVID-19 clearing and her next album already on the go. And just FYI: Bea – who is only 20-years-of-age, need I remind you – is about to buy the house of her dreams. “I found the perfect house. It’s like it was literally made for me,” she explains. “It’s yellow and the owner said, ‘bees think it’s a flower’! And my name is Bea!” Talk about a match made in heaven. But for the moment it’s day after day spent indoors with Soren, her boyfriend of five years, and her parents. Bea says, “I’m just chilling because right now there’s nothing to do.”
Emily Phillips is a BIPoC Canadian writer presently based in North London. She is a current BA: Fashion Journalism student at University of the Arts London: London College of Fashion. Emily has an insightful, creative, and seductive voice that shines through in her writing. Her work has been published in 10 Magazine and Coeval Magazine, as well as the 2021 book Networked Futures: Online Exhibitions and Digital Hierarchies from the digital art gallery platform isthisit?
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