With the pandemic in its third year now, many Gen Z music artists like relative newcomer Au/Ra had to create an entirely new roadmap when it comes to innovation. All the unique challenges that lockdown brought to the world have made the success of Au/Ra’s singles like “Dead Girl!” all the more impressive. With dark overtones reminiscent of Billie Eilish’s early work, Au/Ra’s EP Soundtrack to an Existential Crisis is still a record quintessentially herself that deconstructs what it means to be Gen Z today. Au/Ra understands the role of emotions, yet has moments when she can’t stand to confront them, like on the recent single “Screw Feelings,” while at other times she tackles them head-on, like on “Bite Marks.”
Au/Ra clued us in on how she was able to stay creative during the lockdown while crafting the EP. Working with more women played a huge role in the process, keeping her at ease during production and letting her express herself in a way she never had before, which makes Soundtrack to an Existential Crisis all the more enjoyably authentic. Since the LP’s release, Au/Ra has also released the newest singles ”Golden Hour” and “plz don’t waste my youth.”
Read the full interview from The Untitled Magazine‘s latest print edition, The “INNOVATE” Issue, out now.
What inspired your stage name “Au/Ra”?
I was a huge Lord of the Rings fan when I was 12-14, and still love it of course. I wrote a spin-off fan fiction where the main character’s name was Aura. I just loved the name so much, it felt right.
How would you describe your sound and style to someone who may never have heard your music?
I would say it’s story-pop inspired by darker elements, some electronic moments, and with tons of metaphorical lyrics. Although, I’ve been trying out more honest straightforward lyrics too recently, which has been a fun and different approach. But yeah, I just make whatever I feel like! It’s hard to label.
You were born in Ibiza to German parents and raised in Antigua. Does that unique mix of Mediterranean and Caribbean island culture influence your music in any way?
I am definitely connected more to my Caribbean side than the Mediterranean just because I’ve spent more time there — but I love both. Although the culture is so important to me, I definitely have always loved pop music and that was the way to go for me. I try and bring in my experiences through my lyrics instead.
Can you tell us some of the overall themes of Soundtrack To An Existential Crisis? What’s the main feeling you want to bring across?
Growing up, I’ve always felt very existential and had moments where I felt very outside myself. During lockdown, living with my family again spending days on end in my room, I started feeling that again. It’s a scary feeling, but also amazing at the same time because it made me understand myself better. The title track really encompasses it sonically, and all the other songs paint the picture. I wanted to make a body of work listeners could turn to if they’re also feeling lost.
A lot of the songs on the project like “Screw Feelings” and “no future” feel very relatable for the current times. Are there specific events that inspired those songs? What was your main approach when it came to the lyrics?
I wrote those two tracks two years ago, but they really do suit the current times. I think things have always been kind of complicated? These feelings have just always been there for me growing up: wanting to numb my emotions because I’m such a sensitive person on “Screw Feelings,” and not wanting to worry about an uncertain future and live in the moment, on “no future.”
You’ve shared before that making “Screw Feelings” was the first time you made a song with only women in the room. How was that process different from songs you wrote before, and how did it affect the end product?
It was so much fun. The best way to explain it is we all just had a similar energy from having similar experiences with how we felt, as women and just as young humans haha.
The project has a pretty dark tone overall. What role does darkness play in your life and your music?
It’s dark, but there’s also a strange kind of relief and acceptance in there. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve looked in the mirror and felt moments of existentialism. Being able to understand my own darkness has really helped me understand the good and be so much more grateful for it. Writing about it, and sonically bringing that feeling to life like on this EP, has helped me root myself in real life. Writing about dark emotions is so satisfying because it almost feels like you’ve contextualized them and therefore made them less scary. It also gives listeners an opportunity to feel that with you.
Your music tackles Gen Z issues like our relationship with social media and mental health. Do you write specifically with your generation in mind?
I mean just by being a part of it that naturally happens. I was 12 when I got Instagram and started my Ariana Grande fanpage [laughs], and then started editing anime on there too. I completely understand the effect and weirdness of it, but at the same time it’s so normal to me. So yes, naturally because I’m feeling it all, it reflects directly in my music and everything I do. But on top of that I also enjoy writing about things I know some people might need to hear.
What unique struggles did the pandemic present to you? How were you innovative during lockdown?
I definitely was pushed to be a bit more DIY with a lot of creative stuff I shared, but it was so much fun! I got to really work with the family around me. My sister and my dad helped me a lot. It was cute. But at the same time during lockdown, I was in Antigua the whole time. As much as I love being there (also it being a whole paradise-like Caribbean island) and it really feeling like some kind of forced break, I hated that part of it. I love being on the thrill. It’s really hard for me to stay in one place for too long because I’m so not used to it.
What other projects can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’m just always creating something, so I’m itching to already put together the next phase. I love creating lore within music and I have a bigger picture storyline that I can’t wait to show my listeners eventually.
Photography by Simon Emmett @simonemmettstudio for @theuntitledmagazine
Stylist Rebekah Roy @rebekahroy_
Make-up by Emma Osborne @eosborne_makeup
Hair by Paul Donavan @pauldonovanhair
Set Designer Emma Witter @emmawitter_setdesign