Q&A: Max Lawrence Tries To Distract From The Dark With 'Gasoline'

Written by Staff Writers
Category: Music Published: Tuesday, 14 April 2020 14:17

Melbourne pop singer-songwriter Max Lawrence is continuing to indulge his love of absurdist pop with new single 'Gasoline'.

Crafted in close collaboration with Rino Darusman, 'Gasoline' comes after the acclaim of Max's debut EP 'Chlorophyll'.

Max's drive for songwriting comes from wanting to understand his place in the world, and his partnership with Rino results in a canvas full of bold colour and movement, bringing Max's original vision for the track to life in full technicolour.

We had a chat with Max about 'Gasoline' and his thoughts on being queer in the music industry in 2020.

Who is Max Lawrence as an artist?
I’m 23 years old and I grew up in the southern suburbs of Melbourne. I make art to try and understand the world and my place in it as a queer person, and a lot of my music is about liberation of the self.

I feel like I’m super ADD and change vibes a lot, because I love so many different styles of music to only make one type, so I would say I’m a chameleon stylistically, but I’d describe my sound at the moment as chaotic chamber pop with psych-rock and R&B elements. Regardless of style, I always want to make music that helps people feel a part of something bigger than themselves by observing a collective feeling, and then channelling that.

Tell us a little bit about 'Gasoline'.
'Gasoline' is about seeking out distractions from dark, existential thoughts on the state of the world through chasing money-driven careers or obtaining shiny new material possessions.

It’s basically me questioning traditional capitalist notions of what I should be doing with my life, all wrapped up in this dream-like state of denial, claiming that I must be happy in the end, right? It feels super relevant right now because we’re all a little scared and confused at the moment in this pandemic, and are looking for distractions, but we’re also starting to question the systems that govern us, which is cool to see.

What did your creative process look like when it came to writing this song?
So I wrote this one on guitar in mid 2018, when I was feeling really down and out and unmotivated. I was going through a pretty nihilistic period of my life, just wondering what the point of anything was, and that feeling was beginning to creep into my music. I was questioning within myself what kept me going, and desperately started to search and identify what that was. The line ‘feed me gasoline’ popped into my head and then the song just flowed from there.

I then wanted it to sound like this absurd, trippy dream state and produced it with kooky de-tuned bells, granulated weepy synths and washed out psych guitars with my close collaborator Rino Darusman, and here we are!

My creative process usually starts on an instrument, like keys or guitar, but can also start with a beat I’ve crafted, and I usually just sing whatever comes into my head in a flow state, until some little pearl makes itself known, and then I zero in on a certain idea or feeling, and maximise that in the sonic worlds of the production.

What's your intention each time you begin to put a song together – apart from, of course, finishing the song?
I just want to convey a feeling. Whether that be telling a story or exploring my deepest feelings through different lenses, my intention is always to explore some sort of personal truth in my music, and create something that someone can use as a vehicle for their own emotional liberation. To be honest I wish my intention was always to finish the song, because I have hundreds of unfinished songs gathering dust on my laptop!

You're quoted as saying you've felt a bit like you're on the outside looking in. Can you expand on this?
Growing up I was the sensitive, nerdy, weird kid who felt things incredibly intensely and would just cry all the time. I quickly learnt that didn’t really fly, and other kids never quite understood me and I often found myself having to perform a version of myself to fit in that wasn’t quite me.

As I approached my teens and discovered my own queerness I began to mute all those aspects of my personality that were pointy and brightly coloured just to survive high school. In having to do that I ended up really dimming my own light, which ended up with me feeling like an imposter, on the outside of people looking in on them, and trying to understand how they could love themselves when I couldn’t.

Most of my adult life has been spent unpacking and liberating myself from those social chains and rediscovering the sensitive soul I was when I was a kid. I’m always questioning my inbuilt beliefs and notions and find change so exciting now that I have the freedom to give myself love after years of fear and shame.

Making music has been a really self-affirming vehicle for my own personal growth, and I want to make music that can help people with that process too.

What is the most important thing to you when it comes to having a voice as a queer artist?
I think being queer means you have an inherently divergent lens when processing and describing the world and I think that point of view is a really valuable addition to the tapestry of human experience. Queer people are innately self aware, because we are forced to be, to adapt and survive, and I think that certain awareness of the self within social and political power structures causes deep introspection, which I believe produces good art. If that lesser-heard voice is then amplified and the art is spread, queer ideology of self love and liberation can also spread. I’m blessed and excited to have a queer voice, we’ve had decades of the same stories from a very small point of view and now the floodgates are open for lesser heard voices such as queer people and people of colour to express their lived experiences.

Is there another queer musician/artist you look up to or appreciate above others?
I absolutely adore the work of Perfume Genius, he channels this beautiful energy of tenderness, yet with this subversive, slinky edge that I’m addicted to. The way he frames a feeling musically and how he embodies the queer spirit of sensual rebellion is super inspiring, and he’s definitely shaped the artist and person I am today.

What are your thoughts on the current standard of representation of queer people in the music industry?
I think the rise of big queer acts coming from the US is incredibly heartwarming and inspiring, although I’d love to see a similar thing happen here in Aus. There aren’t many queer artists playing nationally, or on Triple J, yet I know SO many incredibly talented queer artists who would kill it with those opportunities. I’m thankful for platforms like JOYFM, festivals like Gaytimes, and stations with dedicated queer radio shows such as 4ZZZ who create spaces for queer voices. It’s up to us as the queer community to build up and support our artists so that they can go out and tell our stories.

'Gasoline' is out now.

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