interview | lauv

shirt. Louis Vuitton
button down shirt. Unknown
trousers. Ann Demeulemeester
shoes. Naked Wolfe
tie. Saint Laurent
bracelet. Azature
shirt. Louis Vuitton
button down shirt. Unknown
tie. Saint Laurent
bracelet. Azature

Ari Leff – better known by his stage name Lauv – has quietly been one of pop’s strongest forces over the past few years. First breaking out in 2017 with the electro-pop smash “I Like Me Better”, the road has been nothing short of tumultuous. “I think the one thing I didn’t expect was how dark it could be in moments,” remarks the 28-year-old singer-songwriter, “…it was a fucking thrash.”

But if one thing is apparent on his new full-length All 4 Nothing, it’s that Leff has steadied the ship, and is firing on all cylinders as an artist as a result. The nimble thirteen-song effort showcases a level of introspection and candor not always common in pop music that shimmers so brightly.  “(It) was an exploration of finding that in myself,” he tells Schon, “and now I can go back into the world as this new me which feels more whole again.” From the poignant balladry of “Hey Ari” to the sleek pop swagger of “Molly In Mexico,” All 4 Nothing pronounces an artist really hitting his stride, and as a result, there’s a little something for everyone to take away from it.

You lived near Philadelphia for a while growing up. How old were you when you lived there?

Yeah! I lived near Philly from when I was 11 to when I graduated high school.

What was that like, being a music fan? Were you going into the city for shows through high school?

Yeah, all the time. In the city, and in Jersey to go to random pop punk shows.

Very Jersey [laughs].

It was really cool. I didn’t even realize it at the time. I got to see so many artists, so many bands. I was exposed to so much music. My friends and I would just go to shows. I wasn’t into drinking or anything in high school, so I would go to straight-edge shows and things like that. It was fun.

Any favourite Philly venues?

Oh yeah, The Trocadero, Electric Factory, TLA.

You’ve mentioned pop punk shows in Jersey. Music was a part of your life from an early age. What kind of music was driving you as a kid and young teenager?

When I actually developed my own music taste it was a lot of the emo, screamo, hardcore bands, all that stuff. Before then I was just one of those kids who was into classic rock, and then rap. I started getting into specific things during the MySpace era.

Any highlights from that era? One of my favourites from that scene was the second Sleeping with Sirens album, Let’s Cheers To This.

You know, I never really got into them. I loved bands like Never Shout Never, The Devil Wears Prada, Chiodos, Bring Me The Horizon.

The Starting Line?

The Starting Line, fuck yeah. Shit like that.

I read Owl City is a big influence of yours.

Oh yeah. 100%.

People don’t realize the artistic credibility of his music. What did it do for you when you were in your teenage years discovering your own sound?

It inspired me so much in terms of being a producer. I was into the stuff way before “Fireflies” was a big thing. Like Maybe I’m Dreaming. I actually wrote one of my college essays about that album. I was just so in love with the abstract lyricism, and crazy drums, ambient sounds. There was so much intricacy to it, and I loved it.

Were you into The Ready Set?

Oh yeah, 100%. He was honestly an idol of mine. I looked up to him so much.

I read you went to Steinhardt at NYU for Music Technology. Did you ever consider Drexel’s Westphal program? It would have only been a short train ride away for you.

I actually never knew about it. But I think it was good that I went to New York. I wanted to get out of the area.

suit. Sabato Russo
shirt. Helmut Lang
diamond lock necklace. Louis Vuitton
cuban link with diamonds. Azature
brooch. Vintage
shirt. Louis Vuitton
button down shirt. Unknown
tie. Saint Laurent
bracelet. Azature

Tell me a bit about the Music Tech program.

So it was less about production and more about the intricacies of audio engineering, like acoustics, or circuit building.

So a lot of math.

Yeah, a bit more broken down. It was interesting. I had a lot of fun being at NYU. I was definitely lucky to go there. Being in New York was definitely the biggest part of it, interning at studios, figuring it all out.

What year did you graduate?


There’s the Clive Davis school at NYU, and then Steinhardt. What was the dynamic like between those two schools? For people who don’t know, both of these schools at NYU feature some of the US’s premiere music industry programs.

I didn’t even really understand the difference. But from what I heard Clive was more songwriting and production, the more glamorous part of it. I feel there was this sort of “Music Tech vs. Clive” thing. I don’t know if it was felt mutually on both sides, but it was kinda funny.

Did you intermingle with the Clive kids much?

Yeah, a few. I kind of always wanted to meet more Clive kids, because it seemed like the “cooler” scene.

How did not only NYU, but New York City shape Ari and Lauv?

It was huge. I got introduced to Sam Cox at BMI, and she introduced me to Michael Matosic, who was one of the first songwriters I was co-writing with. We made a lot of my early shit together – “The Other”, “Reforget”, “I Like Me Better”. I was just a college kid trying to write and produce songs that would fit wherever they could. We were trying pitching to other people, and nothing was really clicking. But one day we made the first song where I was like, “Hey I wanna do this myself, and put it out for my own artist project.” That’s kinda how Lauv started. I was still wrapping up school, and it started to naturally blow up a little online so I figured I’d keep going. It just kept growing. Then I moved to LA, and it was crazy.

The name Lauv, it comes from the Latvian word for “lion”. Is one of your parents from Latvia?

My grandparents on my mother’s side are. We would go most summers growing up.

Where would you go? Riga?

We would stay in Jūrmala, and also go into Riga and stuff. We would spend time in the countryside, and go all over. It was really fun. I love Latvia.

You have a lot of dates coming up, anywhere you’re particularly excited to go to?

This sounds like one of those blanket answers but every city is fun in a different way for me. I haven’t been to Canada in a long time. I’m excited to play Toronto.

Your songs are really introspective. Are there any headspaces, moods, attitudes, etc. that you find bring out your best songs?

Wow, that’s a really good question. I’ve actually been thinking about this recently because this album was super introspective. It took me some amount of struggle to find light, positivity, and happiness again. Especially being in lockdown times. I was really deep into my head, existentially. If we’re gonna say the best songs are the ones that will connect people the most, I feel it’s the rawest and simplest emotions that result in the best songs. The simpler the better, in terms of emotions.

“Drugs & The Internet” from your first album “~how i’m feeling~” always stuck out to me. It’s very reflective, and I think All 4 Nothing moved more in that direction. When you’re trying to “make it” in music, or any public-facing field really, it can make the brain and body go through some crazy things. Was that song personally about you, or a character you created?

Pretty direct about my life. Some of the things are added, like for instance my mom doesn’t actually smoke cigarettes, but the emotion is from what I was going through. I find this a lot with my songs. I sometimes subconsciously write a song, and then way later process what I was saying or feeling. That song was a huge shock to me because I went from writing only songs about relationships, to that song just spilling out of me one day, so intensely. It was just reflecting on how my career had taken my life in this direction where I was hyper-obsessed with my image, the internet, having a brand, and coping with the anxiety from that – using substances, and how far that pulled me away from friendships and shit.

cardigan. 13 De Marzo
trouser. Kid Super
shoes. Nike
suit. Sabato Russo
shirt. Helmut Lang
boots. Naked Wolfe
diamond lock necklace. Louis Vuitton
cuban link with diamonds. Azature
brooch. Vintage

When you’re young and trying to “crack the establishment” so to speak – get the right team behind you, maintain the right brand, and so on – it can be sobering to look around sometimes and see where you’re at. Was that something that hit you hard?

Yeah, definitely.

How is that theme evident on All 4 Nothing?

The new album was me trying to navigate my way out of that headspace. On the last album there was that song, “Modern Lonliness”, “fuck i’m lonely”, “Lonely Eyes”. There’s a lot of lonely songs. I feel I used the time on this new album to realize that being surrounded by people wasn’t helping fix my loneliness. I needed to fill this hole in myself. All 4 Nothing was an exploration of finding that in myself, and now I can go back into the world as this new me which feels more whole again.

Where’d the album title come from?

Two reasons. First, I felt like “All 4 Nothing” should have been the title track. But it took on another meaning for me too, which is without that sense of wholeness and connection to your inner child, your roots, everything on the outside –  it doesn’t matter how great it is. Ultimately it can’t mean anything to you because you’re just not solid. It’s all for nothing.

You’ve said sometimes you write, and it takes a while to understand what it really means. Now that you’ve lived with these new songs for quite some time, how have they aged to you?

They’ve aged in the way where I can really see that some songs are such snapshots, as if the energy behind them is more important than the songs themselves. Some of my older songs were sometimes more theatrical, like a full-on movie lyrically, and everything. Some of these are just isolated incidents, like “Molly In Mexico” or “Bad Trip”, just feeling so much about these little snapshots.

The album opener is “26” which is about being in your mid-twenties, seeing everything around you is great but not being able to truly realize it. Would you say that song sets the tone for a lot of the rest of the album?

Yeah, that song for me was about the juxtaposition of where my life was at, on the surface, like how I could explain it to people, but really feeling so much different inside.

Any personal favourites on the album?

Definitely “Bad Trip”, “Hey Ari”, “First Grade”, “Molly in Mexico”.

You worked with John Cunningham on this album, who most notably worked with XXXTENTACION on his big album ?. What was the process like working with him as a producer?

Amazing. We both went to NYU at the same time and knew each other then. We used to make songs together to try to pitch to other artists. Then we both moved out to LA and were nebulously seeing each other from time to time, making music here or there, but it never really clicked in this big way. Then at some point in 2020 it just clicked. It felt amazing. There were a lot of songs that didn’t even end up making the album that were super dope. He’s just a genius. He’s an amazing producer and really cares so much about the art. He cares so much about how genuine it is, the authenticity, and just every piece of it. He’s a weird producer to watch work because he does things that you would never think made sense, but they sound so good.

What do you mean by that? Like chaotic uses of time-based effects, or how he constructs loops?

I think just the sounds he chooses, and how effortlessly they come together. I don’t know. It seems like there’s no effort, and no that many sounds, but they all come together in this crazy fucking way.

What does your process look like? Do you go in with a songwriting demo? Or something more fleshed out?

Honestly this album was different because a lot of it was freestyled, like I’d write the songs on the mic. Some of the songs he already had the beat fully produced, which I had never, ever done in the past. Some of them were demos and he would help finish them out, or we would do something from scratch together. It depended on the day.

Being an artist and musician now, how is it different from what you thought it was when you were first getting into music and the industry at a younger age?

That’s a good question. When I was a kid doing this shit, my grasp on the idea of what it could look like was so vague, that I just had no idea. I never imagined it going this far. I knew I wanted it to, but I felt very quick to judge myself on the whole thing. I think the one thing I didn’t expect was how dark it could be in moments, how hard, and intense it could be mentally. I just thought things would be fun. I had surface-level expectations. From going through it, I’ve come to the other side of being at peace now. But for a number of years, it was a fucking thrash. I was so hyper-focused, stressed out, and single-minded. I don’t want to say that I regret that, because I don’t. I’ve learned that in my life. It’s just really easy to get so focused on the dream and nothing else.

The bigger an artist project becomes, sometimes it becomes more stressful, because there’s a full team of people having livelihoods based on what you’re making. There are also a lot of personalities, and you’re in the public eye. As someone who’s at the point where you’re at, how do you see communities as different between being a smaller artist and bigger artist?

I think I definitely crave more of a sense of community. I feel there’s kind of – and maybe this is of my own doing through my own anxiety, and focus on my own shit – but I feel there’s a sense of isolation. It’s like damn, this shit should be more fun. Everyone should be more connected. And I’m sure some people really are. Sometimes I feel a little on my own, but that’s ok.

What do you hope people take away from what you’re doing as an artist?

I just hope people can feel a sense of relief from all the questioning of what life is supposed to be, and feel a connection to their true self, what makes them happy. It took me a long time to feel ok with that part of myself, so that’s what I really want people to get from this.

cardigan. 13 De Marzo
trouser. Kid Super
shoes. Nike
sweatshirt + scarf. Mithridate
trousers. Sabato Russo
boots. Naked Wolfe
green choker. House of Emmanuele

All 4 Nothing is out now.

photography. Ben Duggan
fashion. Douglas Van Laningham
talent. Lauv
grooming. Athena Alberto
casting + production. Alabama Blonde
location. Ivory Space
words. Andy Gorel

Schön! Magazine is now available in print at Amazon,
as ebook download + on any mobile device

by /

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,