” I Woke Up Today Laughing” is the brand new album by alt-indie rock outfit Elle PF, and it’s their first LP since 2018’s “She Wrote it” – the band’s debut album.
The sophomore album is that firm second step we’ve all been waiting for. A sharpening of the sound we heard the first time around, and an outstretched hand reaching towards the future of the band. How does it compare? well, we kinda went and talked to Ranell LaBiche, the frontwoman of ELLE PF what her thoughts were regarding this new stage for the band, and I think we got some real insight here, Check it out:
“I Woke Up Today Laughing ” is great! It sounds warm and has a nice folksy slant to it. Was that always the idea when putting the songs together or just how it all naturally came out together?
Interesting. I have not thought of it as ‘folksy’ per say, but I think it naturally came together. I think a few of the songs on the album could even be categorized into completely different genres so I was nervous to put them all together. But in the end somehow it still sounds cohesive. The only conceptual intention I had going into it was lyrical. Keeping the content very personal and use the songs to process specific relationships and experiences in my own life.
How do you feel the band has grown since the release of “She Wrote it”? How has the approach to songwriting and recording changed in the interim?
Structurally, I moved from writing longer linear, movement-esque pieces to writing shorter, more traditional formatted songs with actual verses and choruses. The new album feels more refined and has a more authentic live-rock band feel. I still wrote the songs (chords/lyrics/structures) and took lead on decision-making in production, but writing the live arrangements and final versions of the songs were collaborative with the band. Together we really made them into what they are now. I think we all enjoyed the process!
Unlike the last album that was recorded ourselves in my basement, ‘I Woke Up Today Laughing’ was recorded in a studio and we hired a very cool engineer, Brett Bullion, who also mixed the album.
The lyrical content in this album is much more personal and direct.
I *have* woken up laughing, but I’m still curious about the origin of the title. Is it just that?
The title is taken from a line in the song ‘Freak’ that goes “I wake up laughing to my morbid dreams, they’re much too close to this reality”
For me, the title encompasses the feeling of laughing in reaction to something seeming so silly, absurd, or terrible in hindsight.
I think finding humor in ourselves and the hard things we go through is a way to cope and can be healing at times.
This is your biggest release since 2018. What’s the mood like right now? what are your expectations like?
We kept delaying this release due to the pandemic with the hope to return to live shows, but as we know that didn’t happen. And the more time that passes, the more distant I feel from these songs. Ha, I mean..the past 2 years have felt like 10.
I think the mood is one of acceptance. I also feel a renewed sense of appreciation for the things we do still have. Whatever happens, happens. It’s hard to know what to expect on a response level, for the music industry is evolving (and has been evolving) into something completely different.
I think it can be hard to define success as an artist. I focus on the idea that we already succeeded by creating something. Anything as a result of that is a bonus and pleasant surprise.
Do any particular favorite songs stand out among the members of the band?
I asked the band members to each send me their individual response to this question!
John (drums) – “I think mine is “Don’t Think Too Much.” I think it’s a great pop song and it is a lot of fun to play. I love the lyrics and the hook in the chorus.
Doc (guitar) – “It’s honestly hard to choose. ‘Freak’ and ‘Same Mistakes’ are extremely fun to play but ‘Ultimatum’ is the song that made me want to join the band. That riff is so good I wish I wrote it.
**shout out to Tyler Phelps (former guitarist) for that guitar riff
Jenessa (bass/backup vocals) – “Bad Habits is my favorite song on the record because of very personal reasons..a song about addiction and struggles that so many people are afraid to talk about. it’s my personal favorite because it was a song that Ranelle wrote in treatment and played to us when she got back. I won’t ever forget how scary of a time it was thinking about potentially losing one of my greatest friends. whose talent is unmatched. music really brought us together and it has been the bond for her & I. and it’s probably one of the
best relationships I’ve literally ever had. so bad habits. I feel like we’ve all had to grieve bad habits at some point in our lives. it’s a song of hope and release & crying & saying goodbye to things that no longer serve us.”
Me (Ranelle) – I really like how ‘Same Mistakes’ turned out. It went through a lot of stages in that I originally wrote it on an acoustic guitar, then rearranged it on piano before bringing to the band to find its final rock form. The end of the song is really cathartic and fun to play live. The dissonant, circus-esque interlude fills my angsty need to create chaos.
I suppose every song is personal for the songwriter, but in some way, I feel both “Freak” and “Bad Habits” are kind of the most vulnerable tracks, is that just my perception or do you think there’s some validity to that?
It is all very personal, but I can see some validity to that. ‘Freak’ reveals my darker side in a way that is playful and whimsical.
‘Bad Habits’ on the other hand, reveals it in a much more serious tone. I wrote it while at an inpatient treatment facility in Arizona while being treated for anorexia. I had also recently relapsed in my addiction. My therapist gave me the assignment to write the song. And while there I received a letter in the mail from my good friend and former bandmate, Katharine Seggerman, where she mentioned the idea of “grieving bad habits.” I held onto her words and the step became an important part of my healing. Today I live gratefully in recovery from both my eating disorder and addiction. And the coolest thing now is I get to work at a mental health treatment center as a music therapist and get to help others write songs to tell and/or process their stories. Music is so powerful and healing. It continues to amaze me.
Unless you’d like to keep it a mystery, can you share some of the story behind the photograph used as cover artwork?
Idk..I was just going through an old photo album one day and saw it and was like…that’s the album cover. It is a childhood photo of me and my best friend at the time, Matthew, at our joint birthday party at the roller rink. We were born on New Year’s Eve in the same hospital.
The bear on roller skates definitely makes you question, ‘okay what is going on here?’ I think it’s funny the things we package as normal “children” things and then see them years later and think… “wow that was kinda creepy or weird.”
It fits with the album title idea..things seem funny or absurd in hindsight.
Sometimes a song isn’t coming out right so it needs extra work on behalf of the band and the producer/mixer. Which song felt the most challenging to work on -if any.
I think the most challenging part was just me, an insatiable perfectionist with sensitive ears sitting with a mix and overthinking every little detail.
If I was given the freedom to forever go back and do things differently until I thought it was exactly right, it would probably never be done. Sorry to everyone I may have driven insane with my obsessions in this process.
We already enjoyed watching “Ultimatum”. are there any upcoming music videos planned for this release?
Speaking of plans: Will you be taking “I Woke Up Today Laughing ” live and/or on tour soon? if so, any tentative dates to get excited for?
Yes! I will be returning to our band’s hometown, Minneapolis, to play a celebratory show in late Spring. Depending on what’s going on at that time, we will likely follow it with a very miniature Midwest tour i.e. Milwaukee, Chicago.
My hope is to also play some shows in Los Angeles (where I currently now) starting this summer.
Story: Samuel Aponte Photos: Elena Stanton
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