Living up to the title of her debut release as Lorelei Dreaming, Laura Bienz is an electro/industrial Banshee, demonstrating a remarkable vocal talent. ReGen speaks with the Chicago musician about life, music, geek culture, and more!
An InterView with Laura Bienz of Lorelei Dreaming
By Will Sanchez (WillSuperior)
Chicago musician Laura Bienz has steadily established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Playing a significant role on Angelspit’s 2016 album Cult of Fake, she brought an adventurous melodic flair to the industrial/punk band’s aesthetic, making it one of the top dance floor albums of the year. Singing for the more emotional electronic leanings of St. Griselda allows her a more theatrically vocal oriented style that bridges pop flavor with a decidedly hard electronic edge. With Banshee, the debut release from her solo project Lorelei Dreaming, she steps out to present a creative vision that is definitively her own, bringing together all aspects of her musical personality for a varied yet cohesive concoction that is as fierce and heavy as it is soothing and introspective. ReGen Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Bienz on her background in the Chicago music scene and how it shaped her creative outlook; she touches on her different musical outlets, her partnership with Angelspit’s Zoog Von Rock, the prevalence of nerd culture both in the mainstream and in underground music, but all of that only scratches the surface of someone who is sure to be a trailblazing talent in the electro/industrial music scene for years to come.
In what ways does your artistic approach to vocals differ throughout the projects you’re involved with? In what ways do each of these projects allow you the most artistic and creative liberty?
: With Angelspit, the vocal delivery is very often a sing/speak or shout with a sneer. It is full of aggression and fire, and there is no holding back. It is waging war onstage. St. Griselda vocals are usually driven by a musical theatre style. When we first got together, we wanted to piece together a transhuman opera. Our ideas and output evolved over time, but you can definitely catch that theme in much of what we put out there. The songs are emotive stories with many moods and are very cathartic to perform. The artistic approach to Lorelei Dreaming pulls from my experience with both of these projects – the battle fire of Angelspit delivery paired with passionate singing. Lorelei Dreaming is the project where I am the one writing the lyrics and steering the direction.
What was the main inspiration behind the concept of Lorelei Dreaming?
: Part of it is an extension of words I’ve taken to heart the last few years – ‘Be who you needed when you were younger.’ Thematically and visually, the aesthetic is a dystopian warrior. There is a battle cry in the music and in how we present it. Dissent has always been important to me and plays a large role in this project and initial release. There is also a theme of getting out of comfort zones and pushing and breaking boundaries; strengthening as individuals and as a force together against adversity.
In your experience working with Angelspit on the last album and this new one, what are your thoughts on the band’s development, and what do you feel you’ve brought to that development?
: Angelspit is a powerful band with a deep history before my involvement. With Cult of Fake
, I hoped for a dance floor friendly direction. I believe there was success there – I am hearing Angelspit played on dance floors now more than ever since that release. Some of my rants had an influence on the album. I remember going on and on about the concept of disaster porn one day while we were on the road and then BAM
! That is one of the songs. After working on Cult of Fake
, Zoog and I were inspired to try something that would match my voice. We liked the contrast of my smooth tone against Angelspit’s harsh frequencies, but we wanted to try and make something that would be more of a natural fit to my vocal sound, so we started kicking around ideas for Lorelei Dreaming. I worked on the beginnings of the lyrics while on tour with Angelspit last September.
You must be extremely busy with shows and performances. How do you find time to stay creative and dedicate time to Angelspit, Lorelei Dreaming and St. Griselda while keeping a work and life balance?
: (Laughter) That is always the trick, isn’t it? I can’t claim that I have this juggling sorted out. On my side is that a lot of this works in phases. After Cult of Fake
was released, I was able to put a lot of time into St. Griselda’s second EP that’s been in progress, plus the debut STG live shows that summer. While on tour for Cult of Fake
, I was able to work on lyrics for Lorelei Dreaming. After the tour, we focused on Lorelei Dreaming production. Other projects often take a backseat when one project is in a strong cycle, but it usually fits into a natural flow of ebbs and peaks. Granted, that leaves me going full-tilt for one of them most of the time while maintaining a full-time job, so I cannot claim to have work/life balance quite sorted out these last couple years. But I have no regrets. I love doing music and touring and wouldn’t give it up for the world. I often wonder if I will have to quit city life in order to bring costs down such that I can have a better work/life balance. Lucky for me, Chicago does not have to be expensive and I know many frugal tricks. I am very tempted to switch to part-time work; those plans are temporarily on hold until there is more certainty regarding healthcare access in this country when not employer-provided.
You came up in the Chicago industrial clubs where many of us (including myself) have partied and stomped with you at concerts and events. How has Chicago influenced you artistically and as a person?
: Where to begin? I could probably write a novel about this. The severely truncated version is something like this – this city is full of musicians and grit and Midwestern heart such that I felt perfectly at home the first time I set foot here. I was so, so very fortunate to have Neo here for most of my Chicago life, but it closed in 2015; our community is still feeling that loss every day. A dark dance spot open almost every day of the week since 1979 – it was a treasure not easily replaced. It and the many events and concerts in this music hub of a city gave me tons of opportunity to stomp and meet the other stompers around, both locals and those just visiting. The people running the nights here take great care to keep the dance floor free of harassment, sometimes not an easy task, and I am certain that has helped me feel unfettered and confident to dance freely and exist freely in these spaces. I would likely be a very different person today in absence of that environment.
You have been outspoken about your political views before, especially with the current administration. How has the political climate of today inspired your music?
, Lorelei Dreaming’s debut release, was created at such a time that two songs were written before the November election (but during the election cycle), one was written during it, and two were written after. Prior to the election, I had a more conciliatory feeling driving me. I couldn’t fathom that someone who openly mocked disabled reporters and bragged about harassing women could be elected, and I had a more hopeful tone for the future and for bridging divides. Obviously, I was so very wrong and the tone morphed to staying strong together in the face of hostility. Certain thoughts and emotions have a stronger presence in the later songs.
Many of your fans don’t know that you have a bit of a fun-loving nerdy side to you, and youve played games like Magic: The Gathering before. What other games, hobbies, and pastimes do you enjoy when you’re not producing tracks? How do you think sci-fi and gamer culture has become so much more prevalent, not just in the electro/industrial scene, but in popular culture as a whole?
Bienz: I do love to play! My love of board games and tabletop RPGs are how I met some of my best friends in the scene. I met the Nexus 6 DJ crew and many other wonderful Chicago rivetheads at the first GenCon in Indy (the world’s oldest and largest gaming convention). We would game by day and dance all night. I still enjoy a good game night from time to time, though not nearly as many as I’d like lately. I played a DnD campaign for years and years (if you’ve ever heard The Gothsicles song ‘My Guy Died,’ that was from our campaign!), but that ended long ago and I haven’t picked up another regular RPG game since then. I played Roller Derby for six years and practiced circus arts for four – I still dabble in silks and acrobatics when time permits.
I can’t put my finger on how sci-fi and gamer culture has become more prevalent, but it is inescapable that they are now. When I was a kid, my love of comic books and such were not common and not well received by the general population of students. Now the Marvel movies are blockbuster films. I have a theory – when I was a kid I loved
animated series, the Batman
animated series, and Spiderman
to a lesser extent. Other people who grew up with those are now likely now in a position where they are writers and producers and maybe that is part of this renaissance of nerd media we are experiencing today. I wonder, what makes kids unpopular now? It seems like it can’t be comic books anymore, but kids will always find a way to ostracize.
Since you’ve begun performing and touring with Angelspit, what have been some of your most memorable experiences in the cities you’ve visited? Anything that really stands out? Do you have any plans to perform with St. Gricelda or Lorelei Dreaming live in the near future?
Bienz: Opening for The Cocks (Revolting Cocks) in New York was an extraordinary experience. The venue was completely packed, and while I have to imagine they were largely there for the headliner, we were received enthusiastically all the same. Getting to watch The Cocks perform right after our show was mind-blowing and unforgettable. Also unforgettable is how kind Paul Barker was. I was having some trouble with my in-ear monitors staying in during that show – there were some technical problems right before we went on and I never had a chance to hairpin in the wires like I usually do. After the set, when I was in the green room, some of The Cocks said complimentary things about the set, but what I can’t forget is Paul Barker asking if I had thought of getting custom in-ear monitors. That told me he was actually paying attention to the show, first off, but I also felt a bit embarrassed that he noticed my struggles. I think I stammered out something about how that was coming up soon on my to-buy list (and I do have a company in mind to get that done someday soon). I wish I had handled that a little better, but both the compliments and the comment were so unexpected that I was rather tongue-tied. It has become one of those moments I keep replaying in my mind, along with what I wish I had done differently.
There are many Lorelei Dreaming shows coming up in the near future. Another Indianapolis show, our Michigan debut, Chicago, and a longer road trip in December when we go to St. Louis and Knoxville. My hope is to tour more broadly in 2018. The focus for St. Griselda right now is wrapping up the second EP. Once that is out, hopefully new live shows will follow shortly thereafter.
What new techniques for music production have you been exposed to in recent years that have enhanced you as an artist?
: Since the start of this project it has been constant learning – from working with Zoog in the studio, to preparing to take it out live, plus listening to the remixes of our songs and hearing how they were completely transformed. I have also done a couple of one-off collaborations with other artists – singing a verse or chorus on a track, both live and in the studio. It’s great to peer into how other people operate. On my own, I have been having so much fun with my TC Helicon VoiceLive rack. It is my main voice processor. It works well for subtle effects and can get really bizarre too. I have only scratched the surface.
What advice would you have to give to up-and-coming performing musicians out there who hope to one day rock stages?
: Do not hesitate to listen to advice from the scene veterans where you live. Whether they are a promoter, DJ, or another band – the chances are they have been doing this quite awhile and are in a position to help you find some shortcuts to what you can also learn the hard way. Believe it or not, very often people are happy to help and want to see you and your vision succeed. Be ready to make many time and money sacrifices if you are serious and want to turn your music into a project with notoriety. Play nice, don’t create drama, and be willing to help others where you can. Sometimes a solo effort is needed, and sometimes the collective power of many minds can create something incredible.
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp
Angelspit/Black Pill Red Pill
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube
Photography by Amanda Trumbull – courtesy of Amanda Trumbull Photography