Interview: Lauren Aquilina’s Killer Instinct Ignites with “If Looks Could Kill”

If Looks Could Kill - Lauren Aquilina
Lauren Aquilina discusses her return to music, the joys of songwriting, hot new single “If Looks Could Kill” and her forthcoming 2019 EP!

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Lauren Aquilina, a powerful, wide-ranged vocalist and songwriter from the UK, has held rank as a Queen of pop music for a while now — and her die-hard fan base will tell you so. In 2016, after releasing her debut album, Isn’t It Strange?, Lauren decided to take a step back from her career as a performer to focus on her mental health and happiness. She spent the last two years out of the spotlight growing as an artist — collaborating cross-genre, songwriting, falling back in love music — and you can hear her artistic evolution in her fiery new single.

If Looks Could Kill - Lauren Aquilina

If Looks Could Kill – Lauren Aquilina

Released January 18, 2019, “If Looks Could Kill” is as bold of a bop as Aquilina’s September 2018 release“Psycho.” Both songs embrace a new soulful, electro-pop sound that she describes as being “different from everything [she’s] done before” and “a really accurate representation of where [she’s] at right now.” Judging from the success of these two singles, she’s in a really brilliant creative space right now.

An independent-woman anthem with edgy melodic shifts and a dynamic beat, “If Looks Could Kill” practically forces your body to get up and dance. The message is clear: self-confidence is the best revenge. But while the lyrics are boldly vengeful, as Lauren puts it, “it’s not really about the ‘you’ I’m talking to in the song but more about just feeling good in your own skin and I think that’s a message that all of us girls appreciate and need in our lives.” Similarly to “Psycho,” “If Looks Could Kill” was initially written by Lauren for another artist — a “very popular girl band” to be as specific as possible. The song’s origin story is “part of the reason [she] wanted to keep it,” because without being able to channel her inner girl group, she “would have never written a song that confident and self-assured.” Lauren wrote the empowering anthem she needed to hear — and we are all better for it.

Atwood got the chance to chat with Lauren Aquilina about working on her highly anticipated 2019 EP (her debut-round-two) and her hot single “If Looks Could Kill.” Get to know more about Lauren Aquilina below!

I love that we managed to take a phrase that I had a kinda negative association with and make it such a positive thing.

Stream: “If Looks Could Kill” – Lauren Aquilina

A CONVERSATION WITH LAUREN AQUILINA

Atwood Magazine: Lauren, I think the story you laid out in the Popjustice article early this year about leaving the industry has important implications for young women and young creatives. I am particularly in awe of your bravery. It takes strength and a strong sense of self-worth to step away from a dream and so I’m curious, does it require the same amount of bravery to step back into the spotlight?

Lauren Aquilina: I think if anything it felt like a bigger deal coming back than it did quitting in the first place! You can’t really quit twice, so I knew if I was gonna come back I had to be really ready for it and bring my best. When I stopped being an artist back in 2016 I was really unhappy so it made sense, but this time last year I was more than happy just being a writer and knew coming back could disturb that, so it wasn’t something I took lightly.

Do you think working with, and writing for, other artists prior releasing this EP was important for you as an artist? In what ways is collaboration useful and valuable?

Aquilina: It was the best decision I’ve ever made to write for other artists. I learned 5x as quickly as I did when I was just writing for myself! The cool (but also slightly depressing thing) about being a writer is that you don’t have the final say on anything – the artist does – so it’s pretty humbling. You really have to just focus on your craft and be adaptable. Also writing for other artists meant that I met other creatives who I probably wouldn’t have met if I was just writing for myself, some of which have worked on this EP with me and become my closest collaborators.

What did you learn about music when you took a step back from pressures of the industry? What reminded you that you love it?

Aquilina: Honestly? Just being able to have fun. I’d spent soooo long worrying about what my label or fanbase would think about what I was making and now I was able to make music in a much freer way. I could go into the studio one day and decide to try and write a girl band single, and the next day work with a rock band or an EDM artist. It reminded me why I started writing songs in the first place.

Do you think this EP is a venture towards a “new” or “different” kind of sound? If so, why? Does it feel more genuine to who you are as an artist?

Aquilina: I actually don’t know if it feels genuine to me as an artist, which probably isn’t what I should say (!!) but it’s definitely different to everything I’ve done before and feels like a really accurate representation of where I’m at right now. Even though I get embarrassed about some of my older music, I think it’s cool that some of my fanbase have been with me for 7 years and been able to watch me grow as a songwriter and an artist, and I’m gonna keep trying to progress like that.

If Looks Could Kill - Lauren Aquilina

If Looks Could Kill – Lauren Aquilina

What was the process of writing “If Looks Could Kill”? Is there a story behind it? Are there any specific instruments or sounds that you felt were essential to creating this specific song?

Aquilina: Well, I was in the studio with my friend Lostboy who’s a crazy talented writer and producer, and a record label had asked us for a song for a *very famous girl band*. Pete played me the double bass sample that you hear at the beginning of the song and I had this title ‘If Looks Could Kill’ written down on my phone. Tbh I would have never written a song that confident and self-assured if I didn’t have the girl band in mind, but that’s part of the reason I wanted to keep it. There’s a lot of major/minor changes in the song too, which keeps the tension and is what makes it feel slightly weird.

Do you think this song holds an important message for young women? If so, how would you articulate that message?

Aquilina: I like to think so! It was definitely a song that made ME feel more confident, especially when I sing it live. It’s not really about the ‘you’ I’m talking to in the song but more about just feeling good in your own skin and I think that’s a message that all of us girls appreciate and need in our lives.

I am really into the title of this track too - “If Looks Could Kill” - it reminds me of mythical women who reclaim their bodies by using their aesthetic beauty as a weapon (like sirens or medusa). What does the title mean to you?

Aquilina: Thank you! I love the title too, I started the whole song with it. Other girls have always said it to me when they thought I was giving them evils (I have the WORST resting bitch face honestly) and I wanted to write this song about how everyone thought I hated them because I couldn’t control my eyes, haha. But it wasn’t until Lostboy said to me that we could flip the meaning and make it about confidence that I realised that’s what it needed to be. I love that we managed to take a phrase that I had a kinda negative association with and make it such a positive thing.

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:: stream If Looks Could Kill here ::

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If Looks Could Kill - Lauren Aquilina

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Coco Rich

Coco Rich is a 22-year-old goof who recently graduated from Muhlenberg College where she studied English and Music. Originally from Seattle, WA, she is currently living just outside of Boston eating, writing and wandering.