Canadian singer-songwriter Lauren Isenburg – who goes by the stage name renforshort – is a 19-year-old force to be reckoned with. A guitar-heavy blend of pop, alternative and punk sits beneath her soft yet powerful voice that delivers every word she sings with conviction. Her raw, angsty lyrics depict a teenage girl living in a complicated world where sadness follows her like a shadow. While the odds may be stacked against her, and while she might get in her own way from time to time, she refuses to back down.
Since the beginning of her career, renforshort has presented a distinct point of view that’s central to her art.
Her songs radiate with intent and atmosphere as they explore what’s going on in her world. Even the album artwork for her debut project – teenage angst EP – helps tell a story; it shows renforshort in a messy, graffiti-tagged room that’s faded to look like an old record sleeve. It conjures an immediate feeling that perfectly sets the scene for the stories being told. However, before she started telling these stories, she spent her childhood building and flexing her musical muscles and loving every second of it.
“My parents put me in piano lessons when I was literally two years old, which is insane,” she said. “I always loved it, and I just kept picking up more and more instruments. And then I started singing. I did musical theater for a long time when I was a kid, and I really fell in love with performing and singing. I hated the acting part, but the singing part I loved. And just from there, I was like, ‘This is the only thing I want to do.’”
More so than just enrolling her in piano lessons and getting her started with musical theater, renforshort’s parents provided the soundtrack to her youth.
The array of rock music she grew up on was foundational in forming her specific taste and undoubtedly helped shape the artist she is today.
“When I was a kid, my parents would play me Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Amy Winehouse. They were my first inspirations. I would watch concert tapes of Amy Winehouse, and it made me want to do that. And then, as I got older, I started discovering music on my own. The earliest people I discovered were Jake Bugg and Bon Iver. I listen to them when I’m really sad, and it brings me back to a time when I was younger. There are 100 percent elements of them in my music.”
One of renforshort’s biggest strengths as an artist is her constant willingness to say exactly how she feels without concession. “i drive me mad” – a standout track from her teenage angst EP – is a perfect example of this. On the track, renforshort describes a time when her battle with anxiety caused her to hyperventilate and have a panic attack. She describes losing sleep and feeling panicked during the song’s mellow start, which rages into a chorus where she exclaims, “I drive me mad!” over a thrashing instrumental. She’s highly vulnerable on the track and later notes that she finds writing songs and singing about emotional subjects easier than simply talking about them.
“I have trouble talking about it one-on-one with people, but it’s different to write it down, sing it, and put it out into the world. You’re not there face-to-face with someone while they’re listening to the song, you know what I mean? You don’t have to deal with that discomfort of being so open, but that openness is really helpful to people. If I have a platform of any size at all, why not use it to talk about the stuff that I have trouble talking about or don’t see a lot in mainstream media?”
Her vulnerability as an artist and songwriter is one of her most impressive qualities.
This openness has helped not only countless fans that relate to her lyrics and find comfort in their shared experiences, as it’s also helped renforshort herself. She’s always found writing to be her favorite part of the creative process and has learned to use it as a way to care for herself and improve her mental health.
“I love writing. It’s so cathartic — It’s like a therapy session. It’s really the best feeling in the world. Everyone should write, in any capacity, even just on their phone. Talk about what’s wrong and just let everything out. I do that, too.”
In early June, renforshort released her most recent project – a second EP titled off saint dominuque. The six-song project shows her expanding upon the sound she established on her teenage angst EP while creating an impressive piece of work in the process. Inspiration for the EP came from how drastically her life changed when she turned eighteen and moved away from home.
“I left my parents’ house and was far away, and you know, meeting new people; you meet so many people in different cities, and you kind of have to go through a little bit of an uncomfortable time. It was kind of just about that experience and being alone and all the shit that I realized after a period of time.”
While the EP still has plenty of renforshort’s signature guitar-driven angst, she embraces a broader array of sounds on the project as a whole. She teams up with hyper-pop-associated artist Glaive on the track “fall apart” for a perfect melding of Glaive’s sound with renforshort’s grungier style. On the other hand, the folksy guitar on “exception” gives the project some twang and another sonic texture that demonstrates renforshort’s increasing versatility.
One of the EP’s standout tracks, “virtual reality” was inspired by a specific time in renforshort’s life where she knew she’d had enough: “I was in a session with JESSE FINK and Pom Pom, who I make a lot of my music with, and I was at my breaking point. I wasn’t leaving. I wasn’t having people over. I was just isolating. I would be on my phone for hours, and there’d be nothing left for me to do. I’d already watched everybody on the internet, I watched every movie in existence, and I felt so trapped.”
Lyrically and sonically, “virtual reality” is among renforshort’s most poignant songs. The track opens with quick, plucky guitar playing that welcomes her sweet vocals into the mix. “Self-diagnosed with self-sabotage,” she sings in the first chorus before the track quickly roars to life. The explosive, pop-punk-inspired chorus paints a portrait of renforshort’s addiction to the internet and her desire to find something real – something outside of the online bubble she had created for herself. “I don’t wanna live my life on the internet / I just wanna go outside like a kid again,” she sings.
“That song to me isn’t just about quarantine because it completely applies to my life before. Like I’m inside, but I have no desire to leave, but I know I would be better if I just left and saw my friends. It’s that feeling of not allowing yourself to leave.”
While “virtual reality” touches on feelings that many people can relate to, renforshort writes about those feelings in a way that cuts right to the bone. Her ability to capture the nuance and depth of a feeling is profound and is a major aspect of her songwriting.
“I write my songs so that people can relate to them. I talk about things that aren’t talked about enough. We’re all growing up together. We’re all getting older together. We’re all experiencing new things together. We live in the same world, you know?”
Through the trials and tribulations of growing up in a complicated world, renforshort has created music as a way to make sense of it all. Her childhood passion has only grown stronger and become an even bigger part of her life. As her journey into young adulthood continues, there’s no doubt she’ll continue sharing her world, telling her stories, and making an impact on those who listen.