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Lauv Recalls The Iconic Philly Venues That Shaped Him As An Artist

On his latest album, All 4 Nothing, Lauv taps into the sounds he grew up with in Philadelphia. Having been in the music game since he was 14, he has seen the musical landscape through many changes — from MySpace sharing to Spotify playlisting. As he’s grown as both an artist in his own right, as well as a producer and songwriter behind the scenes, Lauv, 28, says therapy has been a driving force in his creative process. Through therapy, he was able to reach his inner child, and recall the days of MySpace-era pop-punk for All 4 Nothing, which dropped this past August.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Lauv would share music on MySpace under the name Somersault Sunday. He would perform shows in his friend’s basement and throw EP release parties, and as he began to gain a following online, he would open for other indie pop-punk artists when they’d come to Philly to perform.

We catch up with Lauv on an August morning, the day before he is set to kick off his All 4 Nothing tour. His calming aura radiates across the computer screen, as he seems to be in a good headspace. He has a therapy session after our interview, for which he is an outspoken advocate.

”I feel like therapy has just helped me keep tabs of my progress as a person,” Lauv says, “like, what I’m working on, how I can deal with my OCD and anxiety, and how I can deal with depressive periods when I go through those. It also keeps me accountable, which is nice.”

Though Lauv lives in LA now, Philly will always be home to him. During his All 4 Nothing tour, he played The Met during the Philadelphia stop of his tour, which holds 3,500, more than 15 times the amount of people at The Barbary, where he played some his earliest shows.

In the early 2010s, Lauv would perform at The Barbary, hailed as the place to dance in Philly’s Fishtown district, alongside other big MySpace pop-punk acts, including Sparks The Rescue and The Morning Of. The Barbary, which is currently closed for improvements according to a post on their Instagram page, served as a venue for live bands, but also a nightclub for DJs to spin and ravers to dance. Lauv and his friends often volunteered to sell tickets for the shows, which would lead them to ask to open for touring acts when they’d perform in Philly.

Another important venue for Lauv was the rustic Trocadero Theatre, where he performed among the likes of indie-pop and rock groups I Call Fives and New County. The Theatre closed in 2019 after 100 years of operation, but venues like these small ones helped him figure out the kind of artist he wanted to be.

“Those pop-punk shows taught me the type of energy I love,” Lauv recalls. “It was through looking up to a lot of those bands, and a lot of those MySpace artists, that I cut my teeth to write songs that were in those vibes.”

Having put out music since he was a teenager, Lauv admits he faced a lot of rejection in his early days as an independent artist. Though he would continue to put out music, he took a step back and shifted his focus to writing, producing, and engineering. But he couldn’t fight the urge to get in front of a microphone and tap into feelings he had pushed back.

He began releasing music as Lauv in 2015, shifting from a pop-punk sound to one more inspired by bedroom pop and R&B.

“When Lauv naturally started happening, I think the biggest struggles for me were not overthinking and not worrying about what everyone thinks about me,” he says, “because I definitely think I’ve worried a lot about that.”

In the five years since the release of his sweet, puppy-love anthem “I Like Me Better,” Lauv’s music has become a little less poppy, and now recalls the days of rock-infused electronic sounds, popularized in the mid-to-late aughts. Though many of us may cringe looking back into our old iPods, Lauv manages to recreate the sounds of this era without making them sound dated.

For All 4 Nothing, he learned to write songs in a more immediate manner.

“It kind of started as a joke,” he says. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna learn how to freestyle rap.’ And I’m not good at that. I learned to write songs that were just very off the cuff, and that really helped me kind of find like topics and also just parts of myself that I hadn’t really tapped into before.”

As he is beginning tour, Lauv says the creation of this album has helped him get into a better headspace. He feels that now, he can fully experience the cities he’s in.

Though many of the places he used to play in are no longer in operation, Lauv always looks forward to reconnecting with old friends when he goes to Philly.

“All the spots I would go to as a kid, I feel like I don’t even know of anymore,” Lauv says. “I feel like every time I go, my friend takes me to his favorite spots. And I forget the names of a lot of them.”

One of the spots he’s visited in recent times includes Middle Child, a traditional deli in Fishtown, serving a variety of bagels, sandwiches, and biscuits. But of course, any time he’s in town, Lauv will always make time to eat at Wawa, a convenience store he describes as “7-Eleven on steroids.”

“They have a touchscreen deli,” Lauv says, “And I always order a chicken parm sandwich.”

To date, Lauv has received platinum certifications for his breakthrough single “I Like Me Better,” as well as his Troye Sivan-assisted “I’m So Tired.” He has also pulled in 4.35 million subscribers on YouTube, a nearly exponential amount compared to the 33,000 followers on his old MySpace page.

Having a team by his side definitely makes things easier for Lauv. Though he looks forward to playing for larger crowds these days, he admits he sometimes misses coming up as an artist in Philly, and the “DIY-ness of it all.”

“I didn’t know what I was doing at all,” Lauv says. “I look back and I kind of laugh. I’m like, ‘Damn, that was so uncomfortable.’ But I think the cute parts were getting kids from school to come see a show, or hosting our own release shows, or programming our own lights. My sister driving us on tour, that was also pretty cool. It was very DIY.”

Lauv has come a long way since his homegrown days. Today, he is more centered, more self-aware, and more in touch with his emotions. While his sound, aesthetic, and even his stage name have changed since Lauv began putting out music, he still feels proud to be from Philly — a city that has evolved in real-time with him.

“It’s obviously a historical city, but it’s also very much on the come-up,” he says. “It’s one of those cities that when I go back to, I feel it has a little bit of New York vibes, but like, is definitely way chiller. By far.”