Loote's Take on Authentic Pop Music, New Relationships, and Shawn Mendes [Q&A]
In just over a year, Loote released their debut EP, collaborated with a range of artists from gnash, David Guetta, to Joe Jonas, and they are by no means slowing down. Originally signed to Universal Music Publishing Group as a songwriting/production duo, they began to find their signature sound following writing the mega-hit "No Promises" for Cheat Codes and Demi Lovato, as well as the release of "High Without Your Love" in 2017. As they've explored new collaborations and new relationships, they've collected their experiences into their highly anticipated EP.
Following in the wake of their single, 85% with gnash and downtempo ballad "tomorrow tonight," comes the five-song lost. The collection explores both the awkward nuanced lingering of post-breakup relationships and the cautious excitement of new ones.
Full of sunny guitars and reminiscent of the upbeat pop-rock that largely filled the soundtrack of the late 00s, the titular track evokes a sonic throwback to the punky-but-uplifting music that Avril Lavigne dabbled in. However, Emma Block and Jackson Foote have no interest in rewriting the same story. "She's All Yours" presents a different perspective in the messy aftermath of ended relationship, and the EP closes with the cautious "Are You Sure?" that dives into the uncertainties that comes with sharing a deeper part of yourself with someone new.
We caught up with the electronic-pop duo ahead of the last two nights of the Betty Who's spring headlining tour in Los Angeles.
Photo by Rachel Lai
OTW: lost feels like a follow up to pure breakup songs. What was the most challenging part about writing this EP?
Jackson: Keeping things cohesive was kind of challenging because we like so many types of music and we have so many different inspirations and influences. But really, it doesn't ever feel forced at all. It's always challenging to write good songs, but a lot of these songs in a cohesive body of work like this EP are just a reflection of the reality of both of our lives, you know? It doesn't always take an enormous amount of digging - - we just try to look at things and be truthful and be honest, and to say, okay, how can we express that? This stuff is just the realities of what Emma and I are going through, and we've always found that we get the most pure, true material if we just talk about our lives and try to put in a poetic and relatable way.
OTW: Between this EP and your debut, single, you've collaborated with some producers that are more heavily involved in the dance scene. How do you balance writing for other people and maintaining your signature sound?
Jackson: There's a very different distinction between our Loote stuff and when we write for other artists. A lot of times we're thinking, "What's the most fun concept?" or "What's an interesting take on something?" and "What's a really fun way to express it that a lot of people can relate to?" With the Loote stuff, those things apply, but the first priority is, "What's truthful? What's real about how we're feeling and what's going on in our lives?"
Emma: I agree with that 100%.
OTW: So many songs these days deal with unrequited love, like I love you, you don't love me – how do you try to tell that story in a unique way?
Emma: I think it's the same thing as the difference between writing for other people and writing for us. It's less about trying to find a unique way of saying it and just being the most truthful when we say it because at the end of the day it's us, and I don't want to misrepresent myself.
Jackson: And I think a lot of times we push ourselves to find truthful takes that aren't as common, aren't as - -
Jackson: Yeah, aren't as seen all the time and heard all the time. That's where you find special ideas - - like "She's All Yours" is a great example. A lot of them come from conversations that we're having where Emma will be talking about literally what that song is about, like "Oh yeah, he's still messaging me that his new girlfriend is not into Fall Out Boy" and we're sitting in the room with Andrew Goldstein (FRND) and the three of us go, "Well that's an awesome idea to do a song about" because it's truthful and it's a little unique. So we try to let conversations flow and have no filter and then if something jumps up in the air we try to grab it and capture it.
Photo by Rachel Lai
OTW: Is your writing process different when the subject is more focused on new relationships and not breakups?
Emma: There's a different approach for sure, but it's not different in terms of the actual songs themselves. I'm not pulling teeth writing a song about somebody even though I'm in a happier relationship because there's so many aspects of a relationship. It's not a one or two dimensional thing. It's like, this is a living breathing person that you're sharing a lot of your time and energy and favorite and least favorite things with. There's so much stuff in there, a lot of ups and downs - - I mean, two out of the five songs off of that EP are about one person in particular, you know? That's crazy that I can still end up writing these sad, melancholy-like, longing songs, even though I'm in a happier relationship. There's so many times where it's about me feeling doubtful about things, and that is something that everybody feels.
OTW: Could you share more about the last song on the EP, "Are You Sure?"
Emma: Jackson came in with a lot of that song already written one day, and I was just sitting there crying because I was like, "How is it that you came up with this and you are not me, but you wrote it and it's about me?" That's so weird.
Jackson: Yeah, that happens a lot.
Emma: It's like having somebody write your biography and then you're reading it as they're writing it.
Jackson: Sometimes, you have a better take on something when you're seeing something from the third person instead of the first person. In a way, I'm just absorbing what's going on with Emma and have this full view of it because I'm not her, and I think sometimes that's what enabled us to pull songs out of each other, like "Your Side of the Bed" was the same thing.
Emma: Right, that's exactly how that started off. You know, Jackson's not looking at it under a microscope, he's seeing the whole picture. But I'm stuck in this one very specific moment because it's my life and then all of a sudden, I have a narrator just telling the story.
OTW: Do you feel like you bring the writing out of each other?
Jackson: Yeah, 100%.
Emma: Jackson's one of the few people that actually does that to me. He knows, I don't know if he does it consciously, but for whatever reason it just works.
Jackson: Yeah, it's something that evolves and becomes functional and effective when you just get to know somebody really well and become comfortable with them and have been working with them for a while, so that's one of the main benefits of us working together for so long.
OTW: Is there ever this fear that your music comes across less authentically because it's pop music?
Emma: I didn't grow up listening to pop music, but I am a big fan of people I just like in general, who cares what genre you're in. That's how I feel about music. And most people are starting to feel the same way because of how many different crossovers and features there are. You'll see them all on the same playlist, and for some reason, it's all working because good music is good music. If you can get behind something, there's no reason for somebody to knock your taste in music. When I was in high school, it wasn't cool to be writing pop songs but that's what I wrote, even though I listened to classic rock and show tunes. I was writing all these pop songs and I felt so lame because they sounded so "mainstream." It wasn't until I got to college until I realized there was a lane for that. It's scary when you think about it as "too pop" but then you realize - -
Jackson: We just make music we love, and we love what we make. And if other people love it, that's awesome.
Photo by Rachel Lai
OTW: Is there anyone you haven't worked with yet that you'd love to?
Jackson: Oh, the list never ends. I'd really like to work with Shawn Mendes at some point. I just think he's brilliant, a world-class voice and entertainer, and one of the best role models in every sense of the way. An absolute expert at what he does from everything from songwriting to singing, whatever.
OTW: Who are your Ones to Watch?
Emma: Knew that. Billie Eilish, obviously.