renforshort Paints a Picture of Her World on 'off saint dominique' [Q&A]
Photo: Steph Verschuren
"Ugh I'm, like, literally in my pajamas, I have just had a morning." renforshort pops up on Zoom, sporting bright pink bangs and a casual coolness that belies the insane energy of the music she's been making over the last year.
renforshort's rise has been nothing short of meteoritic, capturing a global audience amidst a worldwide pandemic. Unfiltered, brash, and honest, the Canadian singer-songwriter was met with widespread praise for her breakout singles "i drive me mad" and "fuck, i luv my friends" ahead of the release of her debut EP, teenage angst in early 2020.
Now, with the release of her sophomore EP, off saint dominique, renforshort steps back into her story with a confidence and self-reflectiveness that had just begun to emerge on her earlier songs. While her pace hasn't slowed, the complexities of topics she navigates push her to consider her words carefully, balancing a raw vulnerability with blunt realism in her lyrics.
The depth and versatility she weaves throughout the six tracks showcase the growth she's experienced in the past year. "There’s so many different sounds and so many different genres. I feel like across the whole EP, especially lyrically, it's supposed to kind of just represent this year of my life."
The catalyst of the project started with the first time she moved out of her parents' place. "The apartment that I stayed in, I lived alone, which was a pretty big thing. And the apartment I stayed in was on a street off Saint Dominque. So [when I was writing this EP] I was like, 'Where was this whole adventure? Where did it all begin? And that is where it began.'"
off saint dominique captures the life of a teenage girl in a modern world, faced with societal pressure to adhere to standards and expectations while discerning how to forge your own path. At the helm of a movement of young women solidifying their footing in a notoriously cutthroat industry, she, like many of her peers, has found ways to speak out about the roles she refuses to play and establish her own lane on her own terms.
On the opening track, aptly titled "wannabe," renforshort points a finger at the facades so many of us, herself included, tend to hide behind. There's a little snark in her voice when she describes the self-criticism in the song. "There have been points in my life where I'm like, 'who the fuck are you? like, who are you? what are you doing?'" From a different perspective, however, there's a genuine concern about the lack of authenticity that can float in her circles. "I'm like, 'I'm calling bullshit.' Like, that’s not you. It's just not you. And it’s the most painful thing in the world to see someone just be a completely different person around other people, or just start changing over time to fit this mold, you know what I mean?"
She, on the other hand, refuses to be boxed in anymore. "I don’t have trouble at all posting some shit of me looking wack, wearing something wack. I just don’t care because I can't - " she pauses to roll her eyes, "I just don’t have the energy to like, please everyone." When asked if the past year of almost everything going online has compounded this, she's quick to agree. "Oh my god 100%. Five THOUSAND percent. The world is fucked, so, fuck it. That is the mentality, just live."
While her boldness seems flippant at first, her distaste for false pretense comes from a place of compassion towards her own struggles with people pleasing and unrealistic expectations. As she reflects on one of the earliest songs she wrote to combat teenage angst, renforshort shifts into a softer tone. "The first line of 'bummer' goes 'looking in the mirror/my reflection got me triggered." At the time, she confesses, an eating disorder quietly plagued her. "I never talked about with anyone because to me, it didn’t exist. It was just how I lived and how..." she winces a bit. "How I would be a, you know, a hot girl." She shrugs at the absurd normalcy with which she'd handed it. "I was like, 'There’s nothing weird about that. This is how you be a hot girl!'" Now, she rolls her eyes at that idea. "That's just not true. Like, I was not happy. And I didn’t look good."
It was through that song her world cracked open a little more. "I wrote about that because I was in a session with this writer DCF and producer, Jeff [Hazin]. He was like, what’s going on? You know, the classic 'what’s going on in your life?' And I was like, nothing, nothing. I’m 16, I’m in high school, shit's not happening." Undeterred, they nudged her to dig a little deeper, encouraging her to go beyond just writing about relationships. "That was the first time I like, opened up to anyone about it."
Her vulnerability has a certain conviction about it; renforshort has no need for pity. Instead, she embodies a desire to paint a multi-faceted reality that doesn't glamorize hiding pain underneath the surface. Putting her most complicated thoughts into song forges a unique path for her to get the weight off her chest, and losing the fear that gripped her previously means no more holding back.
"People just got more open about eating disorders, society's standards, or what women should be and what women should look like, and what they should weigh and what they like, stupid shit. It became more like, you know, mainstream to bash that. So, I think that over time, everything becomes more normal to talk about. So why not just talk about it?"
The synergy she's created in the studio has opened up worlds for her to dive into and explore. While teenage angst had a cohesive punky edge, off saint dominique takes the foot off the gas long enough to observe her surroundings and take in where her music has opened new creative doors. Having a writing team around her that resonates with her emotionality helps too. "[DCF] is like a twenty-seven-year-old man. But he like, is a fourteen-year-old girl, if that makes sense. He pulls up to the studio in a Camp Rock backpack and he can get into my head so well."
As her maturity and breadth of experiences increase, renforshort pulls more nuance out with each line she pens. "lust into love" is about the first crush she ever had on a girl. "I was like, this is so weird, because I don't know how these roles work. Because normally, a guy will like, you know," she closes her eyes and takes a dramatic breath in, "take you and sweep you off your feet, blah blah blah," she exhales dramatically. Here, she reverses the roles, wanting to be the one to sweep the other person off her feet.
"It feels more assertive than what I normally write, because even in my real life, I'll be like, no you do it first, and I'm just gonna live with my feelings inside my body forever, making me feel like shit, because I’m never going to go through with anything." Something about the veneration she holds for the muse of this song, someone she describes as "so elegant," however, overwhelms her reservations. "It feels like a very... observant song. Like I’m observing your beauty and your character. And that’s what it’s about. It feels like a soft kind of love song, but it is very forward." I comment on the muted, insistent piano of the post-chorus, how it describes that feeling perfectly. "Exactly. You feel it in your heart. You're like, WOAH. I feel in love right now."
Her knack for eliciting very specific emotions in her writing clearly resonates with her fans too. "I've had some really funny things said about my music. Like 'I feel like I’m a girl in high school' or 'you make me hate a boy that I never knew,' shit like that. Even [347Aidan] said to me 'I feel like I’m in like an in '80s zombie movie and I’m in high school and I'm like running away from - " she stops herself. "I forgot what he said exactly but it was so spot on and out of the blue. But it all falls into that..[here she scrunched her nose and puts on a bratty voice] "I'm a teenager and I'm mad!"
The high octane energy of her earlier work has subsided a bit. While not all her songs are heavy emotional hitters, they resonate just as much with her. renforshort's sensitivity to emotional reactions allows her to tease out the feelings hard to fit into normal conversation. "When I’m gonna write like, a song song, I'm like, 'what is going to help someone? What do I wish I heard?' And that’s a kind of how to write songs. And like, 'what has not been talked about? Enough? That I need?'"
The closing track on off saint dominique, "this is just a story," narrates a stream of consciousness rambling of the all the things that've happened to her lately. "It feels like a conclusion. Like when you write an essay, and it’s like, "in conclusion..." this is that conclusion. It doesn’t really matter if the song is catchy or not. It’s not my favorite song on the project. But lyrically, it is. It has to be there, just for like..." she pauses, "the art part of it."
While the writing process has exposed and broadened the places she'd been hesitant to explore before, renforshort has started to come into her own. Conquering her fears and receiving the coveted response that her own wrestling through difficulty has helped another fuels her more than any fear could constrain her.
"As an artist, at least for me, I could put anything in a song. And I feel like I’ve done that with this project. Like, I’ve gotten so personal on this project, because I'm just not scared of it anymore."
off saint dominique is available everywhere you can stream it.