Renforshort recently followed her dreams to LA but her heart is still in Montreal.
Rue Saint Dominique is a relatively quiet residential street in Montreal’s culturally rich Mile End district where the 19-year-old songwriter otherwise known as Lauren Isenberg first lived after moving out of her parent’s home in Toronto. The Mile End is a popular destination hub for locals and tourists alike, bursting at the seams with creative energy and enough coffee shops to keep you buzzed for the rest of your life. Given her love for caffeine and nicotine, it makes sense that Saint Dominique would also be the namesake of renforshort’s most recent EP, off saint dominique.
Forever searching for something real while hanging on to the formative adolescent memories that made her who she is, the genre defying pop artist has immortalized a coming of age tale that blends her personal experiences with reflections of the past year spent living in isolation. “Saint Dominique is where everything started,” Isenberg says, smiling with her cheeky gold tooth visibly peeking out of her mouth over our Zoom call. “The EP has followed me over the past year and the experiences I’ve had. Especially at that age, like turning 18. I’m kind of being an adult but not being an adult at all.”
When she’s not posting soft grunge outfits on Instagram or flirting with fangirls on Twitter, Isenberg directs all her energy into music. Sporting a gold “Lauren” necklace, she visibly embraces her youthful spirit but speaks like someone wise beyond her years. And as she gets older, Isenberg is carefully choosing just how much of her journey to reveal, which is why she treats off saint dominique as an alternate reality — or simulation — to house her emotions as she works things out.
In the accompanying visuals that play out as a cumulative series, we see Isenberg as a complex main character in a psychological horror story, facing isolation while sensing her every move being monitored. We get a glimpse into her suspenseful anxiety riddled world in the four-part story told across music videos for “exception,” “fall apart,” “virtual reality,” and the finale, “wannabe.” In each scenario faceless humanoids take renforshort to what she refers to as an inevitable destiny. “It represents teenage loneliness and isolation and experiencing pretty intense things throughout that,” she says. “Different world, new world — off saint dominique.”
Her first single, “virtual reality,” sums up the loneliness of lockdown and how we are consumed by infinite scrolling. Distorted, stir-crazy riffs evoke her signature bubblegum grunge temperament. She is permanently attached to electronics and longing to go outside again, but feels unprepared to re-enter the world.
Isenberg began posting covers to YouTube five years ago, showcasing increasing vocal power and production quality. Now a young adult, Isenberg is gaining confidence and gravitas in the pop world. For the last two years she has steadily released singles from her 2020 debut EP, teenage angst, where we were introduced to the young songwriter as a teen, reflecting on body image, mental health, and relationships. “That was me in high school having a lot of new experiences with my body and my mind,” she says. “Off saint dominique is just that, times ten.”
Older and more comfortable with getting hands-on, Isenberg is flourishing as she flexes production skills across all facets of the project. “I just had way more experiences, I’ve listened to way more music, I’ve worked in music for a lot longer and I’ve written way more songs. I knew that there was just more maturity that needed to come out.”
Renforshort’s music is widely resonant, with moments both tender and intense. As a songwriter she displays introspection with attitude. The cohesion of her latest EP establishes renforshort as an artist in full bloom. Opening track, “wannabe,” raises a middle finger to fake friends over a sugary bass line. On “lust to love” she catches feelings and explores her sexuality with unbridled desire, channeling Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” with its glimmering keys. “Exception” divulges a love note to her former teacher as a dreamy and elusive ballad that floats on strings and acoustic guitar. This warm track puts a spotlight on renforshort’s saccharine vocals, tight runs and bittersweet refrains. And the foreboding punk anthem “fall apart” features thrashing guitars, a verse from hyper-pop prince Glaive, and nightmarish imagery in its accompanying video.
With off saint dominique, Isenberg leaves some mystique while keeping you on the edge of your seat. Now settled in LA but eager to take her music on the road, she is embracing new experiences but clearly still leaving room to revel in her youth. “I’m more mature than I was but I’m still not a mature person,” she says with a smile.