L: Christian Leave and Momo by Elisa Sue Young Park. R: Beabadoobee by Callum Harrison.
For the better half of their lives, Gen Z has been lauded for progressive values. They’re less binary, more environmentally aware, and bigger advocates for policies like gun control. They’re also deeply nostalgic for y2k-inspired outfit montages and emo music, because while Gen Z might be our future, a lot of them are more focused on the past. And that certainly seems to be the case for both Christian Leave (nee Christian Akridge), and Beabadoobee (AKA Beatrice Laus), two 20-year-old musicians from different sides of the world who seem to represent and reflect the tastes of their generation.
Finding inspiration in classic rock, Christian’s output lies somewhere between Radiohead and The Smiths, while his personal style takes cues from Kurt Cobain and Seth Cohen. With her emotional literacy and unwavering sad girl nostalgia, London-raised Beabadoobee, alternatively, could double up as a grunge-era Dido. “She’s the aesthetic everyone on TikTok tries to achieve,” writes one user in a YouTube comments. “If this came out in 1999, every alternative rock radio station would be playing this,” reads another.
Though the pair have found kinship since connecting on Instagram two years ago, they’ve had very different ascents to fame. By age 15, Christian had a profile in Rolling Stone — the kind an artist could only dream of. Except, it wasn’t about his artistry at all, it was about his significant following on the now defunct video app, Vine, where he enjoyed popularity chronicling his Bible Belt upbringing. After uploading a range of covers to his various platforms, Christian then relocated to California to complete his musical metamorphosis. The transition from internet personality to more traditional avenues of the entertainment industry is a well-worn path for young social stars, but the LA-based singer-songwriter’s supple vocals make his online origin story feel like ancient history.
Filipino-British Beabadoobee on the other hand was a violinist with aspirations for a career in childcare until her introduction to the guitar. Now, with a viral release (and subsequent remix), top 10 debut album and nod from Billie Eilish, the London native has accrued legions of fans and is well on the way to reaching mainstay status — something that’s more important to her than any formal industry accolade.
While the Atlantic and pandemic have kept her and and Christian from meeting in person, the duo have become each other’s support system from afar. Between sending music back-and-forth, there’s been much talk of collaboration — but not before they make their respective mark on music as individuals. This week, Beabadoobee has returned with a new single “Last Day on Earth” to accompany the announcement of her EP, Our Extended Play, out this spring. Christian released his latest EP, Heavy Hitting Hurts My Head, to critical acclaim last month and is today premiering his live video for the silken single, “Hard Wad Body”, as part of our i-N SESSION series.
In conversation for i-D, Christian and Bea discuss the wins, woes and weirdness of making it in music; as well as what legacy they’re ready to leave behind for the next generation.
Since you’ve been so online for so long, what was it like for both of you to come-of-age on the internet?
B: It’s a constant source of inspiration. I was really into movies and fashion and that birthed my creative eye. I used to be really academic and then I got really dumb. I fell down the stairs. I used to get full marks in everything.
C: What do you mean you “fell down the stairs”?!
B: I did a roly-poly down the stairs. But at the same time I became really good at the violin. Then I started to find my taste in music, and I was making friends over the internet. Everything was always just so available for our generation.
C: Yeah, it makes broadening your interests a lot easier. When I started I’d moved to a new town and didn’t have many friends. But there were a lot of people with a lot of confidence online and I wanted to be like those people. But then… there’s a lot of competition — it’s a big talent show. I think LA also amplifies that. And that’s also part of the headspace of living here.
B: I definitely see the competitive energy in LA, in London not so much. I suppose it’s inevitable. I suppose that’s something you have to overcome.
C: For me it’s never thinking about whether someone is doing better than me, it’s more about whether I’m making things that are good.
B: Yeah it can be motivating too, like if I keep doing this I can do that and more. But it’s hard to stay positive at times.
C: I think that we, at our age, are in a lucky time for music, how ever-changing it is. It feels like we can pull a hard left-turn and people will go with you.
B: Yeah our audience is growing with us, and there’s no hiding who we are right now either.
Christian, your audience has been with you since you were a tween. What was it like to introduce music to them?
C: It was weird. I don’t know, man. I just decided to put all my time and energy into it. I had done covers and teased at being able to do music. There was support, but not as much as now. It was a hat trick at the beginning. But my origin has followed me around for a very long time, you know, even now. It was frustrating when I was 17 but it’s a part of the history of what I’ve done. But because I was so online growing up I’ve turned away from it a little bit more now that I’m older. There’s a mental toll that comes with constantly being on and feeding the beast. I used to be obsessed with the game of it.
B: With music it can be really unhealthy to be thinking of the numbers, getting obsessed over it. I used to be anal about the streams.
C: That’s where the comparing yourself comes in, because you’re making it about the points.
What part of the music business has been particularly tough to reckon with?
C: I was lucky that I grew up seeing the really bad side of the entertainment business and watching people fall or their careers ending because of the contracts they signed. When I signed, a year or so ago, I went in knowing that my ideas won’t fall by the wayside.
B: It’s hard to work as a female. You have to work twice as hard. But you get used to it — I hate that I even said that, it makes me feel sick in my stomach. That’s the part that sucks. It’s also hard to know you’ve got so many eyes on you. I’ve had my fair share of squabbles over the internet. Hate can get to you. There’s a lot of internalised misogyny. I said I was on my period on stage and someone tweeted, “Ew why is she talking about her period?”
C: No one cares as much as you do. Even though I love my team, they have their own jobs, and it’s still about themselves. It’s weird knowing that it’s all up to you. The passion has to come from you. I try to stay as in control as possible.
B: I also didn’t know about the BRITs or the NME Awards, so I’ve been naive to what it means to succeed in music. So ignorance has been bliss. I really try to separate myself from that. I try to recognise all of that as surface-level.
C: Yeah little successes mean a lot to me. If the people I like like me, I feel like I’m doing it right. Making a hit, a smash album, where every single song I love. It’s not about going to number one, because there’s been delayed responses to some of the greatest music. So it’s like, who really cares?
You are both so young, but do you feel the industry’s ageism? The pressure to be the ‘new’ thing or have the big debut?
C: I was just talking to my girlfriend about this. The fact that I used to be able to play the piano or write a song was so impressive when I was in my teens, and now I’m 20 and I’m doing the same thing, so it feels like I’m running out of time. Which is insane!
B: Yeah, give older musicians some love!
C: Totally, for a lot of my favourite artists, the older they’ve got the better they’ve got. There’s a level of confidence where they know what they want and they’re putting their best music. Do you feel like you have to look over your shoulder Bea, as to who’s next?
B: No, I’m excited for who’s next. That’s the future. I don’t look over my shoulder.
Has it been strange to come to terms with your own influence?
C: Yes. It’s so weird. I don’t feel like I should be influencing anyone. It’s like, don’t listen to me.
B: My friends think it’s so funny, because they know me. But it’s cool because you have a platform to educate people.
C: Right, with great power comes great responsibility. You have all these eyes on you, why would you not say something?
B: And you do it because you want to do it, and you have to be educated yourself.
C: Bea, have you written the song you want to be remembered by?
B: I have and I haven’t released it yet. But it’s really weird. It’s the best thing to come after this EP I’m releasing.
C: I haven’t written mine yet. I’m getting there and it will come eventually. I think that’s success for me, writing that song. Leaving a legacy.