The Iloilo-born and London-raised musician is poised to be among the artists shaping Gen Z’s sound and dogma. We catch up with Bea Kristi Laus on the eve of her first Philippine show.
First off, let’s pick a soundtrack.
The production crew mills around a function room at the Marco Polo Hotel, a mixed bag of vets and rookies in the businesses of publishing, fashion, and music, each a generation gap to the next. What is there to play if one set grew up on Pearl Jam, one on Paramore, and one on BTS? No one is budging on the aux cord until Beatrice Kristi Laus finally connects one of her own Spotify playlists and queues The Smashing Pumpkins’ decade-defining hit “1979.” Mumbles of “I love this song” to “I remember this song” coming from said vets and rookies are uttered as we watch Bea light up in front of the lens. While photographer Shaira Luna clicks away, a realization sets in amongst everyone in the room: Bea knows how to provoke a kind of lust for life left behind in your youth.
Bea is, of course, Beabadoobee: the Iloilo-born, London-raised musician who’s amassed laurels from the BRIT Awards, the BBC, and NME’s Radar Award. At just 22 years old, she’s been dubbed by Rolling Stone as an “indie pop prodigy,” having released two albums and five EPs to boot. On Bea’s right arm is a tattoo marked “XO,” alluding to the famed Elliot Smith record: “XO was my favorite album from him,” Bea tells Vogue. She remembers growing up and discovering his music through the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. Years later she would attend the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards where Matty Healy of the 1975 would introduce her to guests as “the next Elliot Smith.”
A Long Way
At the backstage of the New Frontier Theatre, the venue for the Manila leg of her Beatopia tour, Bea munches on a bag of Ding Dongs, a local snack of mixed green peas, while her bandmates Eliana Sewell (bassist), Jacob Bugden (guitarist and producer) and Luca Caruso (drums and keys) reappear dressed in Repsol motorcycle jerseys they bought from a stall near Cubao’s Farmers Market.
She’s come a long way since her first show. “I did a gig with Oscar, who’s a guy I made music with when I was just starting out. We played this really weird gig somewhere in Guilford and about 10 people came,” she recalls.
Before arriving in Manila, she was in Japan performing at Summer Sonic 2022 alongside acts like Carly Rae Jepsen, The Libertines, and Primal Scream. It’s been five years since she first signed to record label Dirty Hit, but the bizarre experience of rock-stardom still shocks Bea: “I was in a mall in Japan and ‘Sunny Day’ was playing,” she says. “And I was like, this is so weird because I live in London and they’re playing my music here.”
Manila is the first stop of Beabadoobee’s Asia tour. Since arriving in the Philippines, she’s been posting her Manila escapades on Instagram stories: walking along EDSA, riding a taxi decorated in stickers of Catholic imagery, a DIY photoshoot in a jeepney, and haggling at the Greenhills Shopping Center.
“Jugs got me a guitar! He got me a vintage Martin, which is a great guitar,” she says, referring to Jugs Jugueta of The Itchyworms. Bea has been a fan of the OPM band since she was a kid.
At the age of three, Bea moved with her parents from Iloilo, Philippines to a neighborhood in North West London. Despite the big move, Bea’s parents raised her to be categorically Filipino: “I visited the Philippines every year, so I was really close to my cousins.” Growing up, she fondly remembers having champorado and daing to start her day, “It’s my favorite breakfast,” Bea claims.
“I just remember it being apparent, like the difference, me being a Filipina when I was a teenager. I felt very alienated constantly,” Bea says. “It was hard finding a group of friends that had the same interests and would accept me.”
Since touring as Beabadoobee in 2021, Bea and her mates Jacob, Eliana, and Luca have been running amok all over North America, Europe and Asia. They’re all in their early 20s, with Bea and Eliana first touring together since they were just 18.
While the lives of musicians are often dramatized as reckless and indulgent, Bea and her bandmates share how the realities of tour and studio life demand more sustainable habits. “For real, we’ve been on a few tours where it got crazy,” Jacob offers. Eliana adds “—It’s like, never again. I always come off those tours like ‘wow, I need a major detox.”
The band agrees that the media rarely presents the nuances of the regimented yet extreme lifestyle of touring. They cite the ungodly amounts of layovers and times waiting at the airport, jetlag, and the “adrenaline spike” that comes with rehearsing and playing a show to thousands of people straight after checking into your hotel room. Bea notes that it’s really isolating and lonely, but the silver lining of what makes it all worth it is coming home to the Philippines. “Being on tour is such a beautiful experience. I was like, ‘Wow, two of my worlds colliding. Like my lola met my boyfriend yesterday and that was a trip,” she says. “One thing that makes everything worth it is playing the shows and having the opportunity to play your own music around the world. Plus, me and my band are really close, so that’s been nice.”
In the summer of 2020, the band retreated to the English countryside at Angelic Studios where they recorded Beabadoobee’s hit EP Our Extended Play, surrounded by sheep and horses. At one point they were stampeded by a herd of cows while running across a field for a glass of lemonade.
Fellow Dirty Hit signees Matty Healy and George Daniel of the 1975 joined them and “it led to a lot of beautiful outcomes,” as Jacob puts it. “We also released ‘Sorry’ while we were there, the single of Fake It Flowers. There [were] quite a lot of memorable and historically relevant moments within that period of recording at Angelic because ‘Sorry’ was like a really big single and it got released on Beats radio. It was quite a big moment for us.”
When Beabadoobee released the music video to one of her latest singles, “Talk,” critics and publications alike pointed out the visual similarities to nu-metal band Papa Roach’s “Last Resort.” “People bashed it saying I was copying Papa Roach—but I’m not. Papa Roach is a white man. You never see a Filipino girl with a guitar making a music video like that,” she explains.
She adds, “I think I had such a stitch for people calling me a ’90s revivalist for ages. But it’s just ‘cause my influences are so much broader.” Throughout lockdown, Bea would surround herself with the music of artists like Aphex Twin, Cibo Matto, and The Chemical Brothers—all of which would influence the eclectic sound of her acclaimed second album, Beatopia.
Bandmates Jacob, Eliana, and Luca lament on how lucky their own parents were to be in the midst of generation-defining countercultures and larger-than-life bands.
“Quite lucky having parents that were at an age where they were absorbing all this stuff when it was coming out. My mum saw Bowie live when she was 12. She sneaked out of her house to see him in Earl’s Court,” Luca says. “Obviously they wouldn’t really know how influential this kind of stuff would be in the future,” adds Eliana. For Jacob, he looks up to London’s music scene in the ‘90s for its innovation: “People were experimenting so much then.”
Decades from now, we might expect to see Beabadoobee and her band chronicled a thousandfold in music documentaries, depicting that same kind of carefree experimentation present in the production of Beatopia.
Jacob, who worked closely with Bea in producing the record, shares, “Everyone who worked on it was a lot younger and had a [fresher] perspective, rather than older studio dudes who’s spent like 20 years in the studio every single day and approach things a lot more mathematically. We brought a lot of energy to Beatopia, that’s why it kinda sounds like everything’s different and everything’s all over the place but it glues as everyone just has the same mindset.”
Bea’s homecoming concert isn’t just a highlight for her Filipino fans, but a much more personal experience for the performer. Bea’s whole clan flew in from Iloilo to see her play among a crowd of Filipinos chanting her name. When asked what the highlight of her career has been so far, she declares, “Manila. Playing in the Philippines.”
Tonight seems like a full-circle moment for the musician. Moments before the concert, Jacob, Eliana, Luca, and Bea take pictures backstage in the outfits they’ll be wearing to the show. With wide smiles and messy hair, her bandmates come dressed as promised: in motorcycle jerseys. In the middle, however, is Bea Kristi Laus proudly wearing a Filipiñana top made of piña fiber paired, of course, with a mini skirt and knee-high leather boots.
“I feel like I’ve always craved to look up to someone that looked like me, that played my kind of music,” Bea shares, “a Filipina girl [once told me] she hasn’t seen someone with an electric guitar who looked like her. It’s cool getting comments about being able to inspire girls who look like me.” And what better way to signal the changing tides of rock history than playing to a packed theater in your homeland.
This article was originally published in Vogue Philippines’ November 2022 issue. Vogue Philippines’ November 2022 issue is available now.
Photographer: Shaira Luna, Fashion Editor: Daryl Chang, Makeup: Anthea Bueno, Hair: Mong Amado, Nails: Extraordinail, Production Design: Justine Arcega Bumanlag, Producer: Anz Hizon, Stylist’s Assistant: Renee De Guzman