renforshort Hits Where It Hurts

renforshort Hits Where It Hurts

By Erica CampbellMay 20, 2024

Toronto singer-songwriter renforshort (Lauren Isenberg) has some questions for herself. Last week, she dropped her EP clean hands dirty water, and one of the singles “hurt like it should” is scattered with inquiries that zone in on the inner confusion that comes after a toxic relationship ends. “When I heard that you slept/ With the person you just met/ Didn't hurt like it should've,” she admits, before adding, “When you do catch your breath/ Pull the knife out of your chest/ Did it hurt like it should've?”

“After this relationship ended, they almost felt tarnished by the fact that the relationship ended in sadness and disloyalty for me,” Isenberg tells PAPER when asked about the inspiration behind the measured indie track. “I think that’s a feeling a lot of people experience, but have a heard time really putting it to words, which was almost how my experience felt writing this song.”

Below, renforshort talks to us about the path to her latest EP, how Paris inspired one of her latest songs and why she refers to her new collection of tracks as “art done in charcoal.”

Let’s talk your single “hurt like it should.” What was the inspiration? How did the song come to you?

"hurt like it should" was a tough concept to start. That day I didn’t feel the most inspired. However, right when I walked into the room with Ian Fitchuk and Tommy English, they just pulled it out of me. To me, this song was written about the fundamental moments in my life that are forever jaded by a past relationship. After this relationship ended, they almost felt tarnished by the fact that the relationship ended in sadness and disloyalty for me. I think that’s a feeling a lot of people experience, but I have a hard time really putting it to words, which was almost how my experience felt writing this song.

The first song you worked on for the EP was “serpentine.” How did that track come to you?

"serpentine" came after a long day of walking around London. I was there for a month, writing music and working with some new producers and writers. I decided this day to leave a little earlier and do the one and a half hour walk to the studio to allow myself to really think about what I wanted out of this session. It turned out the concept I wanted was as simple as walking. I have always liked alone time to watch movies, bake and do my own thing but when you’re walking just listening to music, it allows you to be more in the present and really think about where you are and what you’re feeling. That's exactly what serpentine is about.

What about “paris has made me a man?” What was it about Paris that stuck with you and inspired your music?

My use of Paris in this song is sort of inspired by Van Gogh and his travels and studies in Paris. This song is written from the perspective of a struggling artist trying to come to terms with their life and what feels like an unfulfilled one. I used Van Gogh as a sort of umbrella example of how a lot of artists never really felt appreciated in their lives. I just wanted to try doing something different and writing from a different perspective. I found it very enjoyable!

You’ve talked about your EP being like “art done in charcoal.” What about the EP and the process reminds you of that “messy” medium?

I think this project just feels like something new. Though charcoal is maybe one of the messier mediums, Its great, because its not an oil based one and washes away with water pretty easily. To me it depicts change and clean slates. Something that seems so permanent can be washed away with water. Not that this project is such a pivot from previous ones. I just felt more me while making it, which to me symbolized change and impermanence which can sometimes be the best thing for you!

You’ve talked about this new era being a fresh start. In what way? How does the EP embody this new era?

I think the idea of clean hands, dirty water, and being able to wash away what has held you down in the past is my fresh start. I think starting to feel a connection to the music I'm making in a greater way than I ever had felt is my perfect idea of a fresh start and the beginning of growth for me as an artist.

What do you want fans to walk away with after they hear clean hands dirty water?

I want them to feel a connection to as many songs as they do. I think I’ve included a little bit of everything in this project that there will always be a song to listen to in most moments. I want people to walk away being able to connect to the music and interpret it in a way that feels true to them. I’m very happy with this body of work and I hope that people just resonate with it.

What are you most excited to share with fans next?

After this project, I think this journey. I’m excited to come into myself, share that with people, and watch them be able to do that as well. I’m so excited to share my live show with everyone, it’ll be pretty special. I’ve been working on making it the best it can be!

Photography: Steph Verschuren