The Not Okays - Lauren Borhani interview

Kev Rowland, The Not Okays - Lauren Borhani interview

I was at the Written By Wolves gig last year, stuck at the end of the bar scribbling away, and this lovely young lady came up to me and asked if I was Kev? That was the start of a wonderful friendship not only with Lauren but her husband B and even her parents, and I have been known to share the odd tipple with her father Clive. With The Not Okays releasing a series of singles and becoming more active on the live circuit, now seemed the right time to ask the important questions and get more of an insight into her and the band.

 

Kevin Rowland: Who, what and when is Lauren Borhani? 

Lauren Borhani: I’m just a girl whose music taste is clearly stuck in the mid-2000s. As long as I can remember I’ve had this same big fringe, the same winged eyeliner and the same taste in music. 

I grew up in Christchurch and moved to Auckland in 2014 when I landed my dream job – at 19 I was in the directing team of 3News (now Newshub/Discovery), which still feels crazy to me. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work in television, publicity, and public relations (PR) for the past nine years. Working in the heart of entertainment and media for almost a decade has been incredibly fast-paced and rewarding, and the television shows, campaigns, and events I’ve worked on feels nothing short of a dream come true. Quite simply, I love my job. PR is all about telling stories and connecting with people, and what we’re trying to do with {The Not Okays} feels like a natural extension to that. 

In 2019 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and in 2021 I was finally diagnosed with ADHD combined type after a long, hard road of advocating for my mental health. It’s been an incredibly challenging few years, and I’m so blessed to have such a strong support system in the form of my husband, family, and friends. And now that I feel like I’m through the worst of it, all I want to do is talk about it and help alleviate the stigma around mental health to help others have an easier path ahead than I did.  The Not Okays is about screaming from the rooftop that it’s totally okay to be not okay sometimes, especially after what’s been a few really shit years for everyone with the pandemic. 

 

KR: What are your earliest musical memories and who/what inspired you to start singing and what motivates you now?

LB: I’ve always loved music, as a little tot I was putting on performances in our living room to Britney Spears and The Spice Girls. My first concert was {Truebliss}, followed by {Brooke Fraser}, so I guess I’ve always been inspired by women on the stage. I remember there being a lot of music in the house when I was growing up. My Dad was a bassist when he met my Mum, and he continued to play his guitar through my youth. Whenever my parents hosted their friends, they played music DVDs of The Eagles, Eric Clapton, and John Farnham– so I’d think of Kiwi onion dip anytime I heard Hotel California for a while there. 

My Dad always encouraged my music– he got me into guitar lessons, and then keyboards when I didn’t like guitar so much because the strings hurt my fingers. He bought my first two keyboards and would always make me play piano and sing for his friends. I lost inspiration for music for a while there, I had to choose between musical theatre (NASDA) and television (Broadcasting School), and the telly won! I gained an incredible career, an even more incredible husband, and now that the fire has been sparked under me again, I’m letting the music become a bigger priority to me. 

I’m constantly listening to my favourite emo shit (Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon, Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco, A Day To Remember, All Time Low) and a heap of my favourite female vocalists (Hayley Williams, PVRIS, Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa). It’s a really cool time to have found inspiration, and I really do owe it all to my husband’s encouragement, patience and talent.  

 

tno1KR: How did you get involved in musical theatre and what did you enjoy most about it?

LB: My lovely mum took me to a drama course when I was in primary school, and it didn’t take long for me to become absolutely hooked. Through my primary and secondary schooling, I was cast in about 30 live productions, which saw me star as characters like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I more and more loved the productions where I got to sing, I found it really fun and challenging! Eventually I also fell into choir at high school and expected to travel to compete nationally every year. 

There was a real community in these productions and competitions, and I found that I really enjoyed interacting with the audience at the end of the show. It’s always been an absolute pleasure to entertain, but I found it a lot easier when it was performing something I hadn’t written. Singing has always brought me a lot of pleasure, but it’s taken me a little while to silence the self-critical voices and finally see where this thing can go if I give it my all. I feel fortunate that I get to work with the incredible talent we have in The Not Okays. We all have our strengths and above all else, we’re really good friends, which makes it so much easier to be vulnerable and create together.

 

KR: How did you become a DJ? / How did you meet Bahador?

LB: Okay, so I’ve been a cheeky little dickhead here and combined Kev’s two questions, even when he was very specific about his questions (which are genuinely some of the most interesting I’ve ever been asked, the man’s good), because this is The Tale of Two Emos and it’s pretty good. 

In 2015 I went to my first festival, which was Westfest at Western Springs. I’d never been to too many big concerts because I grew up in Christchurch and none of the shows I really wanted to see would travel down. However, I moved to Auckland at 19 when I got my dream gig straight out of Broadcasting School (in the directing team of 3News/Newshub/Discovery), which meant I finally got to take advantage of live music as often as I should.

That week I was working on the morning show, Firstline, which meant 3am alarms for a couple of weeks, and to this day I have no idea how I managed that! However, I soldiered on, putting on my most emo face mid-week and heading straight to the Ding Dong Lounge stage.  I’d never heard of Ding Dong Lounge, but every single one of the artists I wanted to see were playing were on that stage only. So, I stayed put, and watched in awe as my world turned a little bit more emo with Escape The Fate, Falling In Reverse, Papa Roach and Fall Out Boy all playing live in front of me for the first time. The next time I was in town, you best believe I made a beeline for this Ding Dong Lounge place. 

From the second that I walked down those famed stairs it was like I was in high school again. Panic at the Disco! blasting in town, followed by some 80’s rock ballad and straight back into Linkin Park. I was home, and I remembered just how much I loved this. I kept going back, and eventually I became single for the first time in my adult life, and then went to Ding even more. The first time I went there single I met my now husband Bahador , and he more I got to know him the more I was intrigued-- I really liked the guy behind the great hair. He was smart, he was creative, and DAMN his “band is actually pretty good aye” (my first ever Facebook message to Bahador haha). 

We started talking every day, and dating, and then within 11 months we were engaged. His proposal was beautiful, he got on one knee on Christmas day in front of my whole family-- which is one of the reasons I put my Christmas tree up on Halloween lastyear, I JUST LOVE CHRISTMAS. Now here’s the kicker, Ding Dong Lounge tends to put up incredible photos each night, so just for curiosity’s sake I looked back at the album from the first night I ever became a Ding Dong Lounge convert-- and guess who was the DJ that made me fall in love with the place? My now husband.

When B and I started dating, I became the girlfriend of the DJ-- and then we started DJing together, and then he got too busy to carry on with it as often, so I kept on doing it while he achieved incredible things with his band {Written by Wolves}. So here I am, the girl that now DJs the emo nights and does it with huge dancefloors. I love playing the unexpected alongside the expected, like The Kill or Helena into Don’t Trust Me or Kids of 88’s My House. And through this, I’ve seen this whole new generation of emo kids appear out of nowhere, and boy they love Bring Me The Horizon. 

And do you know what? So do I. 

 

tno2KR: How did The Not Okays get together in the first place (and why is B not playing guitar)?   The Not Okays came together to play at one of Ding Dong Lounge's Emo Nights. B and

LB:I had been DJing together for a year or so, and we were both ready to achieve two of our big goals at the same time.

B is a crazy hard-working genius. Not only does he play guitar for the epic Written By Wolves while shooting, editing and directing their music videos, he also draws houses full time (www.studio-b.co.nz!), but he wanted to add being mean at drums to that list. So, he bought an electric kit and taught himself how to play, and with every show he's getting better and better. It's safe to say he's achieved being mean at drums.

Meanwhile B had been encouraging me to sing since we first started dating. I'd lost my confidence in performing publicly, but with B's support I was finally ready to get back on stage again. It's really special to be able to perform with my husband and adding really good friends to that mix who all love the same emo shit as us is honestly a dream come true.

We played with a few friends tapping in and out based on their other band commitments (love u Aaron R, Kurt, Tal and Scott!), until we realised it was time to support Caitlin in picking up the bass again. Obviously, Noriel was already working with Aaron and B on {MIRA} by this point, and he was the natural choice for the second guitar. Thus our line-up was formed!

 

KR: What does each person bring to the band?

Lauren Kate Borhani – Vocals

Listen, I'm just a big old emo. On top of being Auckland's unofficial Emo DJ, I've also fallen into the role of unofficial band manager. I've been lucky enough to work full time in live television production, publicity, and PR for the last nine years, so I have a little black book of contacts and love finding win-win opportunities to work together with them. Apparently, I'm a bit of a control freak, and have taken on the role of developing our brand, our socials, our communications, and our publicity. My favourite part about this is that I get to scream from the roof how talented my friends are!

Aaron Prictor - Vocals/Guitar

I also like to call Aaron our Creative Director. He produces and records all our songs and is the driving force of our songwriting and sound. He's a wickedly talented live musician too, and is a trusted session musician and live tech. He's the reason we sound the way we do, and he holds us all to account!

Noriel Wong - Guitar

Noz is a super smooth guitar player, but what he is even more is a quick-witted little shit. He's our Social Media Manager and is the creative genius behind those timely emo memes. He truly is one of the greatest shitposters I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and he's a huge ass asset to the band. Noz went to high school with Aaron, too!

Caitlin Clark - Bass

Caitlin is our band Mum (which is great, as Daddy Prictor plays the Dad role real well). She always ensures everyone is well-fed and on point and is honing her songwriting skills alongside Aaron. She has a solid taste in music and sneakers and has the biggest heart in the world. And she's a smooth driver on the bass, it's super cool to be able to play with her again, as we first played together in high school.

Bahador Borhani - Drums

B is the second driving force behind our songwriting and sound. He's also an incredibly talented content producer and does most of our design elements (think logos and videos), in addition to producing, shooting and editing all our music videos with my support when he's too busy being a creative genius on another big project. B is obviously my husband and father of our two fur babies too!

 

tno4KR: What were the original plans for the bad? (I get the impression it was initially a good-time party band with no real intentions).

LB: I don't think we could have predicted what this band would develop into. It started as a covers band to headline Ding Dong Lounge's infamous emo nights and has grown to a content-creating emo powerhouse with everything produced in-house. The Not Okays is obviously a play on My Chemical Romance's I'm Not Okay, and while we did question whether we should change it as we launch into originals, it feels right for what we want to do and what we want to say.

We're seeing the start of an emo revival with the likes of My Chem and Panic! At The Disco releasing new music, and a new Paramore album on the way. The Not Okays is about paying tribute to those who got it so right before, while normalising conversations around mental health along the way. It's totally okay to not be okay, so long as you talk about it.

 

KR: Why did you feel inspired to cover Avril Lavigne for your debut single? Why that song?

LB: I'm a pop-culture nerd, and Avril Lavigne's revival out of nowhere completely shook me (and the band) to the core for a few reasons.

  • Bite Me was Avril's way of announcing her signing to DTA Records, which is Travis Barker's label. You can hear his elevated pop-punk influence, and it was a really exciting taster of what was to come. This sounded so much like the authentic Avril a lot of us had missed since her Let Go album with the likes of Sk8r Boi, Complicated, I'm With You.. and I think a lot of people were missing that authentic sound and this single hit the spot.
  • Travis Barker was at the time dating Kourtney Kardashian (they've since gotten engaged and now married), so it was clear this revival was going to get mainstream A-List media attention. This may sound stupid to some people, but that's just the way the media works.
  • Listen, it's a banger. It was a hint of our type of music being taken seriously by a mainstream audience, so if there was a time for us to go in, now felt like our best shot. We were in the middle of Auckland's never-ending fourth lockdown and were all going a bit stir-crazy, so it was a great distraction. Additionally, I had finally been diagnosed with ADHD after 27 years of struggling with the symptoms unaware and unmedicated, so I had never felt more driven to finally make my dreams a reality and kick this beast of a band off with my favourite people.

 

KR: Your next single, Better Days, was not only an original number but you also edited the video. Talk us through the process for this and how did it come together?

LB: We were incredibly humbled by the warm reception to Bite Me, and knew we had to quickly follow this release up with an original so people would take us seriously. It's easy enough for musicians to cover a song but writing and sharing original content is the hard and vulnerable bit. The song itself was written by Aaron and had sat in the notes on his phone for a few years. He graciously thought The Not Okays was the best home for this track, and we quickly got to work recording vocals and planning the video.

At the time, my husband Bahador was slaving away on Written By Wolves' next music video. As many may know, my very talented man produces, directs, shoots, and edits the majority of Wolves' videos-- but what they don't see is how much work he puts into them for months and months at a time. I knew that the only way we were going to get a music video for this song is if I put my Broadcasting School degree to good use, rolled my sleeves up and produced and edited this bad boy.

So, I sourced the studio and the lighting, B sourced the camera, and we spent a long hard day getting the content shot (little did I know while I was fighting the start of a Giardia infection while on-set, and would spend the next week hunched over the toilet bowl ugh). Over the coming weeks while he was down one end of the house creating a yet-to-be-released masterpiece for Wolves (it'll blow your mind), I was on the other end of the house editing together Better Days. B tidied up the post-production, and we released our baby into the world. It was a very collaborative process, and everything was done in-house.

 

KR: What is next for The Not Okays, and when are we going to hear more original materials?

LB: We've just laid down the very first vocals to our next single which (bugger it I may as well give you an exclusive because I love you) is called Sleeptalk. We'll be shooting the music video in the coming weeks, led this time by Bahador with the Creative Direction of our good friend Samantha Davies. If you wanted to hear Sleeptalk for the first time, then we'll be fumbling our way through the demo live this weekend at CrushFest (Saturday 9th July at The Tuning Fork, tickets still on sale at Moshtix!) Otherwise we're going to be announcing a headlining show very soon, where hopefully you'll be able to hear one of the three original demos currently in development. I really hope people watch this space, because we're really excited about what's to come! 

 

KR: Where can people go to find out more about the band?

LB: All the key info is on our website (www.thenotokays.com), and keep an eye on our YouTube for the music videos as they go live. Otherwise if you want all the latest news as it hits (plus a heap of self-depreciating memes) check out our Instagram and Facebook. We're on a heap of streaming services too, so feel free to give us a follow there too! (Spotify, Tidal, Apple…).

 

Photographies: Samantha Davies

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