By Alyssa Anderson
It is late in the evening as an unassuming blonde pushes through crowds of drunk, sweaty college students. She steps up to the microphone, guitar in hand, and takes a deep breath. It’s show time.
As the music starts, a hush falls over the crowd. Her enchantingly honest voice lights up the dark, cramped basement. Once again, Lauren Anderson has hypnotized her audience.
“When I was younger, I never had a thing I was good at,” Anderson said. “Music was the only thing I understood; I had a connection with it.”
Born and raised in Eau Claire, 20-year-old Lauren Anderson is a star on the rise. Despite many challenges, she has gained a noteworthy following throughout Eau Claire with her band, Idle Empress.
Anderson got her first guitar at the age of 9, and by 13 she was playing music at church. Soon after, Anderson said, she made a friend who put her on the path to play bass in a band. She began performing at local cafes and venues around Eau Claire.
Eventually, Anderson left to “do her own thing,” she said. It wasn’t long until she formed a band of her own.
According to Anderson, Idle Empress’ sound is somewhat alternative folk-rock, depending on the song. Melanie Begley, an Eau Claire local, said she enjoys Idle Empress’ unique sound.
“I saw them play on National Coming Out Day at The Plus,” Begley said, “I loved their sound and style; Lauren’s voice was so enchanting and sincere.”
The band, technically formed in April of 2015, consists of drummer Elliot Heinz, bassist Josh Frederick and Anderson as frontwoman. Idle Empress performs around Eau Claire, either at house shows or local venues and occasionally large events like the Local Aire music festival this October.
“Playing in front of a big crowd of new people can be a little daunting,” Anderson said. “House shows are a lot more relaxed because the audience is mainly friends.”
Through performing, Anderson said, she has grown to love the sense of community it brings. Performing a show is exciting because you get to make people feel things, she said. The experience can be therapeutic on both ends.
“When I perform, I try to never lose what I am trying to convey with each song,” she said. “I want to be as honest and genuine as I can be.”
According to drummer Elliot Heinz, Anderson’s calm and understanding personality especially helps Idle Empress work together and continue to move forward as a band.
“Lauren is a very real, down to earth person,” Heinz said. “She doesn’t obsess over parts, even her own, which helps make us sound more real and organic.”
Surprisingly, Anderson said the hardest part of performing is not the nerves, but rather the treatment she experiences because of her gender. Anderson said she is often not taken as seriously as her male bandmates. People assume she doesn’t know things or attempt to offer help when it is not their place.
“Sometimes the sound person won’t talk to me,” Anderson said. “They assume I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Being a female musician forces you to overcome a lot of insecurities, according to Anderson.
“Playing music in a patriarchal society is a little weird,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to speak your mind because they don’t expect it.”
Anderson makes a conscious effort to be more assertive in these situations. Despite these challenges, her musical career has proven a success so far.
A fan base of Eau Claire youth appears eager to see what else she has in store. Idle Empress’ new album is set for release in December, with a tour of the Midwest to follow in January.
“I hope my music can give a positive message to people,” Anderson said.