Exclusive LIZ Interview: “I did sit-ups before bed as my prayer to Godney”
“Could you, could you love me?” asks LIZ in one of her latest singles, Could U Love Me. The usage of ‘latest’ feels ironic because, much like LIZ’s music career itself, the bop has had quite the journey; Could U Love Me was actually first premiered way back in May 2016 at one of LIZ’s show’s in London, and has since had about “five different versions” produced before the final version was at long last unleashed on listeners earlier this year.
2016 was also quite the year for LIZ; she shared her critically acclaimed mixtape and “one of 2016’s most forward-thinking pop releases” Cross Your Heart, which was complimented by a five-part fashion editorial in collaboration with Nicola Formichetti’s fashion and lifestyle brand Nicopanda. 2017, however, was quieter for the songstress.
Now, after some “label/mgmt drama”, LIZ is finally able to storm back with her first double A-side release of the year, Could U Love Me / Queen of Me. Both bops are stellar examples of LIZ’s niche ‘Sailor Moon R&B’ sound – a luscious blend of sparkly pop jingles and nostalgic 2002-esque R&B rhythms – and yet, despite Queen of Me being written quite some time ago, the message of its buoyant, stomping chorus still feels just as relevant today; “Yeah it's time, I'm runnin' my life / Nobody else wears a crown, 'cause I'm the queen of me” LIZ declares with her crystal clear vocals.
If the music carries on being this enjoyable then hell yes, we could love you, LIZ.
Catch the tea on LIZ’s philosophy on album artwork, new music, surviving abuse, what she learnt from Britney Spears about being a pop star, and why she’s sick of industry ageism (despite her monthly glycolic peels) in our exclusive Q&A!
Your sound was once described as “Sailor Moon R&B” – what does that mean? Is it still applicable?
Yes. My music and visuals have that whimsical vibe that you often get from anime, but my lyrics and vocals can also be grounded at the same time. I’m always about that mix of fantasy and reality. Gwen Stefani has been one of my major role models in pop music. Just like she has in her artistry, I enjoy creating my own world.
Why are you and your sound so influenced by the late 90s/early 00s? What is it about this period that is so attractive to you?
The early 00’s were just so shiny and glossy and colourful - visually and sonically. I was a tween then, so I was still very innocent about what I gravitated towards and what inspired me. It was the time when I taped TRL music video premieres on VHS and rehearsed Britney dance routines in my bedroom. A lot of kids were ashamed or embarrassed to be a fan of bubblegum pop, but not me. I was and still am oblivious to the haters.
You once commented that Britney Spears taught you “how to be a pop star” - what exactly is it that you learnt from Godney?
I studied Britney’s videos, lip synced/sang all of her songs in the mirror trying to emulate her facial expressions, went to her choreographers’ master classes, handmade outfits reminiscent of hers... I mean, the WHOLE NINE YARDS. I always admired how hard she worked. I did sit-ups before bed as my prayer to Godney.
Will your latest songs Queen of Me / Could U Love Me be appearing on a body of work at some point?
Right now, I’m focusing on releasing a bunch of double A-side singles and collaborations this year, but perhaps there will be a full body of work. I’m not really sure yet. But, the world is my oyster.
Were there any big differences when it came to writing and recording Queen of Me / Could U Love Me with your previous music?
The difference is I was sitting on these songs for quite some time! I was used to putting out music pretty quickly after making it, but label/mgmt drama kept me from releasing anything for a while. Also, I came out during the heyday of SoundCloud when you could upload free releases instantly. It’s more of a commercial release world now with the power of Spotify, etc. One fun fact is I think I made like five different versions of ‘Could U Love Me’ before deciding on this one with the Miami Bass production.
2014 EP Just Like You has some really cool artwork in particular, and those inches on the Queen of Me / Could U Love Me single cover are unreal. How does your artwork usually come together? What does your album artwork mean to you?
At this point, my artwork and visuals are equally as important to my project as the music. Like I said, it’s about creating my own world. Fashion is also super important to the cultural, editorial aspect of it all. I have a couple creative directors/collaborators I work very closely with including James Orlando and Louby McLoughlin. The next stuff coming soon is crazy. Wigs, CGI makeup, outer space...it’s a trip.
What is your creative process like? What is the toughest part of creating new music?
I’m pretty low key when I go into the studio to make songs. I just play it by ear and let the energy of the session lead me where I’m supposed to go creatively. I’m pretty organic about the process. But, as soon as my collaborators and I are onto a vibe, I start seeing visuals in my head and the ideas get me really excited and inspired. The toughest part about making new music is playing it later for objective people. You just hope the magic you experienced that day in the room translates into an mp3 demo.
We’re in a really politically charged world right now. How does that impact you and your music?
I’m just being true to myself and making art that inspires me...as a result, I hope it inspires others. I feel like my music and visuals tend to be an escape for people, and we all need that sometimes. This world can get so heavy. My message is to be genuine and inclusive and to celebrate who you are.
What are your views on the representation of female pop artists? Is there anything that you think you could, or would like to, change?
I think women in pop are killing it right now. A lot of females once considered unlikely to become pop stars because of their image or quirks happen to be changing the whole game now. People react to authenticity - whatever version that may be.
Let's elaborate on this tweet of yours from February 9th:
Is anyone gonna talk about the ppl in the industry who are emotionally and verbally abusive, manipulative and misogynistic? Cuz that’s also a form of assault in my eyes. I’m sick of having to accept that that behavior is normal. I even witness it being celebrated at times.
— LIZ (@LIZ_Y2K) February 9, 2018
Was this directed at anybody in particular? What triggered this? When and where have you witnessed these things being celebrated?
I’ve seen people in high positions of power get away with being abusive, and I’ve also experienced abuse first hand. Through manipulation, it’s masked as care and concern and love. When people are passionate, that passion can come out in different ways - sometimes explosive, angry ways unfortunately. I’d rather not name names, but I think it’s common for artists to have tumultuous relationships with people on their teams. I just accepted it for too long, thinking it’s what I deserved and needed. I’m stronger now.
What else is there about the music industry that frustrates you as a woman? What issues do you think female musicians are experiencing today, and why do you think this is happening?
I have a big issue with ageism. That is still a major matter of contention I wish this industry would get over. Age ain’t nothin but a number. It should be about how you act, look and perform. It’s like labels won’t invest in new female artists past the age of 25. Are they afraid we’re gonna get wrinkles and wanna settle down and have babies within a year or something? Are we like expired fruit when we turn 30? Honey, I get my glycolic peels every month, work my butt off in pilates, and pop my birth control religiously. This bitch ain’t slowin' down anytime soon.
Which female musicians would you like to collaborate with?
Rina Sawayama, Kim Petras, Yaeji, Ducky, Tommy Genesis, Grimes, Charli XCX, Julia Michaels, GWEN STEFANI (aka Mom)... so many more too.
Are there any up and coming female musicians you have your eye on?
Carlie Hanson is so dope. I think she’s like 16 or something, but her delivery in her vocals feels so seasoned and I just dig her vibe. She sounds like a female Bieber and is just an adorable tomboy-next-door.
Which aspect of the music industry excites you the most? Do you ever feel like you’re in the wrong industry?
I’m excited to see independent artists pave their own ways and find success in multiple, maybe unexpected areas. I’m now one of ‘em. I don’t think I’m in the wrong industry...I think I’m maybe on the wrong planet. But, that’s a whole other discussion.
How did your collaboration with Japan’s singing mannequins FEMM happen? Obviously, they’re mannequins, so what was that process of working with them like?
I met the mannequins in LA at their performance at Asian night at Rage in West Hollywood. We planned on collaborating for a while but finally made it happen when I knew I would be coming over to Tokyo for a show. Their label sent me an instrumental, concept and treatment of the eventual video. They said the song had to be video game/romance themed. I wrote the top line in LA with my friend Scott Bruzenak (who is well versed in everything nerd culture) and the girls recorded their parts in Japan. We shot the video when I was in town a few weeks later! It was bizarre but cool.
Where did the term for your fan base, Lizbians, come from?
Lizbian was a nickname that my friends called me - half teasing/half endearing. I tweeted it as a joke and my fans/followers adopted it. So, yeah... it’s pretty hilarious and awesome.
What advice do you have for other female musicians?
Stop trying to appease others. Do YOU, girl - whatever that may be. Oh, and support your fellow female artists. Comparison is the thief of joy. And, like, don’t be a backstabbing bitch?