A gorgeous, brunette, heat throb of a woman with blunt bangs and eyes that could kill rides into a giant theater on a white horse. If you can’t picture it, recall how Kevin Barnes did it. (It can be done.) The woman then grabs a mic and says, clearly, but perhaps softer than you would imagine, “Hi I’m Lisa/Liza, this is me officially, I play quiet folk songs.” As she utters the last word, a multitude of streamers fall from the sky. And everyone takes home a free bonsai.
This is how compelling Portland, Maine psych-folk singer/guitarist Lisa/Liza (Liza Victoria) would prefer to make her grand entrance unto the world. And we can’t blame her, as that’s a pretty impressive way to say “hi”. But she almost doesn’t need an introduction, as her music speaks for itself. Soft, beautiful, heartfelt, almost like a whisper. Stream her new seven track release, Deserts of Youth, below.
In honor of her new release, we had the opportunity to delve into the music with Liza herself. Her impressive insight and charming personality are amazingly palpable in her words.
What’s the first song or album you remember hearing, and who introduced it to you?
The first tape I owned was a mixed tape my sister gave me of the Space Jam soundtrack. I felt like it was the coolest thing, I felt so cool for knowing all those ‘teenager songs’. I’d play it all the time.
Was there a moment that you realized you wanted to pursue music?
I think there were many moments. I wanted to be a country music singer when I was 6 because my foster mother would blast Shania Twain on the tv and we would just dance and be happy and i loved her a lot, so i loved country music. As a kid i would move around a lot I would write songs on long road trips in my head. I guess in my adult life I wanted to be a musician since I was about 14. My older brother loved Guns and Roses and he passed really young and I learned he was learning guitar and I just wanted to learn guitar too. There have been a lot of phases and different affirmations since then that this is what I want to do, but i’ve always loved music of all kinds, and pretty much wanted to be a singer for the longest time.
Your voice is stunning. Did you have any training in that regard?
Thanks so much that means a lot to me, it’s something I focus on a lot, I haven’t had any training for vocals. I am also self-taught on guitar, although I did take a music class in high school where my shining moment was learning how to play ‘under-the-sea’ on bass guitar.
Where do you find the most inspiration for your music?
It’s hard to say what inspires me the most, some of that might be too personal or beyond my ability to communicate. But I think I am very inspired by environments as far as getting the gears going for creating. When I think about what I write about lyrically and my writing process I get a lot out of the woods and the ocean and the kind of reflection it allows a person tap into. Reflection and the quiet moments mean a lot to me, animals inspire me a lot too, they tend to be in quite places.
You recorded Deserts of Youth at home, alone, with your voice and your guitar. Kudos! It takes a lot to be able to do something that raw. (And it turned out beautifully!) Do you prefer creating your music alone, or do you like having other people in to help more often than not?
Thanks so much! Yeah this was a really nice record to record because I really could just write a song in my room and then take it to the desk. In the past i’ve always been worried about roomies getting weirded out about me muttering to myself, or i haven’t even had a desk, but now I live on the top floor and only the grey squirrels in our ceiling can hear me. Haha.
I had a lot of struggling going on at the time personally so just to be able to be like, “Hey, I’m writing right now, let’s think about that” was so nice because it offered me a lot of space to sort of force myself into meditation by playing and writing music as much as possible. I have a lot of social anxiety and I think for this reason creating alone can allow me a little more freedom so in that way it’s really wonderful, i’ll always enjoy this process. It’s sort of like if you were a writer, isolation in the right doses can be just the right medicine, a crackling fire alone in a cabin with a feather pen sort of deal…but if you find yourself alone in a giant hotel full of ghosts in the middle of the winter, you might be taking it too far.
I think probably because of my anxiety I’m not a big collaborator, but it’s something I’m going to tackle in the future, because that’s less of a personal choice and more of just a matter of not having had the experience. I have a band I play with and we’ve been playing and touring for a few years now, we have plans to record together in the near future, and that’s an experience I’m really looking forward too.
Do you have any fun stories or interesting details from the making of Deserts of Youth?
I thought it was going to be a cassette release at first! Owen called me one night right before a show and I was having an awful time that month and was just thinking “oh he’s gonna be like, take your songs and go, just like get on your bike and go” or something really insecure like that for no reason at all because that’s the place I was in and then he was like “hey would you like to make a vinyl?” and it was just a really wonderful and joyful moment. I hugged my band and ate tortilla chips. I enjoyed the tortilla chips in the green room so much I got a little drunk and actually stole them and took them home. I woke up and was like “why are there tortilla chips in my bag?” I just decided those chips were too sentimental to leave behind.
I really enjoy the song “Wander”, however it may be because I identify with the title a little bit. What inspired that particular track?
Oh I’m glad you like it! It almost didn’t make the album we were deciding between two different tracks and they were just really neck and neck for making the vinyl. We ultimately went with that one on Owen Ashworth’s and I’s combined intuition. Wander is directly inspired by listening to the same Karen Dalton record for about a month. It’s also about chasing a crush, and trying to put the feeling to paper of what it’s like to wake up with that- new-crush -rose-colored-lens on your eyes in the morning. I think I wanted to capture the feeling of someone being pulled along and controlled by that feeling. And at the end of the day it’s a love song to that journey, and maybe a thank you letter too.
How do you imagine people enjoying your music? (On a giant rock in the middle of the ocean, drinking scotch by a fire?)
HA! I love this question! If you can get to that giant rock in the ocean or that abandoned lighthouse in a safe way, then that is a great place. I’m glad you chose such exciting places as examples! I suppose since the theme of the album is about location and environment I would invite listeners to take the album with you on an adventure. Maybe a drive through the desert, maybe a place in the woods behind your house that only you know about, put out some candles, make it a ritual. Make it a secret adventure with your friend, make a pillow fort, bring out the mini planetarium and vibe under the stars. I suppose I should mention that it’s also out on vinyl as well as digital, so definitely listen to it while making a pizza. Is that how people usually listen to vinyl? I might be hungry because vinyl is really reminding me of pizza right now. Don’t get the pizza on the vinyl. If you listen to it somewhere amazing please please write me and tell me at shows.
What do you love most about the modern music community?
There are so many non- mainstream artists and outsider-folk artists that are able to tour and make music right now and I am constantly inspired by this. When it gets rough I just try to remind myself how wonderful it is to have this in my life. A lot of artists still struggle greatly in these scenes, but we do it out of love, that is uplifting to me, as a philosophy major, i am hard pressed to find many things that don’t function pretty heavily on capitalism, not all, but many of these smaller DIY music communities achieve that, remarkably. I think it is a wonderful thing that so many hard-working individuals are out there supporting music that isn’t just easy listening. I love that we have a healthy and vast modern folk scene today. Most of all I love the people that show up to see small shows, shows that are only 10-40 people large. Those who are involved in the smaller DIY community that I am a part of, seeing different folks be able to express themselves in such a real and unique way is not just fun, it’s therapeutic for many. I feel more and more that what we need right now is a strong sense of community, the beautiful thing about the music community is that you can make it happen in your backyard. You 100% can literally put a show on in your backyard, right now. There are definitely many challenges and struggles in modern music too. But I also think some amazing spaces and systems of trust and friendship are arising through people connecting through small music scenes around the country. I know it sounds cheesy but these small communities make huge differences in people’s quality of life, contrary to some folks belief, many young people are in poverty right now, they definitely are in Maine… having these shows where we can have conversations about difficult things has been vital to me and many people I know. It gives me a lot of hope, and every time someone puts me up for a show at their house or their city I really feel amazed that there is still this beautiful part of our culture where we can openly trust each-other (often being totally strangers), learn from each other, and lift each other up.
What is one thing you don’t think you could ever live without?
What’s your favorite record right now?
tbh I’ve been slacking really hard listening music. I’ve been going to a lot of live shows though, and my friend GREEF has just written some new songs that I wish I had a record of. I would have that on repeat. Also on my turntable I have been listening to this amazing Connie Francis record, i don’t why but it’s so great. And also John Andrews and the Yawns is the last record I bought. He has a beautiful voice and the record is so warm. It’s called “Bit by the Fang”
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you collaborate with and on what project/song?
This is one of those questions where I feel like it’s okay to reach and say something wild so I’m going to answer it with a total fantasy and say Vince Staples, because OMG. I saw him play recently and I think that would be a dream to be in the same room as someone that creative. I’d also love to collaborate with Jenny Hval.
I don’t normally ask this, but I feel like you might have a grip on performers from former eras. Do you have a favorite performer from before you were around that you really love?
Sibylle Baier is a hero and I just discovered Karen Dalton and Connie Converse, I also love Michael Hurley. I love Kath Bloom, Blossom Dearie, Blind Owl, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, weird old country records which are mostly covers but sometimes some of those lesser known folks who made it Grand Ole Opry once are just amazing. I love Eric Bourdon’s voice. Plastic Ono Band is a favorite record and All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. I love Skip James, Billie Holiday, Lightnin Hopkins. I love different and interesting voices stuff that feels like you can reach out and touch it because it’s got so much texture. I’m sure there’s so much I haven’t heard. I think this has been a really positive aspect of the internet we have been getting all these artists from former eras re-surging that really should have had credit in their time and some of them like Michael Hurley and Ed Askew and Linda Perhacs are out there touring now and getting buzz after a lot of time in obscurity which is really a beautiful thing to me.
Lisa/Liza will play Pawtuckaway Takedown Festival on September 17th. Her record Deserts of Youth is available to stream now. Physical copies will be released September 30th and are available for preorder now.