Liza Victoria is a singer/guitarist/songwriter based in Portland, Maine. Her main musical project is Lisa/Liza. Under that moniker, she works in a variety of styles with various collaborators. You know––like Beck.
On the latest Lisa/Liza release, Vanity Window (2013), Victoria collaborates with guitarist Matt Lajoie of Herbcraft. It’s a single 35-minute take, recorded to a cheap tape recorder with a built-in microphone. Lajoie came into the recording with some familiarity with Victoria’s songs and improvised most of his guitar work. It’s a warbly and spacious album of quiet, psychedelic folk. It’s off-the-cuff in a soothing and intimate way.
The current iteration of Lisa/Liza is comprised of Victoria and drummer, Devon Ivy. They go on tour June 15th, out to New York City and then down South. You can hear a recording of the two of them (along with saw player Penn Chan) on the last song of The Starbird Ceiling.
Salty Speakers: When you’re playing with Devon [Ivy], is it a similar sound to Vanity Window? Is it more upbeat?
Liza Victoria: It’s definitely a different sound. It’s a little less––Matt [Lajoie] and I kind of go for more of a psychedelic thing, which I think is something I’m headed to anyways. Maybe in the future I’ll try more stuff like that with my drummer. Right now it’s a little more suitable for loud places.
SaSp: More Rock and Roll?
LV: More rock and roll. Yeah.
SaSp: Vanity Window is one long take. Were there other takes or is it the first attempt?
LV: It’s the first attempt, actually. We had the idea––why don’t we record something and see what happens and it just kind of worked out. I felt like it was a good reference to share.
SaSp: Do you have an ideal listening situation in your mind? Is it better to listen to it by yourself? In a certain place or in a certain mood?
LV: I kind of wrote it for... a very lonely point.... kind of accepting that loneliness too in a way. It sounds better in headphones for sure. I think it would be best to listen to it alone when you’re thinking through stuff.... I was definitely about to go through a transition then and kind of felt like... I don’t know... it was fall. I felt like a lot of things were changing––you know I was starting to get that feeling.
SaSp: Could you say more about what was going on that made that album?
LV: I was having a lot of... experiences where things start to––I don’t know if you have ever had the feeling that things are connected... that there’s meaning behind life. I was changing my home-life. I was moving out of my old place and I was having a hard time. But then a bunch of things just kind of happened to me that were really nice and I don’t know... comforting in a way, but also kind of bizarre connections. When I think about psychedelic music that’s kind of an important thing: how it connects to you, to the bigger picture.
SaSp: So there’s sort of a spiritual element here?
LV: Yeah.... I wish I could put it better. That’s probably why I write music– because it’s easier to say it in music.
SaSp: There’s a lot of silence at the end of the album. Do you want to say a little bit about that and why it’s there?
LV: It’s just there because... I did put it out all as one take and I didn’t edit any of the silliness out of it, the talking. I wanted to capture that time where we were playing together and just to have it be really real. I felt like chopping it up would have changed the tone. I just left it the way it was recorded.
SaSp: So it’s called Vanity Window. How did you land on that phrase?
LV: I don’t know––I’d just been walking though a lot of neighborhoods and thinking a lot about old houses I guess. In old houses a lot of the time they have this window in the living room or dining room and usually there’s no curtains or anything––you look in and see an elaborate parlor or table. It’s a class signifier too. You have a vanity window and you look in and see the perfect family…. It’s just kind of that idea... looking through something and seeing it a certain way that people want you to see it, but realizing that maybe things are deeper than that or whatever.
SaSp: So is the album itself the window?
LV: I’ve thought about that a little bit, because I was trying to get across––you know if I had made it really clean and you didn’t hear all of the nervous giggling and all that stuff, or the mess-ups, it might have a different feel. I was sort of trying to break through that, present something that’s a little self-aware and insecure. Like, “This is us, making music and being kind of uncomfortable.”
SaSp: How did it happen that you and Matt decided to work together?
LV: I don’t exactly remember––I guess we had been talking about it. He’d put out an album called The Astral Body Electric and I liked the album and I think wrote to him about it. He wrote back a response like “Oh I also really love your album.” And then we were like “Oh maybe we should play music” and it never really transpired for a while. Then we just started hanging out and drinking a bottle of wine and playing music. It was kind of funny because we were both a little bit nervous around each other, so at first the bottle of wine was like “Oh yeah... I don’t know... there’s wine here.” But then it was like “OK I think we both need to drink some wine before we play together” because we would just get so nervous around each other.
...We started playing like jamming and were like “Yeah maybe we should do something with this.” We actually had our first live show yesterday.
SaSp: Are you guys going to be doing more of that?
LV: Yeah we’ll be playing more shows in the future.
I asked if the lyrics were available anywhere and Liza said she’d taken them off the internet.
SaSp: Why’d you take them off?
LV: No reason really. It was a lot on soundcloud––a lot of information to read through. I think if it was like a material thing, a CD or tape, I would definitely put the lyrics in there, but it felt like... it was just a lot.
SaSp: It was just the way it looked online?
LV: I don’t know. Maybe... I don’t know I guess the truth is maybe I’m a little more protective of my lyrics or something.
...People say they can’t hear what I’m saying but that’s kind of cool. People hear what they want I guess.
SaSp: Do you like when people can’t make out the words or would you rather they understood everything?
LV: I like both. i do want people to listen to the lyrics and understand them and stuff. but also I think for that album in particular it was more like I was trying to use my voice as an instrument.
SaSp: The album came from a specific time in your life. Was it written in a short period?
LV: All of the songs were written within a month or two of when I recorded it––maybe 3 months. It was pretty fresh at that point.
SaSp: Is that how you like to work? with stuff that’s pretty new?
LV: Yeah I prefer to work with stuff that’s newer. I like to write a lot, so it’s sort of chronological. I want it to be relative to my life. I feel like there’s a better energy when it’s newer stuff. Sometimes you can bring back older stuff and it has new meaning but generally I like to play newer stuff.
SaSp: So you like it to be emotionally relevant?