Interview & Photo: Lyz Olko
The new single “Here” was a chance for the two old friends Lyz Olko and Lissy Trullie to catch up, and for us to listen in on the conversation. They discuss the new single, getting right into the what the influences were and what state of mind it came out of. If you’re familiar with Lissy Trullie’s music, you know that in addition to being the rare breed of guitarist who combines technical mastery with an artist’s approach, she also stands out for her unmistakable vocals. The two dive into an exploration of the music, the voice, all aspects that went into creating the single. And as with any quality conversation, they veer off topic, into the spaces where you really get to know them as people. Read on for the interview.
I cannot stop listening to “Here” and “Self Taught Learner” on repeat since we hung out and spent a really great afternoon together shooting for this story. I read the review of “Here” on ID , I am in full agreement: the use of the cowbell as they point out is SOOOOO good! It’s so catchy and one of my top 5 elements to add to songs (2 other examples: glass breaking and dogs barking / think Jane’s Addiction) “Been Caught Stealing”… What were you listening to at the time of writing the song and were your listening choices reflected by your mood at the time? It’s such a happy catchy beat….
You have no idea how psyched I get to hear that people not only like the new single but are still listening to one of the first songs I ever put out – Self-Taught Learner. That really means a lot to me, so, thank you!!
In the past I’ve been pretty liberal when it comes to influences for an album or song… Mainly because my attention bounces around all over the place finding influential elements from many different kinds of music as well as things having nothing to do with music, like books or film or art. However, for this new material I’ve intentionally narrowed my focus. I think that’s a result of growing and understanding my writing better. I’ve been gravitating towards artists like ESG, Tom Tom Club, Arthur Russell, Grace Jones, or Suicide and writing with drum machines, synth and bass as opposed to my guitar which was my go to instrument for writing before.
Your voice is one of the most incredible throaty deep fully spiritually feeling ones I have heard ever. You mention how you don’t have a typical singing voice for a girl, have people mentioned this to you as harder to sell or for you to change in any way? Have you wanted to or do you see it as an asset?
Actually, I’ve had the opposite experience when it comes to what other people think. My unusual voice was one of the elements that producers or other music people really got excited about. My hang up about it was totally my warped perception of what I thought I should sound like. If it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of friends or fellow musicians about my singing, I would have just stuck to writing and/or playing guitar for other people.
Those hesitations are far gone though, I’m really happy that my voice doesn’t sound like many other artists. This is also something I’m trying to really dig into with my new record. I want to push my vocals to new places, I want to make myself uncomfortable, that’s usually how I end up with something great.
You remind me of Marianne Faithfull one of my favorite musicians, who are some of your favorite bands/singers ? and also is there anyone you look to as a musical or artistic influence?
Thank you! I’m a Marianne Faithfull fan. I remember discovering the album Broken English when I a teenager, it blew me away. That album is still in my regular rotation.
For this album, I’m looking more towards 80’s art dance music like the artists I mentioned above but that doesn’t cover all my influences, it’s just a starting point for production and sound. As far as other influences, it’s really endless. I’m sure that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but, I listen to so much. I don’t ever limit myself to a particular moment in time or style of music, I just follow whatever moves me in some way. Including things outside music like art, or film, or literature.
What are your top 5 favorite movies?
Damn. This is going to be a challenge…..
- Out of the Blue – 1980 directed by Dennis Hopper
- The Watermelon Woman – 1996 Cheryl Dunye
- Persona – 1966 Ingmar Bergman
- Paris Is Burning – 1990 Jennie Livingston
- Boys Don’t Cry – 1999 Kimberly Peirce
(Close to top 5 or maybe should be in my top 5)
My Own Private Idaho – 1991 Gus Van Sant
Murmur of the Heart – 1971 Louis Malle
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant – 1972 Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Blue Velvet – 1986 David Lynch
I want to push my vocals to new places, I want to make myself uncomfortable, that’s usually how I end up with something great.
We have known each other for years, I think about since we were both in college. I have always admired your style and thought you were cool and kind of a kindred spirit in a way of not fitting in in a specific category which i think is really rare for anyone, and particularly a woman …. Do you remember a specific time in your life of feeling uncomfortable and being aware of not fitting in and then the moment of being accepting and an “I’m Okay!” moment ?
Oh man, you’re the sweetest! I feel the same way about you <3
I always felt uncomfortable, and in all honesty, I still have moments of feeling that way. I’m super shy, which is often mistaken for being too cool or cold, so, that doesn’t help matters. I grew up in a very conservative family and environment, and from an early age I was aware that something was different about me. Aside from my interests in different sorts of music and art, I was a pale ginger gay girl in catholic school in a strait-laced family… Not only did I feel different, I was taught that people like me were different and that was unacceptable. Moving away, going to art school, finding some like minded weirdos (like yourself) and finding other queer kids definitely helped ease my discomfort but that different feeling still lurks. I kind of grew to have a respect for that feeling because it keeps me searching and keeps me open.
Self taught Learner is still one of my favorite albums everrrrrrrr. You have worked collaboratively in bands and as a solo artist. How is the creative process different in each way, and also have you learned from working as a creative team and applied any of those things to working as a solo artist presently? (after years of being a solo artist to start out with?)
Both solo and as part of a band have been collaborative experiences. Although I wrote my first EP and album on my own, the recording process was collaborative working with different producers, engineers, and my guitarist, drummer, and bassist. However, the first time I did a co-write was on my second album. I wrote with my producers, Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio and John Hill who has produced Santigold, Rihanna, Shakira, Lykke Li, Charli XCX, Tune-yards (the list goes on). Initially I was a little hesitant, I had some ego issues around being the only writer, but I had such a great experience collaborating that way it opened up a whole new side of making music for me. Not only did it make my writing better but I started writing for projects outside my thing for film/tv or for other artists. I was part of another band recently called Zipper Club which was a also a collaborative project. I guess the only major difference between being in a band as opposed to having a solo project is; at the end of the day my solo thing is on my shoulders and ultimately I’m the only one who’s going to fight to the death for it. In a band, ideally, you share that pressure and responsibility.
How do you feel about starting your career just before digital media became dominant, and is it easier or harder to get your work out to a real audience in the age of Spotify?
When I put out my first EP music had already made that digital transition, we printed CD’s and Vinyl, but the main source of album/single sales or reaching wider audiences came from downloading mp3’s on iTunes or other platforms. Streaming, however, has been the most significant transition over the span of my career. Even newer artists have felt that shift. It’s hard to imagine another way of listening to music but it’s only been a little over half a decade since the majority of world switched from downloading to streaming. The business side of music is still in turmoil over how to profit from streaming but I’ve never made it rain in that way so for an artist like me, who missed the times where album sales mattered and made money, it’s hardly noticeable.
Even though streaming is just a new format of listening to music, it’s addressed something deeper. What makes me excited is that artists finally have tools to bypass the “music industry” system. Especially for communities who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance or opportunity to be seen/heard in the past. Although the business side is obsessing over streaming numbers and is trying to dominate things like Spotify bullying their way on to the most popular playlists, streaming has leveled the playing field significantly, and, flooded the playing field too. I’d rather have too much to listen to than too little though. It’s a game changer for the better. Streaming, like social media, has given the people an opportunity to be heard and has taken huge chunks of power out of the hands of major labels and corporations. It’s challenging the standards of what makes an artist valuable. What’s not to love?
Moving away, going to art school, finding some like minded weirdos (like yourself) and finding other queer kids definitely helped ease my discomfort but that different feeling still lurks. I kind of grew to have a respect for that feeling because it keeps me searching and keeps me open.