I’m a big fan of sad music.
Songs that make you sad when you listen to them, songs that were recorded by artists who were sad when they wrote them. Songs with cheery lyrics but sad instrumentation. Songs with upbeat production but sad vocals. Songs that make you sad because of where you’re at in the moment, songs that make you sad because of where you were when you first heard it.
Big fan of sadness.
Upon first listen and after dozens of subsequent plays, Deserts of Youth by Lisa/Liza feels like sad music, but for none of the usual reasons. Laden with melancholy, nostalgia, and introspection, this seven-track record imbues sadness in the way a blurred photograph of the love of your life might, or like having a vague epiphany in the middle of a pedestrian-crowded sidewalk but unable to put your finger on what it all means.
Honest without presumption, profound yet accessible, Deserts of Youth is a breath of fresh air that will leave you gasping due to its sincere and deliberate exploration of that nameless thought within yourself that seems to shed its insecurities as soon as the 6-minute track “Century Woods” begins. By the end of the last song on the record, “Deserts Of Youth,” it’s as if Liza Victoria, with her lulling voice and orchestral guitar, has helped you discover that nameless thought within yourself, give it a name, and accept it as part of who you are now.
Again, Deserts of Youth feels like sad music, but for none of the usual reasons. In fact, it might feel sad because of the listener’s reception of the songs rather than the songwriter’s performance of the material. The cinematic experience of this psych-folk record seems to reflect both Liza’s personal contemplations as well as the audience’s own solipsism.
So, I guess you can say Deserts of Youth will feel like sad music if you’re a sad listener. Give it a go yourself before checking out my interview below with Lisa/Liza following her live performance at Uncommon Ground in Chicago on January 13, 2017.
Miller: So how do you feel the show went? It was so cool to watch after listening to your album all week. I was really curious to hear how you would adapt it live, because it is so cinematic and almost seemed best suited to listen to while sitting alone in an empty room with your thoughts.
Liza: I've been on the road for like a week, and I've been playing some things just acoustic, which basically makes it a little bit easier to translate the record live. But the spaces we play in don't always work out like that, so I have a band that I play electric with, too.
Miller: I suppose some of your previous work has been around that full-band vein, while still sticking to this psych theme of Deserts of Youth. This is an interesting blend of those, I suppose a natural progression into psych-folk, right? Do you want to talk a little about how your sound has grown?
Liza: I started playing acoustic pretty young and did that for a while, but I didn't really play a lot of shows out. It wasn't until a couple years ago when I started meeting other musicians. I have a drummer and a guitarist who go on tour with me sometimes. This tour is just solo, but they kind of brought me out of my shell a little bit.
Miller: Speaking of that shell, in one of your previous interviews you talked about the solitary endeavor of songwriting. As a writer who holes himself in his room with his typewriter and avoids talking to anyone, I can totally relate to that. What's that process like for you, versus something more collaborative in nature?
Liza: With my drummer and my guitarist, they're really good for that. I usually write songs and play for them, and they'll accompany me as is. We're working towards being more collaborative in the future, but they can just do that, so that's helpful. My process for writing at home is very much just in my room, and if nobody is home then I feel more comfortable writing.
Miller: It should make sense, because Deserts Of Youth feels very introspective.
Liza: When I was younger, I wrote a lot of poetry. It sounds weird, but songwriting developed as a way to appreciate music but also a way to combine my poetry with my guitar, I guess.
Miller: Your lyrics are already extremely poetic, I'm curious how different your poems are to your songs.
Liza: Back then, they were a lot different, very angsty.
Miller: In one of your previous interviews, you also talked about how this record acknowledges the past, but not abandoning it, kind of owning it. Nostalgia seems really present in Deserts Of Youth.
Liza: There's a lot of music right now that is very nostalgic, maybe in part because of the internet. I feel that in a way cultivates a lot of nostalgia as a mechanism and people right now are really interested in nostalgia. We have a lot of time periods available to us that were maybe not as available to us before, unless you knew how to go to the library and find things. All ages are readily available to us at our fingertips. You can go on YouTube and find any time period. So I'm definitely interested in nostalgia, and I am nostalgic, for certain folk scenes especially. Just raw vocals and stuff is what I listen to a lot on my own. I guess in those interviews when I was talking about that, it was very much about a part of my life, and because my songs are really personal, when I try to explain what my songs are about, it's probably about where I am right now. I feel like I've had a lot of situations recently where, maybe when I was younger and angsty writing my poems, I feel like you can get caught up in trying to throw a lot of yourself away or throw away things that make you feel uncomfortable about yourself. The whole idea of looking at the past and accepting it as part of you and finding strengths in yourself instead of finding those as weaknesses. So I guess it's been a slow growing process for me.
Miller: How do you feel that process has been going? You just performed a solo set, which was incredible. You opened with "Red Pine," and as soon as your vocals hit, I felt like your solitude on stage was felt in a really powerful way by everyone in the room. It set a really strong presence.
Miller: How do you feel performing these very personal songs alone on stage?
Liza: I feel good about it, I feel a little lonely sometimes, like 'Where's my band?' As a shy and anxious person, I limit myself a lot, especially when I'm at home. I'm like ‘I could go out, but I'm not going to;’ but, I feel like you can find things that are strengths in you that might scare you a little bit, they might make you anxious, but can use them as strengths. A lot of people wonder, and if you're introverted they probably ask you the same, like ‘Why do you write music and why don't you do something that's social at all?’ But I think people are really dynamic, so challenging yourself is really important to realize your whole self.
Miller: And you recorded Deserts Of Youth at home right? Alone, too?
Liza: Yeah [laugh].
Miller: How did that process go, from mining for inspiration to the recording process?
Liza: It was pretty comfortable, but I had a lot of personal stuff going on that was difficult to deal with, so it helped to have music to write and tell myself, "Yes, I am writing a record." I was very comfortable at home. I think when people go to record, they think they have to be in a studio, and I think they often overlook finding whatever gives you strength and trying to draw that out, which happened to be my house at the time.
You can find more about Lisa/Liza’s tour and discover more of her music on her bandcamp page https://lisalizas.bandcamp.com/