When I think of Lizzy, I think rainbows, sparkles and unicorns. For almost a decade, Lizzy’s work involved helping the mentally ill, the homeless and Montreal’s most destitute. Lizzy’s instinct was to offer a little sparkle of joy in their life…take away the pain, if only for a brief moment.
She took that gift of hope and is now channeling it into song.
Lizzy was classically trained but rebelled and found a musical identity in Pop Punk. She traded in her Cello for a guitar and started playing song from her new heroes. That spark of rebellion led her to 80s and 90s indie, which brought synths into her life.
For Lizzy, the rainbow signifies that transition between the end of the rain, and sunshine soon to come. Her music inhabits that space in between, lamenting the pain, but seeing the light ahead.
At first, it will fill you with nostalgia, but leave you with hope at it ends.
While having a Pint at Yïsst, we talked about the French/Anglo culture, her musical rebellion, and how Lizzy is redefining the word Fanatic.
Montreal Rocks: I’m taking the initiative to interview more bands on the Montreal scene. Everyone knows each other…like one big family.
Lizzy: That’s cool. It’s weird because there is the Anglophone and Francophone scene, which don’t cross much, I find. Within those two scenes are families.
MR: On iTunes, you have 3 singles. Two are in English and one is in French. Do you consider yourself a Francophone or Anglophone singer?
Lizzy: It’s a good representation. I write 30% in French and 70% in English. I don’t force it. I live in both world with Francophone and Anglophone friends.
MR: It’s Montreal, we are all Franglais!
Lizzy: Exactly. Once in a while, I will be minding my own business and a French lyric will come up in my head, and I will write a French song.
MR: What is one thing about the French Québécois culture that you are proud of?
Lizzy: Authenticity. The Québécois don’t like phony or fake. They appreciate what is original and authentic. I respect that a lot. I also find we make good cinema here.
MR: I’m 50/50, but I think in English.
Lizzy: Same here but I think in both. My dad is Francophone and my mom grew up in Toronto. I’ve always felt I’ve had both cultures in me. I get really offended if French people talk against Anglophones, and vice-versa.
MR: Why can’t we just all get along, right?
MR: I want to talk about your music. The first song from 2018 IT’S OK starts off with this really cool Cure-like bass line. The latest one FAR AWAY at first reminds me of The Cranberries, then right into Arcade Fire, then it kicks off into its own little world, because you are original as well.
Lizzy: Yeah, that’s interesting.
MR: It’s like an homage to some of these bands, so I want to understand your musical heritage. Let’s go back and picture yourself as a little girl. You are flipping through your parent’s album collection…or maybe CD’s…who knows. Do you remember anything triggering this love of music or that changed music from being something you heard into something you felt?
Lizzy: For sure. I didn’t really flip through my parent’s albums because they mostly listened to Classical music. I grew up learning to play the Cello. Both my sisters were violinists, my older sister being a prodigy. I then discovered Pop Punk bands like Green Day and Blink 182 when I was around 12. That was my rebellion.
MR: Pop Punk is emotional. They talk about real stuff.
Lizzy: Yeah. In my pre-teen brain, it felt like the total opposite of Classical music, which is complicated, technical and hard to play.
MR: When I was young, we used music to escape. You would have anger, frustration or dark thoughts but you couldn’t express yourself. Then you’d hear this band and think: That’s what I wanted to say, but they found the words to say how I feel. Classical doesn’t have that. It’s more of a soundtrack where you have to create your own lyrics.
Lizzy: Exactly. When you are a teenager, you need that angst, relating to lyrics and going into your own little world. Punk for me was very raw emotions. I started playing guitar so I could figure out little punk songs. They are pretty easy to play, which is what I liked. The Cello was so complicated, but I could play these songs on the guitar! That became my identity as a musician. I like good, simple, catchy songs that you can relate to. It then snowballed from Pop Punk to getting heavily into The Ramones, Blondie and The Police. I then got into indie Alternative 80s music like The Cure and New Order.
At the core, I just really like the rawness and simplicity of a good, catchy song.
MR: Is music, for you, some sort of gift from the Universe that you have to channel out, or is it more of a story you need to tell to be creative, or emotions you need to let out and express?
Lizzy: It can be all three of them. Some songs are just out there where I can channel them and it’s effortless.
MR: What is one of those songs?
Lizzy: LES FLEURS MORTES. It came to me when I was riding my bike. When I got home, I figured out the chords and it just came to me from out there. For others, it’s a way for me to express something I couldn’t otherwise. Things I’ve thought a lot about, almost therapeutic. Instead of talking to a therapist, I write a song about it. It helps.
MR: What’s an example of that?
Lizzy: IT’S OK was about a friendship I had. I was feeling really sad about what one of my friends was going through and how it was affecting our relationship as friends. I was carrying this sadness.
MR: A feeling of distance as well, whether it’s geography of feelings.
Lizzy: Exactly. So, it’s not one way, but many.
MR: Different tools in your toolbox.
Sparkles and Unicorns. *laughs* I don’t know why, but when I think about you, I see sparkles and Unicorns. What part of you does that stem from?
Lizzy: I like to see the good in people and be optimistic. Rainbows are my favorite thing. I never figured out why. I’m taken aback by this question because I wonder: Why do I love sparkles and rainbows so much? I guess it is my personality.
NOTE: After the interview, we spoke about careers and I found out that Lizzy, for almost a decade, worked with the mentally ill, the homeless and those in a bad place. All she wanted to do was give a little glimmer of hope to these ones. When I linked her story to her love of sparkles, Unicorns and rainbows, she gave me a high five. It all made sense now.
MR: Happiness, joy and fun. That’s what you exude.
Lizzy: It has to do with kooky songs. I like Pop Music, fun and playful things.
MR: I wasn’t really into Pop Music, to be honest. Then I interviewed What If Elephants and they are pretty deep. They are talking about dark subjects, but putting it to a bright beat. It game me more respect for the genre, whereas I might have just brushed it aside before. I found that it has matured lately. You don’t have to be AQUA Barbie Girl.
Lizzy: For me, the definition of Pop Music is in the world popular. It will reach a broad audience, so I find that often, it’s songs that are highly relatable. Some are watered down songs that have no meaning, but when an artist nails it, it can be a great song.
MR: I’m going to argue against that. I think that when an artist nails it, it’s because they are not trying to make a popular song, but a song that is true to themselves.
Lizzy: OK. It’s meaningful.
MR: If you try to please everyone, you please…
Lizzy: …no one. Yeah, you water it down.
MR: When you can express a true feeling in song, that’s when people relate. Like you said, the Québécois don’t want to hear fake…they want the real you. Your French songs have to nail the real you. The same is true in English.
Lizzy: I agree with that so much. It has to come from a real place. I like all my favorite songs because I can relate to them.
MR: The Fanatics. How did that come about?
Lizzy: Before Lizzy & The Fanatics, I had put out an EP just as Lizzy on Bandcamp. I had written this song where I said: I’m a fanatic because I still believe in magic, which relates very much to unicorns and sparkles.
I liked the idea of reclaiming fanatic, which is often perceived as negative. It’s about someone who is highly passionate about something. I’m a bit of that person. I get very passionate in everything I do. I can get obsessive when I like something. For example, if I like an artist, I will REALLY get into that artist. The idea is of being super passionate is where that lyric came from.
When thinking about band names with the girls, we went through so many. It’s so hard to be original and not be complicated. After brainstorming for a couple weeks, I said: “I think it’s right in front of us, in the lyrics of the song.”
MR: Do you think that Lizzo stole your name? Maybe she owes you some money for that.
It could be Lizzo & The Fanatics. I see a collaboration right there. She will be at Osheaga, maybe you can bump into her.
What are you fanatical about?
Lizzy: I like wonder and feeling things intensely. I’m a fanatic about music, first and foremost. Everybody that knows me, know that if they need a DJ for a party….or if there is a conversation about music…I’m there 200%. Music is my passion.
MR: Let’s talk about the creation of music. I get the sense that you do a lot of writing in your room.
Lizzy: Yes. I record everything in my home.
MR: Is that your inspirational place? For you, is it a place, or a vibe you can get into while walking down the street?
Lizzy: I find inspiration everywhere. The reason I like working at my home is that I like working alone. It’s an environment where I feel safe. I’ve sometimes recorded in other people’s studios and I don’t feel as safe, because I’m in someone else’s space. I have to hurry up and get this take right. It’s more pressure. When I’m at home, I can be in total control. It’s comfortable and I don’t feel threatened by anything. It’s not so much about the place…
MR: …but being in a bubble. That way you can experiment and even make a fool of yourself by taking chances on things that might not work. You can then see what sticks.
MR: What’s next? Is an album coming?
Lizzy: We are aiming to release an EP in June. There will be a release party. I’m hoping to play a few festivals in the summer. Pouzza Fest is one confirmed so far. We would also like to do an Eastern tour towards the Maritimes in the summer. I’m constantly working on new music. I will start with the guitar, then record and arrange them.
MR: Do you do most of the writing, where you bring the songs to your band and they are all done?
Lizzy: Yeah. I guess I’m a bit of a control freak. I write all of the parts, but if they play it a little differently…that’s fine. Everything essential is there.
MR: It’s the beginning of March. If we were to meet here in one year’s time, opening up a bottle of Champagne to celebrate something you have just accomplished…what would that be?
Lizzy: OMG, there are so many things I want to accomplish. If I could get funding to make an album, that would be amazing.
MR: Do you think videos are still important in this day and age?
Lizzy: For sure. A grant for a video would also be cool. We have to start working our video game, because we don’t have many.
MR: We look forward to seeing you at Pouzza Fest!
Interview: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His new Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs is coming soon.Share this :