It’s hard to define LYZZA—or at least, the media seems to think so. With a sound called everything from “experimental anxiety pop” to “semi-weird and very cool”, the 19-year-old artist seems to be almost known for these ambiguities, for the room in between. But with a monthly NTS show, a popping Amsterdam-based party series, and festivals like Bread&&Butter and Primavera Sound under her (probably studded, patent leather) belt, it is clear that her sound resonates with listeners. Following the release of her second EP, we caught up with the artist to talk all things club, Grimes, and the “Banksy-Arca-Dean Blunt love baby shit” that she has planned for 2019.
Hey! How are you?
Hey, I’m doing good! I just moved from Amsterdam to London about 2 months ago and have mostly been working on expanding my live show since my EP "Imposter" dropped. I’m also just making music, as always.
Totally. Imposter has been out for a few months now, and I’ve noticed that it involves a lot more vocals than your past releases. Given this shift, how would you describe your current sound?
I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t really know. Whenever somebody asks me that question I usually answer with “electronic”, but that usually gets people really riled up because “it’s not specific enough”. I guess I would describe my music as music for the sensitive who just want to dance or sing their emotions away to pretty melodies.
I’m surrounded by beautiful individuals who all have had to build this shell around themselves because they’ve been conditioned to think that they’re “weird”. It’s a weird internal conflict when you love certain clothing or music and your idea of cool is something and you have society saying something else.
I want people to be able to listen to my music and sing about sadness and pain without actually wanting to cry; I want them to realize that, “Wait a minute, I’m actually carrying and a lot of people just can’t handle it”. All of that to a beat you want to bump your head and tap your feet to. Maybe even shake your hips and jump around? I don’t know, [laughs]. I’ve definitely always wanted to do a lot of vocal stuff, it just took a while for me to get to confidence to do it. But after the positive reaction to “Imposter”, a lot of anxiety has fallen off my shoulders.
What is your creative process like?
I listen to a lot of music and listen to a lot of interviews where artists talk about what inspires them or how they make music. Then I either try out their tips, or use tracks as inspirations. Sometimes even a tumblr picture or quote can remind me of certain emotion. Music doesn’t have to stem from a definitive and real place.
You got your start DJing in Amsterdam clubs at the age of 16. What was it like being involved in the club scene (presumably a cis-male dominated space) at such a young age? Were you naive?
I’ve never been naive, but I was definitely insecure. There’s been a lot of people who have tried to play me because they probably thought I was a naive little girl, but I’ve always been able to see through it. I don’t easily get drawn out or fall for people selling dreams. Maybe that went hand in hand with the insecurity though, where I probably thought some offers had to be bullshit because it just didn’t seem realistic for “somebody like me”.
It all worked out in the end, though. I’ve been lucky enough to have had an amazing mentor, Jarreau Vandal, through it all; he taught me how to DJ, booked me for my first gig, asked me how my music was going when no one else did, warned me about assholes… We don’t see each other that often because we’re both busy, but I feel like he’s been the first person to really and truly support me just because.
Talk us through how X3 first started.
I’d been DJ’ing for a while and was able to be inspired and broaden my idea of what parties could be like. Amsterdam’s clubbing scene was very controlled and commercialized. I had felt very weird and unsafe at times, but seeing other parties made me realize it didn’t have to be like that.
My best friend (and co-founder of X3) Nocturnal Femme and I met Englesia, the founder of UNITI, when we were 16. When they came to Amsterdam, we wanted to throw a party really badly, but no one wanted to give us their space. So I squatted an empty office building, cleaned it up, Nocturnal Femme did the bar and Englesia helped with the logistics. The party was called “UNITI X AMSTERDAM”, and eventually it evolved into X3 (pronounced Triple X), named after the three X’s that make up Amsterdam’s city emblem.
What type of space are you trying to create?
A space where everyone is comfortable to move freely and be themselves. I don’t think it’s that deep, but apparently people seem to think its very “political”.
I read in a recent feature that you believe wearing wilder looks onstage makes the crowd feel safer and more trusting.
I mean I don't purposely try to dress weirder or wilder on stage—luckily, being onstage gives me an actual reason or even ‘excuse’ to wear crazy clothes. If I have a reason to dress up, why would I wear clothes I could wear to the supermarket? But I think a way to explain that thought is that it relates to representation: “If they can look and be crazy/wild and still be respected, then so can I”.
What advice do you have for those who aren’t cis white men who want to enter this industry?
Honestly, just do it! Work hard, stay focused, and fight for your dreams. It’s obviously easier said than done, but if you have a passion or a dream, you should not let anyone stop you. And there’s going to be a lot of up’s and downs. I’ve had DJs almost 10 years older than me calling me a “little girl” backstage and telling me to humble myself just for speaking up when I thought I was being treated unfairly.
But at the end of the day, if you love something, even if there are hurdles on your way to get to where you want to get, you can’t let any of that stop you. Whenever I talk to queer artists about their experiences in the industry and the stories about their come-up, my respect just grows and grows. Most of us have had it very difficult, but we never let it stop us.
Who are you listening to right now?
I’ve been obsessed with Grimes again, I used to listen to her so long ago and honestly I think she’s one of the sickest ‘mainstream’ producers out there. Most of her tracks make me either want to dance around in some fantasy type woods, or make me want to strut down Broadway in an all leather outfit.
Also I’ve really been into Kamixlo: his discography, his Yung Sherman “Frozen” Remix? 4 ever in my heart. I’ve also been really inspired by TheGoldReserves. We’ve been working on a bunch of projects together because I think he’s a genius—the ideas and the concepts we bounce off each other are crazy…On some Banksy-Arca-Dean Blunt love baby shit. 2019 is going to be insane.
interview LILY SPERRY
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