The Liza Colby Sound— Hot Rocks & Sensuous Shock

When I had the chance to talk to Liza Colby of The Liza Colby Sound, she was getting ready to leave for one of many trips to Europe this year—this one in between touring with two separate bands: her own and Brass Against. She’s a powerhouse, though, in every way, so it seems natural for her to be constantly leaving it all on stage.

But Liza is as vibrant, honest, and charismatic off stage as she is on. She’s known for her stage presence and her ability to command a room through her music and her spirit. She’s known for her eccentric, vintage, psychedelic style. But more than anything, she’s known for her perfect on-stage mix of sensuality, confidence, vulnerability, and truth.

You and your band and your live shows are truly becoming a New York City staple. What does this city mean to you and the music you make?

You know, I have been living in New York for 15 years now. Both of my parents were musicians. My mom is from New York City and my dad grew up in Jersey, but because they are both musicians, I spent my whole life here. I lived in Connecticut, right outside of Hartford, which is equal distance from Boston as it is from New York City. My dad was able to make it to both cities so easily to be able to do music, and I would come to the city often for his sessions. Honestly, it’s one of those weird things where I knew I was going to live here. I just loved New York so much. I’ve always had this deep, deep, deep love for New York City, so musically, there is a history that is so deeply embedded in New York—not just in music, but in arts, culture, and everything in between; that is everywhere. You know, you hear it and I hear it, when people come to live here and then they’re like ‘I can’t fucking do it!’ and leave. Yet, there are other people, like me, who are like ‘I fucking love it so much!’ It really makes you work for it, too, and I think the band is a great example of that. We’re coming into our tenth year as a band together and we’ve really had to work for everything along the way. What New York City has certainly made us do is be that band… like, if you’re going to see a New York City band, there is kind of this unspoken expectation that it should be of a certain quality and it should be something that resonates with you, in that you leave saying ‘I loved it!’ or ‘I hated it!’ You never, ever want somebody to leave being like ‘It was whatever.’

New York really has so many stories to tell and so many emotions to draw upon, so I can imagine that being a musician and an artist in this city means that you can truly grab hold of that and use it to your advantage.

For sure, and the other thing is that you are literally brushing shoulders, brushing arms with the best of the best, in every medium, so it really raises the stakes and pushes you to be better and to keep digging.

Absolutely and I know that coming up in September you have a residency at Coney Island Baby, a sick little venue that is the epitome of New York, I’d say. For your lineup of shows, do you think you’ll do anything special? Or just do what you do best by bringing rock ‘n’ roll and passion to the stage?

I mean, it’s kind of crazy because I will have just been getting back from another tour. I’ve been on the road with Brass Against. I’ve been fronting Brass Against for two tours this summer, so I’m hoping that when I get back that it’ll be time for us—The Liza Colby Sound—to start working out some new shit for ourselves. We’ll be leaving for tour, too, literally right after the three week residency… for six weeks in Europe, so what we’re going to be doing is kind of dialing in our set for Europe… and I’m sure that we’re going to want to try out some new things. I always look at a residency as having this really dope looseness that everybody can have this understanding that it’s not a bad show, but that you’ve really had your chance to work shit out…. We played two shows in Jersey for the record release and I just love [my band] so much, so I was so excited to be back with [them], which is how I know that I will be really pumped to play a residency on home turf before I hit the road again….

That’s so special and seems to be coming it at a hectic, but perfect time for you guys. While we’re on the topic of performing, you, yourself, are truly a force to be reckoned with; as an empowered female, as a roaring performer, and as a creative artist. In a world where women are often pushed aside or misinterpreted, how do you keep your presence independent and your own?

I just think it is important right now and forever, because women have literally been fighting for their rights, fighting to have a voice, and fighting to do all of this, just to really live it. That’s what I try to do on stage: really make the environment a place where everybody feels comfortable, and especially women. To constantly be toeing the line between being really emotional on stage, crying on stage, ugly on stage, my shoes are coming untied, a boob pops out—who knows what is going to happen—but to really be okay with it and move through it comfortably is the key. Just fighting to be seen as a woman, and that it is not something that can really be categorized. Everybody wants us to all choose who we are and be so specific, but there is this spectrum to being a woman. I can be really tough and want to get in a fist fight, to wanting to be extremely sensual and want to go have sex. I feel secure in my body some days and then some days, like we all do, I am like ‘Why do I look like this? Why am I so uncomfortable? Why is it like this?’ Just to be somebody who is an advocate of all these feelings, being very open that I also go through these things, and being able to stand up and fight for them—especially right now, with everything that is going on politically—we know that rights are not a given and that it is a constant conversation that keeps coming up. What we really need to do is speak up and hold on to what we believe in and who we are, so that we can continue to have all of the things that we want: the right to choose, the right to be respected, the right to wear what we want, to say what we want. I think all of these things are extremely, extremely important right now.

I wholeheartedly agree with that, and to showcase that through expression and in an artistic endeavor, I think, makes it even more visual to those who still need to understand that women can do whatever they want to and should be able to do so in a way that is respected and free of judgement.

Absolutely. It’s just a matter of inclusivity. In this political climate, we are really finding out that what we need to do is divide and conquer. At the same time, though, it is about being inclusive. I don’t care what you believe in as long as it’s not hurting anyone. I want you to feel respected and accepted and I want the same when you look at me. For women—now, forever, in the past, whenever—it’s a good time to come together and support each other. I want to do that for us and for everybody else.

Turning our discussion a little bit, I would love to talk about Object to Impossible Destination, your debut LP. It’s a hazy dreamscape of original rock ‘n’ roll and powerhouse vocals, but there’s nothing lacking when it comes to the lyrics, message, or musicianship. What was the process of writing and recording this album like?

Well, we went through Draw, our last EP, which was our last piece of work with our last guitarist, Adam. That was an extremely emotional process, just doing the record and getting it out with him being gone. This one was liberating in the sense that we had this material, we had just been on tour, and it was pretty easy to bring to life on stage. It’s honestly one of my favorite things to get to bring new music out on tour and play it every night, because it kind of morphs. It doesn’t matter how well you know a song, and very specifically if it’s a new song. It’s like ‘Do I know? Do I really know you as a song? As a message?’ When taking new music out on the road, it just gets these legs and you really start digging into it as a band, all the musicians get to find their own nuances inside there, as well. So, we had gotten off the road and went straight into our old guitar player’s basement, Tom McCaffrey—he was playing guitar with us after Adam had passed, and we just banged out songs. We tracked six songs, and then, afterward, cruising along, we ended up getting Jay Shepard. Tom had his own band and he’s an amazing guitarist, so he wanted to focus on that. We ended up getting Jay and we wrote these last two songs together, also toured with them, and then we went into the studio again and recorded it. It felt, even though it wasn’t even that long of a process, like it went really fast. We had all dug into these songs and knew them so well that when the process of recording them came up, it was so smooth.

There are a lot of songs that you do live and that are on this record, as well as previous releases, that sound like they could be stellar on stage moments, so what tracks do you think really rev the crowd, and yourselves, up?

Right now, I think “Try Me” and “Eye on You” are huge, great tracks that get the crowd going, everyone off their feet and dancing. “Try Me” more, because it is a little bit faster than “Eye on You,” but “Eye on You” just has these monster vocals. “Young Girl,” too. It’s just a really, really fun ride. Those would be my choice. I don’t know if that would be the band’s choices, but those would be mine.

Young Girl” is definitely a favorite of mine, so I can imagine that it’s a great time on stage for you guys and an especially fun moment for the audience.

It’s so fun. Every time it starts… wow! Every song has its parts and its moments and it’s like ‘Oh, yeah. That is it.’ With “Young Girl,” though, it’s never in the beginning or the end of a set. It always just floats in the middle, so when we get there and it starts, the intro of the song feels like such a treat getting there for me. It’s  special and it’s awesome. I feel that way, too, about “Try Me”…. I really love playing both sides of that coin. I really like the toughness and I really love the femininity, and just getting to play in between those two places, because what is tougher than a woman who has just had her mind set on something? Or when she’s angry? Or when she’s pouring her heart out? It’s pretty unbelievable and there is something absolutely awe-inspiring to see a woman at her most vulnerable, when she is just standing still or being very, very sexy. When we started this band, the two performers that I pulled on the most for The Liza Colby Sound were Iggy Pop and Tina Turner. When I was making this music, I was like ‘That, them, there is exactly where I want to pull from.’ For both, sexuality just oozes out of there. Iggy Pop, just reckless abandonment on stage, which is just so exciting. Tina is an absolute spectacle, too, but in there you get everything. You get the rock ‘n’ roll, you get the femininity, you get the toughness. You get that it’s like crazy and ugly and beautiful. It’s all of the things wrapped up in one that I absolutely loved. Plus, it’s all really soulful. I love that. There is something in our rock ‘n’ roll, which is what we do, that is grounded in soul music.

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