SUSU—Buzzing with Power

What do you get when two of New York City’s hottest new artists join forces to create a seductive, soulful, psychedelic, hard-rockin’ band? That’s exactly what Liza Colby and Kia Warren did, and the result is SUSU, the dynamic musical partnership born out of Colby’s Liza Colby Sound and Warren’s Revel in Dimes.

While both ladies are sure to make note that their own respective projects are alive, well, and not going anywhere, they are over the moon with joy about the forthcoming release of SUSU’s debut EP, Panther City—a gutty, uncompromising work of NYC groove rock that takes advantage of its founders’ individual talents and allows the music to flourish in their union with remarkable power and grace.

Colby and Warren sat down with AQ to discuss SUSU’s origins, and how the duality of their strengths is breaking new ground within the rock ‘n’ roll scene in New York.

Liza and Kia, you both have a lot of history together as artists in New York City before forming SUSU. How far back do you actually go together?

LC: Yeah, yeah… it’s been about three years now–maybe three and a half…. One of my friends’ bands dropped out of a residency with The Liza Colby Sound, and Kia jumped in on it and then that night we were like, ‘We should get together!’ That’s really where it all started…. We came up with the idea to do this super group where we put both of our bands together…. We were just like, ‘We are onto something that is really, really special.’ And then as the years went on, the two of us were just like, ‘Man, it would be really cool to actually put together something. Can we do this where you and I just find our own thing that’s ours?’ And that has finally happened.

SUSU has a particular meaning, doesn’t it?

KW: Yeah. I mean,  my family comes from Jamaica and Liza’s is of Caribbean descent, and so the word ‘susu,’ when you say this, you talk about something that has a buzz…. We just thought it was incredibly appropriate to talk about this…. Things that generate so much energy and positive messaging and conversation around it.

LC: Then we lucked out, because when you reverse it, it’s ‘us us.’ So you kind of get the inclusive nature of what we’re trying to do. 

KW: And it originates with what we feed off of in one another and then kind of reverberates out, you know?

It’s got a really positive vibe and message to it.

KW: Yeah. It has to be, you know? There’s enough crap out there, so we [incorporate] a little positivity and put a little light out there.

Seeing not one, but two women of color fronting a rock ‘n’ roll band is such a refreshing sight, and it’s a really positive example for the New York City music scene

LC: Yeah. I mean, that was really one of the reasons why we had to [emphasize] it, because it’s like, you just don’t get to see that. And both of us have been told–separately and together–so many times that ‘You can’t do it because you’re just not allowed to do so.’ ‘You’re not allowed to do rock ‘n’ roll.’ ‘You can’t do it because you’re a woman of color, because you’re black.’ ‘You can’t go up [onstage] with another woman, because women are your competition.’ You can’t be in a place where you are supportive. So, it’s like really flipping all of those things on its head…. We really are truly about supporting each other and women of color and putting it on the forefront, because so many of us haven’t been able to see that before.

That’s really awesome. So let’s talk about the EP. The lead off track, “Work Song,” is a lyrical reworking of Ted Nugent’s  “Stranglehold.”

KW: It’s a two-fold kind of thing. It’s a rework of “Stranglehold,” but it’s also a protest song that was written by Oscar Brown Jr. that Nina Simone made famous. So we put it together, reworking the Ted Nugent riff with a protest song.

I was a little surprised at first, because with “Stranglehold,” and Nugent in general, there’s a well-documented history of misogyny. 

KW: Well, yeah…. I think that we wanted to do something that’s not necessarily beating anybody over the head with some kind of agenda or soapbox thing. First off, let’s just say that the riff from “Stranglehold” is fucking awesome. You can’t deny that. So, there’s that. But then when you take somebody who represents something that is so opposite from us, and then put our beliefs [over it]…. You want to not only flip the meaning of the Ted Nugent song, but also expose the commonality [in sound] between the two artists. It just felt like that was the sweet spot of what SUSU is and what we want to do with the power of our music.

Ok, I can dig that. You know, the EP recalls the feel of records from the early seventies and has the feeling of being in the room with the musicians. Being such dynamic live performers, was it imperative for the both of you to capture that raw and loose feel on the EP?

LC: I mean, I guess [the EP] is kind of modular and fluid. Like, we’ve been so lucky that Kia and I really see eye-to-eye with so many different things. The opportunity presented itself, so it was something where, if you put Kia and I in any situation, we will make something amazing out of it. And that is what we love to do. We really make something out of nothing. And the thing about the looseness is that not everything has to be thorough and finalized. It’s being able to be fluid and kind of go with the flow, and that is really what we love to do. 

Liza, you kind of bring a psychedelic element to the music, and Kia you bring a soul quality to it. It makes a really unique sound.

LC: Yeah, I mean, when Kia and I were working together, Kia’s favorite thing to bring up was the contrasts of everything and the duality–and I think that’s what it is…. It’s like, ‘Sure, psychedelia and soul? We’ll take it. Day and night? We’ll take it.’ Whatever the duality is, because you need [contrast] in every situation, you know? That really is what I think creates the spark.