Interview by Deb Draisin
Photos by Shervin Lainez
Label: Bitchsauce Entitlement
Dubbing themselves a little bit blues, a dash of rock, and a bit of psychedelic, NYC based, female-fronted Lizzie and the Makers burst onto the coffeehouse scene in the earlier part of the 2010's, released their first full-length Meanwhile... in 2018, followed by an illustrious two years showcasing at SXSW in Austin. The band is known for their lively performances and soulful delivery. They have just released their first single from their upcoming sophomore effort, “Mermaid”, and the video is just gorgeous. Lizzie was kind enough to hop onto a Zoom chat with me to talk about that single, as well as all other things post-apocalyptic musical resurgence, in my first interview since Covid began. So thank you, Lizzie!
Lizzie and the Makers are:
Lizzie Edwards, lead vocals
Greg McMullen, lead guitar
Brett Bass, bassist
Steve Williams, drums
Rob Clores, keyboard
Q: Hi, Lizzie, I have just watched the video for “Mermaid”, which is the first single from the new LP. The video seems to be about feeling alone in Brooklyn. Did I nail it?
L: Hi! Yes, you nailed it.
Q: Can you talk more about the emotion behind that?
L: Yep, so when I wrote the lyrics for that song, I was going through – I can’t really say a breakup, it was kind of an ambiguous situation with someone…
Q: Hate that, been there.
L: (laughing) Yeah! Who all of a sudden was very unavailable. I didn’t want to be home alone, and I didn’t know what to do, so I was walking around Brooklyn just kind of contemplative, trying to search for answers. Trying to understand how I found myself in this situation again – was there one thing that happened which changed? What exactly went wrong? I found myself at a venue called Pete’s Candy Store, in my old neighborhood, and just sat down at the bar. I started observing the people and the decorations. On my walk there, it had been raining, so the streets were glowing with the wet pavement. I guess the song in general is about, on a smaller scale, why this guy stopped calling me, but also on a larger scale, why we’re here, what’s the point? That kind of thing.
Q: Did you come up with an answer? Do you know why we’re here?
L: I didn’t get the answer – yet! But I will tell you as soon as I do (both laugh).
Q: Please do! I love the jeweled tears aesthetic, by the way, that was a nice touch.
L: Thank you, I like doing that, but sometimes it’s hard at shows though, because I’ll sweat a lot.
Q: And then somebody else is wearing your jewels, which is kind of cathartic, if you think about it.
L: It’s true. I actually left them in the bathroom at a show once, and then realized, while I was playing, that everybody in the audience had put them on (laughs), which was kind of cool.
Q: That’s a nice way to connect, in a way.
L: Yeah, it was nice.
Q: What can we expect from the album? What are you trying to convey to your listeners?
L: I think the story behind each song really is inspired by things– that everybody goes through in life. I think anyone can relate to these things, whether it’s a love lost, or the death of someone close to you, feeling betrayed, feeling like you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes, and then also feeling empowered and powerful, like nothing can stop you. Each song covers a different aspect of those feelings. But then, also, it’s multi-faceted as far as genre, I think. We really tap into our ambient side on this album, as opposed to being just rock n’ roll. A lot of that has to do with working with the producers that we worked with, Reeves Gabrels and Mario McNulty, who also worked with David Bowie. So, there’s a lot of our soul roots in there, and there are some really hard rockers, some slow ballads – a little bit of everything.
Q: Do you think that that progression, basically, through the seven stages of grief – were you writing the songs in the direction in which you experienced each emotion, or did you just reflect?
L: Definitely. I think I wrote every single one of them in the moment. We were originally going to put out a six-song EP, but then I went through another breakup, and I all of a sudden had three more songs. So I said “Back to the studio, let’s go!”
Q: I think, in the moment, is when you convey the truest emotion to somebody; it’s going to hit the hardest if you yourself were experiencing all that at the time of writing and performing those songs.
L: Yeah, I find it hard to sit down and write when I’m trying to process.
Q: Is it strange to return to…well, I guess not anymore , since you had another breakup (both laugh)…an older mindset when you’ve already moved past it? Because I know you guys are already working on your follow-up, but yet you’re touring on this one, which is about to drop, so you’re having to go back in time.
L: I find, actually, that with the songs – even if I wrote them in a certain mindset – the meaning behind them still holds true, and will apply to newer situations in my life. If I’m performing a song that maybe I wrote about someone two years ago, I find a way to channel those same emotions through present experiences that I’m having. So, I really feel like they’re translatable from experience to experience – which is cool, because I’ll think “Oh, I wrote about this experience with this one guy,” but then, six years later, I’ll go “This kind of applies to this situation, too”.
Q: And that’s also helpful when an audience processes a song; they may not do so for the same reasons that you did. This way, it gives them the room to experience the song their own way.
L: Right, I think it makes the songs relatable and accessible, and you can make them your own. It’s not just my experience, or my personal story – it’s really something that anyone can tap into.
Q: Well, once a song is out there, it belongs to anybody who hears it, right?
Q: Have you ever sent one of the songs to one of the parties who inspired them?
L: I kind of did once. I didn’t tell him, but I had written a song a while ago, then revisited it. I had rewritten the bridge to be about this current guy whom I was seeing, and then I sent it to him. He was very shocked, he was like “Oh! Okay.” And then I said “It’s not about you, don’t worry about it”, but I think he could tell that that bridge was definitely about him (laughs). There also was one time that I was dating somebody, and I wrote kind of a love song to them, but it didn’t really land for either of us.
Q: My husband wrote a song that he swore wasn’t about me, but it was after a big fight, and it went “Black-hearted bitch, you ripped out my soul”. I was like “What is this? Where’s my love song?” And he went “Oh no, that’s not…that’s about my mom, yeah…” (both laugh).
L: It’s always about mom.
Q: That’s the default. I do want to talk about genre. I hear, funk, country, alternative, definitely. Is that from everybody pooling their own backgrounds and influences together?
L: Definitely. The way we put songs together is very organic. Everyone includes a little bit of themselves. When I start a song, it’s mostly blues, rock, or soul. Greg has a lot of country and pedal steel experience, so he will sometimes add a little bit of that. Brett has played with Bernie Worrell and Greg Allman. Steve used to play with Sade. Rob used to play with The Black Crowes. When I bring in a song, I never tell anybody what to play. I play them the demo and say “Play what you feel”. We layer it like that, so we get all of these influences from all of these different artists, and it kind of makes a hybrid of a genre. So far, it’s worked.
Q: You can’t be pigeonholed, and you can play with literally anybody.
Q: You guys all met in a very odd way. Most bands are like “We went to high school together”, but you guys…Greg approached you after seeing a flyer at the candy shop you mentioned and said “Hi, I’m in your band now”, and that was that – he recruited himself.
L: Pretty much, yeah (laughs). But yeah, Greg came up to me and said “Heard you’re looking for a band, I’m going to be in it”. And I said “But you haven’t heard me sing”. And he went “I don’t care”. So I said “Okay, let’s go.” It just worked out.
Q: That could have gone really left. Imagine if he was terrible, or not fitting your aesthetic at all?
L: I mean…I had seen him play before. I was actually working as a sound engineer at Pete’s, and Greg played there a lot. So, I had already screened him – I knew what I was getting, but he definitely didn’t.
Q: A couple of you guys had played in bands together before. Jeff and Greg had been in a band called Firepig, and Rob and Brett had also played together before. Did you guys recruit them in the parking lot of a music store?
L: (laughing) A parking lot of a music store might have been how Greg met Reeves. Greg had played in bands with Brett, and we went to a show that Brett was playing with a friend of ours. Greg pointed him out to me as he was standing at the bar, and said “That’s our bass player, go get him”.
Q: You totally glommed their bass player from them!
L: Kind of (laughing). His personality, and his playing style just fit. And then, when we wanted a keyboard player, Brett recommended Rob, because they had played in a bunch of bands together. I had seen Steve play with some other groups, and our drummer at the time (Bryan Bisordi) had bailed on a lot of our gigs last minute. I needed to find someone last minute, so I just reached out to Steve. I knew he could play the stuff that we were playing, and he said “Yeah, I’m available”. It just clicked a lot more than it had been, unfortunately for our other drummer. Steve turned out to be the missing link. He just really gets our songs and loves what we’re doing – and has a stellar personality.
Just like our writing, it was all very organic – we didn’t have auditions or seek out certain people. It was just timing.
Everyone gets along really well, knock on wood (knocks on head).
Q: You haven’t been on an extended road trip together yet, so that could be the downfall.
Q: I feel like every single band has had at least one unsuccessful drummer – they’re usually really bitter.
L: Oh, yeah. It happened because we were going to SXSW, and I was just really worried, because I had to buy plane tickets and make AirBNB reservations, and I couldn’t have this drummer telling me at the last minute “Oh, I want to go on tour with this band instead”. So I told him “We’re going to take Steve, I just can’t take the risk”. At first, he said he understood, then he said “No, I don’t understand – this sounds like a soft firing”.
Q: “You’re playing SXSW, and I want to play that!”
L: Yeah. Unfortunately, it did end up turning out that way, but, as a band, you have to grow, and sometimes you outgrow some of the members in your band. It’s not personal, it’s just the art, and the business of it. Stylistically, sometimes, you have to make those hard decisions. If I could be in a band with all of my best friends, that would be great, but we probably wouldn’t be that good (laughs).
Q: You all clearly love playing – what got you into it? You come from a musical family, right?
L: Yeah, I grew up singing backup in my dad’s various bands. I had studied classical music like my grandparents did. I liked performing, but it was not until college when I realized that the only thing I woke up early for was rehearsal, or to go to show. I thought “I really want to do this more, this is fun, and cathartic - and I’m good at it. Maybe this is what I’m meant to do. I should try to pursue this”. It’s bad, I can be a Gig Monster. Before the pandemic, I’d want to play four shows a week just because I love it. I’m trying to dial it back a little bit.
Q: Well, you’ve had to. Now, we’ll see if you go right back to where you left off.
L: I know, it seems to all be transitioning back very quickly, which I’m excited about, but it’s a lot.
Q: Maybe a little too quickly. We’re going from two people in a room, six feet away, with masks on, directly to “Let’s just throw everybody together in a big crowd again, no masks, whatever!” It’s like “Ooh, slow your roll”.
L: I know. Everyone’s going to have to do it at their own pace, and we’re all going to have to respect that. I did have a rehearsal recently - you know, everyone was vaccinated, and had their masks off - but this one person still wasn’t comfortable, and wanted everyone to wear masks, and to sing away from her. It’s just one of those things where, maybe I don’t feel that way, or other people don’t, but I do think that the only way we’re going to get back to normal is if we allow people to do it at their own pace. It’s been a psychological nightmare.
Q: If you would have told any of us a year ago that the world would completely shut down, we would have been like “What are you talking about? Which sci-fi have you been watching?”
L: I never would have believed it, yeah.
Q: It’s been so strange, but also going back to “normal” feels strange.
L: It does. I feel like we’re in a Don DeLillo novel, and, like, this is the sequel. It doesn’t even feel real. It almost feels like we’re going to slip back, or something. It’s hard to go through all this and get used to everything again.
Q: It’s been an odd few years. We had an odd administration, and this unprecedented nightmare, and it all feels like we’re living in a dystopian movie, or something.
Q: You play a lot of intimate shows. You guys play coffeehouses, where people are literally on top of each other. Is it exciting to get back to that, or are you nervous? I’m sure everyone’s going to want to touch each other, have this cathartic experience.
L: I’m excited, I miss the energy, that connection with the audience. When we were playing during the pandemic, and people had masks on, and were socially distanced, there was just something missing. Even at our single release show, in March, people weren’t allowed to dance, so they were all just swaying in their chairs.
Q: That’s also strange.
L: It was a little strange, so I’m excited, but it is going to be a little overwhelming. I’m a little nervous about people approaching the stage still, and talking at me.
Q: And jumping on you, and grabbing you.
L: Right, I’m still a little anxious about sharing microphones with people. I actually started being nervous about that a while ago. I had a show in Williamsburg, and I sang after someone, same mic, and during my first song, I took a deep breath, and definitely inhaled something that was in the mic, like phlegm or something like that. I got sick right after that.
L: Ever since then, I’ve started using my own mic.
Q: That’s the best way.
L: Yeah, but I did have a friend at a show just jump onto the stage and start singing into my microphone. He’s a great singer, but I was like “Um, I don’t know…”
Q: Not so down with that oxygen sharing. So, you’ve played SXSW, and you’ve played these little coffeehouses. Which environment do you like best?
L: I like them both for different reasons. In an intimate setting, singing not in front of a full band, the tone of my voice comes out differently – I can hear myself better, people can hear me better. It’s just a more emotional in a different way. I love the energy of a big stage. Having space to move around, I would pick that over the intimate shows, if I had to choose. But they’re both great. Our songs come across differently in each setting. A song that’s blasting out, hard rocky, on a full stage, can be really sweet in an intimate setting, and have a different personality when we’re stripped down.
Q: Oh yeah, for sure. So, you are not the first artists to say that livestream performances were bumpy. A lot of people found them awkward. Would you rather see the technology improve, or just the return of in-person performances only, or a hybrid?
L: I think a hybrid, and I think that the technology is definitely something that we’ve struggled with. When you do a live show, you are responsible for certain aspects of it. Sometimes, we do our own sound, and we’re pretty good at that, but when you’re doing a livestream, there are so many variables. We’ve learned recently that, depending upon which adapters you use, the kilohertz speed is different, so you can come off sounding like you’ve sucked helium. Sometimes you don’t even realize that something’s gone wrong until after the show is over.
Q: That can also happen live.
L: It can, but live, people are more likely to tell you. They’ll say “Hey, it sounds weird.” Whereas, on a Livestream, they’ll politely wait until the end and say “So, by the way, you were distorted the whole time.” And I’ll say “Thanks, you could have just messaged me that, or something.”
Q: People don’t utilize the chats, and say “Hey, we can’t hear you guys?”
L: Sometimes they do, but sometimes, I feel like you’re just flying by the seat of your pants, and hoping that it’s all going okay. And then there are times where you can’t even get online, you have internet problems. So, it would be great if there was a more streamlined way to have great audio on a livestream, aside from hiring an engineer to do it in a studio.
Q: I think that the technology is going to improve, and I think experts are going to get involved as well. I think it will get better.
L: I hope so, because one thing we did do before, that we still like to do, and want to keep doing, to go live on Instagram. Sometimes, Greg and I are together, and we’ll just decide to do that randomly. It started right around the Insurrection, we’d be like “Okay, we’re going to do ‘Noise, Not News’, pop up at random times, just play three songs, and see who tunes in.” And that’s a lot of fun. I want to definitely still do that, so I guess like a hybrid, is the short answer.
Q: How weird was it to write during an unprecedented yearlong quarantine?
L: It was strange, because there’s a part of me that felt “I have to be writing about this right now, what’s going on. How can I write about anything other than the pandemic, or the presidency, or all of these things happening around us?” But these were also hard things to process, so sitting down to write about them was really difficult. I think I had about six months of writer’s block, where I knew I needed to write something or import, but it couldn’t just be “I’m sitting here locked in my house”. That just didn’t translate, and I think it was because I hadn’t processed yet. None of us really knew what was going on day by day. It wasn’t until maybe September of last year, that finally, I felt the inspiration to start writing. And a lot of my friends experienced the same thing, that writer’s block. You’re going through this turmoil, and it should be easy - there is so much material for you to draw from - but because of how you, as a person, are able to interpret it, sometimes it’s not.
Q: Sometimes it’s the opposite.
Q: Well, you guys covered Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2655691401425177 during the pandemic – and that was certainly an appropriate song for that time. Did the song hold a special meaning for you guys in general, or was it just kind of the mood at the moment?
L: It does. I love Steve Winwood, I’m a big fan of his. That song has always just meant something to me – I feel like it gets me, and I get it. It’s a beautiful melody, and it can mean so many things, right - not finding your way home? We really started playing it a lot more during the quarantine, because that’s the sentiment, right? You’re like “Something needs to change; I want to get back to the way things were – am I ever going to get there? How do I do this? I just can’t do it right now, I can’t.” But I’ve always loved that song – I like to play it, too, at the end of shows sometimes, when we have a long show, and we have some drunk patrons.
Q: Drunken sing-along!
L: Yeah, and they, like, literally can’t find their way home (both laugh).
Q: It’s a guide, really. Which album do you each wish you had written?
L: Ooh, that’s a great question! I might have to say “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. I love that album.
Q: You have mentioned that before. It’s just big to you, like that one is just IT?
L: Yeah, when I listen to it, I just (throws arms out and sighs) feel it in my heart, my body, my brain. I can’t really explain the reasons why. I never get tired of any of the songs on there. Every time I hear them, they mean something different to me. I just think it’s a perfect album.
Q: Do you think we’ve lost something with the shuffle features that we’re using now, where we no longer play an album front to back?
L: Yes, I definitely do. I think listening to an album like that, in order, and in one sitting, is such a different experience from just picking your favorite song, and going back and forth. I mean that’s fun, too, and I like variety as well, but because of that, we only do that now. I don’t think people buy an album, and then sit down and listen to it. You buy a single here, a single there. You might not even listen to the other six or seven tracks on the album. I also think it used to be more of an arc, to have a complete storyline.
Q: Yes, and also, you had the liner notes: the personal messages that each artist wrote. And even the experience of a turntable, or a tape deck, and flipping the album back and forth told a story.
L: Yeah, I have a turntable in my apartment. I will also listen to all of “Streetlights”, the Bonnie Raitt album, front to back. I can’t just listen to one song on that album, I have to sit down and listen to the whole album, sometimes twice.
Q: Do you find that, when you’ve become really familiar with an album, let’s say there’s a song from it which comes on the radio, do you automatically start hearing the next song that’s supposed to be there next?
L: Oh, yes, always, yes, yes!
Q: All the time. I’m like “Wait, no it’s supposed to go into…”
L: I know.That’s even from having tapes, when I was younger, you couldn’t really fast forward. You just knew what the next intro was.
Q: With vinyl, I guess the only good thing about the reintroduction of it – because I can’t think of too many other reasons why that should still be a thing, it’s very impractical – you really can’t just pick up the needle and randomly put it down, so you’re likelier to hear the whole album side.
L: Exactly. You’re more likely to sit and enjoy the whole experience, as opposed to letting your attention span get the best of you, and skipping ahead.
Q: Absolutely. I would like to close out with having you take the opportunity to tell the readers anything you want them to know or feel, any information that you want to give out.
L: So, our next single is going to be released on June 25. It’s called “Lover By Proxy”. You’ll be able to find it on all streaming platforms. If you follow us on Instagram, we’ll make announcements there. But, in general, I’m just excited for the return of live music. I think everybody out there just wants to let themselves go after a year of being shut in and closed off. I hope, when you’re listening to this music, or writing music, you find a part of yourselves in it. And not just listen to things for the sake of listening to them, just really try to commune with music, and let it help you deal with everything we’ve been dealing with over the last year. Whether you’ve lost anybody, or you’ve lost your job, or whatever you’re going through, I think music is a real healer. I think it’s going to be a big part of taking us out of this hole we’ve found ourselves in. Embrace the music!