Words: Tash Walker
Pictures: Holly Falconer
Despite being a solo artist in her own right, you may have heard Liz Lawrence’s name in the same breath as Bombay Bicycle Club, who she’s been backing up on their current tour. The London based artist recently turned heads with her arresting vocals on Bombay’s Radio 1 Live Lounge cover of Disclosure’s ‘F for You’. We caught up with Liz over some beers before she headed off to the US for six weeks.
On your blog you wrote in your last post that you will be releasing a new EP later this year with Health & Safety as the title track. Can you tell me a bit more about this EP?
I started making this EP last summer, with the view todoing something a bit more leftfield to what my first record was about. We made it butthen certain things came about that meant it wasn’t released. Then Ihad to cancel the tour in November. I decided to put out a free track and also made and released a video for Health & Safety because we were on a low budget and I had to do something to kind of…to get something new out there…and now we’re readyto release the EP – 5 original tracks plus a cover.
What’s the cover?
It’s a cover of ‘Look What They’ve Done To My Song’ by Melanie. The only other person I think who has covered it is Miley Cyrus, which is a bit of a shame.
That video *Liz Laughs*…would you ever like to do anything like that?
I’d quite like to do a shoot with Terry Richardson.
Yeah? But not suck his dick?
I don’t want to suck his dick no, but I’d like to do a more backwards one where I get to abuse him in the photo shoot.
You said you made the “Health & Safety” video yourself which is made up of old film and TV clips – how did you go about doing that?
Yeah it’s all taken from an archive website that I found, a thing called ‘San Francisco Archive’ which is all old public health and public videos. It’s meant to be like a sketch, it’s basically a lyric video. I wanted to do a video which followed all of the lyrics to the track, because I think the main part of that song is the lyrical aspect. And rather than doing a lyric video, which is very en vogue at the moment, I thought I’d try and follow all of the lyrics with my interpretation of them visually.
What song of yours are you most proud of and why?
‘When I was Younger’ which was from my first album. I remember at the time of making Bedroom Hero, I was with a major label and under a lot of pressure to write more songs. I couldn’t write anything that I was pleased with and I remember writing that and sending it to a few friends and my Mum. Mum loved it! Dad wasn’t so sure but I don’t tend to listen to Dad anyway.
I guess I was proud of it because I had to fight to write it and then I had to fight for what it was about because it’s quite emotional and vulnerable and some people don’t like that. That was also the first track that got any television activity and it really increased my profile. It was hard to write and it means a lot to me because it is about my family and then the fact that it has had recognition, I feel like I’m proud of what it is. It stands for working through trials or whatever and actually succeeding in getting something from it and other people getting something from it.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Weirdly enough loads of Moby. When I was on the last tour with Bombay we’d had a particularly heavy night out and the next day we had a show and I was very hungover and feeling very anxious and I was like ‘I need some Moby in my life’ so downloaded Play and remembered just what a brilliantly pioneering record it was.
You mentioned you were on tour with Bombay Bicycle Club, I put the Disclosure cover ‘F For You’ on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge as my February highlight. The Disclosure guys tweeted saying that they thought your voice was ‘niiiice! How do you feel about getting that kind of recognition?
It’s funny actually because obviously they tweeted saying nice voice to whoever the singer was and at that point I had a decision to make. I was like, I either keep quiet or I can put up my hand and say it’s me. I had to decide what to do, speak up or just let myself fade into the background. So I was like ‘That’s me’ and I got the piss taken out of me, naturally, by the band and they were like ‘Errr, it’s me! It’s me!’ *laughs*
What made you feel like you didn’t want to do that?
Because it’s kind of cooler not to, to be all like ‘I don’t care’, but I kind of have to care because I’m trying to have a career.
How did it feel to get the gig with Bombay Bicycle Club as one of their backing singers, especially as you are a fan?
Yeah, I mean don’t tell them that. I’ve followed them since I was 17 and we’re the same age. For me it’s about the fact that I get to be around and perform with some musicians who I think are some of the best I’ve met. Jack’s a real inspiration. He’s always working, he’s always thinking and he’s always on little toys making…which is really encouraging for me because we’ll sit in the dressing room and I’ll do the same and he’ll listen to my stuff. Being in that environment..that energy…you really feed off each other. For me that is what I wanted, to be in that environment and also who is going to say no to a regular wage in the music industry these days?!
Have you been writing much whilst being on tour?
No not at all. I want to get a room somewhere, just a room,get a piano in there and my guitar and just really basic stuff and just get back to writing again because I’ve missed it. I’ve missed it a lot and I feel like I had a bit of a knock in my confidence. Releasing an album yourself is really hard work. I out touring really really hard last yearin the most basic way, I didn’t have a car, no hotels…staying with the promoters, on fans’ sofas… It was fine, it was brilliant but I was tired. I loved the people who wereencouraging me and listening to my work, but I wanted more and,with all due respect to the people who have kept me working, couldn’thelp but feel disappointed. When I was writing that record I thought that would bethe making of me and I guess in a way it was ’cause it didn’t break me and I learned a lot from it.
I was listening to an interview with Courtney Love the other day and she was talking about when she was younger in Dublin and how Julian (The Teardrops Explode) Cope became her guide on how to be a rock star. Have you had anyone pass down any advice to you?
Weirdly, artists that I’ve met always want to pass on advice, but there is a relatively large amount of cynicism. Particularly in the songwriter world where the competition is so rife. There have been artists who have picked me up and encouraged me. I did support tours for a Belgium guy called Milo who kept asking me out there and saying ‘we really love what you do and we love you out here’, he gave me lots of advice about how he did it. Ani diFranco was very complimentary about me on stage to her audience, which I appreciated because her audience are icey. They’re Ani diFranco fans! But I’ve not really met anyone yet where I have gone, ‘you’re the way’.
I was looking back at some old interviews that you did and there was one where you were asked where you would be in 5 years time, your answer included living in San Fran, Berlin and Amsterdam, dating a writer… How’s that coming along?! Are your goals still the same anddo you still see yourself in the same place in 5 years time?
Interesting… I think that for a while my expectations became a bit too realistic in the sense that it was about, can I afford my rent? Can I still live in London? What are my options realistically? Which meant that I didn’t allow myself to kind of fantasise any more, but recently, and only really recently I’ve started allowing myself to do it again. Where would I like to be? And how would I like to see myself? It’s funny that those are things I said because it’s still about where I live, how I speak and who I’m in love with.
Is that how you define yourself?
Language, context and love. Completely.
I also read something where you said “…when I first bought an electric guitar I was in a punk band but they wouldn’t let me sing because I was a girl.” I was wondering what you thought about being a woman working in the music industry and whether you think you have a tougher route to success than a man does?
I 100% still believe that. Being on tour with Bombay I’m on tour with 50 men, the only woman on tour and they are some of the nicest men I’ve ever been around but then there is the local crew who have shouted ‘oi oi’. It is hard, it’s hard in all the aspects; the managerial side, the label side, being an artist, being a solo artist. To not just immediately be objectified is very hard. Are you good looking…yes you are…we can deal with you.
Whereas if you are a guy…look at loads of male singers, they’re gross!
They’re fucking ugly! The other thing I got a lot about are my clothes – ‘you need a stylist, what are you going to do with your hair?’. That’s their problem. I’m very comfortable and I’m very happy. I’ve kind of gone the other way, where I just wear shirts now on stage. It’s a problem I’d really liked to address and change later on in my career.
Do you think that in the future if you had a whole backing band, say you were doing a big solo tour, that you would make a conscious decision to make them female?
See now I wouldn’t, I have two female managers and I do endeavour to work with women in the business side as a safety thing because I have had bad experiences in the past, but on the musicality front I’ll choose who does the job best.
Finally, I’m totally obsessed with Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, rather than ask you for all the tracks, could you tell me the one record you would save from the waves?
It would have to be a piece of piano music…Chopin’s ‘Raindrops’. My friend Charlie at University used to take Ecstasy and play Raindrops. It has this part in the piece which is really quiet and then he plays this really low…and everyone was like ‘woah’. It’s got that really beautiful pay off that is so satisfying, I think I could listen to that over and over.
And what would your book and luxury be?
Well I read a Murakami book that said it would be the only one time in your life that you’d ever have the opportunity to read all of Proust. For the luxury, a piano.