In Conversation, LYZZA
Experimental. Wide-ranging. Pure. LYZZA translates it all into club music. The brazilian-born, Amsterdam-based producer and vocalist knows it’s dancefloor season. She’s been about it since ‘Powerplay‘, her debut EP. Nothing but consistency. Countless DJ sets and mixes have been preparing her for this new era.
Her newest single, ‘Deserve It‘, featuring La Zowi might be what we need. Accompanied by a mesmerizing music video, LYZZA is taking firm steps towards making the world a less boring place. She’s certainly knows when it’s time to make changes that can take you to new places when you least expect it. Maybe being online and understanding internet culture is the way to go.
In this short interview, the multidisciplinary artist gives us a little insight of her thought process, how her city informs her output and Brazil’s influence. Her new mixtape, ‘MOSQUITO’. will be out on September 16th via Big Dada.
I would definitely say it sounds environmental. I feel like a lot of my songs sound like you’re in a specific space. I try to really explore, just really trying to take people to like a different space. The world is super boring (laughs). I would love for people to feel like they’re escaping into… it’s opening a door for people to be able to escape into their own imagination a little bit. For them to imagine what these songs would look like or what it would sound like. I tried to really create worlds. Environmental is the right word.
Where are you currently based? Are you still in Amsterdam?
I am. I was living in London for a bit, but then came back during Covid so I could like feel more. Obviously my mom lives here. In my mind I was like, ‘COVID was super scary, I need to go back and make sure that I can be around my friends’.
I want to know more about the Amsterdam scene. How does the city inform your work? Work ethic, the ways in which you discover new music. How do you make a name for yourself there? How does that change from London?
I was always really inspired by internet culture and just being online. I was really heavily into these underground Soundcloud communities when I was a teenager. That kind of reflected itself in my work more. I was able to make steps pretty… I wouldn’t say quickly, but I was able to stand out in Amsterdam quite a bit. No one was really making that kind of music at the time. At some point I just realized that I’ve created a name for myself.
People there know me. ‘Ok, now I need to go somewhere where I’m actually pushed to further express myself’. It’s easy to be in a city that’s small and be like, ‘oh, I’m so different, I don’t need to change anything’.
I loved living in London because it really pushed me, ‘what exactly about my music makes me, me? What’s going to make me stand out in a city that’s way bigger?’
Now the way it informs me… now there’s way more eclectic musicians. There’s quite a bit of producers that live in Amsterdam as well, a really tight-knit community now. I didn’t have that before, it is really nice. I made this project halfway in London and halfway in Amsterdam. I still need to discover how I’m gonna push myself in a city that doesn’t really necessarily does that for you. That’s for future exploration.
Talk to me about Jarreau Vandal. When did you meet? I heard the 2018 NTS mix, such an eclectic hour.
I met Jarreau in 2015. He was teaching DJ workshops at a community center. I paid 50 Euros and signed up (laughs). I was already into eclectic music and he just noticed. It was a class of ten people and everybody got ten minutes to practice. He noticed that my music was so different than everybody else’s. ‘I love your music taste’. He connected me to some clubs here and booked me for my first DJ sets. We go way, way, way back. He’s the whole reason I started djing, basically.
One of the things I love the most about your work is that your Brazilian background is not that obvious. The only song I’ve heard, so far, with some portuguese in it is ‘Girls R Us’. Not sure if I’m right about that.
I have this one song too, ‘Ex E Ex’. I have a few brazilian songs on my upcoming project which I’m really happy about. I never really thought about it. When I feel a song kind of deserves that, I do that. I do keep in mind that it’s easier to communicate with people when you’re just singing in English.
Living in Europe, it just gave this idea in my head, ‘okay, I’m black, female, make eclectic electronic music and am I also gonna be singing in Portuguese?’ I’m gonna try to keep things simple and change (laughs). That’s why with this new project I have more brazilian music. Finally, I’m at a point where I can let people into that as well and they won’t be turned off because it’s in Portuguese.
It’s also really nice to connect with like the brazilian fans that listen to my music. I love them so much, they’re such a support. They always send really, really, really cute DMs and tweets. They’re the only people that really make me feel like I’m some kind of a superstar (laughs). I definitely feel the more music I make, I want to bridge that gap a little bit more.
I’m not talking only about the language. I’m talking about the sound as well. You could be doing straightforward baile funk, but you don’t do that. You only do that in your mixes.
I definitely try to have a lot of percussion in my music, that’s the link that I make to Brazil. I’ve just never been traditional in the way that I do things. Brazil has baile funk, which is really awesome, but it’s hard for me to produce something minimal like that, just three instruments and a vocal. That just makes me anxious. I love to make really complex things. You have Bossa Nova, which I love. That’s something I would love to wait to be 45 and rebrand myself as a Bossa Nova singer (laughs).
I’m young and people accept me doing this kind of stuff easily, so I’m definitely going to take the opportunity to just experiment as much as possible.
‘Deserve It’ is such a great single. La Zowi fits beautifully. Give me a runthrough. Why this track? Why now?
I don’t even know how I started working on it. I just remember I really wanted to make something that was more slow. A lot of the tracks on my upcoming project, ‘MOSQUITO’ are very fast. I realize that I’m a very high BPM girl. I just wanted to make something slower, this kind of reggaeton thing. I’ve known Zowi for years and I wanted someone to sing in Spanish.
It’s reggaeton inspired, so I wanted to work with someone that really understands the genre as well, but could also bring a new fresh flavor. Zowi is not a reggaeton artist. All the people that I have worked with have been people that I’ve respected for a long time or known for a long time. I’m not the kind of person to just randomly DM a huge artist. I want things to feel natural, an extension of my life and where I’m at.
I wanted to be the lead single because I feel this is one of the only tracks on the project that people are not going to be super weirded out by (laughs). It just felt very sensual. I think when people see a young black girl, they wanna associate it with R&B or sensual stuff. This is an easy kind of weigh-in to people that might not know me before and then get introduced to my sound.
Talk to me about the video treatment. Who did it? Did you pitch in? I love how the colour grading is so dense. Also, I love the floor work with the chopper. It’s quite chaotic.
It was fully the director, Thyago Sainte. I made a creative PDF explaining the concept of my project, references and psychological associations. I had this ten page document. Every single person that I’ve worked with I was like, ‘I want you to have full creative direction, but this is the baseline of what I’m working off’. Thiago, super talented, took the creative deck and worked from that. We flowed together really nicely and came up with an amazing concept.
Why a mixtape? Why not an album?
Because I don’t feel like… I like to take my time with things. Basically, I feel like I haven’t had the proper resources to make an album. That’s a very kind of old school way of thinking about music. When you work really hard and you really care about your music and you kind of want it to sound a certain way… every single work that I’ve produced has just been me in my bedroom, on a laptop.
I would love to be able to create a concept for a track and then go to a studio and get a real drummer to record some stuff, have a backing vocalist and really create a musical project. I just feel I haven’t been able to have the resources to do that yet. This is an amazing project. I know a lot of people gonna think it’s an album, but then this will probably be able to put me in a space where I can actually create an amazing album in the future. I just really love music and I want to continue to push myself to create pieces of art, in a way. Just me and my laptop it’s not giving ‘first album’ (laughs).
Even though it’s a mixtape, I’m guessing that every track has a purpose. Obviously, the track list makes sense.
Every song has a long intro and long outro. Regardless of how you play it… if you’re using like a digital streaming platform and you have it on shuffle, they will flow into each other. That’s a nice way to kind of make an ode to the mixtape.
What can we expect from ‘MOSQUITO’? I watched the first episode from the ‘Mosquito Diaries’. Pe Ferreira with the creative direction. I saw the back cover and those colours really pop out. Tease a bit.
We worked on the very kind of literal sense of ‘MOSQUITO’. We were trying to figure out what was gonna be a good way to show this, but like not in a corny way. We thought about the whole, ‘oh, let’s do wings, mosquito eyes’. No, this mixtape is definitely about you not necessarily playing a character. It’s more so about yourself feeling like this.
They worked really, really hard to come up with this concept. We had the idea of how we wanted the poses to look like. We just went into a studio. That’s gonna be the next episode, actually. Then I reached out to this amazing artist, Tyler Cala, who goes by openkeloid. We showed them the pictures we took. We had already everything mapped out and needed a background. Tyler has been listening to my music since 2018, so they kind of knew my vibe. ‘Okay, I’m gonna make a super girly bathroom with tampons and fake nails’. It was an amazing collaborative effort, it was really nice to work with everyone.
What are you listening to these days?
A lot of PJ Harvey, for some reason. I don’t know why, it’s just speaking to me. It’s very melancholic. I hadn’t listened to any music for one and a half years (laughs). Now I’m kind of slowly being like, ‘whoa, there’s actually so much good stuff out there’.
One piece of advice that has stuck with you the longest?
My good friend, Mykki Blanco, always tells me to just be unapologetically myself, but do everything with thought. Always do what you want to do, but don’t just do them for the sake of doing them. Stay true to yourself, but don’t just go out there and do some random stuff. There’s always an agency to the madness. I think that was good advice for me. I want to just do whatever I want to do, but always have a little moment to yourself to really think about how you’re going to do these things so that you don’t end up being used by people. If someone belittles you for the stuff that you’re doing, then at least it’s actually something that you truly believe in and not some stuff that you didn’t even want to do in the first place.