By Lizzie No
Elizabeth de Lise (El/Liz/Lizard, she/her) is a musician & songwriter from Philly. She writes for & shreds in the Philly-based, dreamy rock band, Lizdelise, with her partner in crime, Mark Watter (he/him), & the sweet beat blaster, Taylor Cullen (they/them). They are touring their new album, Holy Matrimony, down to Austin this spring.
During which part of the music-making process do you feel the most at home? (songwriting, recording, performing, producing, etc.)
Ooohweee this has changed so much over the past few years! I used to feel super comfortable performing, but a few years ago, my anxiety started getting worse and I became more introverted, which has been wild, because I’ve lived most of my life as an entirely extroverted person. I’m not as sure of myself in front of people. I’ve always been afraid of being seen as stupid, especially being seen as a “stupid girl”-- a result of being the only non-dude in the room the majority of the time while working on music, and feeling like I need to represent all of us perfectly-- but that fear has become more inhibiting. Luckily, when I perform, I still go into that out-of-body place, where I can’t be touched by anxiety or fear. So...I guess songwriting! While making Holy Matrimony, the writing felt inseparable from recording, which shed light on how my songwriting process can be energized by recording detailed demos before tracking.
What did the process of creating 'Holy Matrimony' teach you about yourself as an artist?
I am afraid to speak my mind when I really care about something! As someone who would never be described as quiet, that was a real wake-up call. I truly thought I’d been speaking my mind. I was afraid of being seen as dumb, which then made me stumble on my words, which then made me seem unsure of myself, and therefore my ideas weren’t coming out clearly. Thankfully, Mark and I were able to foster a safe and open space, in which I learned how to express myself without worrying about whether or not my opinions on a guitar tone, or arrangement idea, would be taken personally by Mark or one of our collaborators. I learned to apologize less and to never shy away from what initially seems like hacky idea. During mixing, our dear friend, Matt (who mixed HM) asked me what I thought about a sound, and I started stumbling and waffling, trying to answer him. Moving forward, my goal is to never need permission to say what I want or need. Throughout this process, I needed my collaborators to remind me that I was safe to share honestly—now, I want to be the one to give myself permission. But I’m also now trying to figure out how to take up space, while still leaving room for those non-white, non-cis voices that have been silenced. I learned that if we didn’t hit on something in the last project, I’ll have lots of other opportunities to experiment with new sounds, that one project doesn’t need to, and will never fully encompass every nuance of who I am.
If your cat could play guitar and had a band, what type of music do you think she would make?
Fitz is a big guitar fan, probably because of how warm the amps get, but I’d like to think that she would be a shredder. She has some nervous energy going on, so maybe playing some speedy, Screaming Females-esque riffs would soothe her little soul. That, or some kind of music that makes you feel like you’re inside of a cloud, but where the cloud is really just a pillow...maybe Joni Mitchell’s, “River”.
Sonically your newest album takes a pretty big leap away from your previous work. Can you tell me about some of the artists who influenced you this time around?
St. Vincent was a big influence on the last album and on Holy Matrimony, but on this record, I was more inspired by glitchy, gated fuzzes on guitars, as opposed to looped and layered vocals. Pretty Years by Cymbals Eat Guitars was a big influence, the tenderness and huge-ness. We’re big John Congleton fans, and I was inspired by his “why not” attitude in engineering. He takes familiar sounds and does the wildest stuff to them, but somehow, they remain inviting to the listener. He did Wye Oak’s most recent album, The Louder I Call, the Faster I Run, which was also a touchstone, and I’m pretty sure it will be even more so on the next project we’re cooking up. Go listen to that thing immediately. Also, Wye Oak, if you’re reading, hello can we tour with you. My dearest friend, Madeline Rafter, aka Snake Boy Gang, was and has been an important sounding board for our new music. I’m so inspired by her silliness and sincerity in her songwriting. She’s helped me start to allow myself to dig deeper into my gender identity and I think that her music encapsulates the ability to make the personal relatable. So please go listen to her, too.
If you could tour with anyone living or dead, who would it be? Keep in mind you have to share a bus with this person or band.
Jonathan Van Ness.
'Holy Matrimony' meditates on love and making relationships work ("Probably Die" is coming to mind right now). Can you tell me about some of the questions about love that you were thinking about when you wrote it?
A lot of Holy Matrimony is me processing some old stuff from my parents’ divorce, stuff that I was really sure that I’d dealt with, but started to come up more and more over the past few years. “Boy” is about seeing a kid doing the “parent swap”, and watching him sob as he walked from one parent to the other. I started crying immediately, which was a big old wake-up call! I knew that these kinds of triggers would keep popping up. I adore my parents and am really close with them now—in hindsight, I think my goal with a lot of these songs was to reach a place of forgiveness and release the anger that I’d felt for so long, to ensure that my relationship with my parents can remain and grow stronger. “Probably Die” is so much about how grateful I am for the choices my parents made, that paved the way for the choices I made, and led me to my bandmate and partner, Mark. It’s been so helpful to look back at childhood traumas and so-called negative experiences and realize how important they’ve been in shaping the life I have now, a life that I feel pretty good about. I think the biggest question that sparked “Probably Die” is whether I can be in an intimate partnership for the long haul, and if I not, whether that’s okay.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
Ah this is a tough one. I want to give love to all of these amazing people. Right now, Wye Oak’s newest release brings me new life with every listen. Each arrangement choice is an earworm that I look forward to every time I play the album. Jenn Wasner’s lyrics are clever and enchanting, and their music has always felt timeless to me.
March 23 - Holy Matrimony Release Show - Philadelphia - Underground Arts