I first heard LIA’s sound when listening to “Out of Control”, the track off of the top of her debut EP, Vasilia. I was instantly captivated by her soaring voice and clear command of electronic music.
LIA’s passion for music started at a young age and has carried her through her musical career including many exciting collaborations, debut EP and a collection of remixes titled Drifting Remixes, just released YESTERDAY (11/15). We discuss all of this and much more below.
MFL: When and how did music become part of your life? Discuss any influences including friends, family or other musicians.
LIA: I always loved to sing. Both of my mother’s parents were professional singers at a point in their lives (my grandpa has perfect pitch and grandma sang for a Madrigal choir in her youth that toured the east coast of the US). My parents sent me to singing lessons at 10 with a local Opera singer but I stopped after a year because I hated practice. It wasn’t until age 13 when my dad taught me how to read tabs for guitar that I started playing and singing on my own for hours at a time. My dad really encouraged me to take up guitar. He used to play me classical pieces he remembered from his studies at uni on his acoustic guitar when I was younger.
MFL: Is there a moment you recall when you landed on what would become ‘your style’ of music? Perhaps the first single you released or the first song you wrote?
LIA: I used to be so stubborn about what I thought was quality music. I hated electronic music and thought that acoustic or very minimally processed music was the best kind. I listened to a lot of early Bon Iver, Dave Matthews, Ben Howard so I think my lyrics take inspiration from them. When I was learning to sing, I heavily relied on covering Adele, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor and Feist so I think my vocal technique and melodies originate from them. I was invited to Banks’ show back in 2014 without knowing who she was and that night opened my eyes to the possibilities of marrying my voice to electronic music. I started to experiment on GarageBand. Once I explored the electronic scene in Montreal and met all of the collaborators I’ve worked with, I fell in love with electronic production. I would say my production is most heavily influenced by Bon Iver, James Blake, SOHN, Tourist and my friends!
MFL: Congratulations on the release of your EP, Vasilia. I understand it is inspired by a slavic folktale. Tell me more about the reason for this source of inspiration and how you wove your music around it.
LIA: Thank you so much! This EP began from a place of deep internal distress. I started some of these lyrics when I finished my undergrad degree at McGill back in 2016. I believe Out of Control is the oldest. When I had the initial idea, I remember feeling like I was walking down a path into the unknown – it reminded me of Hansel & Gretel. I built the lyrics off of that. Another day, I thought of the concept for To The Woods by exploring ways to metaphorically talk about the self. These organic landscapes and stories of challenge reminded me of the folk tales I’d been exposed to earlier in life. When I was a kid, I played a computer game called Baba Yaga and the Magic Geese. Out of curiosity I researched her legacy a bit and came across the story of Vasilisa (a protagonist who triumphs against Baba’s challenges). By researching eastern european folk tales, I stumbled across Uldus Bakhtiozina’s stunning photography and found huge inspiration from her aesthetic. Kissel Shore was written based on one of her photos.
MFL: What have been some of the greatest challenges you have experienced as a musician since you started writing/releasing music?
LIA: Definitely the pressure of an online presence vs. real-world. Everything is quantified and it’s very anxiety inducing to think someone can look at your statistics and assign you a value without ever experiencing your art or you as a human. There are many beautiful advantages of technology’s integration into the music industry: for example, the democratization of distribution, accessibility to music production tools and networking capabilities with other artists & industry professionals. Then, there’s a really dark side where people constantly compare themselves and feel inferior to others with bigger budgets, more time or more savviness. At one point this year, I was definitely spending more time worrying about statistics than making music and that felt awful.
MFL: It looks like you have done some incredible collaborations including “Distant” with Clement Bazin and “I Promise” with Fossa Beats and Thomas White. How did these collaborations occur and are there more coming in the future?
LIA: Thanks! Both of these were internet connections. Clement is based in Paris and Fossa in Melbourne. Clement reached out with an instrumental and my friend Thomas White pitched me a collaboration he was working on with Fossa. I wrote and recorded both in my bedroom actually! There are for sure more collaborations coming with some very exciting and talented artists 🙂 I don’t want to spoil anything though so just keep a lookout!
MFL: I read that you grew up in Washington D.C. then moved to Montreal for school. How did this change in location change you both musically and otherwise?
LIA: Before moving to Montreal I would say my taste in music had less variety. Montreal pushed me to expand the horizon of my inspiration and of the self that I could be. I felt like I grew up in a fish bowl and I entered an ocean when I came to this city. It’s not even that big but there’s just so many people from so many places that all come here. Lots of cultures meld together to create the pulse of this city and I love it. It pushed me out of my comfort zone when I needed to grow and has had a huge influence on how I matured into adulthood.
MFL: Is there a particular time of day you feel the most productive/creative as a musician? If so, when is it and how do you harness those moments of inspiration?
LIA: I really love mornings for work but I find I have the best ideas at night. I guess I’m most productive starting my day and most creative ending it. I like to develop new ideas at night and round them out the next day.
MFL: When you are not writing or recording music, what are you doing with your time?
LIA: Cooking mainly. I love getting creative with new ingredients or recipes. It’s a great outlet when I’m not feeling I’m flowing musically because I can get immediate results from my efforts when I decide to make a dish. Also, connecting with friends is really important for me. I often make time for dates with my good pals!
MFL: Finally, what does 2020 hold for you musically?
LIA: My first release of the year will probably be a remix EP. I’ve solicited 7 incredible producers who all happen to be women. I’m also doing a remix by myself. Many times it’s not assumed that I produce or that my female friends do either. I’m really excited to release a project that puts a spotlight on talent that doesn’t get recognized often enough! My collaborations will be trickling out throughout the year as well. I’ve already started my next project which so far has 10 tracks all in different states of being finished so next year I’ll definitely finish it and start the release plan.
Big thanks to Ava Muir of Auteur Research for connecting LIA and I and BIGGEST thanks to LIA for taking the time to answer my interview questions while simultaneously working on releasing her remixes ❤ You can follow LIA on Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.