Lyza Jane is a London-based vocalist who has been blessing us with her own distinct style and sound for the past few years. She first came to my attention thanks to her affiliation with Blah Records, including a triumphant collaborative EP with Sniff last year. Lyza has also just released her debut solo album and so I thought now would be a good time to have a chat with her about the new project, her musical heritage and her plans for the future (spoiler: they might involve a lot of wine).
How did you first get into music?
I started out as a backing singer for the band Alabama 3.
And can you remember a particular point when you realised that’s what you wanted to do?
Hearing Tricky’s Maxinquaye was a pivotal moment for me. I was like this shit is dope I can do that too – it was like nothing I’d heard before. But I mean it’s always been what I wanted… it just took me a minute to act on it. It wasn’t until I started hanging out with The Alabama 3 guys that I began taking it seriously, as it took me out of my comfort zone and more importantly sparked an interest in production. I kept waiting for them to help me with solo material, but was met with ‘make it your fucking self’ – best advice I’ve had to date [laughs].
I think I’m right in saying your stepdad was Joe Strummer. Was there ever a time when you thought you might follow in his footsteps?
For sure. I felt like being creative was fundamental to me being happy from a tiny age. I’ve always been grateful for the insight I had into studio life because it showed me the process of music being made. It’s like watching magic happen. The idea of school and then a 9-5 was never a preferred option.
I’d find it quite hard to label your music as I can hear a lot of different influences at work in there. How would you describe it?
I find it hard too. I tend to roll with ‘other’
How did you initially connect with Lee and the Blah label?
Just happened naturally, I guess. I met Formz through The Alabamas. The lead singer Rob wanted a beat off him and at the time Keith (Formz) was looking for a singer to work with, so I think I was used as some kind of trade [laughs]. We ended up being really good friends and through that I met Sumgii who was working on Cult Mountain at the time.
I was living in Acton for a couple years and I think that’s where I really started to make music with everyone. The flat was a steal… it was in this dope industrial estate with no noise restrictions and a little home studio set up. It became a place that everyone could use at all hours. As well as rollerblading and shooting videos, a lot of music was made, including Housebound!
I know your solo album is out now. For those who haven’t heard it yet, what can they expect from the project? Is it a fairly similar vibe to your previous releases?
In some ways yeah. Its very laid back – think late night/Sunday listening. As I said before I find it hard to distinguish exactly where it falls in terms of genre, but I’m proud of that because it has its own vibe.
Your vocal style is quite light but your lyrical content can sometimes be quite dark. Is that a deliberate contrast or is that just how you found your sound progressing naturally?
It’s not intentional. I think the lyrical content is just a reflection of where I was at, at the time. And same goes for the production. It’s the first project I’ve released where I’ve focused predominantly on the beats, as that’s what was driving me at the time. Bar a couple tracks the album is self-produced and definitely an example of me progressing as an artist.
Your EP with Sniff was a great success last year and I know you’re planning to work with him again soon. Is there anyone else you’ve got lined up for a collaboration, or anyone else who is on your wish list to work with in the future?
Yeah Sniff is a dream to work with; I hope we get back in the studio again soon. Where are you Sniff?!! More than ever I’m really open to collaborating since I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to do everything on my ones. Not sure there’s anyone in particular, but can’t deny I’d love to make something with Madlib.
Who would you say are your biggest inspirations outside of hip hop?
Hmmm, well I’ve always loved that ‘Bristol sound’ so Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, Martina etc. have definitely influenced the way I make music. But I’m inspired by all genres. Grimes was a big one for me. I didn’t necessarily listen to her music that much, but the way she performed and used her voice as an instrument was something that captivated me.
I know you’ve got a few things lined up for the summer, I’m pretty sure I saw you on the Glastonbury line-up which is a good score. You got much else coming up in terms of gigs?
Glastonbury was amazing and I just supported Greentea Peng in Hastings. But other than that I want to get a band together before I do any more shows.
Once the album release and promo are out of the way, what’s next for you?
I’m really enjoying making jewellery at the moment. It’s a nice side project and something that really inspires me so I’m gonna put some more time into that.
I also have a habit of accumulating unfinished tracks, so my main goal is to sort through all the beats I’ve started and build a new project. I always want to do a million things at once which can have a negative effect as I find it hard to focus. Maybe I need to move to The Cabo de Gata so I can shut myself off from distractions, drink all the tinto de verano and improve my Spanish?