Lissie on her dread-days in Fort Collins and being both indie and major.
Elisabeth Maurus, who performs under the moniker Lissie, plays tonight at the Bluebird. She had to cancel a show here in October because her voice gave out, but she's eager to return to Colorado. She spent a couple undergraduate years at CSU in Fort Collins. We spoke with her right before her tour kicked off last week in California, and she talked about her time here, how her sound is evolving, and being on both indie and major labels.
Westword:What will you be doing on this tour that's different?
Elisabeth Maurus (Lissie): Well, I've only really done one tour with my band, and we didn't get very far. It'll be different because we've on the road consistently, overseas, mostly. But we're really tight. Last time I was in Denver I was solo.
Are you playing stuff off Catching A Tiger and the EP or are you already working on new material?
We're playing mostly stuff off the EP and the album and then a cover or two sometimes. Haven't started playing anything new yet, just because nothing's finished.
You spent a couple years in Fort Collins. Did you play much when you were living there?
I played a lot in Fort Collins. Everywhere. I played in Denver, too, but I don't remember where. I was just solo, acoustic. Didn't have a crazy following or anything. So I think I played at some coffee shop for two people.
But yeah, I headlined the Aggie, which was a huge accomplishment. Fortunately the owner was cool to me and would let me open for bandsthat came through town. I got to open for Ozomatli, which is not even my type of music, but they are awesome. Umphrey's McGee I got to sing with. He hooked me up with opening spots.
I worked at the Starlight for a while so I saw tons of music and put on shows there. Derek (Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights) had a band called Listen at the time. They were playing Fort Collins around the time I was. It's been fun to see how we've all sort of gone off and continued to push to make it and do our music for a living.
It seems like you were in Fort Collins at kind of interesting time, just when a lot of stuff was starting to happen in the music scene.
When I was there, it was a lot of hip-hop. I got to see those guys from Living Legends, and there were people locally and from Denver doing hip-hop. Colorado has such strong hip-hop. So I would see a lot of shows like that. And then jam bands, I saw a lot of jam bands. My favorites being Umphrey's McGee, who don't really consider themselves to be a jam band, but I really enjoyed seeing them at the time. I haven't seen them in a long time, but back then I was... I had dreads for like nine months, so I was cool.
I went to see Yonder Mountain String Band, I went to the Fillmore on 4/20, you know, I did it all. And I had a blast. I ultimately moved because I didn't know what I wanted to major in in school and I wanted to open a new chapter. But I had a great time there. We'd go into Boulder sometimes. I worked with DJ Harry. We did a song together that got licensed. That was earlier in my career, so that was kind of a feeling I got, like, "oh I can make money off of my music." So yeah, I have a lot of Colorado connections.
The evolution from the EP to the album is definitely a broader sound and more instrumentation.
Yeah, and I think the next album will be kind of a middle ground. Because now that we've been live, we don't want backing tracks, we don't want to play with a lot of laptops, we don't want synthesizers. I think there will be sort of a middle ground on the next album where there will be some background harmonies and a backing guitar part or whatever, but it will mostly be a band sound.
I love Catching A Tiger; I think it's awesome. But some of those songs have like fifty tracks on them. There's like twelve guitar parts, seventeen harmonies, twelve piano parts. And I think it will be
something sort of in the middle. It won't be quite as sparse as the EP but it won't be quite as layered as the album.
You're on Fat Possum which has maybe helped make you a sort of "indie" musician, and unlike a lot of bands who seemed to be on one trajectory, it seems like you really could have gone in any direction. You toured with Lenny Kravitz, you had songs appear on sitcoms and crap like that. Were you surprised at where you ended up?
Well, I'm on Columbia in the UK, so I am on a major in the UK and in Germany and Norway. So I have a broader reach by sort of embracing the mainstream, but I still have my look and what I want to sing and it's not like I've totally been manufactured into some kind of pop goddess or anything.
I kind of reside in different worlds in the music biz or whatever. I think what I'm doing is not a particular genre or trend, it's just sort of storytelling. Hopefully, it's just kind of timeless music. At our shows, overseas especially, there are people in their fifties and sixties, you have teenagers, you have thirty-somethings. I've been able to be a bit more broad overseas.
But here, I'm on Fat Possum. I still don't think I'm indie - I did a Perez Hilton interview last week. And that is kind of poppy, as mainstream as you can go. And he's actually lovely. Even in high school, I had friends from every different group, be it goth or gangsta or redneck. I feel like I don't sort of fit in one place. I'm curious about everything and everyone, and luckily our demographic has reflected that. There's not one place we fit in and that's been good because we get to do lots of different kinds of things.