By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Cardioid, the musical project of Lizzy Ellison, formerly of Portland, Ore.-based Radiation City, has officially released the first of two planned 2020 EPs, ‘Fantasy Metal,’ with the second, ‘Crystal Lattice Lullabies,’ set to come out November.
Compared to acts like Caroline Rose and Cocteau Twins, the Los Angeles-based dream-pop singer-songwriter is confident that ‘Fantasy Metal’ will be her breakthrough moment, eager for fans to embrace this new chapter, three years removed from debut LP ‘Parts Dept.’
‘Fantasy Metal’ was recorded at Bodecker Foundation in Portland with Chris Funk (The Decemberists), engineered by Adam Lee and mixed in L.A. by Geo Botelho.
Cardioid’s current lineup is Ellison, lead guitarist Bill Marsh, bassist Erica Shafer and drummer Sheldon Reed.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk to Ellison about ‘Fantasy metal’ and more.
Music Bugle – What has been the biggest struggle so far, as far as your music career goes?
Lizzy Ellison – My biggest struggle has been to have the patience and understanding to know my success is determined not by monetary sales or popularity, but by how I grow as a creator and developer of my own art.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Los Angeles to someone who has never been there before?
Lizzy Ellison – L.A. is a wonderland for creative adults. Vibrant in its colors, sexually charged, crawling with artists in every nook. It’s not for someone thinking, “Kinda, sorta, maybe…” You have to want, desire, push, be clever and find what makes you unique.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Lizzy Ellison – Literally at the moment, John Coltrane. That’s a morning routine. Before I leave for work around 9:30 a.m., my husband and I make sure to slow-dance to something like Nina Simone or Ella Fitzgerald. When I’m at work, I like to listen to a classical playlist. When I get home, Bjork or Belle And Sebastian for making dinner and for bed, a spa retreat playlist.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your ‘Fantasy Metal’ EP?
Lizzy Ellison – Exhausting. Scary. I originally recorded a full-length in the winter of 2019 in Portland, only to have the final recordings at the end of that summer not hit the mark. I then hired my friend in L.A. to see if he could revitalize them for me and instead of having the entire record remixed, I chose these six songs. Somehow, he was able to give them new life and unknowingly finish exactly what I initially set out to make. Creating a record is always a mystery at first and it should be, but when it takes detours you did not plan on, it makes you question whether or not the record should be made at all.
Music Bugle – What are your goals for the rest of 2020?
Lizzy Ellison – I plan on finishing a second companion EP called ‘Crystal Lattice Lullabies’ for release in November; a follow-up, a continuation of ‘Fantasy Metal.’ I’m also moving back up to Portland in December to work towards buying some land and creating an artist paradise in the woods.
Music Bugle – In what ways have you felt yourself mature as a musician since you started?
Lizzy Ellison – If you mean, since the beginning of my musical life, it’s tied to the question about struggle. When I was younger, I thought of my musical career as very black-and-white. I’ll make a record, get a label, tour, etc.. I didn’t know the intricacies of the music industry or the artists it supports. I’ve matured as far as understanding that it’s, “not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” By not having “instant success,” but rather a continual drive to challenge myself, I’ve learned about the specificity and nuance of my art in a way that would not have been cultivated otherwise.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your type of music?
Lizzy Ellison – The emotional dynamics. I think as a listener, people will feel what I’m saying and what the instruments are saying in a very palpable way – but not as pure aggression or pure sadness, or whatever emotion you want to label it as. There is a balance in my music that finds the right time to express something to its fullest and also knows when to pull it back.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs was the hardest to write or compose?
Lizzy Ellison – “False Starts.” I rewrote the lyrics to that one probably 15 times, edited some parts out in the final, had it mixed the most times and I have the hardest time playing it live. It’s a very complex, honest song and I think I have a fear of connecting with it.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Lizzy Ellison – “Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final,” by Rilke.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a musician to stand out these days?
Lizzy Ellison – Harder. Musicians are not traditionally extroverts, in my mind. It is forcing artists to market themselves and honestly, I think it’s a huge distraction time-wise and creatively, to focus on something that feels so vapid.