Monday, November 7, 2011

Q & A: Lisa Bianco

One of my favorite rockin’ women, Lisa Bianco, has a new record, Momentum, coming out. It will be available Tuesday, November 15 via iTunes and other digital retailers. And for those who like to actually hold their music, physical copies will be available at On Momentum, Bianco has blended pop, alternative and punk into seven songs of melodic ear pleasure. With an upcoming record release show, Friday, November 11 at Bowery Electric, 7:30PM, I thought we should do a little Q&A with Bianco.

Quirky NY Chick (QNYC): Momentum, I think, is a bit harder edged than your previous record. Was that an intentional move or just a natural progression?

Lisa Bianco (LB): I think a bit of both. After my last album Post Data, I wanted to write different. I learned so much from the last album that I think it's natural to build on that. Or bring out some elements you discovered on that last album. I was writing so much on my acoustic guitar (kind of necessary since I live in an apartment). So instead I just plugged into Garage Band and headphones so I could be cranked how I want it at all times, lol. You write different that way and there's a resonance with electrics you don't get on acoustics. That resonance is sometimes responsible for the song ideas that some out. I also didn't want "mid tempo" to be the death of me. Ha. So I was writing more up songs. In fact "Erase You" started real slow on an acoustic guitar as an exercise to get out of writers block. I just decided that it would be really cool a lot faster...and it became a song; same thing with "Low." Originally "Low" was this strummy acoustic number. I knew that it wasn't quite right...but I knew there was a good song in there. So when my producer, Bryan Rusell, and I got together for pre pro we tore the song apart and tossed back and forth ideas of presenting it different. It's a dark song so we went for this deep picking and blasting chorus. The general rule for this album was throw out the book and do everything opposite to what you'd maybe normally expect to do. That's kind of how Bryan works. No predicable clichés and less is more.

(QNYC): You wrote all of the songs on Momentum. When you write, does the music come first or the lyrics?

(LB): Music comes first. It's this one two punch for me. Usually I'll come up with a riff or a progression of chords. If a vocal melody enters the picture I usually go with it. That is kind of the test for me. If I naturally have a melody with the bed of music then I feel I got something. I have countless riffs that go nowhere too. I think the more you write you get a feel what's going to work or not. It may not be your best song but it's something to work on and develop. Lyrics will come after. It's usually the last refined process in the song for me. Finding the subject matter comes out of the ad lib lyrics that I initially have. I'll find a series of words that "give" me a title or something to explore. It's like this supernatural thing. Then I write what I know....

(QNYC): Where does your inspiration come from?

(LB): Of course I'm inspired by music but also it's other things like movies and books or even a memory of another time or place; images and stories, lol. I feel a lot of times it’s unexpected which is always great. It's like a nice little gift.

(QNYC): If you had to pick one song from Momentum to put in a time capsule to be opened in fifty years, which song would you pick and why?

(LB): I'd say "Breakin". I think it overall captures my style, my guitar playing, lyrical content/observation, and sonicness....if there is such a thing, lol.

(QNYC): I’m a guitar fan and you are a hell of a guitarist. Who or what inspired you to pick up the guitar?

(LB): I had a musical background growing up playing flute and piano. But I always loved Rock n Roll. I had an older brother so I was very aware of it at a young age. He played a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and had videos and posters of them. That image of playing guitar was so cool to me. It seemed out of this world to me. They channeled something from their guitars. That was appealing to me. But for some reason I didn’t think to actually play guitar. It wasn’t until high school a friend of mine taught me some basic chords. I thought it was going to be really hard. But he gave me the basics and how to "play by ear." So from that point I just listened to records and tried to play what I heard. Or downloaded guitar tabs to get me started on a song. It felt like home.

(QNYC): As a lyricist who has been your biggest influence?

(LB): I'd say I have a few. Kurt Cobain was a big influence. I liked his abstract touch. I remember thinking "wow this is different...I really need to think about these words," and the subject matter was not typical top 40 mainstream. To me it made sense. Also, Thom Yorke and Bono. More recently I "studied" Springsteen's lyrics. He's one twisted sad cat lyrically. What an imagination for lyric! lol. I really dig it and I think most people don't realize that cause his music is very uplifting. I'm floored.

(QNYC): I can remember a time when women with electric guitars, playing rock music, weren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts. As an audience member I still sometimes hear guys talking about how hot a female musician looks but not take their playing seriously. Do you still feel that from your standpoint as the musician? Is that “women don’t rock as hard” or “she plays all right for a girl” attitude still lurking around?

(LB): Yeah, somewhat. I mean I definitely don't have it has hard as maybe Joan Jett and then later the Riot Grrl era had. If I tell someone I'm a guitarist/musician etc., I can feel that look on their face that "ok I bet she just strums and has a lead player guy". I can sense the doubt for sure. I always get offers "hey if you need a lead player or you want me to come into the studio and lay down some guitar parts...." I'm like hmm..."no I actually write all my guitar parts and track them all on my albums. But thank you (wink)." I can just imagine some horrible Eddie Van Halen solo mock up....eeek.

(QNYC): I follow you on Twitter and as a result, I’ve learned we like some of the same music. Is there an artist or song people would be surprised that you listen to?

(LB): I like a lot of pop music. I like a good dose of Gaga, Katy Perry and "the original idol" girl Kelly Clarkson. Ha. I have a few Chicago songs on my iPod. "If you leave me now......"

(QNYC): Time for the infamous “What was the last...” question.

What was the last… you intentionally listened to?
"Charlie Brown" Coldplay

...record you bought?
The Kills - Blood Pressures

...concert you went to?

Duran Duran at MSG. (never cared for them until about 5 years ago!) you read?
Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste A
Lester Bangs Reader you watched?
Juno this weekend on Cable!

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My thanks to Lisa Bianco for partaking in our Q&A, it was great fun! And, don’t forget to head down to Bowery Electric this Friday, November 11 to see her rockin’ live. And as a treat for those of you who do go, you get a free CD with admission...NICE!