Liz Cooper: Show Review and Interview by Brian DeSpain
In the year and one-half from recording the tracks for the September 3 release of Hot Sass, Liz Cooper has grown to know herself, adjust to a pre-pandemic move from Nashville to New York City, and has found little inspiration for songwriting.
Cooper focused on painting and playing piano with her transplant Brooklyn dwelling, when leaving her apartment wasn’t a consideration. By not touching the songs during that time, they remained fresh to her as preparation for an album release came into focus.
The songs on Hot Sass were crafted in 2019 through the conclusion of the Window Flowers tour and she completed the 12-track album just prior to the pandemic.
Eight of the eleven songs on the Davenport, Iowa set come from Hot Sass with the other three from 2018’s Window Flowers. Pearl Charles was the opener for Liz Cooper on the tour.
The set starts out with the retro garage rock sound of “Je T’aime,” Liz Cooper’s vocals start out subdued and build through the song.
Then a shift with instruments playing a supporting role to Cooper’s vocals on “Getting Closer.” Synths have a lighter presence, wailing guitar is in the background with a constant simple drumbeat.
Next for Cooper is the album opener “Slice of Life.” Touches of Americana are present in this garage rock number. This is followed by “Feeling Good,” a mellower song where synths take center stage. It is one of the first songs written for the record.
Then ”Lucky Charm” tops eight minutes with Liz Cooper’s vocals entering just before the half-way mark. In the final minute she is partly doing spoken word on the song.
A round of three songs from Window Flowers comes next at the Raccoon Motel: “Outer Space” and “Fondly & Forever” with a rarer song on the tour, “Dalai Lama.”
“My Oh My” and “Motorcycle” precede the show finale, the title song “Hot Sass.”
“Hot Sass” is where Cooper is most distanced from her previous country-folk rock catalogue. Cooper says she really can’t pin down what to call the musical sound of her “other side” which has emerged. “There’s psychedelia there and grit and honestly,” she said.
Strip away the psychedelic/cosmic sounds and punk riffs from the show, we have a folk singer-songwriter more connected to herself because of the risks taken from self-expression.
We were able to chat with Liz Cooper after the show.
Americana Highways: What are a couple of the best experiences of your music career?
Liz Cooper: Probably meeting different people along the way who have inspired me, members of my band, certain producers, certain managers who have led me in a different direction or gave me insight into learning about myself.
AH: You can’t try to name everyone like at an awards ceremony. But who might be a couple people who just come to mind immediately?
LC: Benny Yurco who produced my new album Hot Sass. Probably my managers Cara Merendino and Nick Stern. Cara took this photo of me [for the Hot Sass album cover]. And she has pushed me tremendously as an artist. Ryan Usher [band drummer] has taught me a lot about being a band leader.
AH: How have you channeled your creativity and adapted to the period of time not touring from the lockdown?
LC: I paint.
AH: You’re like the fourth musician I’ve spoken to where painting has been their go-to, visual arts. How has your songwriting been affected by the disruptions?
LC: I didn’t write very much because I’ve been focused on what was happening in the world.
AH: You’ve had this general sound previously with your band that has fallen more in an Americana category. Tell me how branching out has felt and/or helped with your creativity.
LC: Tremendously. I dropped the name because I didn’t like it anymore and I made it when I was 15. And I still play with the same people essentially, but also they are also different then when I originally made it. It’s just better. It’s more myself. Moving forward, it’s not the Stampede anymore.
AH: Aside from some generic indie stamp, what has influenced the new album?
LC: I would say drugs and art and growth have been my influences..
AH: And you like crunching on guitars?
LC: Yeah, I like crunching on guitars
AH: So you feel freer being out of a genre straitjacket?
LC: I do feel freer. I’m out of the box.
Find Liz Cooper information here: https://lizcoopermusic.com