With 17 years in the music biz under her belted mini-skirt, Liz Phair has had one of the most unique careers of any indie singer/songwriter. From her influential early material (see: Exile in Guyville), to her underrated gems (see: Whip Smart, Whitechocolatespaceegg), to her controversial glossy pop albums (see: her Capitol Records LPs), Phair never ceases to surprise.
After reissuing Guyville in 2008, Phair began working on a number of offbeat, highly unconventional songs, many of which dealt with her recent departure from Capitol Records. Tired of working with record labels, she chose to release this new material herself. Those tracks make up Funstyle, Phair’s sixth full-length, released on her own website completely promotion-free earlier this summer (a physical release via Rocket Science will arrive Oct. 19). Funstyle showcases Phair’s ability to craft tracks full of biting wit and spot-on commentary that fans have not heard since her debut. The new album seems particularly cyclical since it comes bundled with Girlysound, a collection of rarities and demos she recorded in her parent’s house on a four-track, pre-Exile. Funstyle is Liz on her own terms. She writes of the new tracks: “Love them, or hate them, but don’t mistake them for anything other than an entirely personal, un-tethered-from-the-machine, free for all view of the world, refracted through my own crazy lens.”
In anticipation of her show at The Crocodile this Tuesday, I contacted Liz to ask what she’s been up to. The following email exchange solidified my love for Ms. Phair:
We haven’t seen a proper Liz Phair music video 2005! Will any tracks from Funstyle get a video?
Uh, heeeell yes. I’m all about videos, visual interpretations of music. i was an art major in college and love to participate in photo shoots, videos, posters, etc. Though I’m in front of the camera now, part of me is always thinking from the point of view of the artist making the image and I love to collaborate on art pieces relating to my music.
How did you hook up with Rocket Science, and how has the experience been different from working with another indie like Matador?
Rocket Science is this great company working in the new no man’s land of the record industry. As the old model crumbles, all these companies step in with their alternative models and then we all have a shoot out to see who takes the day. I think it’s terribly exciting. It’s a little bit wild wild west out there. As for Matador, that is such a legacy label, you really can’t compare the two. But I suppose the term ‘alternative’ applies to both.
You collaborated with Dave Matthews on a few Funstyle tracks, are there any other dream collaborators you’d like to work with?
Does it get dreamier than Dave? Hmmm. Hmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Hard one. Um. Uh. Er. Uh. Um. Beyonce and me forcing Jay Z to let us into his studio where he kind of helps us, but kind of leaves us alone?
Out of the multitude of tracks recorded for the Girlysound Tapes, how did you choose the 11 that will be released alongside Funstyle?
I relied on the fans who love them the most. I asked Ken Lee, who runs the Liz Phair fan site, Mesmerizing, to give me suggestions. He has been instrumental in helping me poll hardcore fans for their set-list wishes, coordinate efforts with other fan sites, just generally keeping me in touch with my core supporters. I am very grateful to him and to all my fans.
Do you and your teenage son ever pass along music to each other? Has he introduced you to any new bands/artists and vise versa? Perhaps some Justin Bieber?
Hahahahahahahahahahaha. He would die if he read that question. He is definitely NOT a Bieber fan. He gets all of his music from youtube and video games, which fascinates me because this seems to be the way all of his friends and he are encountering bands and forming their musical taste and opinions. So different from the way I learned about records: my early forays into Tower Records late at night on the arm of my boyfriend in the 1980s. Nick did introduce me to Yoko Kanno, lead singer of the band, The Seatbelts, who wrote the score for the PlayStation 2 game: Cowboy Bebop. She is a 46 year old Japanese composer who is creatively impacting my 13 year old son, who is, in turn, impacting me. Our brave new world ;).
You rap on a Funstyle track, are there any other musical genres you’re interested in exploring? Is there a black metal Liz Phair song in the works? ;)
Shitballs yeah, there’s a black metal Liz Phair. There’s a concerto Liz Phair. There’s a Fulsome Prison Blues Liz Phair ;). Do you dare me?
Funstyle is out October 19th via Rocket Science.