I’m hoping that anyone who caught one of Phantogram’s two sold out appearances last year at Union Transfer is familiar with Lia Ices… The postmodern singer/songwriter, who was initially known for the slightly more traditional singing and songwriting found on her first two LPs, traded that sensibility for something a bit more upliftingly and aggressively danceable on her third album, Ices, which was released last September. Ices presents a tropical, funky, and sunny take on synth-pop, which earned her a spot opening for electro rockers on a rather massive tour of rather massive venues… And, to be honest, her 30-minute opening set proved to be the evening’s highlight, even considering Phantogram’s well-versed and well-informed understanding of popular, yet slightly-subversive, spectacles. Lia Ices latest sounds are an ineffably perfect blend of the sensual and the intellectual that would seem to leave fans feeling neither pervy nor nerdy… Lia Ices is currently on a US tour of relatively intimate venues that will have her headlining Boot & Saddle this Wednesday, January 21st.
Last October I chatted with Lia about Ices, which she wrote and produced with her brother, Eliot, representing her first especially collaborative effort, and she described the album as an exercise in both dealing with life on Earth and eventually leaving it: “ Ices is a celebration of flight, levity, and the conviction that you can leave Earth. You take wing in an airplane, you go to real places when you dream, you have out of body experiences, you get high, you lose yourself in someone else. I want people to feel free when they listen to this album, I want it to take them somewhere — that’s what it does for me.” I recently got a chance to chat with Lia once again, who proves to be equally as lovely and endearing as she is heady and smart. She tells me that the profundity of her recent live performances is something she had in mind when writing the songs on Ices: “I wanted to make an album that was fun to play live and I wanted to come out from behind the keyboard and give myself more. I’m really into the idea of my music representing how connected I am to my body and being really honest with what I’m saying.”
Lia’s current musical influences seem nearly impossible to pin down, from hip-hop-to-Americana-to-dream pop and about a billion other things. I ask her what’s actually inspiring her and she laughs and admits that her musical influences aren’t necessarily something that are consciously constructed, but more the product of what currently happens to suit her fancy.
“It’s always changing. I’m a sponge for seeking things that move me. When I was working on Ices I was really into some of the newer, avant-garde hip-hop production and also some obscure Persian pop music, but recently I’ve also been going back to some of my earlier folk influences, like Cat Stevens… I don’t really think about my musical influences; it’s just shit I’m into.”
The first time that Lia and I chatted she told me that she was very excited for her tour with Phantogram and the opportunity to see so many cities, especially in the South and Midwest, so I’m inclined to ask if the cities she was so excited to see lived up to her expectations, and she tells me her experiences seemed to actually exceed those expectations: “New Orleans was really awesome, Memphis was cool, Arkansas was really beautiful, and we played this place in North Carolina, which was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, that was just so beautiful.” She also tells me that the experience of being on the road with Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel of Phantogram was very inspiring to her, as a touring artist: “It was a really great match. There’s that whole experience of getting into a rhythm, playing shows every night with someone, as opposed to just recording music. It takes a lot of stamina and those guys are super road warriors.”
I ask Lia about what she’s currently most excited about in 2015 and she tells me that she’s amped to put out another album, although she’s also quite enjoying the experience of promoting Ices: “I want to write the next album. I took a really long time with this one, but I feel like I’ve got the process down. I want to make some more videos and play some more, but I want to get back into the studio.” I ask her, in the meantime, what can be expected of her upcoming, intimate performance in Philadelphia and she tells me that “It’s gonna be way exciting,” but also that fans should expect some more songs from 2011’s Grown Unknown re-worked. However, she also admits that she’s still loving the response she’s getting to the material from Ices: “I think it’s good that the songs make people feel good… My earlier music was more introspective, but with this album… people tell me they work out to it, which is awesome [laughs].”