Brazilian-born, Amsterdam-based music producer, vocalist, performer, DJ, and sound designer Lyzza latest EP Substate releases 24th May. Following her highly-acclaimed 2022 mixtape Mosquito, Substate reconnects Lyzza to the hallmarks of her early sound, mixing influences from all environments she’s taken on since, from baile funk to Baltimore club to UK drill, resulting in a maximalist 4-track record made to be played loud.
Substate – a portmanteau of subversion and state – is a fierce call-to-arms for subversion in music and in the wider world. Inspired by the semiotic theory of umwelt, Lyzza reflects on the hostile environments that affect us, some of which she has become far too familiar with across her life, from racial profiling to music industry politics. Opening on Blackball, she takes charge through direct address, telling all listeners that “not every song is made to sing along to,” and calling out the “bleach in what you preach.”The EP feels deeply personal, using those experiences from tracks like 90210 to tap into wider universal experiences. Working alongside Emptyset’s James Ginzberg, Lyzza tells us that James was responsible for mixing and engineering the final product, refining the tracks and pulling focus to the punchy direct address and frenetic beat on the EP, framing that strong sonic message Lyzza serves up on Substate
Lyzza started music as just a teenager, uploading music online and DJing at 16 in clubs in Amsterdam. Since then, Lyzza has performed at international clubs like Berghain, DC10, Fold and De School, and worked alongside big names like Mykki Blanco, Nicolas Jaar, and the late SOPHIE. Her focus on breaking down boundaries and interest in textures extends outside the music sphere and into the fashion world, from her inimitable sense of personal style to soundtracking fashion shows for Mugler and Lever Couture. Speaking to METAL in anticipation for the release of Substate, Lyzza talks to us about the inspiration and process for the EP and her upcoming tour across Asia for the first time.
Hi Lyzza, congratulations on your latest EP release! Could you tell us a little about the name of the EP, Substate?
The Substate title came to me after I had listened to the tracks multiple times- my creation process is not in any way chronological where I’m aware what I’m addressing as I’m addressing it. Substate is a word-combination of subversion and state- representing the four tracks all having a yearning for subversion in common.
You’ve said you were inspired on this EP by the semiotic theory of umwelt, the German for environment, and this EP is a call to arms to subvert conditions of hostile environments. Can you talk us through your inspiration for the EP from this theory?
Generally, I wanted to see if there was a way to step away from identity politics; with this project I wanted to speak from somewhat of a collective consciousness, informed by my personal experiences within it. It's the address and who I’m addressing, as well as the environment within which we’re experiencing this music. The focus was not the self, but the environment which is affecting the self.
With a focus on this environment at the centre of communication and signifying with umwelt in mind, how did this impact your approach to sound design on this EP?
I wanted it to sound big and overbearing, stepping into maximalism so I could make room to get my strong feelings out of my system.
The vocals are really stand-out as well on this EP, from very poignant direct address in Blackball, but also the vocal manipulation on the tracks. Could you talk a little about the significance of voice, especially on your closing track Swallow?
I wanted to share more specific details about my life within my music instead of trying to lean into universal feelings on the writing side of it all. Be more vulnerable in that sense — I felt ready to show new parts of myself and carry these onto the music through my voice. My music is pop-leaning but I’m always experimenting with tonalities, emotions, expressions.
Being a music producer, vocalist, performer, DJ, and sound designer, you’re a jack-of-all-trades. How does this impact the way that you find you create? What does the creative process look like for you?
Always! I try to keep my creative process punk and allow myself freedom, only accessing or describing the art or music after it’s had its space to exist. I think this is the only way to innovate, by not placing constriction on anything; but instead letting everything come together as a concoction specific to me, and the space and the time I’m inhabiting. It's like a witch’s brew; ’til this day I’m surprised by how many have picked this poison.
You worked alongside James Ginzberg on this EP, how does that collaboration manifest on this EP?
James did all the mixing and engineering which is crucial to the final project — the way sounds find their own place within the composition and highlighting the things that are important. I felt James was the only person I could trust with this.
Working with Ginzberg has clearly been a success on the EP, are there any other people you expect you would work well with or would love to work alongside in the future? Do you have a dream collaboration?
So many, I have a list of around 40 people in my notes App and my journal I wish to collaborate with at some point — although I like to keep it private because I don’t want to jinx it by making it public too soon. I usually wear my ideas and heart on my sleeve, but I've had to realise how much I inspire over the years, and that artistry or creativity is a valuable asset which almost forces me to keep things private until it’s time to show and tell. Visually though, it’s a dream of mine to work with Paul Kooiker, which would feel like a wink to culture as we’ve both spent so much time in the Netherlands, but I'm pretty sure he knows this already!
Influences on this EP sonically are also as wide-reaching as always, from baile funk to Baltimore club to UK drill. What drew you to these influences for this EP, moving away from the sound in your last EP Mosquito?
I wanted to reconnect with my initial Lyzza sounds I've showcased over the years, like a sonic magnum opus, whilst hinting at all spaces I’ve been wading in since; sneaking into clubs, raving in London squats as a big-eyed teenager, being introduced to all these mind-blowing sounds through the Internet but also through touring. I remembered I’m a great DJ and was inspired by my music collection as well. For some reason I completely tried to deny myself from those things whilst I was working on Mosquito — that’s probably why all these sounds returned so maximalist this time.
Your music before has been highlighted as resisting easy classification in the music sphere,  pushing genre to the limits in merging sounds and styles. How do you view this genre or genre-bending?
Magick, anarchy and freedom! Sound for me is about feeling, not about words. I truly believe we can change the world through sound and it’s the best medium to allow us to connect with each other without having to speak; I take this responsibility pretty seriously and always wish to spark a new thought. Genre just does not fit within those standards.
The music video for Too Slow is so cool, from the outfits and the cars to the camera work. Could you talk us through the vision for the video?
Thank you! It’s very tongue in cheek as the song is called Too Slow but the video has us racing very fast. The initial idea was to make a video where I would be extremely visible, with minimal distractions because the vocals on Substate are also so direct and front facing; this is why the backdrop of the video is mostly architecture.
I did my hair and make-up for the video myself, so it’s very bare compared to my previous videos. Although, we felt it was necessary to make the lyrics and the song hit as hard as possible.
I’d love to ask you about your style. From sound designing for big names like Mugler and Hugo Boss, to the fashion in the music video for Too Slow, you clearly have a great eye. Could you share your style inspirations or describe your aesthetic?
I wish I had specific style inspirations! I love textures and I travel a lot, so I like items that are very modular, I need an item to be able to be worn in 3 different ways and look interesting so you’re able to go to three different occasions whilst still being comfortable (I’m a Taurus so the latter is important!) If I had to describe my aesthetic I’d say I’m like a Sound Pirate.
What comes next for you after the EP release?
My first Asia tour! I’ve only done a show in Shanghai so far, but this was at the end of 2017 and my memory is hazy- I only remember I cried of happiness on a rooftop and how I accidentally ordered chicken feet and forced myself to eat it out of respect for the culture. I’m going to Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Chengdu and Shanghai this time; feeling extremely grateful and can’t wait to connect to the Asian lyzzards!