I Dream of Vinyl

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“We like to think of genre as another instrument” – an Interview with Silver Liz

Formed in Chicago in 2016 and now based in Brooklyn, Silver Liz is the musical collaboration between Carrie & Matt Wagner. Across two albums (2017’s I Can Feel The Weight and 2022’s It Is Lighter Than You Think), the duo take you on a journey through indie, dreampop, electronica and Americana (to name a few) with some wonderful songs and melodies.

We caught the band’s set as part of The New Colossus Festival on Friday night at Rockwood in NYC’s Lower East Side. After a few technical problems were resolved, with Carrie on keyboards and Matt on guitar, we heard some older songs as well as some newer material that they are working on for their third album.

We had a chat with Carrie and Matt about keeping the listener on their toes and being in a band with your partner.

Hi! Did you enjoy the New Colossus Festival?
Silver Liz: Yes, overall it was a great experience. We had a lot of fun checking out bands on the nights we weren’t playing. Playing was a little bit stressful because it was our first festival and we had a lot of equipment with not much time to set up or soundcheck. But overall, we thought it went well and the audiences were nice. Some people said they came to see us from Texas, which felt really great. There were a lot of pleasant interactions.

What classic album cover art is your current mood?
SL: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

I’ve really enjoyed discovering your albums. It’s difficult to pin them to any particular genre with so many different sounds. Do you just let the songs go where they take you?
SL: Thanks! And yeah for sure. We like to think of genre as another instrument. A lot of times the core of the songs are written on the guitar or piano, and then we enjoy imagining what genre combinations and instrumentation could fit. Sometimes the conversations are like “oh what if My Bloody Valentine made a country song?” or “what if Alvvays went through a PC Music phase?”

The set you played on Friday night seemed more electronic, almost ambient at times, than your records – is that where the songs for your new album are heading?
SL: A couple of those songs, “There’s No Need” and “Roman Candle Part II” are out as singles and never made it to an album. The new album will definitely have a lot of electronic production, but still very eclectic. We’ve been looking to the Jockstrap debut album as an inspiration in this way, but our album will not sound like Jockstrap.

Where do you normally write and record?
SL: We usually write and do a lot of recording in our apartment. Sometimes we use studios if we have access to them. During the recording of our second record, Matt had access to a soundstage at the University he was attending, so we recorded drums and electric guitar there. In December, we recorded vocals and guitar for this next record in our friend Pringle’s home studio in Pennsylvania near where Matt grew up. We would be in the studio all day and then walk back to Matt’s parents’ place for the night.

As a married couple in a band, who “wins” when you have a difference of opinion about a song?
SL: We always manage to come up with a solution we are both excited about, so we both win.

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
SL: Crazily enough, we actually both agree it would be Figure 8 by Elliott Smith! We never get sick of his music and that record is probably his most diverse. It definitely has some of his brighter songs, but some really cathartic melancholy ones are there too.

I was watching some of your videos on YouTube and you seem to enjoy going for a walk in them. Are you keen hikers? (😃)
SL: Haha, wow you’re right. We love a good hike, whether it is in nature or just wandering through a new city.

You started your own label, Extremely Pure, in 2022 – how is that going?`
SL: It feels amazing to be building something even though we are just letting it grow organically without any big ambitions. Right now we are just putting out our own music and helping some of our friends do the same. Record labels are so special. Their catalogs tell the story of people connected through music and art at a very specific time and place. It’s beautiful, and feels absolutely worth our time and energy to document and share our tiny little corner of the music world.

Matt recently released a solo single as part of an upcoming album. Why are they not part of new music for Silver Liz?
Matt: I am constantly making music and some of it is just not meant to be for Silver Liz. Silver Liz is a collaboration and of course requires compromise. I often feel the need to explore and express my own ideas freely without considering what a collaborator will think. However, working on my own stuff informs my work with Silver Liz and vice-versa, so it is still very connected. The new album actually contains quite a few samples of Silver Liz songs.

You played Rockwell Music Hall and Pianos at the Festival. What is your favorite venue in the New York/New Jersey area?
SL: Probably Mercury Lounge. It always sounds great there.

What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Carrie: This is kind of taken from a pizzeria in Bushwick caled Ops, but my pizza toppings would be mortadella, pickled pepper, and stracchino cheese. It’d be called “The Hungry Bisc”. Matt calls me Bisc, short for Biscuit.

Matt: Pepperoni, roasted garlic, red chilies, and drizzled with Mike’s hot honey. I would call it “The Schmac” as that is one of my nicknames. I’m actually very into making Pizza and it is a side quest dream of mine to one day have a pizza popup or pizzeria. I would name each pizza after one of my close friends with the toppings they like.

What else do you have planned for 2024?
SL: We want to finish our third album, we have a short New England tour coming up in May, and Matt is releasing his solo record as M Wagner.

You can find out more about Silver Liz by visiting their website and follow them on Instagram and Twitter for all the latest news.

Feature Image Credit – Hillary Safadi

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