The singer on her new album Pity Party – a fresh start, a reclamation of herself, and a record we can all relate to.
Since first dropping her debut album Bedroom Hero in 2012 – a collection of folk-pop songs she wrote as a teenager – singer-songwriter Liz Lawrence has been refining her identity as an artist, and reclaiming control of how it’s presented to the world.
Her sophomore record Pity Party, out today, maps out the messy feelings and lessons she’s experienced along the way, weaving in those she’s watched her friends go through too. A straightforward, delicate depiction of the chaos we all navigate in our 20s, Pity Party paints a nuanced picture of the collective dislocation felt in the world today, self-acceptance and self-doubt, and ultimately, hope in love.
Leaning into an indie-pop sound, the record encompasses everything from restless, guitar-led tracks (“None Of My Friends”, “USP”), to stripped-back, acoustic songs that feel like an emotive stream of consciousness (“Shoes”, “Love Came Looking”).
After a few weeks touring overseas with her friends Bombay Bicycle Club, we caught up with Liz to reflect on the album, why it feels like a fresh start and what she’s looking to build on in the future.
Hey Liz! Let’s go back to the beginning. Have you always been into music?
I’ve always been into listening to music ever since I was a kid, but when I was younger I didn’t want to be a popstar. I wanted to be like a football player, or draw or something. It wasn’t until a little bit later I thought maybe I could try and survive off it. But there was always banging tunes on in my mum and dad’s house when we were growing up, which was pretty cool.
You’ve had a really interesting journey in music – how has your approach to it changed since your first album?
I think not just the process has changed, but also my attitude towards it has changed a lot. Your first record is a really exciting time, because you are sort of feeling your way. There’s no blueprint for how to do it. I think that can be really successful for some and then that can hold them back later, whereas for me I feel like it’s more that I’ve had the opportunity to keep building on that scaffolding, that structure that I started out with – which was basically just being a songwriter. And I’m just much more chill about it now, which is refreshing.
Is songwriting something you approach really personally?
Yeah. Lots of people will say ‘I don’t listen to lyrics’, or ‘they’re the second thing that I think about’, but I can’t help but believe that we pick up lyrics, whether we’re listening or not, and it can really change the way you react to something. I just think that you should take care over lyrics.
What inspired this album lyrically?
I think largely drawing on your mid-twenties. It’s a really like fascinating period of your life where you have a lot of conflicting things happening at the same time. You might be having friends who are getting settled and getting married, then you’ve got other friends that are still in that same situation they were in when they were 18, and it all starts to converge. You have to decide where you want to be at that point – do you want be going out and partying, or is it time to get serious – and I think it throws a lot of people into a kind of chaos. There was definitely a lot of chaos for me and my friends for a number of years, of various different kinds. I just found it fascinating, really.
On “But Love”, the lyric “nothing to believe in but love” really stands out – is that a message that permeates the whole album? That with all the shit going on in the world, we’ve still got to stay a little bit hopeful?
Yeah, that’s an interesting song to think about. I didn’t want to take the material too lightly; I talk about a school shooting in that song and I didn’t want it to feel like I was taking advantage in a way. But then I thought no, it makes sense. I was also thinking about astrology a lot, and how to a lot of people I know or people I follow, astrology’s massive. I was thinking about why it might be that we’re grabbing onto these sets of rules and predictions now, and you know, it makes total sense. We’re very uncertain a lot of the time.
That’s so true. I was reading about how the track “USP” is about your story in the industry, reclaiming your image and who you want to be. What’s that process been like?
It’s been genuinely fucking great. I think the last two or three years I’ve been getting to the point where I’m like actually, you know what, I’m really tired of kinda being so agreeable. I’m just going do me now, and that’s just changed the game for me. “USP” isn’t so much a warning, but I still think about 16, 17-year olds coming through into this world and you’re vulnerable. You’re vulnerable by your need and your desire, and I’m sort of trying be like, ‘you don’t have to let go of that and make compromises for yourself’.
Do you want young people to listen to your music and be inspired by or relate to it?
I guess it would be really nice to feel like you can be empowering to people, whoever they are. But it’s not just teenagers – I think most people who have come to me about “None of my Friends”, for example, are people in their mid-to-late twenties, and they’re like ‘oh my god, that is my life, those are my friends’…
How has your sound developed on this album?
I think it’s developed a lot and sort of drawn together a lot of loose ends. I love electronic music; I love dance music; I love heavy music, but I also really love song-writing and good voices. I do also really feel like this record is a bit of a start for me, and I’m already really excited for the next record and how I can keep taking that to the next level.
Do you put yourself in a genre, or do you feel like that’s an outdated mode of categorisation?
I think you have to – if you want to be savvy, you need to be able to very quickly market yourself. And that’s not me being cynical, it’s just if you really care about what you do, you need to find a way to explain to people very quickly why they should listen to it. It’s not a thing that many artists ever really get there with being able to do, ’cause it’s really, really hard. It’s sort of like trying to describe yourself in three words, or whatever. But I think indie-pop is fine; I tend to go for that.
What inspires the visual side of things for you?
I went to art school for a couple of years, so I’m quite interested in concept and finding central imagery and drawing from it. It’s something I’ve always really enjoyed doing. I try not to take it like too seriously, but I try to make sure that everything is presented properly. I think all that visual stuff now is really essential – those are the opportunities to put across your personality outside of your track on like a Spotify playlist.
Have you got any tours or live shows coming up?
Yeah, I’ve got a London date coming up and there’s a tour at the end of February. I’m supporting Bombay Bicycle Club, who I also work with, and off the back of that I’m doing Brighton, London, Manchester and Glasgow.
You went on tour with them for two years, right? Did you travel all over the world?
Yeah! We just got back from a tour in the states last week.
What do you want from this in the future? Is it just to be happy and make a living out of it, or do you want that stadium tour?
I mean, I don’t think I’d be content with just being content. My friend asked me when I finished this record what I wanted from it, and all I could think was that I just want be able to make another one, and then who knows from there.
Are you working on that next record already?
I haven’t had time yet! Although just before you called I assembled an electric drum kit in my room, so I’m thinking about it.
And through all of it, when you’re super busy or it’s stressful, what is it about doing music that you really love?
I hate being in crowds, you know, I get really claustrophobic, I get anxious, but when I go on stage I feel so peaceful. It’s the one place where I find utter focus and peace, and I think craving that, even if it’s just half an hour a day, that’s what keeps me wanting to do it.