Today Liza Anne is feeling three main emotions: “overproductive” (because she’s been helping clean out an old estate), “grateful” (because she’s with family), and “expansive” (because she feels her mind is quite literally expanding).
“As weird and bad as the year is, I feel like we have no choice but to all be growing,” Liza said, clutching her fluffy cat Ralph over Zoom. She’s quarantining with her parents in Georgia and celebrating the release of her fourth album, Bad Vacation — all while reflecting on the past few months. “I feel like this year, on an emotional level, spiritual level, on an anti-racist level, all the things that I’m learing, I’m just obsessed with the soaking up of knowledge right now. And it’s every corner of life… I’m like, ‘Tell me all the things I don’t know.’ I can’t wait to learn.”
Lately, Liza’s been focused on activism — specifically with mental health. On Instagram, she hosts Emotional Health 2020, a talk show where she interviews fellow artists and asks them how they’re feeling, how they cope, and how they’re caring for themselves. Recent guests have been Daisha McBride, Samia, and Chase Lawrence.
Mending emotional potholes is the main mission behind Bad Vacation, a bright, guitar-driven exploration into self-growth and her second release under Arts & Crafts. Birthed during her last tour, amid a toxic relationship and the nightly loop of performing heavy songs, the new album started as an escape. While Liza was selling out shows and killing it onstage, she felt quite the opposite.
“I was kind of living in this weird fog of like, ‘I want someone to write me out of this,’” Liza said. “Because apparently I’m writing all these other people into their power, but I’m drowning.”
After that realization, she shut herself in a friend’s room, and emerged with “Devotion” 10 minutes later.
“Devotion,” the fifth tune on Bad Vacation, is a thunderous, grungy declaration of independence, bursting at you with a new wavy synth solo and an oath of a self-love: “I’ll do anything for her now / She’s my longest love.” Even rock stars need a mirror mantra song.
“That version of me was just really, really, really wanting to be what people perceived me as, which is a strong and empowered and bold and vulnerable and emotionally intuitive and emotionally in a safe space in her most personal relationship,” Liza said.
From there, Liza kept writing songs about the person she wanted to be until, finally, she wrote it into existence. You can feel the euphoria of her freedom on the playful title track, on which she discovers anything is possible: “I’m in love with this feeling / Oh my god, are there no ceilings?”
With the highs of confidence, there’s also valleys of self-doubt on Bad Vacation. “Terrible Discovery” is a sweet ballad about getting trapped in your head, while “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” is about driving your friends away with your self-destruction (and keeping your therapy appointments). After recording it all, Liza reached a level of clarity she’s never seen before.
“At that point I think I hit 100 days sober right after we finished the record,” she said. “I think it was a combination of that and finishing something that I felt really represented by, I truly felt like I could see color for the first time, which is crazy but it was beautiful. I think I just gave myself the room I need to be aware again.”
Musically, Bad Vacation is, at times, art rock, new wave and power pop, drawing comparisons to St. Vincent, Sleater-Kinney, and Talking Heads. At times she’s Kate Nash, other times she’s Hayley Williams — all this to say that Liza Anne is completely her own, but might give you a glimmer of one of your creative faves. Her lyrics feel like they’re peeled from the pages of her journal, delivered with a fiery honesty. Her voice chameleons from growling punk rocker to lovelorn canary, with a carnival of yelps, spoken word and kooky harmonies in between. It’s summer vibes, for sure, best blared from the speakers on a bicycle or while you’re roller skating down the boardwalk.
The album is begging to be played live (if only to hear Liza’s cowbell chops on “Change Your Mind” or her newfound bass-playing skills), but for now, she’s hunkered down in the town where she grew up. St. Simon’s Island in Georgia is quite a ways from Nashville, where she lives and records, but it’s probably the best place to measure her growth.
The album begins with some ocean ASMR — 14 seconds of seagulls mewing and waves lapping the shore — recorded by her mother. To Liza, it’s meant to reconnect her with childhood emotions she wanted to rebuild, like excitement and joy, “things that I trained out of myself,” she said.
“I wanted to start the record with my safest place,” she said. “And it’s literally the beach where I used to go in high school. I would park my car at this point on the island and watch the heat lightning.”
She explains that entering the door of nostalgia can be a means to rediscovering yourself, especially when you’re low. But there are other ways to lift yourself up. On the blazing “Bummer Days,” Liza promises to take control of her mental health: “I’ll stop crying at my party / I’m tired of feeling sorry.” For Liza, antidepressants and therapy have helped majorly, but everyone’s bummer days look different. She suggests developing easy goals in the morning.
“It’s not, like, ‘OK, get up and write a bunch of songs.’ ‘OK get up and get all this stuff done.’ But more just like, ‘Get up and drink some water and then go sit outside and look at where you are.’”
Even when you’re having a bummer day, Liza advises to just go with it. Growth can happen from your bed, too, and taking the pressure off yourself can allow you to bloom.
“There’s no way that when I’m laying in bed, that’s going to be a day where I change the world,” Liza said. “But who cares? If I’m holding myself to that standard anyways, I’m always going to be disappointed. Just going easier on myself across the board is my M.O. these days.”