The Brazillian DJ and producer opens up about her new EP, the dream party, and manifesting the future.
Coat Max Mara, gloves and sunglasses artist’s own
It’s one of those temperamental autumn days where you can’t quite tell whether it’s “nice” outside or not. Heavy, damp gloom is succeeded by clear horizons at a moment’s notice, only to be replaced by a brief, cheerful drizzle, or engulfed yet again by a deceptively warm touch of sunshine, and so on. Inside, rapid change is also underway—although of a decidedly more certain and altogether pleasant variety. We’re in the middle of a big shoot, and LYZZA is being transformed from one character to another (from goth high priestess to bubble-gum tramp-witch, to be precise; we’re talking floor length hot pink wig and a matching Fendi look). It’s a long, intense day, yet this chaos actually provides LYZZA with a welcome moment of rest; less than 48 hours ago she was in Glasgow, playing alongside the angelic SOPHIE, and this summer she’s been to… well, let’s see. As her eyelids are dusted with heavy glimmering silver, I manage to squeeze in between the hair and make-up people, and steal a moment with the DJ/producer/singer and all-round force of nature to talk about her many adventures and accomplishments—as many as one can fit into half an hour.
Real name Lysa da Silva, Brazilian LYZZA is one of those 20-year-olds who put the rest of us to shame. She’s done so much so well in her relatively short career that it seems almost silly to try and reduce it to an orderly list, but for the sake of introduction here it goes: LYZZA started professionally DJing at 16, steadily building a name for herself on the alternative club scene in and well beyond the city. Today she is undeniably at the forefront of Amsterdam’s nightlife scene—although, equal parts self-assured and humble, she politely shrugs off my cliché “big fish in a small pond” quip. 2017 saw the release of LYZZA’s first EP, “Powerplay”, and a real power move of her own: the De School resident set out to challenge the hegemony of the local scene by setting up her own party, X3 (pronounced Triple X and named after the three Xs that make up Amsterdam’s city emblem) that focuses on womxn & LGBTQ+ POC in nightlife. 2018 saw another acclaimed release, “IMPOSTER”, and a move to London. Have we mentioned that LYZZA had just turned 20?
Today’s elaborate shoot marks a special occasion. LYZZA is about to release her third EP, and one of these images is going to be its cover artwork. Titled “Defiance”, the record is set to turn up the heat on her deeply sensitive, deeply resilient sonic universe; this time she wants you to jump—and jump you shall. Describing the upcoming release as a shedding of the skin—“a step into adulthood, for sure”—the artist is about two moulting cycles ahead of us all, already thinking about her next move and excitedly listing all the intentions she has for the upcoming year. That list is no mean feat (see for yourself below), but we’re talking about LYZZA here. She has manifested Mugler, and she will manifest Grimes.
You’ve had a pretty intense summer! You played so many places—you did Montreux, graced the main stage at Sonar Festival, you were just in Glasgow a day ago, and now we’re in Amsterdam shooting your EP cover… how has it all been for you?
It didn’t feel like a lot when I was in the middle of it. I’m based in London, so I would literally be at my house for the week and leave for the weekend and come back, so a week would pass by and it wouldn’t feel like I was doing a lot because I’d just be in my room for a week working, you know? But at the same time this summer I had a lot of fun. I had a period where I was gone for two weeks, basically just going from the Czech Republic to Berlin to Leipzig to Barcelona to Ibiza… My best friend was travelling with me, and I got to meet so many people and just relax and be in countries I wouldn’t go to usually. After Sonar I was able to spend three days in Barcelona with my best friend. It was super fun!
Sounds like a good balance of business and pleasure.
You always forget that what you’re doing now was your goal once. I remember last year I was like, Damn, I wanna play festivals. And then when you’re doing it… the fact that I played that main stage was crazy, but when you’re doing it, it doesn’t feel that crazy, because there’s been a year leading up to it.
Top Frenken, boots and bag Ninamounah, vintage corset
Do you have any particular highlights?
I really liked playing in Ibiza, that was crazy. I never thought I would ever, ever, ever play in Ibiza, that never even popped up in my head! I definitely was like, OK, I’ll play Sonar someday, I’ll play this and that someday… but Ibiza was not even on my list. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I never pictured myself there, in that situation.
The other day they played your track, “Talk Ur Talk”, from your 2017 debut “Powerplay”, during Paris Fashion Week at the Mugler show. How was that? Is that kind of stuff important to you?
It’s very cool. I was having a breakdown the day before—I was talking to my roommates, like, I don’t understand, I am not doing anything during fashion week… I have friends like SHYGIRL, who is super talented and whose tracks have been used by FENTY so many times, and she deserves it. It’s not envy, because I wouldn’t ever want to take that away from anyone, but I also want that, you know? So I was having this breakdown, like, Why do these fashion people not know my music? What can I do for people to find out about my sound? And then I woke up the next day, and Mugler used my shit! I was like, Damn, I manifested that super quick! [Laughs]
So that made you happy?
Obviously I’m not seeking validation from these brands, because at the same time they will use a song and will never actually work with you; but I do love Mugler as a brand, and the fact that they thought that my song was the song to end their show, and to see Bella Hadid walking to my music, it was definitely really cool.
So much has happened to you in single year. It’s almost 12 months since “IMPOSTER” came out, and now your new EP is about to drop. How are you feeling, and what can we expect?
My next record is called “Defiance”, and it’s definitely the next step. I remember when I first started making the record I thought, OK, “Imposter” is cool, but it doesn’t make me wanna jump, you know? I was just thinking of where I want to see myself in a year, and I wanna play festivals live and not DJ. When I was younger I used to love watching rock bands perform, and the energy that you got when you heard real drums, and how everybody would just be so psyched to see these rock bands play. I started making the album wanting to make songs that would get people hyped at festivals, but that also reflect all my experiences last year: me growing—I turned 20—getting to know so many people, touring a lot more, becoming a lot more independent. When I released “IMPOSTER” I had just moved to London and I’d lived there for two weeks when I released it. Now, I’m just really excited! It’s a step into adulthood for sure, in a way where “IMPOSTER” was me still thinking, Damn, am I good enough? I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know if I should be here, and “Defiance” is more like, Yeah, I might not be 100% sure of what I’m doing, but I’m going to be doing it, and I don’t really care what anybody says!
That kind of feels like the resolution of an anxiety cycle, going from feeling like an imposter to going, “Wait, no!” and just doing what you want to do.
I don’t really feel any more like I don’t belong in places, which is good. I still am not obviously 100% sure of what I’m doing and if it’s good enough, but I’m going to just do it! At the end of the day I’m really happy with it, and of course I get nervous sometimes—are people going to like it? But the same way that “IMPOSTER” was a step from “Powerplay”, “Defiance” is a step up, and I’m really into it. For the first time I’m really happy with a record, more so than with previous ones.
Dress Marlou Breuls, collar artist’s own
You’ve previously said that you make music for people who feel uncomfortable all the time—which, for people our age, is pretty much a universal experience, so it definitely strikes a chord. Does “Defiance” expand on that perspective?
Yeah, for sure. It’s for people who might feel uncomfortable, but it’s a push in the back—even though you might be uncomfortable, let’s deal with it. How are we going to live with this, and not have it be like, “Oh fuck, I’m so anxious, oh no, what do I do?” “Defiance” feels kind of like shedding skin; I have been able to deal with anxiety and discomfort so much more, because I’ve realized this year that it’s a trap that we all set up for ourselves: we go into spaces pretending to be something that we’re not, which then makes other people feel like they have to pretend to be something they’re not, which then reflects back to you… it’s a vicious cycle of everybody making each other anxious and uncomfortable for no reason. “Defiance” is definitely a moment of, “Actually, I don’t care anymore.” Yes, I’m anxious, but when I step into a space I won’t let this affect me.
Speaking of stepping into a space, you’ve been living in London for a year now. How has it treated you so far?
It pushes me to work hard. I felt like Amsterdam was just becoming way too comfortable. As much as I hate being uncomfortable, I love being uncomfortable because it’s what pushes you to change things—when you’re not happy about something that’s when you decide to go and do something about it. When I was still living in Amsterdam I was DJing, people started listening to my music, but I didn’t know what else I could do here. I could feel I was pushing myself less to do stuff, because I knew I didn’t have to. I feel like it’s really easy in Amsterdam to be average and still be considered really good, it’s such a small bubble. In London, if you’re average nobody’s going to look at you or give you a second chance. It pushes you to stay on your toes and work really hard, and me, being a Taurus and kind of loving comfort and laziness, I can get a bit complacent.
When you left here you were becoming a big fish in a small pond.
Well, that’s the thing, I don’t feel that way at all because I never only looked at Amsterdam. I was always looking outwards. Before I became a resident at De School I was doing gigs outside of the Netherlands, and before I even had an agency I was already doing gigs in, like, Poland, you know? I never felt like I was a big fish, but I guess I don’t really know how other people perceive me. I do notice there is a difference though—I have become, in a way, a little bit more closed off, and not been able to really nurture and foster new close relationships with people, in Amsterdam specifically. Sometimes I can just tell that people are not interested in me as a person, they’re interested in me as the DJ, the producer. In London, even the people who are “big fish”, who would be considered to be that here, are small fish there, so everybody’s on a more equal level. Also, there are just so many people doing so many things! Everybody works so hard and everybody is so talented, I feel it’s a lot more levelled out.
Do you find that environment much more stimulating?
Yeah. I love comfort, but not at this point in my life. I felt like there was an invisible glass ceiling that I really wanted to break out of. But I’m not going to lie; I do love Amsterdam a lot. I have made so many good friends, there’s such a good community here that’s special. In London you won’t go to a party and see everyone. Here it’s like, “Let’s all go to Garage Noord, let’s all hang out!” In London you’ll go and maybe see five people. And also, not everybody cares about each other as much as people do here. I guess in Amsterdam there’s still very much an underground scene, and in London the underground scene has been there since, like, what—the Blitz Kids? People don’t look out for each other as much as they do here.
While we’re on the subject of the underground scene, I wanted to ask you about X3, an inclusive, safe-space party you started with your friend and fellow DJ Nocturnal Femme. That’s about a year old as well, right? How’s it going?
Actually, our first party was in August 2017, so it’s been two years! There’s some really, really, really exciting stuff coming up that I can’t talk about… It can be really hard, obviously, as we are entirely DIY. We want to bring new experiences to Amsterdam. As much as we enjoyed our party at Garage Noord when it was just a new club, we don’t want to do it again. People know about that place now, so it can be hard as there aren’t a lot of new venues popping up, and laws and regulations make it more complicated. It’s definitely quality over quantity!
What would your dream party be?
My dream party… I would love to do kind of like Ibiza in the 80s, this open-air club with lasers, smoke, but very soft… I imagine a lot of cream colours and marble. Just like a very soft cotton cloud to fall into after the harsh realities of your life! [Laughs]
LYZZA: jacket and boots Ninamounah, belt Acne Studios; Harper: sweater and shoes stylist’s own
With your reality going at such a fast pace, do you think about the future much?
I think about the future all the time! I haven’t even released my third EP, and I think I already have, like, three singles ready for after, and an idea for the album. I think about the future a lot just because society nowadays is so fast-paced, and people rise and are then forgotten very quickly. I don’t expect one of those things to happen where I just blow up all of a sudden. I think it’s going to be more gradual. For example, I really look up to people like Grimes; her first music video was released almost nine years ago, and she’s been gradually releasing music and working for so long, and now she’s basically a popstar. She has hardcore fans and she doesn’t have to change for anyone else. I love Cardi B, but the blow-up she had, is not something I feel I would ever be comfortable with. So much attention and pressure at once.
I also think of the future in a way where I just want to make sure I’m able to make music for the rest of my life, because I don’t really have anything else. You hear about people touring one year, and the next year they aren’t even able to pay their rent. I grew up very poor in Brazil, so financial stability is definitely a big part of my life. But apart from music, I don’t think about the future. I don’t think about kids or marriage, or where I want to move to next. I really just think about music, and if in a year my music fits better somewhere else, if there’s a bunch of people I want to work with in LA, then I might just go to LA. In the meantime, I just think about memes and music. [Laughs] And food—what am I going to eat for breakfast tomorrow?
What do you hope for in the next year?
I hope that with my third EP I will be able to do live tours because I really like performing live. Obviously I DJ a lot, but I made music even before I started DJing, so I would like to do a proper live tour. Go to Asia, and just be there for a month, do shows… I’m hoping I can do, like, a little van thing, or bus thing, or car thing, and go from one place to another place to another place… I’ve always fantasized about that. And then I’m producing for a lot of artists right now, so hopefully my name will pop up in a lot of places in production credits. I hope people realize I’m actually a producer! I think a lot of people think I don’t make my music myself, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Who produces your music?” It’s me! I don’t necessarily want to have to be on stage pressing buttons and turning knobs for people to believe that. I have a collaborative EP coming out with a really cool producer from the US… I really want to produce for BbyMutha and Mykki Blanco. And I hope I get to work with Grimes next year, I think it will happen. I don’t know why, but I had an insight when I was on acid, and it was like, “You and Grimes are going to meet very, very soon.” [Laughs] I do believe in energies. Whatever you put into the world, it’s going to work. Things always work in really wondrous, magical ways—if you work for it!
Bomber and bag Fendi, dress Art School London, shoes Chanel
Get your hands on the print version of LYZZA’s Glamcult-exclusive feature in the (PARA)NORMAL issue, out now!
Words: Masha Ryabova
Photography: Lois Cohen—CAKE/Katy Barker
Styling: Leendert Sonnevelt
Hair: Hester Beek—House of Orange
Make-up: Kathinka Gernant for Chanel—UNSPOKEN
Photography assistants: Florine Helmus, Lisa Fedele
Hair assistant: Vera Dirkx
Make-up assistant: Atifa Sealiti
Retouch: Julian Deleij
Special thanks to Harper and Benjamin