ON SONGWRITING, LOS ANGELES, AND ASTROLOGY
Pop singer-songwriter Liska Steele has developed a distinct sound and style. With her new song “I Would Run”, she’s starting to expand and evolve her sound.
Tell me about the concept and creation of your new song “I Would Run”.
My dad sent me the track and he was like: “Do something with this.” So I was playing it over and over again, just humming that melody in the chorus - that melody came first - and I started singing “I would run, I would run, I would run” and I didn’t want to sing anything else because it sounded good! So then I was like, okay, it’s a story about running away from love.
Do you usually write melody first?
I like to write the melody first - I’ve tried to do lyrics first but it’s so much harder to smash your lyrics into a song or a melody. I don’t know, it’s hard for me to do it that way. I like to hum something first and just see what I come up with.
Was there something specific that inspired the lyrics of this particular song though?
I always say no, but there always is an underlying story. I mean, it’s just about how every time I get a crush I start to think “Why am I bothering with this, because now I’m stressed.” You know, “If I would have known better, then I never would have started this.”
It’s a lot longer than your standard pop song right now - was that a conscious choice?
For me personally it wasn’t. When my dad sent me the track it was the length it is now and I was like "I have to fill all this?” I could have cut it down but I just thought, I’ll just do three or four different choruses. That’s fun, right?
Was that half-sung, half-spoken part in the bridge new territory for you?
Yeah, I guess. I was trying something different. I don’t do that really, except for fun, but I thought I’d throw it into this new song. I had done it before but I always thought it sounded stupid.
It reminded me of “Rapture” by Blondie.
That’s really cool. That’s funny.
What do you think about the trend toward shorter songs in pop music?
A lot of people have shorter attention spans, including me. I can’t watch movies. I think it’s an attention span thing, and I think it’s easier to crank out shorter songs. Like the new Kim Petras song is two minutes and it’s so fun. It might be more fun to crank out cute songs that are only two minutes. It cuts down on mixing time, mastering time, all that.
It may also have something to do with the idea that if a song is shorter, people are more likely to listen again right away.
I didn’t even think of that. I do that. That reminds me of - do you remember what happened to Teyana Taylor’s album? I know this is from last year but I just learned about it, it’s messed up. She’s on Kanye’s label, I don’t remember what it’s called, but she gave them her finished album and when it came out she realized they shortened her songs. They like cut half her shit.
That’s fucked up.
They just put it out like that, they didn’t even tell her.
Who else are you listening to? Who are you inspired by?
Mars Argo. She’s one of my favorite singers ever to the point where it might be bad because I try to sound like her. But I can’t do it like her, so it doesn’t matter. She doesn’t have a huge following but she’s from Chicago. Do you know Titanic Sinclair? This is really messed up too - they used to be creative partners and kind of did what him and Poppy are doing now. They started making music - and it was really good music - and they moved to LA. I guess Titanic was like super abusive and they broke up. Then Titanic found Poppy was like “You’re my new Mars.”
And they were doing the same thing Poppy and Titanic are doing now?
Yeah. Anyway, long story short: Mars Argo sued Titanic and Poppy and basically won, so you might notice a change in some of Poppy’s videos or aesthetics. But yeah, I love Mars Argo. She does pop with some rock too and has a really high-pitched voice. And then I’m also into Sabrina Carpenter. She’s so cute and cool. I think she’s gonna be Ariana Grande level famous in a few years. She’s like 19.
Do you ever consider moving to LA?
I do, but it’s not really feasible. And besides, I like it here. Sometimes I think it would be fun to go be a surf-rock girl. But realistically, you don’t need to move to LA until a certain point. I guess if you go earlier in your career you can make certain connections, but I think if I was gonna move to LA it would be because my career was popping off and it would just be easier to be in LA. I don’t know if I could do it though. I’m too awkward for LA and I would be exhausted. It’s a lot of social climbing. But if I did go, I would be a surf-rock girl.
So when’s your rock album coming out then?
I’ve been seriously contemplating it. I used to do rock stuff, like cheesy Best Coast or surf rock. Kinda seventies rock stuff too. I wrote a song called “Hipster Girl” when I was 18 and it’s really rock. I thought it would be cool and my dad likes that kind of music too.
For anyone who doesn’t know, you work really closely with your dad. He produces most of your stuff?
Sometimes I produce too, but he’s always mixing it, adding something…it’s basically our band.
You have this single and “Just Enough” from a few months ago. So do you have a bigger project, an album or EP, in the works?
I don’t. I want to make an album, and I’m making music with an album in mind but nothing’s really taken shape yet. There are things I’m working on, but no clear trajectory.
There are lyrics in this new song “I tried to listen to my rising sign”. What is your rising sign and how does that relate to this song?
I’m an Aquarius rising, and I feel like that just means I’m very annoying. I think people just expect me to hate them. But in this specific context it means I’ll switch from my Leo sun sign - you know, obsessed with everyone and having all these crushes - to my Aquarius rising which is like me telling myself “Shut up, dumb bitch. We gotta focus. No one cares about your stupid romantic stuff going on.” Your rising sign kind of rules your outlook on the world. It’s your lens. That’s the way I look at it, at least.
Why do you think our generation is so into astrology?
Because we don’t actually know how to interact with people, so if we have a way to dissect how other people are behaving we can think to ourselves “They’re doing this because of their sun sign and I’m reacting like this because of my moon sign” or whatever. We’re all just very anxious. It’s like relieving to at least tell yourself there’s an explanation. And it also kind of helps you know yourself better.
And it’s just fun.
It is! It’s fun.
by Stevie Logan
Photos by Shea Petersen for Bops & Flops