Liz Suwandi is no stranger to Strangers out there. Known for her spots on Tech N9ne’s “Poisonous”, “Cult Leader”, and “The Real Thing”, she has even been called by fans “The First Lady of Strange Music.” While the title has never been official, she’s always been there to provide her infectious, original and startling talent for the hooks of many a Strange Music artist.
With her work on CES Cru’s Constant Energy Struggles, she has provided arguably her best work to date: “Smoke” features her most creative chorus yet and is one of the most original songs on Strange Music’s long catalogue. “Daydream” sees her channeling the warmth of a love song, but with a soulful sultriness that is all her own.
We talked to the beautiful songstress to get the story behind her two features on Constant Energy Struggles and her thoughts on CES Cru’s Strange Music debut album.
And all that has led up to these two spots on Constant Energy Struggles, how did that whole thing come to get arranged?
Actually I talked to them first. I actually met up with Godemis in Westport one day and we were just goofing off and hanging out and I was like “We could do something together, we could really do something together!” Come to find out they felt the same way and it was kind of something that me and Godi just were like “Yeah, we should!” Then they came over and had a meeting with me and we were like “Well let’s do it.” I didn’t really know when their project started, but we just kind of made a pact with each other that when they started working on their album or had something then we were going to do that.
Ubi called me and told me about this beat. I’m a huge Portishead fan and really into that sort of electronica/jazz/rock sound and it was basically what I’ve been looking for in a track. It was perfect for what I like to write about. That’s how “Smoke” came about. It was natural.
I’ve been wanting to work with them just because I really enjoy their creativity as hip hop artists. They were on my list of people that I wanted to collaborate with. To me they really represent the alternative, underground hip hop sound. They both have such a different style, and together they’re like the ying and yang of hip hop. It works great. They’re young and fresh and they talk about things that I’m interested in as well. The “Wall-E” song, track 17 on Constant Energy Struggles, is talking about the world and the environment. They address a lot of different areas of life right now that are real issues and problems for our generation. To me those two are just a perfect combination of people that I’ve been looking to collaborate with.
The song “Smoke”, what is that song about to you?
It’s kind of a “break up song,” but I wanted to approach it differently with sort of a different concept and I didn’t want it to just be like a cliche kind of thing. I wanted to think of something to where you’re involved with somebody and you care about them a lot, but it just doesn’t work and you’re actually just really terrible for each other. I kind of had experienced something like that recently. I had a lot of emotion about it. Ubi and Godemis kind of understand too. It’s sort of the whole musician’s curse where it’s just such a different kind of lifestyle that it’s just hard to find people can move along with you and go along with that whole thing. It’s just such a different mindset and can be very, very frustrating for someone that you’re dating, especially if you’re a woman in the industry. That was really my thinking behind it but I wanted to approach it in sort of a different way. It just kind of came to me, just not being able to understand each other or see eye to eye.
Did you have an idea what the song was going to be about before you listened to the beat? Did you guys talk about that?
No. They just sent me the beat and I was going to listen to it and get back to them, but I instantly started writing to it as soon as I heard it and had a melody and an idea that just came to me. It’s usually the way that things come to me. It shouldn’t be forced and I usually talk about whatever it is that I’m going through. There isn’t a huge process to it other than I just do it. If I can’t think of anything when I hear a beat, if it doesn’t pull any specific emotions out of me when I hear it, then I can’t write to it. I just have to move on.
Speaking of that, when we talked to Seven about the beat, he said he tailored it specifically with you in mind upon hearing from CES that they wanted you on a song. What was the effect that it had on you when you first heard it?
I didn’t know that he had actually created that with me in mind. I called him right after I heard it and was like “This is the most perfect beat for me!” It’s what I had been looking for. I kind of get bored very quickly, especially when music sounds redundant. Music with Seven, what he creates is always so all over the place. He can create any kind of beat. I get really irritated with hearing stuff that sounds the same all the time. You’ll hear it in a lot of top 40 music. I just really like different sounds and people that are progressing forward differently and fusing things together that maybe wouldn’t really go together, or people would even think would go together. I love doing experimental songs, that’s what forces you as an artist to evolve as well as music as a whole. It’s kind of my thing and it pushes me vocally. I like to see what comes out when it’s a weird song like that. I was really happy about it to say the least. I was stoked.
After hearing the final product, how do you think that song turned out?
I think it’s great. I think that everybody came through and the styles are really cool. I think it’s a different song for hip hop which is awesome. I loved the different styles that everybody brought on it and the way that it came together. I love it. I couldn’t be happier with it.
The next song is actually the last one on the album and it’s called “Daydream”. I heard this one was kind of a happy accident. How did it happen that you landed on this track as well?
I was there recording “Smoke” and Godi was listening to some tracks and I think I started humming along to a melody that I liked from hearing the beat and I just kind of wrote it in the studio. It made sense to all of us and we had all been going through something like that so, you know, it’s nice. It’s a very relaxing song. It’s a different kind of song for me because it’s probably more R&B than what I would usually do but it made sense.
What’s that song about to you?
Just being done with really trying to explain yourself to somebody and kind of just wanting to separate from reality. To kind of remove yourself from the scenario or circumstance and not really think about anything. Basically just stop trying to deal with somethingâ€“it could be anything that you feel is dragging you down in life.
After hearing the final product what do you think of that song?
I think it’s great. It’s a really chill song. It has a different meaning for all of us which is what I think is great about it. It’s kind of one of those songs that you can sit back and just smoke to and ride around in your car and relax.
I don’t know how much of the album that you’ve heard but from what you have heard, what do you think about it?
I think this album is, for them to do what they did as far as their debut album being on Strange, I think it’s incredible. I think they killed it, that’s all I can really say about that. It’s not very often that you hear a debut album like that coming from a hip hop artist or any artist. They’re both super talented and they got it.
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