Plus we talk to the Mad Decent-signed singer about being a Valley Girl, working with Diplo, and the allure of oversized FUBU jerseys.
LIZ Y2K is not Britney 2.0. Don’t let her millennium inspired handle fool you, even if her vocals are sugary-sweet this girl is working with some of the best, most innovative producers in the game. “I think it’s a cop-out when writers and bloggers call me a throwback artist because I’m not,” she said, calling from a windy Miami beach last week. “We’re very forward-thinking and I want to be a person creating trends.”
Even a brief glance through LIZ’s signature aesthetic cements her role as a trendsetter. In fact, she first caught my attention at SXSW simply for rocking a strong, sporty look. After realizing she was an artist and following up on her sound, I was instantly hooked: I had to know more about her involvement with Mad Decent and her current EP Just Like You. Above is the premiere of her video for “All Them Boys.” Watch her dance around in oversized FUBU, then scroll down to read about her vintage Kobe jersey and the nicknames that she and Charli XCX use for each other.
Noisey: When did you first get involved with music?
Liz: I was always singing when I was younger and in school and all that. When I was twelve or thirteen I auditioned for a girl group. I wasn’t a good fit because the other girls were a lot more developed than me and I was still really little and skinny. But I started working on other stuff and that’s kind of how I started with the first batch of writers and producers. Over the years I made connections with people, wrote a lot of songs and played a lot of shows. I really got to know myself as an artist as I was growing up as a person.
What was your goal for this video?
For this video I wanted it to be strictly a performance video, kind of reminiscent of those videos that you would see on TRL. Like for Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, even some Britney videos, the storyline is often extremely secondary to the performance aspect of it. I just wanted to show my personality and have fun. I wanted to do a lot of choreography because I dance a lot—especially in my live show—so I wanted to get that across.
Your first EP Just Like You came out this past February (download it for free here). What has the reaction been and what comes next?
I’ve been really pleased with the reaction to the EP, I wasn’t really expecting anything too crazy, but the reaction has been super positive. Not only from the listeners and fans but also from other people within this community, producers, writers, other artists. It’s been really wonderful and I’m excited to continue to put out stuff all throughout this year and transcend.
I might put out another EP before an album. Usually you want to put out an album when you have a song that’s doing well on radio, it just makes sense. But I’m just focusing on the creative at this point, making a ton of new songs and working with amazing collaborators. We’ll figure out how it all gets out once I have a big selection of songs to pick from.
One of the songs on the EP “Don’t Say” features Tyga—how did you guys connect?
I met Tyga briefly because I was actually with Diplo when we went over to Tyga’s studio to cut that part on the song “Bubble Butt” for Major Lazer. I guess Tyga had also heard some of the stuff I was putting out last year and he’d expressed that he wanted to do a collab. So we sent my to him and he was down and he did it! I had always had Tyga as first choice to feature on it.
What do you think of people constantly saying your sound is throwback 2000s pop?
Of course, when you’re creating something new you’re always going to mix in your inspirations from growing up, and there are definitely stylized aspects to my vocals and to the sound of my songs. I love 90s and 2000 R&B, and obviously yeah, that really shows. I think new things will always derivative of the past in some ways. But people want to put me in a box based on the mixture of things I happen to be inspired by. They just say I’m like a “nineties artist” or whatever. But I work with some of the most progressive producers and collaborators!
How did you get connected with Mad Decent?
I started top lining and writing over people’s tracks within this community but I was always doing my own music at the same time. I thought it was a good opportunity to get my foot in the door by doing features and stuff like that, but I also wanted to be a solo artist. Word spreads quickly in this underground community when there are vocalists that people like.
I think I was always kind of doing something different because I never wanted to be that girl that was just featured on things. My own material was number one, so, I just happened to have all this finished material and Paul Devro and Diplo really liked it and they’d been wanting to put out an EP type project, so it worked out.
It seems like working with Mad Decent and Diplo is a lot more personal than the typical label structure.
It’s definitely a very close family we all have, and I think it’s cool that I came up with them in a very organic way. You know, having their cosign is really flattering and I’m blessed to be a part of their family. We’re all really collaborative and we make decisions all together. Diplo curates so many other artists and producers that I have a plethora of people to pick from to work with at all times, which is amazing! But at the same time, I get to do this after proving myself and putting out a lot of material and it’s never easy. You still have to do the work all the time, it’s a great connection though.
Style is obviously important to you, how did you get interested in fashion and how does that relate to your music?
I’ve always been way into fashion and clothes and accessories and changing a bajillion times a day ever since I was really little. Just dressing for my mood—I feel like my outfits always come from a specific vibe. A lot of people think they don’t always go together that well but I honestly don’t care (laughs). I do what makes me feel fun and cool and comfy. I think fashion and music go hand in hand. Carving out your own niche as an artist with your own style is really important. And the music that I’ve been making in the past couple years has definitely influenced my fashion as well, it’s gone hand in hand.
Do you have any super #rare vintage jerseys that people drool over?
I love the big oversized FUBU jerseys those are my favorite, and they’re not made anymore. They’re all vintage at this point so you have to go out find them. I do have some sports team jerseys like basketball and baseball stuff, I have a really rare Kobe Bryan Lakers jersey that I always get compliments on, and I have a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey too.
You grew up in Tarzana, in the midst of the San Fernando Valley, how has that influenced your aesthetic?
I’m definitely a Valley Girl through and through. I’m not trying to be anything I’m not, I’m definitely the girl next door. I grew up around boys on my street, all my best friends when I was little were boys, they were in my neighborhood. So we’d all play together and hang out, so I always felt from a very young age, comfortable around boys. Even today a lot of my best friends are guys, so I’ve got a little bit of that tomboy aspect I guess, but I’m also super girly.
What was the inspiration behind your handle LIZ Y2K?
We were just trying to think of a URL or handle that could be all the same for all my stuff online. A lot of times people will have a name. I think it was actually Diplo who came up with it. It’s so funny now, because some of my friends will be like “Y2K!” and just call me that. Charli XCX calls me “Y2K” and I call her “XCX.”
Oh, are you guys friends? Would you work together?
We toured a little bit together last year and we’re going to write some stuff together. She’s a good friend, super dope girl.
What is style advice you would give to someone who is trying to develop a signature look?
I love to be comfortable personally. If you just say screw it, I’m going to be comfortable and go with whatever vibe I’m feeling today, then I think you’ll win. Just be truthful and have a sense of fun about your style and I think that will show. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable other people are around you. Whatever you do, just own it. Just own it.
LIZ's latest EP, Just Like You, is out on Mad Decent now.
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