Lisa Mychols is one of the more rare examples of a musician who, while having had a long and fruitful career, does not come off as jaded or disillusioned by the mechanics of the music industry. Indeed, she sounds as engaged and enthusiastic as when she began in the ’90s with the band The Masticators (which also included bassist Severo Jornacion, now a member of The Smithereens, and at times, Wondermints’ Darren Sahanaja and Eddie Munoz from The Plimsouls).
She has released several solo records and has just dropped her latest, titled Sugar.
A known source of positive energy around the indie pop and power-pop circles, Mychols has weathered the storms all artists eventually deal with if they hope to last in such a turbulent arena like music-making can be. Today, she not only looks to a future of writing and recording, but also to be a source of support and ideas for like-minded individuals.
MusicTAP spoke with Mychols in early April, 2018.
MT: There has been a somewhat significant hiatus between your last album and the latest, Sugar. You’ve had a few individual songs out, namely a cover of “The Man With The Golden Gun” for the Songs, Bond Songs compilation and your contribution to the Back In Time project as Dreamboat Destiny. Why the long spell between albums?
LM: I wish I actually knew, myself! Above, Beyond & In-Between had more songs than one album could handle and all the songs were themed to go together like a part one and part two, kind of thing. Since Tom Richards was over-worked with the first batch of songs (that would end up being on the Above, Beyond & In-Between release), I decided to take the remaining songs to another source: Steve Refling at Lincoln Lounge. I was hoping this album (Sugar) would only take about one to two years but it ended up taking eight! Throughout the eight years, though, I did bring in a couple new songs, along with a new song that Steve, himself brought in.
But those years between albums…I remember I was going through some major shifts between 2009-2014, losses of family members, friends, even a part of myself was dying. All of these “energies” were being removed from my life and creating a major shift and change to the only reality I had ever known.
All in all, I wrote the first inspired “kick-off” song (“He’s Got Me Dreaming”) for both albums November 2009 and the rest poured in like an ocean. All that inspiration kept me a-float from what felt like the end of days. Having both albums “in the works” were what kept me anchored. I especially thank those who stuck around during that “great purge.”
The cover art for Sugar is very interesting in that – in the best way – it looks like it dropped straight out of the Warner Bros. record catalog from 1967. What was your concept for the design?
Eight years ago – I admit it, I jumped the gun! – I had actually paid good money for photos and artwork for this album, which was originally titled, “Messages to the Muse.” A few years into the making of Sugar (that’s when Steve came up with that title), I believe the conceptual design was going to something like sugar falling from the sky…but then Tom Richards took some random photos of me, and we liked the vibe of them. So much so, that we went to a friend of ours (Steve Stanley), whom we knew had a really great eye and high standards for exceptional vintage “looks” and design. I had no idea how this CD was going to “look” overall, but somehow I knew I could trust in that Steve Stanley!
If I may, I’d love to encourage readers here to consider following Steve Stanley on Facebook, as he often posts to the public some really cool hard to find music. (https://www.facebook.com/stanleysteve) He also has a show called Now Sounds on Luxuria Music Radio that I highly suggest all music lovers check out and share with their kids…and grandkids! (http://www.luxuriamusic.com/djprofiles/steve-stanley)
I think that it is important to put this out there that, even though the artwork has a distinctly retro feel and the music has ’60s pop touches, this is a modern recording. It sounds great and it is not (nor should it be confused with) a nostalgic recreation. When you were deciding on this album, how did you strike that balance? What work went into trying to evoke the ideas of that era while, at the same time, not getting too caught up in them?
I live and breathe what ultimately inspires me. Everything I create is inspired by that air! I knew when I saw that artwork that it really mirrored everything about me and what I’ve mostly been known for. I could not have asked for anything better, but of course, you do raise a great point.
The “modern” sounds of the songs were what Steve Refling envisioned. Besides for recording and mixing, he arranged and played all the instruments- but with very specific instruments, based on what he was “hearing” for each song. He’s really big on vintage gear, so you can bet this album’s got a lot of that going on. Oh, why didn’t I journal any of this during all those days and nights in the studio?
All in all, it’s been super fun. Changing to a new kind of sound, it’s kinda like getting a brand new haircut. But yes, I’m still waiting for reviews to come in, as I’m still dying to read what people are feeling overall about Sugar! (Come in, reviews, come in!)
Who are the performers backing you up on this album?
Steve Refling played all the instruments, along with the recording, engineering, and mixing. I did all the vocals.
As an artist who has seen the industry go through distinct business changes, some quite severe, what strikes you as some of the key shifts that have affected your processes, both in the creation and the distribution of your music?
For creation, I feel so totally inspired by what I can do, right now, overall. Even as a stay at home parent, if I can’t play out live like other bands and artists, we can still create music and music videos to help us connect and engage others with. Right now is especially exciting, as I just got a real computer to support the recording studio I’ve always wanted. We might even set up the drum kit in here! Just that I have so many songs I want to start laying down for the next Lisa Mychols album.
I’ve also recently set up a DIY Music Facebook page with my friend Todd Borsch who sadly recently passed, which is why I haven’t been posting on it…I haven’t even made it completely public yet. I think I will soon, though. The intent is to support each other in our DIY musical projects and creations, sharing recording tips, and just supporting and connecting with other like-minded DIY’ers.
Actually, I’d love to invite readers here, if that’s okay…Please feel free to message me, Lisa Mychols, at https://www.facebook.com/Lisamychols/ if you are a fairly new or beginner DIY musician that might be interested in joining our DIY music page. (Newly or beginner because I am one of those, lol!)
As far as distribution goes, I know places like Spotify are deeply unfavored by some, but I think it’s a great platform to discover new music on, and where new fans can discover our music at! Spotify may not be the place for an indie artist to make lots of money from. Instead, we can see it as a grand promoter of discovery and fan sharing…which leads to building more fans!
Plus, I have a lot of music available on Bandcamp, as well as on my personal website. https://www.mycholsfabulousplayground.com/. It’s so cool how we get to choose how and where we sell our music!
Today, an artist needs to be a little bit of everything to succeed. You have to make the music, of course. But you also need to be your own label, very often and keep driving that business forward. You have to be the most important public relations person in your organization because you are likely to be your only PR person and possibly you are the organization in full. Many see that autonomy as liberating, while others have viewed it as making things rather difficult. Where do you see your own music career within this?
Yes, and totally, to be a little bit of everything…..
So recently, I’ve made some huge changes, just from being more clear with my intentions. To be clear will shift everything and bust open doors for us that we thought would never open! Watch for synchronicity and you know you are on the right path. If we find ourselves shutting down at any point, we must ask ourselves, “why am I resisting this?”
Then there is the creating something but not being a very big part of it. This is especially an issue with solo artists. I see it all the freakin’ time! We give our creative power away – in any form – and right there is where we have just disconnected ourselves from the glorious energy we originally brought in. Now mind you, some may want someone else’s sound or even someone’s specific name on their project- and I totally respect that. I mean, The Wondermints were the best thing that ever happened for me! (Laughs.) But yes, whatever the artist or band’s intention, that artist or band will flow easily and effortlessly in that energy.
Blocks can be a culprit in any musician’s marketing plan. If we don’t believe in ourselves, we might act timid, like, what is up with that wall? Still, if we don’t like doing a job, and we can’t afford those fancy press companies, let’s start networking with each other! I’m telling you, I bet we have tons of music-loving friends in our community who have been looking for (boring) work, and who knows? Maybe they could learn a trade like P.R. and do it at a nice affordable rate because you are also giving them the experience to get better at that job. If they do really well, you’ve just got yourself a mighty nice team player!
Now as far as the hands-on, getting your work noticed (at all!)..sigh…I honestly have not even come close to mastering that process. This is where I push, “Get a team! Get a team!” (Laughs.)
Compiling lists of potential reviewers and DJ lists. (Split up in some physical and some digital, whew!) You don’t want to forget anyone but, alas, it can happen (arg arg arg)! I think it’s time we help each other out, especially in this scene of people that might be in our own similar circumstances. I mean, it’s all energy.
*Big shout out to Keith Klingensmith of Futureman Records for all the help he gave me on this album! I love you, Keith!
Sharing – If you can get people so excited that they want to share your work with others, this is gold! Remember that they are out there. Everyone has an audience: we’ve just gotta figure out how to reach them. And again, I don’t have this part mastered yet.
Of course, reading books and educating ourselves, as well as watching other bands and artists that are similar to what we are doing, or want to be doing have been, for me, really good practices! If you find yourself occasionally frustrated and/or jealous of someone else, remember that it’s all a part of the illusion, and then ask yourself: “What is it that (others) are doing that I want to do for myself?”
Indie musicians have a deep love for making music, but because of today’s constraints, many can’t do it full time. Where can indie artists find that equilibrium between the career you want to cultivate and the day-to-day stuff necessary for keeping the lights on and food in the ‘fridge?
Trust that If we are doing what we love, I swear, the universe somehow always has our back. I can’t stress this more, but if we have a “lack” kind of mindset, we will pull ourselves into its energy, all because we are focusing on it. I know this will probably tick some folks off, but it just needs to be said over and over and over again! There are so many amazing books and free reading online about mindset.
Musicians and artists especially – we are all pre-conditioned to some kind of programming. Everyone has their own particular programming and mindset, so many people may have believed money was already in his or her future…and so it was! Those of us with any kind of “failure” programming, even if it was just growing up and watching our parents stress about money, that’s creating their belief system. Those belief systems are either going to bring us success or failure. This is why I love using the illusion so much! (Laughs.)
“Where intention goes, energy flows” -James Redfield
Lisa Mychols’ latest album, Sugar, is available at: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/lisamychols1