Thursday, March 22, 2012

An interview with Mister Lies

Update: Mister Lies is producer Nick Zanca.

Upon discovering his soulful music and trippy video for "False Astronomy" yesterday, I wasn't surprised to find that Pitchfork already featured this Mister Lies. I decided to shoot him an email anyway.

The 19-year-old Scorpio, who goes under the moniker Mister Lies, told me he'd rather keep his true identity under wraps until he releases "Hidden Neighbors" this year.

Until then, we can keep fabricating lies about the Chi-Town/New Caanan, Conn. resident, or we can ask the source. I knew he had yoga in his roots!

Screenshot from "False Astronomy," directed and animated by Nick Torres

What genre(s) would you place your music in for the sake of journalism?
I don't really like labeling my own music just because I've done it before, and it can set someone up for artistic failure if you flesh out genre before you actually make your tracks. Because chillwave and post-dubstep are terms that are abused by its listeners, I won't classify my music as such. On Facebook, I label my music “ambient gospel” because my friends have said my music is as soulful as it is atmospheric. I didn't think about that too much, it was just instinctive.

“The music is not the truth.” Explain.

I suppose that more often than not in the music industry, there's a lot of nonsense and less honesty flowing around lately. I think that's a testament of focusing all of the artists' energy on their image and not their music. By keeping my identity under wraps, I make it strictly about what's being done sonically. It works better for me than having to be in a sadistic get-up or a dress made of plastic bubbles. Music lies to the people all the time and promotes incessant bullshit behavior. My only hope is that you don't find that with my tracks.

C: Name a seemingly unlikely influence of your current music.
Two come to mind. The first is emo/post-hardcore music from the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Brand New, Something Corporate, At The Drive In and Cap'n Jazz are for sure, guilty pleasures. Teenage angst. I was in a ton of punk bands in high school, and I thought I was serious about it, until I found out “punk” and “serious” can't really be used in a mature context. The second could be a little embarrassing: musical theatre. [It] has always been a part of my life in some way or another. My family lived close enough to New York that we got to see a lot of shows. Even now, my sister is a musical theatre major and drags me to shows whenever we get the chance. This weekend when I come home for spring break, I'm seeing the production of "Porgy And Bess" that's being produced right now. It's impossible to escape my family's admiration for broadway. I will include that though they exist, brilliant musicals are hard to find. My sister will kill me for saying this, but it's sort of a dying art form. As far as songwriters go, I especially dig the way Stephen Sondheim writes. His lyrics always hit home, and his melodies are disgustingly catchy.

C: Do you do yoga or meditate?
Definitely. Meditation is recently a huge part of my music these days. It helps clear my head when I get tunnel vision. My mom is also a self-employed yoga teacher and got her masters in spiritual healing. I haven't done yoga in a hot minute, but I'll definitely be jumping on the bandwagon once summer rolls around, and I'm focusing the majority of my summer recording my full-length in Connecticut and Vermont.

Being from Chi-Town, are you going to be at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival?
That's one festival I've never attended, but now that I'm local, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it there this year. I've been itching to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their records got me through high school. I'd also really like to be in Montreal for Osheaga [because] that lineup is also nostalgic and close to my heart. Festivals would be awesome and lovely, but I need to prioritize with my recording.
Who are you currently listening to on your music player?
I love the new Evian Christ. His use of hip-hop sampling is unorthodox, and I predict he'll be setting a trend with that. Also, loads of Ryuichi Sakamoto. The ambient work he did with Fennesz is phenomenal. Tons of shameless ‘80s tracks: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Don Henley. Danny Brown's "XXX" is one of the rawest, hard-hitting, hip-hop releases I've heard in a very long time. Also recently, [I] got a hold of a record by The Langley Schools Music Project; a bunch of school children from Canada from the late ‘70s covering David Bowie, The Carpenters and The Beatles. Total flower power shit, but equally as dark and brooding. [I] highly recommend it.
Soundcloud or Bandcamp?
Shit, that's a tough decision. Both have advantages. SoundCloud enables your fans to actually interact with your tracks and acts as a fantastic social network. On the other hand, Bandcamp did the whole Radiohead thing by adding a “pay-what-you-wish” option to the site. It's also where the money comes from. I love both, but I'd have to go with SoundCloud. The cash is always nice, but the end of the day, interacting with the listeners means way more to me.

What’s the worst lie you’ve told when you were a kid?
It's funny, the irony of my moniker is that I wasn't much of a liar when I was kid. I was too wimpy and wasn't devious enough to get myself into trouble. I was a momma's boy, and to this day, I'm still a momma's boy. But even then, that could be a lie in itself. (laughs)
Will you ever be in California any time soon?
Hopefully. As I said, my mind is set on recording for now, but I would love to tour if the opportunity presents itself. The collective I work with, Svengali, is also based in LA, although most of us wolves keep habitat in Chi. Who knows? I might make an appearance sooner than I would've thought.
Is music the field you’ve decided to invest all of your energy in? What's next?
Until I left high school, that was all I wanted to focus on and nothing else. And then when I came to Chicago to start school, I started to get my mind in check, and it sort of just became something I did for the hell of it. I'm studying creative writing and philosophy at Columbia College, and this was what I did with friends on weekends. I never imagined that [my music] would ever become this huge. Is it exciting? Hell yeah, I dreamt of this for so long. Is it overwhelming? Most definitely. Of course, now, there's a change in gear. Who knows where it'll take me? The future is endless at this point.


  1. Great article about an elusive artist, good job scoring an interview with a super talented musician!

    1. Thank you, it was a blessing just as much as your visit here!