If paying your dues is a prerequisite for success, then 4 piece garage rock n’ soul combo the Liza Colby Sound are well on their way to superstardom. Together, the nucleus of frontwoman Liza, drummer Charles P. Roth & bassist Alec Morton have been through some proper trauma as a band, losing lead guitarist Adam Roth - brother of Charles and Alec’s best friend - to cancer in late 2015. It was a massive blow, one that many bands would not recover from, yet, after a period of regrouping, and trying a bunch of skilled axemen, the band have re-emerged like thunder rolling, with new guitarist Jay Shepard and armed with the long awaited release of their official debut album, Object To Impossible Destination.
“We’re in a unique place, we’ve been sitting on more material than we ever have.” Says Liza Colby, on facetime from a hotel room in San Jose, California, there on the west coast for a series of shows dubbed The Dirty Sweet Sound tour, with fellow New York rockers The Sweet Things. “After 10 years together, it’s a really good time for us to go out touring and breakout of the east coast. Band morale, after such a low, is at an all-time high.”
Last night, the Liza Colby Sound played the Ritz in downtown San Jose. A packed crowd bathed in red light, the front row soaked in sweat. On the stage, Liza prowled the centre like she’s Iggy Pop’s more glamourous twin sister, wearing a velvet leotard and high heels. When Liza sings, her soulful voice sounds like its ready to grab Ike Turner by the nuts.
“Lately I’ve been describing us as a car, like a ‘64 Impala.” Explains Colby, the NY accent betraying her Lower East side roots. “I ask the crowd ‘What colour?’ and somebody shouts, ‘Bright blue!’ like the ocean. So, I describe Charlie our drummer, who has played with the Blessed Union of Souls & Ozzy Osbourne, as the suspension of the car, like when you get inside this car whenever we go over bumps it never misses a beat. It drives amazingly well, and the tyres are so fucking sexy. Give it up for Charlie Roth!” Liza appears upside down for a second as she pops the charger into her phone. “Next I invite the audience to come get in the car, because when you sit in an old car you gotta check the pockets. You never know what people might leave. It could be cash, they might have forgot something, drugs maybe. Might be a weapon. The difference between men and women is us women we carry our pocket with us wearing pants or not, but I tell the audience ‘There’s a man in this band who lives in the pocket and his name is Alec Morgan on bass!’ And then for the guitar player I go ‘Last but certainly not least, if you got a new toy ladies’ - and I direct this one at the women because nobody gives women enough credit for liking cars as much as we do so I say - ‘If you get a new car the one thing you have to do is you have to look under the hood,’ and I walk my leotard over to the drum kit, I turn around and pretend to pop the hood, checking the engine and I’m like ‘Oh the engine in this band is a man with a plan that I like to say is Jay Shepard and we’re going to drive this ’64 Impala’. To which he then solos.” The crowd roars, “We change the car everytime.”
In the spring of 2019, The Liza Colby Sound are set to drive through Europe on a first fully-fledged European tour, hitting Spain, Germany & France – promoting new single Thunder Rolling, a gnarly blues boogie with girth, ahead of the album. Also featured on the new project is the killer, anthemic slop of My World, a single dating back to 2017.
“My World just spilled out.” Liza recalls, the song written with Adam before he passed away. “We were all in a rehearsal space and Adam started playing the lick and then everybody kinda just followed suit. We wrote it really quick, like in an hour. It’s very much about being a woman secure in her sexuality and that you can do whatever you want to her but even though you may think you’re in charge, you’re not. It’s her (my) world. It’s a tough song and I love it. I think the cool thing, even though it’s me singing it, is that if a guy is to listen to it they can take it too because all of us get beaten down by whatever’s going on day to day, whatever it is you can take it by the reigns and be in control.”
Go to any LCS show and it’s striking how balanced the audience is in terms of gender, crowds made up equally by both males and females, not your usual black t-shirt wearing cock-fest.
“Right now, there’s a sexual revolution and the thing that’s been pretty amazing for the duration of our band’s lifespan is that women really do gravitate towards us. I really feel it’s important to be accessible and to be a woman that I want other women to want to be around. It’s funny because if Adam were still alive - you know he was a silver fox, so handsome - women would just flock to him so they weren’t always looking at me,” Liza laughs “but this band (now) is the first band where there’s an aspect (of that) when I’m on stage. I black out a lot, but I want women to feel empowered and sexy, and not feel that this is like a competition at all. It’s all inclusive.”
If anything, often it’s men not the women that have a problem with Liza’s bold presentation on stage. “I’m secure in my sexuality. I can be in a leotard and yes men will look at me. That’s fine. Every once in awhile there’ll be somebody who says ‘You can’t play in no leotard. You don’t have to with that voice.’ But I tell them it stems from being a little girl in dance class. Where you wear as little as possible because that is part of your expression…”
Liza’s interrupted mid-flow, there’s a knock on the door.
“Wait this is tour-life, here you go.”
The band’s guitarist and the lead singer of the Sweet Things are at the door.
“Say Hi,” says Liza.
“Helloooo” one of long-haired rockers responds on cue into the phone’s camera, slightly awkwardly.
“So, guys I’m gonna need 5 more minutes ok?”
Ok they say, as they shuffle back out of the door. Liza continues straight back onto the subject.
“Yeah, where was I? Expression - I’m not just expressing my music with my voice I’m expressing it with my body.”
It was the music of Iggy Pop & Tina Turner that had the biggest impact on that little girl in dance class. “When we started this band, figuring out our sound, it was those two people I channelled when I was on stage and it’s my interpretation. It’s not like I’m imitating Tina or Iggy, it’s just I really love their performances. With Iggy there was this controlled chaos and he was just so graceful when he performed and what I loved about Tina is that she was very dominant, and sexy, but she was also really tough like you knew that there was this aspect of her that when you watched her she could, if she wanted, just fucking punch you in the face.” Liza laughs, “I loved that about her. A strong woman, secure in her sexuality but also a physical force to be reckoned with. They were both performers and I feel very strongly about the craft of performing and what I owe the audience. It’s your duty as a performer to make it worthwhile for people who are taking the time and spending their money. That’s what I wanted to create, an environment where people felt comfortable where they’d wanna come up and say ‘Hello’ not (treat them) like a Beyoncé or Rhianna thing. And that’s what drew me to Tina. You know, I really felt like I could hang out with her.” And with that our time was up. Liza has a show to do.