piKziL is a fascinating duo of Liza Oxnard and Kip Kuepper. Both longtime active musicians in the Colorado scene (Oxnard most notably in Zuba), the group releases an impressive debut by the name of Songs from My 3rd Life. Their eclectic artistry comes together to craft a sound that is both stunning and prominent, as we get into the very depth of the group and their songwriting abilities. I had the absolute pleasure of catching up with piZkiL, as we dive a bit deeper into their world; past, presesnt and future.
Tell us about the making of the "Brand New Soul" and the concept behind it?
“Brand New Soul” isa very personal story about my many-year-struggle with infertility after the birth of our first child. Reproductive issues are a taboo subject that can clear a room faster than a faulty smoke alarm. But NOT talking about this issue would be a disservice to all women and to myself.
After several miscarriages over 6 years, I understandably felt disheartened. During those early years I stumbled across a presentation online, which honestly I can’t claim to have understood, but they spoke of humans as 100 trillion cells made of billions of atoms each, saying we are made of quintillions of little black holes…vortexes in space-time, curling to stillness. This led me to ponder the birth of the universe, which made me think of the first lyric - “from a spark of dust, we combust and turn love into life”.
The universe began with an explosion, which led to life, as we know it. That was very meaningful to me at the time because of the fertility rollercoaster my husband and I had suffered. I kept wondering why our creation of life moment wasn’t occurring for us. The experience had left me with so many conflicting perspectives on what was happening and why. What was emerging during that span of time was my ability to be present in my grief but at the same time accept what was happening. I am a spark of dust in this huge universe too. So why should I expect certain outcomes just because I want them? That question helped me gain perspective and take life one day at a time.
I began to see how very mysterious life is…what a strange miracle it is to create life. It is so tangible for some and so fleeting for others. What helped me through the tough times was feeling connected to something bigger and more universal than myself.
And the loveliest part of learning to accept the pain and sadness of loss is that new things come in that open our hearts. We are so lucky to have made it past the cloudy days and we now have a beautiful 2 ½ year old daughter, in addition to our lovely 10 year old daughter, that both make life fun every day.
What elements influence your songwriting?
What influences me creatively is walking through everyday life, observing my feelings and the stories and feelings of those around me from the very personal to the very intangible. I write a lot about the complexities of personal relationships.
For example - Felix’s Lament - Kip came up with the chorus “I just want to love you, but I can’t afford to love you”. It immediately made me think of the dance of lust and power…..in this case a woman’s power over someone globally powerful. I thought of it as “what a fly on the wall might have heard during the General Petraeus & Paula Broadwell affair”. Maybe they thought as long as no one knew, what was the harm? And they were probably also seduced by the secrecy of it all- maybe they thought they were invincible?!
If you could play any venue in the world, which venue would you choose and why?
Either Red Rocks or the Gorge Amphitheatre. I love being outdoors, I love the summer months, and both venues feel connected to something vastly bigger than our momentary experience.
In this creative process, would you say you enjoy being in the studio, or performing live on stage more? Explain your reason.
Right now I would say I am more comfortable in the studio because I haven’t been touring or playing a lot of live shows like I used to. Part of what I love about the studio is that I allow myself to take chances, try new things, and to make mistakes. As I begin to play live again, I hope to bring that kind of creativity to my live performances.
How did piKziL come together?
Putting a career on the back burner to raise kids can make it difficult to get back into the groove. But I knew that, when the time came, I wanted to collaborate with someone mature, someone fueled by my creative ideas, and someone talented who could help me pursue the blend of music I had been imagining. I had been attracted to Downtempo & Jazz Remix for years and wanted to bring my singer/songwriting skills to a genre that I felt was thin on “songwriting”. The grooves and melodies were inspiring at times but the stories were absent for the most part.
I had played with Kip over the years, often hiring him as a session player for various projects, and we always had a great connection. I was also a regular on the jingle singing circuit at Coupe Studios in Boulder, where Kip had worked for decades as co-owner, producer and lead composer/musical genius. Kip is incredibly talented. He is a Grammy nominated jazz musician/producer, which is immediately apparent when you hear the musical production and detail on our album.
In 2010, Coupe asked me to choose a song to sing on a Christmas compilation album. I wanted to see if we could bring an electro twist to it and even though Kip had not yet pursued that kind of music, he didn’t blink. We had such a fun time together and ended up with the freshest song on the album. We had a creative spark that was infectious and really joyful.
What do you enjoy most about creating music in general?
I love the feeling of going beyond the everyday mundane logistics of adult life, and stepping into a playful creative space. Creating music makes me feel like I am 6 years old again and playing in the mud. Where nothing I do is judged or controlled.
What songwriters and musicians do you look to for inspiration?
I love stories and artists that can take me on an emotional journey. I also love to hear and support what women are saying musically and I am curious about what up and coming bands are creating. This week I have been listening to – Hiatus Coyote, St. Vincent, Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grace Jones, Esthero, My Morning Jacket, Dawes, D’Angelo, Inspired Flight & Imagined Herbal Flows.
What is the overall inspiration behind your songs; lyrically and musically, especially on the new record?
My mom is a feminist. Growing up, she always made sure we saw the gender inequities around us. And she was a commanding presence, with her 6 ft frame and a clear strong voice, she would quote “a woman’s place is in the house and the senate”, the declaration from the women’s movement of the 1970’s. She made sure that each of her daughters understood that we were in no way to compromise our viewpoints, our life’s goals, or our sense of self, for a patriarchy that was doing everything it could to send the opposite message. But I am a product of my culture along with my upbringing. So, no matter how hard I try to stay conscious of the ways in which my culture limits me and the ways in which I self-limit, I still struggle each day to continue to believe in my own viewpoints, my goals, and myself. Add becoming a mother in a culture that doesn’t value mothering, aging in the business of entertainment and you end up with a potentially toxic soup of self-doubt and self-censorship.
I spent decades wavering between feeling powerful and incapable depending on what I was doing at the time because society sends a clear message to girls and women. And the message is this – You must be young, pretty, smart, and accomplished, and above all, not complain if you want to play in the patriarchal playground.
After having my first daughter and taking time off from music to raise her, I suddenly felt judged for my choice to not “step in”, a term defining women who continue to work full time after having kids. I wanted to take time off and be with my baby. It was shocking how quickly my cultures’ perception of me changed. I had been a “rock star” in their eyes for years, as I toured and released albums, and cultivated a national following, but then on a dime, they started asking me loaded questions at parties like “What do you do? Are you only a mom”? I would answer with something like “I am a musician, but I am talking some time off right now to be with my child”, and they would move on to talk to someone else.
Over those several years, it dawned on me that I was committed to shedding the negative disavowing voices around and inside me, no matter what I pursued. Music and songwriting have always been my passion and gift, so even in those years I was still writing, learning and enjoying different ways to express my musical creativity. And then it became time to get more serious again. But this time, it wasn’t just about me any more; I now had two beautiful dynamic daughters who were looking to me for guidance. I wanted to raise them by modeling self-love, self-actualization, and teaching them to value themselves even when the world wasn’t meeting them halfway.
Songs From My 3rd Life is a transparent and honest micro and macro panorama of my life as a woman. It took me 3 iterations of my lifetime to find my own true voice...And in that process I realized I am no longer willing to recede into the background or sugarcoat my viewpoint for anyone.
Musically, I was very inspired by the Verve Remixed compilation albums throughout the 2000’s as well as bands like Zero 7, Thievery Corporation, Portishead, and Bitter:Sweet. The music appealed to me because it was deeply funky and almost tribal at times but also melodic and elegant. I have such varied tastes in music and I loved the idea of bridging all of my influences (Rock, Pop, Funk, Jazz, Brazilian Jazz) and musical experience into one project. I love to connect intellectually with songs and stories but I also love when music allows me to have an out of body experience. I am captivated when music lifts me to another reality.
What can we expect from piKziL in 2016?
We are released our 1st EP on Friday September16th and will play live the next few months. We plan to release our second EP in mid-January and continue to gig through the spring and summer. We are also working on a couple of self-made videos, which will be an adventure!
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