Q&A: Lisa Mitchell Explores What It Is To Be Human In 'Zombie'.
Zombie’ is a vulnerable and transformative track that explores the intricacy of life and how beautiful it is to feel emotions without suppression. Through a dreamy instrumental performance that highlights delicate vocals and a catchy chorus that will make you groove; Lisa Mitchell has combined both the sense of yearning and elation in her beautifully nuanced single. Perfected by Tom Iansek’s production wizardry, (Big Scary, #1 Dads), Australia's sweetheart Lisa said ‘Zombie’ is, “...an ode to being alive! To the glory and tragedy of feeling (and thinking!). Feeling can be the hardest thing to do sometimes, but feeling is magically linked with our human superpowers and we need those. Thank god I’m not a Zombie!”
The single was accompanied by the drop of a music video, directed by Ilsa Wynne-Hoelscher Kidd, that pans around Mitchell in a world coloured by sepia, before bursting into colour as she emerges from a river. Like all of Lisa’s music videos, it gracefully tells a narrative and gives a more intimate insight to the lyricism behind the song. While Lisa remains loyal to her ethereal folk-pop roots, it is evident that she is naturally progressing to take new sonic approaches to her music.
We got the chance to chat with Lisa about her inspiration behind ‘Zombie’ and the music video, as well as working with Tom Iansek and her upcoming album:
Congratulations on your new track ‘Zombie’! Your music over the past thirteen years has always consisted of emotive and haunting storytelling, and ‘Zombie’ is no exception. Although, this time around there seems to be an element of cathartic release; An acceptance for life and humanity with your storytelling. How has your outlook on life changed since you first started releasing music, and how has this affected how you construct narratives in your song writing?
Well, thank you so much for the chat! I started releasing music when I was 17, and I am 31 now, so I’ve grown up a bit! I went back to Uni a few years ago, which was something I always wanted to do because I left school early to pursue music. I feel so privileged to be able to access university education, so a part of me wanted to keep learning and finding new depth in life… There is so much to learn!
I studied some amazing subjects, like Ethnomusicology and some history of the Frontier Wars, so these gave me a lot of perspective on how ‘Australia’ came to be; and also how as a white woman, I fit into this place, and the ways in which I don’t fit into it. It helped me understand my identity more, and to see how influenced we are by the Western worldview that so many of us have inherited… It sent me looking for connection to the land-based ways of being way back in my own ancestry... My Dad is Scottish.
You said that ‘Zombie’ is about how messy it is to be human, and how you’d rather have your feelings rather than not. I took a particular fondness to the verse,
“At a rented desk /
In a rented room /
It’s all temporary /
I’m just passing through.”
While I feel lyrics are in many ways subjective, I would love to hear your meaning behind them. What were you feeling when you wrote these lyrics?
I’m glad you liked these! As you might’ve guessed, it points to how fleeting life is, and how humbling and perspective-giving it is to remember we’re only visitors to planet Earth!
The new single lifts some nostalgia that harks back to your earlier records with its dreamy folk-core beats – who or what were some of your biggest inspirations sonically when creating this track?
I think M. Ward has always been a big inspiration in terms of having beautiful light energy and yet very tailored around the vocal and phrasing. My drummer, Kishore Ryan and my bassist, Jessie L Warren, created the arrangements with me during our weekly rehearsals pre-lockdown in Victoria.
The accompanying music video to the track ‘Zombie’ materialises to be very candid and intimate. The choreography and movement really evoked a sense of vulnerability. On your Instagram, you said you have developed an appreciation for Qigong. Was this newfound love for Qigong something that you wanted to incorporate into the choreography? What was the process behind choreographing the movement sequences in the music video?
What a cool question! I am very influenced by my Qi Gong practise, so I’m sure my body is informed by these beautiful flowing movements. We had a beautiful choreographer in the crew, Jess Sofarno, who knew that I loved Qi Gong, and who I worked with to create some beautiful natural movement.
You got to work with the incredible Tom Iansek on producing this track. How did the production process flow in-between the challenges of the Pandemic? Was there anything you learnt or are more appreciative of now as a result?
Loved working with Tom! He created such a beautiful album with us. The recording happened at the end of 2020, after the first long lockdown happened in Victoria. I wanted to record mainly live to capture the magic, and humanness, that happens when people play live together. This is opposed to over-dubbing, which is how most music is recorded these days. I think the pandemic has just given me so much appreciation for my weekly rehearsal with my band (Jessie, Kishore, Sophie Koh and Danny Ross) and of course just being able to do any type of playing music for others feels like a total gift!
6. You will be celebrating the release of ‘Zombie’ with two intimate shows in Sydney (December 2nd) and Melbourne (December 9th). It’s been a while since you’ve played in a live space, what are you most excited about returning to the live music scene?
I think I, like so many people who have not been allowed to work for so long, have had to ‘surrender’ their identity, and so I am looking forward to feeling that ‘normality’ and familiarity, of feeling useful and being able to give what I can give – ie. Play music for people! I miss my audience!
Finally, I have heard that album number four is on the horizon. Is ‘Zombie’ an indication of the music that is to come? What can we expect from this release?
The new album is indeed on the horizon! Early 2022. Expect a lot of perfectly imperfect recordings, stories of heartbreak and identity, and Tom Iansek’s gorgeous way of creating a beautiful atmosphere for me and the band.
Questions from the Editor: Will we be seeing ‘Pan Pan’ the tape recorder at your live show? I believe you and other artists like Annie Hamilton are passionate about sustainable fashion, what are some things we can all be a bit more conscious about?
Hehe wow, you remembered their name! Pan Pan was a tape-recorder I used to play beats on stage when I was playing some stripped back shows without a drummer. Sadly, no! Pan Pan has been replaced by a human, Kishore Ryan (Kidsam, Otouto), but maybe I need to give them a cameo! I love Annie Hamilton’s beautiful brand and her values.
I love to buy good quality timeless clothes that last a lifetime, to shop in op shops/thrift stores, and to clean out my closet before I give in to wanting to buy new things because I always realised I have more cool stuff that I forgot about..!
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