NYC denizen Elizabeth McChesney answers to “Lissy Trullie,” but Lissy Trullie is also a band: frontwoman McChesney and Eben D’Amico slinging guitars, Ian Fenger folding in stubbornly insinuative bass lines, Josh Elrod’s backbeat lending teeth to the whole. The fierce, spiky interplay between the four is all over Lissy Trullie, the full-length follow-up to 2009’s promising Self-Taught Learner EP. From the puckered, pensive “It’s Only You, Isn’t It?” to the wood-chipper chug of “X-Red” to the way “Heart Sound” hits like a triple-adrenaline cocktail, there’s a relentless urgency—a tawny forward momentum -that’s as under-sweetened as it is habit-forming. The smoldering, husky “Madeleine” is no less arresting.
In a telephone interview Monday evening, McChesney filled SOTC in on the sonic techniques used to create Lissy Trullie.
Where are you right now, and what are you doing?
I’m on Stanton Street outside of my practice space, waiting to go into practice.
When and how did you realize that songwriting and performing was something you wanted to do?
It kind of happened really organically; it wasn’t really a decision. I learned to play guitar when I was 11 years old, and ever since I got the first chords down, I started writing. I’ve literally been writing since then.
Tell me about the making of Lissy Trullie. It felt like it took a long time to arrive, in the wake of the Self-Taught Learner EP.
It did take a long time; it took a while. Basically, I wanted to put out something I was proud of. I had intended to make it with another producer, and I didn’t feel like it went the right way.
I was really happy with how the EP was recorded, but its reception took me by surprise, and not in a good way. The hype factor—I saw it happening, it’s a dangerous game. I wasn’t expecting it: that harsh judgment. It was a jackhammer.
Is “Wearing Blue” based on a true story, on something that happened to you?
It was kind of a creative way of writing about denial and self-delusion.
What is “Heart Sound” about? The refrain “somebody let me live” is one of the most compelling on the album, as if you were trying to break out of a cell or a nightmare or something.
I was, a little bit. The drums in that song bring a lot of energy—so aggressive, those drums. The song on a lyrical level comes from an apologetic way of saying that we all have real emotions, and they can get out of control and trick you, and trick other people. The drums add an extra edge.
My favorite song on the album is “X Red,” which has a really unusual threshed sound to it. How was that achieved?
I think you’re hearing a Rat bass pedal. On the whole record we actually mic’d the drums in a weird way and put sounds through a Leslie—a kind of speaker cabinet—that distorted the music. That is the genius of [TV On The Radio members/Lissy Trullie producers] Dave Sitek and John Hill. They have no rules—which works really, really well for me. Any crazy ideas we had, they were willing to try.
Are your modeling days over, or is that something that remains a part of who you are?
That whole thing is a pretty big misconception. I really only modeled for a year in college, unsuccessfully, to help pay for college. I’ve done modeling here and there for friends since, but it was a pretty non-serious gig, ten years ago. That was a pretty big surprise when the EP came out, that my modeling was part its reception.
What’s your favorite music to work out to?
On the rare occasion that I do actually work out, I listen to a lot of podcasts. Music is so joyful an experience to listen to I like it more when I’m hanging out or driving in a car. I also don’t work out that much. [laughs]
Lissy Trullie plays the Mercury Lounge with Blonds, ohnomoon, and I Am Lightyear tonight.