Lilies On Mars are at one and the same time lo-fi and exotic as lemurs in a Victorian menagerie. Their experimentalism veers from wavery fragile fairy tale sing-song in one moment to crushing guitar in the next, stopping to take in the view of a Thurston Moore style sound-scape along the way. Two albums into a career that started out four years ago as a film collaboration, their most recent ‘Wish You Were A Pony’ came out last year to much critical acclaim. Don’t take our word though, you can stream it at http://liliesonmars.com/listen.html. They are currently hard at it on their third full length. I was knocked out by their live output at South By South West, declaring them to be one of the top four or five acts I personally saw in a packed week. They had snuck out there to meet up with their new American manager, and to play one showcase set. One gig turned into five performances, hey, why waste the airfare? Since then they have been touring back home in Italy (they’re both from Sardinia) and in between found time to answer a few questions for us
Hi Lilies On Mars. Do you want to introduce yourselves?
Hello, yes we are Lilies On Mars aka Lisa (Masia) and Marina (Cristofalo) and our special guest at the drums Gal Cohen
I don’t know that much about how you started, but I understand it was originally for a film project in Italy with Franco Battiato, and that the band grew from there. Is that about right, or a gross over-simplification
This is exactly how we started. Our collaboration began when Franco Battiato asked us to arrange a piece by Tchaikovsky for his last movie “Niente e’ come sembra” and we went on to tour with him for two years in Italy and around Europe. After this amazing experience we formed Lilies On Mars in August 2008, with a strong urge to experiment new sounds and instruments – we can say for sure that we were inspired by this experience a lot.
And you are Italian but live full time in London and have for some time? Or do you split your time?
We are full time in London, based between Hackney and Shoreditch. We only leave the town to tour around or to go on holiday to our beloved Sardinia where we were born and grew up.
So, if you were to meet an aunt at a wedding, one who is perhaps slightly elderly but musically well informed, how would you describe your music
A full immersion of dreamy and distorted notes with a hint of melancholy- you should have a listen Aunty!
I’m struck not only by the wooze and psych elements of your music, but also hugely by the wide soundscapes, such as on ‘Aquarium’s Keys’ or ‘Passing By’. And then there are those crashing crunchy guitars at the start of ‘A Lost Cause’. I am really wary of that ‘influences’ question, it always seems….trite. But can you describe where this wonderfully varied approach comes from?
Our influences are various and multiple, coming from images, words, dreams, notes, noise, subtle sounds. The combinations of many elements make our sound the way it is. It is what is inside that comes out in notes.
And what is the intent behind it, what are you striving for? Did you spend a lot of time ‘searching for your voice’ as a band or does it evolve organically?
Our intention is to bring the listener into our world and to display and stimulate the concept / feeling of letting go and dreaming. Its an experience that we feel strongly about creating and sharing, as so much within life seems to stand in the way of it.
You have just been on tour in Italy – how was that?
It was absolutely amazing, we don’t go back often but the people are lovely and every time it’s a great party.
You’ve recently gotten involved with Ryan Abato as your manager. Given that you are Italians living in London and Ryan is based in Miami, there must have been something pretty special to make that sort of long distance relationship work?
It’s a pretty great collaboration. When you can delete these big distances you understand how powerful music can be. It’s a matter of mutual respect and a passion for music that makes this possible. Ryan is a really good friend and we are looking forward to tour again with him in February 2013 in the US for the IATP project.
Ryan runs a musical collaboration via facebook which is intent on sharing new and alternative music – you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/groups/233578816772 Lilies On Mars are the first band he has chosen to manage; Lilies are the first band he’s been sufficiently convinced about to sign on the dotted line. The respect is mutual, as they have sought each other out across the Atlantic. As befits their manager, he got them over to the States in March this year…..
You went over to Texas for SXSW – I was following that on your Facebook page – it seemed like it was quite a quick decision to go over there? You were suggesting that people could donate to help you make the trip. Did you end up flying first class on the proceeds?
Ha, the trip was very expensive and as a self produced band we were struggling very hard at the beginning. We never expected the support of our fans could be so immense. We received so many donations and people were really generous. We didn’t fly first class but we definitely were able to get there thanks to the support we received.
And you took only one guitar between you?
We only managed to take our baritone guitar with us. We managed to borrow different equipment at each show thanks to other lovely helpful bands.
You planned to do one showcase, for Ryan’s IATP project, but actually ended up playing five sets. How was the whole experience?
That was a great surprise we didn’t’ expect at all, and in the end we were invited to play every day of the trip. We managed to sell all our merchandise, while the response from the crowds was incredible
Right now today, if you wanted to show me a great band apart from yourselves who would that be?
Thank you for considering us a great band, at the moment we really like Thought Forms, Ueberweg and Joe Innes and the Cavalcade, all of which are playing with us at our residency show at Power Lunches (in London) on the 27th May!
And then in two years time, when you are headlining the O2 arena, who would you dream of opening for you?
Ha thanks, but we personally don’t see ourselves playing in such a big arena, though we certainly like the idea to share the stage with bands like Porstishead, PJ Harvey or Beach House, perhaps in the opposite context – I mean us opening for them is more realistic!
Do you have festival plans for the summer?
We are playing a festival in the desert in Israel and also a few shows in London and some nice shows at the beach in Sardinia..
What do you think of female only festivals? Are they still valid and needed?
We don’t really know, as we’ve never really viewed music in this context and with this type of distinction.
What question should I have asked to get under the skin of Lilies On Mars? And what would the answer be?
We are currently writing our third album and the best way to get to know us is to listen to our music. It’s all in there really, so check out our up coming shows and the website liliesonmars.com for more.
Cheers and thanks again