L CON (aka Lisa Conway) is a Toronto-based artist who also performs with the cinema-noir outfit Del Bel. She’s also a composer who has created pieces for film, and live dance. She’s an academic, a songwriter-in-residence, and all around a very impressive person. Lisa has recently released an album, Moon Milk, which is an incredible, dare I say, musical tour de force. Moon Milk was inspired by the short story collection ‘Cosmicomics’ by Italian writer Italo Calvino. Each song corresponds to a short story with the same name. I’d highly suggest that you check out the story descriptions if you’re listening to the album.
I started playing violin when I was very young – an acquaintance of my parents offered to lend me a violin and teach me for free, so they took her up on it. My father taught music at an elementary school, and my mother has always sung, so I grew up in a pretty musical household. We lived on a little farm in Northern BC, and had no television, so when I was about twelve I started writing songs just to have something to do. Soon after, I discovered digital recording, and I’ve been writing and recording since.
Q – Who / What are some of your musical influences?
There are so many ! We listened to a lot of Hall and Oates and Fleetwood Mac when we were mixing. I’ve been a fan of the Dirty Projectors for a long time – the record they made with Bjork is stunning.
Q – I love the concept behind this album so much. I have to admit that I had never heard of Cosmicomics and Italo Clalvino but after reading through the wikipedia page and this page I definitely plan to find the book and read it. What you’ve done with these stories and the corresponding songs is so creative. I find it really interesting that your songs are so warm and beautiful and yet they are based on science fiction which can often be cold and pessimistic. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to do this project and why this book in particular?
I had recently discovered and fallen in love with Calvino’s writing, and using the book as a framework was an appealing method to ensure my time during my songwriting residency in Sackville was very productive. I think you’ve highlighted exactly what drew me to these particular stories in your question – despite being science fiction, the stories contain real warmth and humanity, and are simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic. At their core, they are just beautiful stories – more fiction than science.
Q – Are those whale calls we are hearing at the beginning of “Distance to the Moon”?
I wish ! It’s actually a clarinet, played by the amazing Karen Ng.
Q – Do you have any other good sci-fi (or other genre) books that you could recommend?
I’m a huge fan of Richard Brautigan (not science fiction). He’s an author I can re-read over and over.
Q – There are a lot of different instruments and arrangements happening on this album. It is amazing how each song sounds so different and yet they all seem to fit with each other so well. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with the production end of things?
Q – Can you tell us a bit about how this process came together. I understand that it was done in Southern Ontario, Eastern Canada, and Ireland?
Q – Can you tell us about your thesis project that was done while you were working on this album?My MA thesis was a creative composition project. I wrote a lengthy electro-acoustic multi-channel piece for 32 speakers – a series of brain “scans” – based on my personal experience with MRI machines. I mostly used sounds I collected from an old analog synthesizer as my source material, and then manipulated things digitally.
Q – Del Bel is such a great band. I think that you guys have a really special thing going on that is such a joy to witness. Can you tell me a little bit about what draws you to the ‘noir’ style of music? How do you divide your creative energy between working in Del Bel, and L Con, and whatever other side projects you may be involved in?
Thank you! Del Bel’s “noir” style evolved pretty organically – I think both Tyler and I find it easier to create music that has a darker undertone, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. Things have luckily worked out so far timing-wise between projects, and I try to make sure I’m not taking on too too much at once. Everyone in Del Bel is really busy with other projects as well, so it’s always kind of a juggling act.
Q – What music have you been listening to lately? Can you recommend a track or an artist?
There are so many records I need to sit down with and have a real listen to when I have more time ! I’m really excited to dive into Angel Olsen’s My Woman, Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Tanya Taqaq’s Retribution (not out quite yet but will be soon !), Jessy Lanza’s Oh No….