- Words Notion Staff
LIA LIA discusses her varied latest releases, how she uses visuals to accentuate her music and her unique creative process.
For Lia Wang, her creative project LIA LIA is a way to break free of all the boundaries that exist when making art exactly as herself. Her music is a natural part of her self-expression, but her alter ego allows it to come out through the lens of various exuberant characters. To watch a LIA LIA video is to wonder what guise she’ll be slipping into next, and that’s part of the fun.
Having earned plaudits across the music press and the prestige of a touring slot alongside Doja Cat, LIA LIA refuses to rest on her laurels. Her recent single “I’m A Moth” was a burst of exuberance that summarised her riotous attitude towards making music, which created an impressively bizarre story for the music video.
For her latest single, LIA LIA has once more metamorphosed. “City of Tears” is a poignant track which chronicles a period of total depression with startling vulnerability, with the music video once again providing a stunning accompaniment to the music that indicates her attention to detail in all aspects of her art.
To celebrate her increasingly varied and exciting career, we sat down with LIA LIA to find out all about her different approaches to music, her balancing of music and visuals and the impact of living in Berlin on her art.
Your new single “City of Tears” is deeply moving. Can you tell us the story behind it?
I wrote “City of Tears” when I was really sick for a couple of months. I was extremely weak, tired, and depressed. I’m still not 100% sure what it was… but I couldn’t leave the house, and every day just seemed to pass without meaning. I lost all control. Most of the time I was crying. It just felt like the world turned quiet and stopped moving.
The visual for the track is incredibly cinematic. Can you dive into the concept and inspiration for it?
The video is about a girl who feels completely alone in this world. One day when coming home from the city, she encounters a stray dog, a stranger, and just for a brief moment, they both imagine the sweet life they could have together. Sadly the dream only lasts for seconds and it doesn’t last long before it fades and they become strangers again.
I think the music video is inspired by a story my father told me when I was little. I always loved dogs (and cats, but I’m a turtle person), but my dad never allowed us to have one. When he grew up in China, he still had to do obligatory work as a farmer. The story he told me about him and his dog is one of the most heartbreaking. He had a stray dog he took care of and grew to love, one day when he had to leave, he also had to leave the dog behind. In the city, he lived with a family of seven in a one-room apartment, so there was no space. When he got onto the train, the dog just wouldn’t stop running after the train…
I never forgot this story. I think it was one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard, I mean life is sad in general, but usually, humans are the root of sadness themselves.
Your recent track “I’m A Moth!!” has a delightfully whimsical energy and tells the tale of a moth who dreams of being a rockstar. Where did this idea stem from?
I think it’s my drive, my purpose in life. I’m a moth, and I was always a moth. A moth who just wanted to be loved. I was so lost in the darkness.
Then one day I found this purpose and this dream of becoming a “pop star” became my Polaris.
I feel like this world can be a very painful and overwhelming place. I often feel like nothing matters….there is so much pain and suffering, it calms me to think ”we are all going to die anyway”. And if nothing matters, I’m free to choose whatever I want as a purpose for my life.
It can even be something as stupid as wanting to be a “pop star”. Now, instead of being constantly lost and in pain, I at least have something to live for.
“I’m A Moth!!” was quite a deviation in sound for you, compared to “City of Tears” and your previous releases. Was this a natural progression influenced by music you were enjoying at the time or a conscious experimentation with genre?
I think I just went with the natural flow. I’ve always loved guitars, they always felt kinda straightforward and pure to me, but still have such a wide range of emotions.
With this EP, I wanted to find the most direct way into people’s hearts. I didn’t want to hide behind layers and layers anymore. I wanted to shed everything I was hiding behind, write lyrics from my heart and deliver everything as raw as possible. I think the sound of the whole EP was kinda guided by this.
The music video for “I’m A Moth!!” was self-directed. Do you plan to self-direct all of your visuals moving forward or is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Music videos literally always put me into debt… I love and hate making them more than anything. It’s a toxic relationship. There is nothing more beautiful than to collaborate with other talents and create something together. There is nothing more satisfying than bringing one’s vision to life. But really nobody can do this alone, it needs a team of dedicated and talented people, as well as money and passion.
Since this is such a very strong part of my chosen purpose in life, filmmaking always feels like a “live or die” situation to me.
Since day one, all my videos were always self-directed. I’ve written, co-directed, produced and edited all of them. I had help and I am still learning from the talented, beautiful people around me.
As much as I loved singing, and as much I loved film making. It was never separated. It always has been one. This is just the first time I’m openly taking credit for it.
You’ve said that your “music and visuals are deeply intertwined” and that they’re “all part of the same universe”. Which idea comes first, the song or the visuals? Do you create one to match the other?
I’m not sure if it’s possible to separate them, they always have been one. If I’d really have to tell them apart, I’d describe the songwriting part more like an unconscious feeling, since writing lyrics happens much faster. Making a video takes more time, communication and execution. Still, it’s hard to tell which comes first, because the lyrics often stem from a movie that plays in my mind, some kind of stream of unconsciousness or memory playback.
You’re based in Berlin, a city renowned for its creative scene. What impact has Berlin had on you as an artist?
I think it made me more conservative in a way, I don’t like to party and I hate techno.
If I’m honest, I used to really dislike Berlin, I never wanted to live here, especially in winter it’s the most depressing place ever. But I have to admit, it’s a great city for making friends, and it’s a great city for walking. Berlin kinda feels like a huge village.
What can we expect from LIA LIA in the future? Do you intend to continue playing with genre and make us expect the unexpected?
I never think much about genre. I just try to find the sound which feels most straightforward to convey the emotions I feel.
What are your hopes and dreams for 2022?
It will sound like some Miss Universe speech, but what else is there to wish for than no more wars, an end of the pandemic, and the prevention of climate change? I’m just trying to spend time with my loved ones and pet rabbit.