Contributor’s Note: If you’re looking for some soulful rock in the depths of Brooklyn, look no further. Eliza and the Organix is a dynamite rock group that can rock and goove with the best of them. I think the only think better than their ep, is seeing them live so go check them out!
To me, your music feels somewhere between Anderson Paak and The 13th Floor Elevators, who are some of your biggest musical influences?
That’s really interesting. I didn’t recognize either of those names, so I had to do some googling. I’ve heard the 13th Floor Elevators before but didn’t know their name. I can hear a connection between our music and theirs for sure. I also get asked pretty often if I’m into Fiona Apple or The Pretenders, because of Chrissie Hynde.
I think my all-time biggest influences would probably be: Cake (love those horn sections and John McCrea’s expressive, sometimes sneering vocal delivery), Morphine (double sax, rock vignettes, surrealism), and The Dresden Dolls (that unique style and aesthetic).
I also have a big soft spot for WHY?, though that’s a more recent obsession. And I’m a big fan of Courtney Barnett, Florence + The Machine and sometimes Saint Vincent. Sound-wise, Cake and Morphine were the two bands I really latched onto in college. I loved everything about their music, the layering and quirky trumpet in Cake, the gritty, jazzy sax in Morphine. My love of those bands made me fall in love with horns, which is what led to me searching for a sax player, which is when me and my friend Kristen Tivey started playing together, and that was the beginning of Eliza and the Organix.
On an emotional level, though, I have a special connection to the music of Amanda Palmer. She was just this personal revelation for me. When I was a kid, mostly what I heard on the radio were rock bands fronted by men from the 80s, 90s, and aughts or sexy female pop singers. There was this false dichotomy in my mind for most of my childhood that those were the two options. And neither mold appealed to me. Amanda Palmer was different, she was just… uncensored. Her music was raw and aggressive, and not so much about vocal technique as it was about feeling. And I thought, “Whoa. This is a thing. This is the thing that I feel.” I didn’t know that a woman could do that or be that. Angry, loud, full of confidence. It was really freeing. She really opened up my mind about the possibilities.
‘Present Future Dreams’ opens with the song My Way which feels like a very personal song, did a single event inspired the song?
That is a funny song. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve written, and I’m pretty proud of that, because it’s been a few years since I wrote it, and musicians know sometimes you look back at stuff you’ve done and just aren’t that enthused about it anymore. It’s a hazard of being a songwriter. But “My Way” is one that I can listen to now and have this Fiddler On The Roof moment where I think, you know, sometimes I know what I’m doing in this life.
I see every song I write as a microcosm of sorts. I never want to write a song about one thing. I want it to be a time capsule, I want it to be about a bunch of things, and say a bunch of things, and have imagery taken from all over, so I can look back at it, and really vividly feel what I was feeling at the time. Maybe it’s my ADD tendencies, but I want to be stimulated–maybe overstimulated– by lyrics I write. It’s sometimes hard to fit all the details in, and it can be like a puzzle of trying to piece it together so it does tell a story and have a point of view that’s focused while also having all that rich detail that I love.
That song is mostly about moving to New York from Philadelphia, which I did about 3 years ago, and which was a hard process. That’s when I wrote it. I had just moved into a tiny apartment in Queens with three Craigslist strangers, I was back to working in retail, and thinking, what am I doing? Why would I leave my nice life in Philadelphia for this?! My nice house, my nice job, my friends… It felt like there were flashing neon signs pointing me in some direction or another, but it wasn’t clear to me what the right decision was about where I should be. In the end, though, I definitely think moving to New York was worth it. It’s made me grow in all kind of ways that would not have happened if I had stayed in the safe bubble of my life in Philly.
This song definitely has some other stuff thrown in there as well: a phone call to my mom, a throwaway line about a guy who ghosted his way out of life (there’s some rich detail for you), but I think overall what it’s really about is maintaining swagger. And weeping while taking sponge-baths. Maintaining swagger while weeping while taking sponge-baths? Something like that.
I’ve always “marched to my own tune” or whatever that phrase is. Musically and personally, I’ve just always had to find my own way of being and expressing myself, and I think this song was about owning that quality- it can come off as standoffishness, or aloofness, or selfishness, but I see it more as self-actualization, like I am who I am, and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m going to be confident in myself, even if where I am is not where I want to be. I’m going to celebrate this moment in all its imperfection, even if I’m standing on a subway platform in the pouring rain, watching giant rats scurry on the track below, holding gear, waiting for a G train that will never come. And I’m going to do it my way.
Aesthetically, I hear a lot of Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane, and Band of Gypsies era Hendrix in your music. Is that throwback, psychedelic sound intentional?
I grew up listening to my dad’s classic rock collection, Tom Petty, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Uriah Heep. I idolized Jimi Hendrix and Cream-era Clapton when I was in high school, and I think those sounds really informed my guitar playing early on and are something I draw on pretty instinctively.
‘Present Future Dreams’ is subtitled “Part I”, can we expect a follow up anytime soon?
Yes! We are actually mostly done recording Present Future Dreams: Part II, and we have a new single called “The Road Home” coming out in the new year that we are working on a music video for–the release date for that is Jan 19th, with a release show happening at Coney Island Baby in Manhattan. So, those are things I’m pretty excited about! I’m really proud of the songs we’re preparing to release.
What are your live shows like? What sets you apart from other bands?
I think we are a unique beast, kinda always have been. We have our jazzy, dancy moments, and that’s always been a touchstone place for us, but we’ve also been exploring harder, faster stuff recently. For a while, it was a running joke that every song I’d bring in was at m=180. I think our live sound is a mix of those things, it’s always dancy, there’s always a lot of energy, but it also goes to dark places and high velocity places and explores things you might not expect sonically and lyrically.
I think overall, my goal with performance is always that my energy and my emotions are reaching the people around me, that it can be cathartic and freeing for people who are listening, like the music that has touched me and mattered to me. I make music so that I can have a voice that people hear. It’s always very personal for me. And I always want it to be something I can be sharing with an audience, that we can be experiencing together.
How do you guys write your songs? What’s your process like?
Mostly I bring in songs that I’ve been working on, and we jam on them and figure out arrangements together. Sometimes I’ll write parts for horns or keys. My bandmates always bring things to the table sonically that I would not have thought of or make connections in ways that I wouldn’t have done.
There have also been times I’ve taken instrumental jams we’ve done as a band and shaped lyrics around that- that is one of my favorite things to do, though it doesn’t happen that often. I honestly love using someone else’s musical ideas as a starting place, whether it’s a keyboard part, drum part, or a bassline, because it gets me out of my comfort zone and my writing ruts–as a guitarist, I tend to write a lot for guitar, and it’s great to come at things with a fresh perspective. There are actually a few songs on the new album we’re working on, Present Future Dreams: Part II, that we wrote that way: “Sally Gave Me A Dollar”, which has music written by my drummer John Gergely, and “Broken Sky”, which was written around a keyboard part my sax/keys player Kristen Tivey came up with.
How do you feel your other bandmates have helped shape your band?
I think it’s been massive. Starting the band back in the day in college, there was kind of a culture of all the guys I knew. They were nice enough, and I played in the jazz band with a bunch of them, but it didn’t click in that way that’s like, these are people I want to make music with, these are people I feel super comfortable with. I started the band with my friend Kristen Tivey, and this great pianist Vanora Estridge, and a physics major bud Erik Kramer who’s a talented drummer. Kristen was the only lady I knew who played jazz saxophone, and she was great. And I was the only lady doing jazz guitar in the music department that I knew of. And that connection really mattered. It bonded us in a really important way.
Me and Kristen kept playing music together for a long time, we’ve ended up playing music together for over 10 years, and for a lot of that time, that connection, that believing in each others’ ability and helping each other be confident when the music culture didn’t always feel supportive, is what made it happen. We developed this really special musical rapport that can only happen over a long period of time like that, where you feel so in sync–we knew each others’ rhythms and patterns, and one of our favorite things to do was what I called co-soloing, soloing together with guitar and saxophone without getting in each others’ way, a mixture of giving each other sonic space and playing off of each other. It’s something that I couldn’t do with a lot of people, because it takes a lot of time and trust to develop a musical relationship to that point. Basically, we just had a lot of fun together onstage.
In the last 6 months, Kristen has stepped away from the band to pursue other things, like grad school, and as a result, the band is in a period of change. Her contribution to the band has shaped our sound in a big way, and I think the question now is, where do we go from here? How are we going to grow in new directions? So we’re exploring right now, which I think is a good thing for any band, and I’m lucky that I’m supported by two really talented musicians to explore that with, John Gergely, who is a phenomenal drummer I’ve been playing with for the last five or so years, and Will Carbery, who has been with the band a year and a half now and who is also an excellent bass player.
And there you have it! Fans can find Eliza and the Organix at the following locations:
Check out their music video for “Trust Me” below!