Stylish songstress Lissy Trullie is out to hush the haters.
Thu Feb 5 2009
As Vampire Weekend can surely attest, you haven’t truly arrived until someone bad-mouths you online. Thus, it’s not the considerable Web fawning Lissy Trullie has generated that lets you know she’s on the verge, but rather the small but vociferous backlash. Consider this comment, left on one of the young singer-songwriter’s YouTube videos: “Every art-school girl wants to be her or eff her. She’s a super hipster, but if you’re not in the scene, you don’t know what the fuss is all about. I’ve seen a lot of this come and go, and not even leave a trace behind.”
If you ask Trullie—whose stage name, pronounced “Lizzie,” is a shortening of her birth name, Elizabeth—such resentment is a case of mistaken identity. “There’s this whole myth that I’m a socialite,” the affable, laid-back 25-year-old says, calling en route to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, two days into her first U.S. tour. “But that’s completely crazy, because I don’t come from money. I don’t even know what a socialite is.”
Odds are good, though, that Trullie is familiar with how a socialite might dress. The boyishly short-haired performer’s b&w headshot, in which she tilts her head back defiantly as a cigarette dangles from her lips, instantly brings to mind a Warhol Polaroid. Other images reveal a twiglike frame, piercing blue eyes and a penchant for bowler hats. The singer comes off as Patti Smith crossed with Edie Sedgwick: a paragon of arty downtown cool.
Trullie’s music embodies a similar sort of quintessential New York chic, yet there’s plenty of substance behind the style. Her debut EP, Self-Taught Learner—which she and her three-piece band unveil Wednesday 11 at Mercury Lounge—sounds like a product of the late ’70s, perched perfectly between new-wave flair and punk attitude. Trullie’s inexperience peeks through at times: The sass she adopts on the kiss-off tune “Boy Boy” feels a bit forced. But the best songs, such as the title track and “She Said,” put her deep, almost gothy voice to excellent use, revealing her as a potentially deadly frontperson.
The crisp, stripped-down feel of the disc—tracked in NYC with members of Trullie’s current live band—is no accident. The singer originally recorded several of the songs in L.A. at sessions funded by an undisclosed major label. Her would-be producer favored a retro sound, but Trullie was having none of it. “He was thinking of a garagey, girl-group type of thing—very cute,” she recalls. “And I don’t want my music to be cute.”
But Trullie’s detractors aren’t focused on her clear-eyed aesthetics: They’re too busy outing her as a former model, one of several odd jobs—including janitor and dishwasher—the D.C. native has held since arriving in New York at age 16. “It’s like this plague that follows me,” she sighs. “People always bring it up, but it was just a way for me to make money during college.”
Modeling background or no, Trullie is adamant that she didn’t pose for the cover of Self-Taught Learner, which features a close-up of a bestockinged backside. “It’s definitely not my ass,” she states with a chuckle. “It’s from a 1970s porn magazine. I wish that was my ass, but I’m a little skinnier. I don’t really have an ass.”
That hasn’t stopped her from winning high-profile fans—Courtney Love regularly leaves comments on Trullie’s MySpace page—and making a splash locally. She’s opened for Debbie Harry and collaborated with Adam Green, who got to know Trullie when she roadied for his former band, the Moldy Peaches. The pair teamed up for a melancholy live version of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” in November. “Lissy impresses me with her sweet vibratos and her guitar shredding on the neck so hard,” Green says. “One time I touched her guitar after she did a solo and I burned my hand, and that was pretty wild.”
Trullie has honed those instrumental chops since her teen years, but she’s only recently come to terms with her voice. “I used to think I sounded like a frog,” she says. “But I’m getting more into [my voice]; it just took me a while to realize that it’s like another instrument.” It’s a good thing she’s shedding her self-critical impulses: As her star rises, she’s sure to attract plenty more eager haters.
Lissy Trullie plays Mercury Lounge Wed 11. Self-Taught Learner is out Feb 17 on American Myth.
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