Lisa/Liza: Preserving the Landscapes of Our Past

Lisa/Liza’s album title alone is truly evocative: Deserts of Youth. A desert exists as a biome of concentrated environmental adaptation. Though capable of both sudden and subtle change, its boundless permanency is ambiguous and accumulative. For Liza Victoria, this is an apt metaphor for her perspective on youth and nostalgia. She explains that Deserts of Youth creates a symbolic realm of childhood representation, and weighs memories and experiences as a whole against the present and adulthood. In doing so, she cultivates an environment of deep reflection. She explains, “Mostly the album deals with calming that person inside who has been uprooted and keeps coming back to the same landscape.”

Like an enduring yet ever-changing horizon of rock and sand, Victoria’s voice and lyrics together act as a vessel of consciousness and contemplative space. It’s easy to get lost in one’s own past when Victoria’s fluid rhythms and melodies are juxtaposed with the difficulties of navigating the complexities of one’s own memories of youth. Like a desert wind wiping away tracks in the sand, Lisa/Liza’s music clears away present obligations and uncertainties, leaving the past readily accessible.

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During our conversation, Victoria and I reminisce about our childhoods and the recharging places we were able to play in and grow. Of the many memories that resurface for me listening to Deserts of Youth, the one I see the most is the image of an unkempt field at the end of the street I used to play in as a child. The tall grass is yellow, cut through by a set of train tracks, a tiny escape from the city for the neighborhood dogs and kids alike.

She recalls her own childhood stomping grounds, a large pile of granite rocks at the end of the road she grew up on. “We would just climb on those rocks for hours and I thought they were really beautiful,” she details. “I think at one point we started a club with some kids on the street that was just about climbing rocks.”

The conversation drifts toward the idea that as a child, it was so much easier to find beauty in the simplest of things. Piles of sand, or rocks, or yellow grass would bring so much joy. Our pasts suggest that we might appreciate the beauty around us no matter where or when we are. Victoria also considers how “things you see around you every day could be so much more rich than we think,” yet are often overlooked. This is reflected in her music, which freely exposes the hidden beauty of the past, the present, and the natural world. Like an oasis in the desert, her music extends a sensation of nurturing calm, hope to help weather the extremes of our pasts and presents.

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Liza Victoria was born abroad in Santiago, Chile, and hopes someday soon to return. Growing up in Maine exposed her to the elements, and instilled in her a constant desire to unearth and immerse herself in her natural surroundings. She sees nature as a land of rich potential, rather than a lonesome place of escape. She points out, “In a way it feels more like we are all just so disconnected from wildlife and nature that the loneliest part of being among it is realizing how alienated we are from it.” This appreciation for every aspect of land was planted in her early on and is deeply present in her art. On Deserts of Youth, Victoria reveals glimpses of all types of ecosystems, documenting and inspiring the subtle possibility for adaptation anywhere.

Each of the seven soundscapes on the record suggests an escape, or several escapes. One song in particular, “Lady Day on the Radio,” is a path upon which so many memories are relived. As we reminisce, I learn that she wrote this piece about being on tour and assessing her emotional state, feeling pangs of melancholy surge up in different places. “There is this one place where I was reminded of love in a really nice way despite the nostalgia and it just stuck with me,” she explains. “That strength I felt there… I felt protected and loved despite whatever was going on with me.” The song is about remembering the last time or place you felt truly accepted or at peace and escaping there as if into a comforting dream.

The song also reinforces the importance of preservation. She illuminates, “I was listening to Michael Hurley one day and I felt like he was preserving a lot of things in his songs.” It is important to Victoria to preserve experiences and memories from earlier times. She reminds us to accept our roots and grow from them without losing those key places and times that have shaped us.

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Deserts of Youth is a remarkable collection, enriched with a sense of knowing and understanding. By sharing her own past, Victoria facilitates feelings of comfort, safety, and strength for the listener, a safe space to remember one’s own past and learning experiences. Our conversation naturally drifts towards the idea of music as a platform for nurturing. “I feel like you have to seek the right guidance in your life,” she suggests, and her words truly resonate. The right guidance is a shelter from the harsh extremities of life and memory, in which you can reflect, collect, and move forward. Victoria beautifully explains that the nurturing impulse in music is “like poetry, but it’s also a conversation that you can participate in.” Her music provides the opportunity to absorb but also channel these restorative properties.

Lisa/Liza’s music mirrors the physical nature of a desert in its dueling extremes. The desert can strip a carcass down to bone in less than a few days, but it also contains so much beauty and life. Victoria embraces this dualism in Deserts of Youth. With calming voice, words, lyrics, and instrumentation, she exposes her past to us, and provides a place for us to face our own pasts and start to comprehend our present. The only way out of the desert is through it.

Listen to Deserts of Youth here.