Robin Edwards knows that Lisa Prank is a silly pun. It makes her laugh. That was her main reason for choosing it as the name to release her “bedroom recordings” under. In the summer of 2016, Edwards released her first full-length album under the name, Adult Teen. Despite the goofy name and colorful aesthetic, Adult Teen is a profoundly emotional, deeply felt album. It’s also one of the best albums of 2016. I think it very well might be the album of the year when all is said and done.
Given that opinion, I wanted nothing more than to interview Lisa Prank, who I only referred to as Lisa Prank during our interactions, treating it like a Paul Reubens/Pee-Wee Herman situation, which worked perfectly fine for her. What did not work well, unfortunately, was our phone reception. Edwards was in the middle of a tour, and happened to be driving through some of the vast open space of the American Southwest. We soldiered through, dealing with four call drops, including one that abruptly ended our conversation without any particularly insightful or clever or funny line to go out on. That’s reality for you, though, and Adult Teen is all about how harsh reality can be sometimes. Below is my conversation with Robin/Lisa, imperfect as it may be.
In terms of what you were feeling about the record, was it more a confident feeling of like “All my music has built to this, all my efforts have gone into this” or is it possibly sort of nerve inducing like “This is my initial mission statement to the world and this is how people will see me as a musician.”
I’m really happy with the way it recorded, with the way my friend Eric (Randull), he’s in the band Tacocat, he recorded it at his house and yeah… it feels good. It feels like a representation of what I felt like in my songs. I guess there’s always some apprehension of releasing something that’s so personal and vulnerable into the world.
The album is called Adult Teen. That’s not a title that’s apropos of nothing like Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, so I was just curious as to why, out of all possible titles, did you consider that the best title for the album?
I think it was just representative of how I was feeling in my life when I was writing all these songs. I feel like as we get older we’re told that our feelings are supposed to get less wild and dramatic and sort of get more dull and numb. I don’t feel that way at all. I feel my feels are as wild and dramatic, maybe even more so, than when I was a teenager and yeah I guess I don’t fit into the model of what I thought an adult would be.
So this album is, intentionally or not, sort of an answer to all the pop culture that says it’s not good to be so emotional as an adult.
Yeah, I definitely want to embrace my big feelings and I never want to grow older and get jaded and bitter. I want to stay open and emotional and vulnerable and sensitive.
I feel like three-fourths of music is about love, do you ever think about that at all? Do you think about if you have something different to say? Or is it just you have things to say and you want to say them in your music and if it’s well-worn territory it doesn’t matter because it’s what you want to do with your music?
I mean, I love songs about love so… it’s just something everyone experiences but nobody really teaches you about. Like how to be in love or to deal with heartbreak so for me it’s also a way to process my feelings and the concept of this record was writing a lot of songs about things I needed to process personally. I love to listen to songs I haven’t heard yet about love and heartbreak. I think that it’s a topic that so many songs have been written about because people will continue to relate to it forever, because it is something we all experience and that is so painful and really strikes a chord. The nature of Lisa Prank, part of it is just writing songs in my bedroom and I feel like the songs you write along in your bedroom are, for me at least, mostly about my feelings. That’s what feels good to me to do, and that’s what feels cathartic and valuable to me.
Why did you settle on to do your bedroom recordings under the name Lisa Prank?
I chose to have a different name because I wanted Lisa Prank to be a band even though it’s just me. I wanted it to feel like a band. Also it’s a way for me to release these songs that are very personal about my feelings under a name that’s not just my name. I feel like I get to be a sort of exaggerated version of myself when I play these songs.
What would you say are some more direct influences on the album?
Definitely the band Cub. A lot of pop punk that I listened to when I was a teenager. Mostly, I’m influenced by my feelings. I’m also influenced by my friend’s bands. I think those are my biggest inspirations directly in my life. My friends who play music and the things that they’re doing.
You’ve released one video from the album, for “Starting Again,” what was your vibe for making the video?
My friend Faye who did the album art did the video also. It was her concept. It was kind of for us to hang out and for her to get to dress me in weird clothes and have fun making a video together.
When comparing that to your obvious namesake Lisa Frank, it makes sense, because that aesthetic was its own exaggerated thing. Very colorful and over-the top-imagery is what people think of when they think of Lisa Frank. Do you feel like maybe people, by calling yourself Lisa Prank, you get subsumed into people’s nostalgia?
Yeah totally. I mean, I think it’s a funny name and I feel like I have a lot in common with people my age who grew up with Lisa Frank folders and Trapper Keepers. So I feel that people that are like me like the name. People that I want to be friends with get the name.
Speaking in terms of aesthetics, what was the the conception for the album artwork?
So my friend Faye Orlove who also made our video is an amazing artist who created the artwork. We’ve been mutual fans of each other’s work for a while so I always wanted her to do something for me. I emailed her because she did this amazing set of tarot cards that have celebrities as the major arcana and I really liked the design of that — it has, like, Taylor Swift as the sun and Kathleen Hanna as the wheel of fortune. I read tarot so what I wanted was for her to draw me as if I was a tarot card. We kind of brainstormed back and forth about what that would look like. I sent her a list of things I would want on it like the Space Needle and some flowers and stuff like that. But she designed it and made it into the beautiful thing that it is.
Are some of the things on the design things actually related to tarot?
Yeah we used some of the traditional tarot imagery like the cup and the infinity sign and also, the moon and the sun that is on there are straight from tarot, but then I wanted to add some of my own symbols also.
See I don’t really know anything about tarot. All I know is from what you see on movies and TV. Somebody always seems to be flipping over some sort of death card.
Oh yeah. It’s not really like that. I use it more as like an intuitive way to, like, see how I’m feeling or, like, give people my amateur therapy.