The first time I ever saw Liz Y2K she stopped me in my tracks. She was rocking such a strong look in the mist of the crowded hellscape that was 2014 SXSW fashion in Austin, Texas, that I stopped her for a photo. So, it’s perfectly logical that her new mixtape Cross Your Heart is dropping in conjunction with a full-on fashion shoot.
Liz is the face of designer Nicola Formichetti’s latest editorial for his personal line and brainchild Nicopanda. The five-piece editorial collection is available exclusively at the Nicopanda site, though we’ve included a few images from it here, and every look comes straight from Nicopanda’s 2016 Fall and Winter collection. Liz rocks a number of looks that are wildly different from one another for the shoot, playing on both baby-doll elements and bratty elements that crop up in her music.
For instance, the look above is her favorite and one she dubs “Space Brat.” But Liz has always been something of a chameleon, able to combine disparate aesthetics in surprisingly workable combinations, whether that’s in fashion or in her own eclectic brand of pop music. In conjunction with the fashion piece, Liz is also dropping a brand new mixtape called Cross Your Heart, one of the first full-length collections of new material she’s released since the Just Like Me EP. The mixtape features production from Branchez, Henrik The Artist, Lido, and 813, without losing any of Liz’s own throwback pop glossiness.
Cross Your Heart has an extensive list of guest producers, but also features a guest verse from Vic Mensa, and all of these new influences help encapsulate the way Liz’s own sound is changing. We briefly chatted about what she’s been up to since I was introduced to her throwback ’90s R&B/pop style back in 2014 and how her music and career have morphed since then. Namely, she’s still working with Mad Decent, but has also been signed to Columbia Records, and begun working with Sophie of PC Music, who produced her debut single for Columbia, “When I Rule The World.” We also touched on what it’s like working as a model, why Sky Ferreira inspires her and carving your own path in the changing music industry.
To help introduce you to our readers, can you give a brief rundown of your career up until now? I know music and fashion have always both been areas you worked in, so maybe touching on your interest in both and how you combine them?
I guess you would say I’m known for my late 90’s/early 2000’s throw-back style in my music, and also in my aesthetic — the jerseys, basketball shorts, Kangol hats, etc. I still very much reference a lot of those things, but I’m moving forward and transcending in a sense. I think my style is changing because my music is also opening up into different territories. That really started when I started working with SOPHIE a bit ago.
Are you still working with Mad Decent and Diplo?
Yes! I’m still part of the Mad Decent family. I’m also signed to Columbia Records now.
What other music have you put out since the Just Like You EP from April 2014?
I put out a couple songs for movies such as “That’s My Man” (prod. by Pharrell) for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, and “Live Forever” with Juicy J for the 22 Jump Street soundtrack, as well as features with Diplo, Myrne, and Henrik the Artist. My first single on Columbia came out last year called “When I Rule the World” was produced by SOPHIE. It was a bit of a departure from that Y2K R&B sound I had been known for. It was definitely indicative of my future.
You worked with a whole slew of producers on this new tape, can you talk about some of your favorite collaborations and what you look for in a producer?
I recently started working with Branchez — he’s got a very dreamy quality to his tracks. Henrik the Artist and I have been working on ideas together for a while now too. I had him come down from Norway to London to work for a week while I was over there. Mess Kid has also turned me onto a lot of cool stuff. We’ve spent hours listening to jungle, dancehall and Baile Funk together in the studio. I love when producers understand what I’m about, while really contributing their individual tastes to my project. It creates a nice balance. I’m lucky to say that I’m actually a fan of the majority of producers I work with these days. They are artists in their own right, not just beat makers.
How’d you come up with the name Cross Your Heart for the tape?
Well, “Cross Your Heart” is the name of a track on the mixtape. The beat is a total freaky princess island pussy popper, but the actual lyrics are very personal to me. It’s about rising above your insecurities and those who’ve made you feel discouraged or unsure of yourself, and just going for it. The full lyrics is “cross your heart and hope to fly.” A lot of the time, when I am addressing “you” in those introspective songs, I’m not only speaking to the listeners — I’m really talking to myself. It’s the same in my song “Star.”
A lot of the songs are love songs, but I feel like I also hear a lot of self-love on here thematically. What would you say the overall theme/vibe is?
Yes, that’s the other reason I called the mixtape “Cross Your Heart.” I’ve had to learn to love and believe in myself more than ever recently. It’s easier said than done, and I like to think if I’m putting those positive vibes out there in my lyrics, that idea will grow wings and become reality. I hope it inspires others to go after their dreams too. I think it’s empowering to be vulnerable.
It seems like the tape is pop, but also goes deeper into the EDM and more modern electronic music world than you have before. What are your personal interests as far as how your sound is progressing?
I would say the most “EDM” type tracks on there are “Wild Target” and “Cross Your Heart.” That’s natural because Henrik and 813 are dance music artists. But, I’ve been listening to an eclectic mix of stuff recently — most of it instrumental. I’m also just really inspired by my collaborators’ music and tracks they send me.
Some of these songs are also very old school ‘90s pop, which I remember us talking about last time as an inspiration for you.
Yeah! I think that pristine, glossy sounding pop (including the high falsetto harmonies) is definitely a throwback to that era of vocal production. I’ve always done my vocals like that, since my very first release. Janet [Jackson] is one of my main influence when it comes to vocals.
Tell me about getting connected with designer Nicola Formichetti and her line Nicopanda for the shoot and fashion element of this release.
I’m very honored to be in the pantheon of pop stars Nicola Formichetti has collaborated with. He is the creative director of Diesel, but Nicopanda is solely his brand — his vision and his baby. He’s created so many iconic moments for pop stars like Lady Gaga, Azealia Banks, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and Brooke Candy. This collaboration came about very organically. Nicopanda and I started chatting over Instagram DM, I sent them a link of music I had been working on, and they conceptualized this shoot and developed the treatment around my sound and aesthetic.
How do you feel the looks tie in with the music? Are there certain songs you feel are embodied in specific looks?
I definitely feel we played on the Kawaii and bratty elements of certain songs of mine in a couple of the photos, but also the beauty and doll-like mystery in the others. I think it’s a really well rounded set of images and it gives the mixtape a whole new element of depth.
Which look is your favorite and why?
I love all of the photos!! There were even two more looks that didn’t make the final editorial. However, the braid horns pic probably embodies me the most. It was the last look of the day and all of us on set just got weird. I call this image “Space Brat.”
What’s something most people who haven’t modeled don’t know or wouldn’t think of about the process?
Modeling is really fun so far. I don’t have anything bad to say about it yet. I suppose because I’m a musician, I don’t have the same pressures as runway models have. We had to keep putting glycerine on my face for this shoot since I was meant to look “plastic,” so that was a semi-bizarre sensation! My biggest piece of advice during a long shoot is to stay hydrated, eat snacks throughout the day (very important), and let down your inhibitions.
As someone who works in both fields, how do you see music and fashion as similar and how are they different?
Music and fashion complement each other like cereal and milk. For a female “pop-star” it’s all one thing in my opinion. Musically, I’ve been working with tastemakers for a while now. But, I’m now branching out into the fashion world because I’m inspired by designers and creative directors and how they help create iconic moments in pop culture. I’m all about going to the source. There’s a reason a lot of designers feature music artists in their campaigns these days — music adds emotion and vibe. You’ll notice the audio element is always there when you’re at fashion shows or presentations.
The Vic Mensa collab “All Good” in particular sticks out here, how did that come about?
I met Vic at Coachella when we were watching Flosstradamus’ set backstage… he was really sweet. He told me he liked my FUBU Versace bucket hat! He’s a star, for sure. Lido killed it on the track… it’s classic.
I love that you’re combining music and fashion and doing it all yourself. Can you speak to that decision? You’re not letting anyone tell you that you can only be a model or only be a musician — you’re doing them both at once.
Yeah, there are no rules these days. You’ve gotta invent your own path. I can’t wait to do more out-of-the-box audio/visual collabs. I think Sky Ferreira has done a great job with the music and fashion route. Gwen Stefani is also a huge influence for me. Having my own capsule collections with designers and brands is definitely a goal for the near future… then someday, my own brand.
Stream the full Cross Your Heart mixtape below:
Here’s the full track list for Cross Your Heart:
1. “Star” [prod. Branchez & Charlie Klarsfeld]
2. “Wild Target” [prod. Henrik the Artist]
3. “Cross Your Heart” [prod. 813]
4. “High School Luv” [prod. Henrik the Artist & Nightcorey]
5. “When I Rule the World” [Grandtheft Remix]
6. “Promise” [prod. Lord Olaf]
7. “All Good” (feat. Vic Mensa) [prod. Lido]
8. “Automatic” [prod. RJ Ferguson]
9. “Want U To Hate Me” [prod. Brunelle & Mess Kid]
10. “Final Moments” (Instrumental) [prod. Mess Kid]
11. “Shambhala” (Instrumental) [prod. STFU]
12. “Forever” [prod. King Henry, Daktyl, & Aryay]
13. “Ur Touch” (Instrumental) [prod. Alizzz]
14. “Holy Water” [prod. Valentino Khan]
15. “Jawbreaking The Rules” [prod. Mess Kid]
16. “Run For Cover” [prod. Picard Bros]
Check out Liz’s full editorial at Nicopanda.com. Full credits for the images included here:
Photography: Brian Ziff
Post Production: Golgotha
Styling: Louby McLoughlin
Makeup: Mynxii White
Hair: Fitch Lunar
Producer: Justin Moran
Fashion & Creative Direction: Nicopanda