“Majestic.” - LA Weekly
“A robust, fully formed Americana-rock album.” - Buzzbands LA
Rock Record is Liz Pappademas’ fourth album and her first in almost ten years. These songs were written over the course of the last three years, primarily in two rooms— a one-bedroom apartment above the garage of a house in the hills below Lake Hollywood, and the garage itself, where the piano was.
“I could open the garage door,” Pappademas says, “go in, play for a little bit, and then there was a ladder leading up from the garage, to a tiny not-even-four-foot-tall door you kind of crawled in when you were done with your practice session.”
Gradually, in these two spaces, Rock Record started to take shape. Ten songs about characters on one precipice or another, caught between the urge to retreat and the pull of the unknown.
But that wasn’t the plan, not at first.
Back in December 2010, Pappademas had released Television City, a self-produced song cycle about a fictional 1970s game show, with multiple protagonists and even a fictional corporate sponsor with its own brand-voice. It was the most ambitious album she’d ever made.
“I wrote a movie, basically,” she says, “and then didn’t release the movie— I just put out the soundtrack.”
The L.A. Weekly hailed the album’s “wit and inventiveness,” its avoidance of rock-opera pitfalls. But a series of personal struggles overshadowed what should have been a triumph; in short order, Pappademas weathered the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, and a family illness, and began to question everything. When she moved into the room above the garage, making a followup to an album years in the making was the last thing on her mind.
“I never stopped writing songs,” she said. “That would be impossible, I think. But the idea of having a band, and doing all the other things that are attached to being a musician— I just wasn’t interested in that.”
Pappademas went back to school, eventually got a master’s degree, found fulfilling work outside the industry— and yet in 2013 came the Spring EP, five songs cut live to iPhone in a borrowed practice room.
“I realized, in the last few years— especially writing this album— that the songs are usually things I can’t talk about in another way,” Pappademas says. “Or that I’m afraid to talk about. The act of singing is therapeutic in itself. Breathing. Making sound. Doing that, and doing it in my cave, for all intents and purposes, was very necessary to this time of transition.”
Friends started bringing their unfinished songs to the garage. She’d help them out with a verse. Helping other people bare their souls became a safe way back into a collaborative mindset. She ran into guitarist Aaron Kyle at a party. They talked about Led Zeppelin. Kyle coaxed Pappademas out to play some shows; they also started working together on songs. She could pretend they weren’t making a record, until Kyle’s longtime bandmate Christopher Harrison came by the garage.
“Chris came to the garage and started playing over all the songs,” she says, “and it sounded so cool, we all looked at each other with the feeling like, ‘Okay— now we have to find a bass player and a drummer.’”
The band on the finished record-- they’ve been calling themselves Bloody Nose-- consists of Kyle and Harrison on guitar, Brian Soika on drums, and Jonathan Price on bass, with Brian Whelan contributing ride-into-the-sunset lead guitar to “Why Aren’t You Crying?” and “Real Life Bender.” Pappademas had never worked this collaboratively before; building songs in a room with a group of players opened the music up.
“I’m a huge fan of Randy Newman, who’s the master of the short song,” she says. “I’ve always loved those tiny vignettes that say so much in five lines. And then I went and made this jam-out record!”
When it came time to take this music out of the garage, Pappademas says, “We went down the street. Maybe ten blocks.”
In 1967 the producer, engineer and scientist Andrew Berliner turned an old post office building on Vine Street just south of Santa Monica Boulevard into a recording studio called Crystal Sound, just as ‘70s artists began deserting record-company facilities in search of a freer creative atmosphere. Everyone from Carole King and Jackson Browne to Parliament-Funkadelic and War cut classics at Crystal; the studio became a home base for Stevie Wonder during the marathon recording of Songs in the Key of Life.
After operating for a time as a private studio, the facility reopened in 2018 as Barefoot Recordings. Rock Record, much of which was cut live in the studio, is the first album recorded in Barefoot’s Studio B, minus the occasional side trip to the A room when Stevie Wonder’s nine-foot Yamaha grand beckoned. “We’re not sure if he actually knows it’s still there,” Pappademas says. “Playing that was pretty out of this world.”
You’ll hear that piano in these songs. You’ll also hear Pappademas playing a Vox Continental organ (“I got to solo, which I never get to do, so that was super fun”) and, on “Still Wanna Be Your Friend,” the vibraphone, an instrument she’d never tried before the day she played it on the record. “The joy of having to learn something that’s being recorded as you’re playing-- I don’t even know how to describe the weird head feeling you get,” she says.
A not-dissimilar joy permeates all this music-- the sound of an artist outside her comfort zone, learning as she goes, building the plane while flying the plane, and surprising herself. There’s a sense of risk to this music and a sense of urgency. The doors are wide open, the unknown beckons, and summer won’t wait another hour. - Alex Pappademas
Photo by Peter Baker
The famous Crystal Sound comic.
iPhone recordings created between February 20th and May 26th, 2013, in the Cal State Northridge practice rooms and at an apartment on Dunsmuir St. in Los Angeles. Released with limited fanfare and no live performances.
Limited-edition copies of the album came with a 27-page booklet detailing the album concept and its inspriations. Click here to view.
“Television City” features The Level, a band put together solely for this project, and members of the Killsonic jazz collective. Pappademas was a member of the accordion section of Killsonic from 2007-2010. The Level was Mike Corwin on guitar, David Alvarado on bass, and Justin Polimeni on drums. Ben Jaffe also played drums with the group for a short time.
“The ambitious album is a cycle of interconnected songs about a fictional game show called Who's Your Neighbor? The concept allows her to explore the inner lives of a fascinating set of characters. Pappademas' forceful piano accents frame the action stylishly on such sly, melodically rich pop gems as ‘Your Favorite Game Show’ and ‘Grand Prize Winners,’ while the album-closing ‘Parting Guest’ is a trippy sound collage of mesmerizing echoes.” - Falling James, LA Weekly
Released in 2007, we recorded vocals, drums and keyboards at Hyde Street Studio C in San Francisco with Scott McDowell engineering. Rob Sanchez from Monahans played drums on those sessions. Back in Austin, we gathered some great freinds and players: pedal steel by Gary Newcomb and bass and by Jeff Johnston were recorded by Lang Freeman at Folsur. A brass kick-plate off an old door was used as a saw, bowed by Jeff, a champion saw player. Accordion, additional vocals, percussion and keyboards (which included a Chamberlin, a Fender Rhodes, a Mellotron, and a 100-year-old Emerson upright), were recorded by Brian Kehew at OFR in Los Angeles. Selected vocals, accordion, and percussion were recorded by Liz Pappademas at her home in San Francisco.
“Stark lushness illuminated.” - Electronic Music Magazine
“Liz Pappademas says she was ‘born in the back seat of a Checker cab in front of Lincoln Center in New York,’ but grew up in San Francisco, where she wrote and recorded her latest CD, 11 Songs. It's a beautifully downbeat collection of piano-driven art-pop tunes reflecting on broken hearts, bitterness and murder.” - NPR
“Hurts to Purr's music is dense and confessional, taking influence from the weight of the stories and experiences Pappademas captures with her words.
The album is speckled with field recordings done while the band was mixing their record in Los Angeles with Brian Kehew, co-producer of Fiona Apple's latest release. From copy machines to trains at Union Station, the album combines a clean, polished production with the gritty, organic sounds from the streets of L.A.” - NPR
Liz with Tom Benton (bass) and Jeremy Bruch (drums).
“...an album so confident and assuredly cool that it seems to have sprung from seasoned vets. Vocalist and pianist Liz Pappademas’ songs gleam with uncanny originality (“Mr. Atom,” the wisely cynical “Six Months,” the hypnotic “Stop Blowing Your House Down”). Her voice has a charming, dusky timbre, while her playing channels everyone from Randy Newman to Paul Bley. If you’ve haven’t caught them, do so quickly.” - Texas Monthly
Recorded and produced in 2005 with Kevin Ryan and mixed by Brian Kehew at OFR in North Hollywood, Hurts to Purr was created as Ryan and Kehew put the finishing touches on their massive tome, Recording the Beatles: The Studio Equipment & Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums.
Kevin, Liz, Jeremy and Tom outside The Rainbow Bar n Grill during mixing of Hurts to Purr.