Perth duo LIONIZER pack a hell of a punch for just two people, and they’re not copping out to the lazy lo-fi garage schtick either. Drummer Bailey Lions matches his syncopated grooves with Vez Litten’s melodic riffage and androgynous vocals that resemble a less-whiney Brian Molko to create dancy and irresistibly catchy tunes that are good enough to make only-just-runners-up in February’s Band of the Month competition. We had a chat with the duo to talk Perth, being a two-piece and former feline friends.
So first off, where the heck did the name Lionizer come from?
Bailey: Sadly, it doesn’t really have anything to do with lions.
Vez: Well Bailey actually originally came up with the idea inspired from the word ‘lionize’ which means to make something quite ordinary into a famous celebrity. It’s a cool concept, and we both felt it was a good little tongue in cheek joke at the music industry and our own aspirations.
In a seriously tight race, you were runner up in the Space Ship News Band Of The Month competition – did you ever think you were going to score as many votes as you did?
V: We were completely blown away by the response we got from the BOTM competition! It was crazy, we were this tiny new band no one really knew of and suddenly we were neck and neck with Spoonful of Sugar who have been around for ages. We spent a heap of time on Facebook harassing everyone we’d ever spoken two words to vote for us but we’re super grateful it all paid off.
B: The comp gave us a social media target, which helped kick us into gear and grow a pretty decent fan base.
As a two-piece, do you find it difficult to fill out a stage both physically and sonically?
V: Yes and no – I think when we started playing shows it took us a little while to perfect our live tone so it would carry the weight of a band with half the instruments, but if you strip the kind of music we play down to the bones, a lot of the time the most prominent features are the drums, guitar and vocals. Once we had that live sound perfected we carried a hell of a punch and could easily hold our own with other fuller bands.
B: Rather than being a disadvantage, we find being minimal with our instruments means the sound cuts through a lot more; you can easily hear every part of every song. We get that presence without the ‘wall-of-sound’ that a lot of bigger bands struggle with.
As for physically, we tend to play side by side and you have to make sure you get your spacing just right. You don’t want too much distance between us, but you can’t play on top of each other either.
V: We aren’t limited by small stages either, so it tends to work just fine in local venues.
You guys have a single coming out ‘Song for a Cat Named Max’ which you will be launching at the Rosemount on March 13 – what can you tell us a about the track?
B: ‘Song for a Cat Named Max’ is our debut single, and we’ve definitely stepped up the rock in this track. The title pays homage to one of our favourite bands The Weakerthans (from Canada) and song itself is fast, upbeat, and super dancy. We’re hoping to see a lot of people grooving along to it!
V: We were really going for an upbeat happy fun song whilst still having those dark undertones in the lyrics (as was characteristic of us with our demo track ‘Waste’). We’re really excited to launch the single and hope everyone will enjoy listening to the track as much as we enjoy playing it!
Do you actually have a cat named Max? If so, what does Max think about the dedication?
V: Yeah, Max is my old cat. I had to leave him behind at my ex’s house when they broke up. The song is about going back to feed Max and revisiting all the memories of that relationship.
B: I imagine Max remains indifferent to the whole affair. The ex on the other hand…
Although you’re still a pretty new band on the scene, how do you find playing around Perth? Are there any favourite gig venues you would really like to sink your teeth into?
V: We really love playing live shows. Someone we look up to as a musician once told us that a live show is worth 10 rehearsals so we try to play gigs as often as we can. Now that we’ve cut our teeth in the Perth scene we’re moving towards playing at bigger venues; ideally in the next few months we’d like to try and book shows at the Mustang Bar, Leederville lounge, the Newport and maybe Beat Nightclub.
Any pre-show rituals we should be aware of?
B: We’ve got a pretty epic load-in ritual. We pack all our gear into Vez’s tiny Yaris, and then try to get it into the venue in as few trips as possible. It’s pretty common to see us walking up the street carrying an entire drum kit or dragging amps and gear bags. Always fun to walk past another musician carefully carrying their tambourine with your entire band on your back.
Hypothetical: you’re booking a dream local show with you and four other bands. Who do you choose, where do you play and why?
V: A dream local show? Tough to say, but our favourite local venue is probably the Rosemount Hotel; we’ve always had great shows there and really enjoy playing the stage. As for local bands, we’d love to play alongside rock acts like Gyroscope, Jebediah, and Karnivool; bands that really raise the bar for Perth talent.
Non local, our dream line-up would definitely include acts we’ve been heavily influenced by, namely The Weakerthans, An Horse…
B: Against Me! would definitely be on that line up, and probably the Gaslight Anthem or Polar Bear Club. Bands you can sing along to and really get the crowd going. Those are the best bands to see live; the ones that make you feel connected.
It must be tough to continue to be creative internally when there are only 2 of you. Where do you usually get your inspiration to write from?
B: If anything it’s easier, less people to teach riffs too! Musically we listen to a lot of bands across a whole lot of genres (I am currently way too into hip hop) and we try to bring in new sounds and ideas and put our spin on things. Then we just feed off each other and jam stuff out. Being a two piece means we can get into a chord progression and just jam that out, and not be wasting 3 other peoples time in the jam room.
Lyrics are usually Vez’s work, but it follows a similar progression. She’ll get a few lines of inspiration down and bring it to the jam to flesh it out and give it a melody together. We try to write a lot of backup vocals, and try to get the rhythms in the lyrics to match up to the drum beats (or vice versa).
Most of our songs are about personal relationships, and there’s really no shortage of inspiration there! It can be very therapeutic; we’ll either be all brash and up in your face with our lyrics or we’ll be more introspective and self-loathing. It’s a powerful dichotomy and it gives us that emotional range in a set, and even in a song.
What’s happening with future recordings? Is there an EP or an album in the works?
B: After ‘Song for a Cat Named Max’ drops we’ll be looking to promote and push that around a lot. We’re always writing new tracks though and depending on the response we get to ‘Max’ we will probably be back in the studio later in the year to record an EP.
What do you hope to achieve in 2013?
B: 50 live shows, a national tour, and airplay on triple J are the big three goals for Lionizer in 2013. We’re working towards booking a tour over east now, as well as trying to score a few support slots for international acts. As for airplay, we’re hoping to hear ‘Song for a Cat Named Max’ on the radio soon! And in between that, we’ll be playing as many shows as we possibly can here in Perth, as well as going down the coast to play in Bunbury, Margaret River, and Albany.