Growing up in a family where punk was the norm, Lyza Strummer, whose stepfather was the late frontman of the Clash, Joe Strummer, did what was perhaps the most punk thing she could possibly do: step away from rock and into the world of trip hop. Now 24 years old, Strummer's kept up doing things her way, writing and producing her own electronic music sans the Strummer name, instead going by Lyza Jane. Based in West London, she's set to release her second EP this year—if she can ever find time between her modeling gigs with Select, the agency she signed with in September, that is.
It's thanks to that new gig that Strummer found herself in the front row at Vivienne Westwood's homecoming show Monday night in the grand finale to London Fashion Week: Men's, where the gender-bending and general chaos had Strummer thinking back to her own early punk days, growing upon tour buses and humming songs into her dad's Dictaphone. She looks back on those beginnings and forward to her newfound appreciation for fashion, down to the very look number, here.
What did you think of the Vivienne Westwood show?
It was amazing; it was so liberating. I just loved the unisex-y vibe with the whole collection, but there was this one unisex suit, look 21, that just nailed it for me with one of those classic Vivienne prints that's kind of a mix of florals and the original ones she did back with her t-shirt labels. It's so effortlessly cool. I think it's really important that people with this division of power, especially Vivienne, use their voice in a positive way, and I think she really does. I went backstage and it was so hectic, but had such a great vibe and energy, because the most positive thing about Vivienne is that everyone she has around her really embodies her ethos as well.
When did you get into modeling?
That's really new to me—I've been with Select since September of last year, so I'm really fresh [Laughs.] I never thought it was something I would feel so passionately about, since I'm first and foremost a musician, but the two just sort of go hand in hand and it all fell into place. I wouldn't consider myself a model, per se, but I've really loved dipping my toes into it; I had a cover on the Sunday Times magazine, which was super exciting, and I still don't know a lot of names, but I'd love to work with Miles Aldridge, Josh Olins, Mario Sorrenti, Alasdair McLellan, and David Sims.
Did you first get into music by choice, or because it was around your house growing up?
I think it was a combination of wanting to do it and being surrounded by it, since I was really lucky to have a musical upbringing. I’ve always wanted to sing, and there was always music and talking about music in the house, plus going to shows from quite a young age. I must have seen the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers at least 25 times. Even now when I see them, I’m blown away; they’re just the best performers in the world. Then there's The Who, and a lot of rock stuff. I’m lucky to have listened to everything; I always went to Glastonbury, and god, you couldn’t get more of a variation of artists in the types that go there.
That makes sense, since your own music isn’t very rock or punk. It’s definitely your own thing.
I found it really hard to figure out my place in music and where I was, and I don’t think it’s ever really been down the rock path. I play a little bit of guitar, but ever since I’ve been making music it’s always come out a little bit more trip hop vibe and electronic. I think it would just fall under the category “other.” [Laughs.] It’s so difficult to put my finger on it, but it’s definitely got a dreamy, trip-hop vibe to it.
Was your 2015 EP “Milk Teeth” your first big foray?
Well, I just wanted to get into music any way I could, so I was a backup singer as soon as I left school, and then I started working at Atlantic Records. Then "Milk Teeth" was a little EP, my first project, kind of bedroom beats. I produced it all myself and I’ve definitely come a long way since then, so I’m excited to put new stuff out for people to see how I’ve progressed as I’ve taken time to write and experiment and record.
Which musicians do you look to for inspiration?
Tricky, the producer who's worked with Massive Attack, has certainly been a big inspiration for me. I love how he doesn't have a conventional approach to the structure of a song. I also listen to a lot of hip-hop—Quasimoto, Madlib, and Doja Cat, lately.
Did your dad ever give you any advice when it came to playing music?
He just said, “Write everything down.” That’s the main thing I’ve taken from him. He used to walk around everywhere with a Dictaphone, and I remember just like sitting in the bath while he recorded some of my humming melodies and stuff, just with the theory of, “Don’t forget anything, anything could turn into an idea, so jot everything down, even if it’s on a napkin.” Always carry a Sharpie, basically, I’d say.
Did he ever get to hear how your music style developed?
No, unfortunately not. I was 11 when he passed so I hadn’t quite found my musical direction. [Laughs.]
Going back to what you were saying with Vivienne and how she uses her voice, you’ve been working with your dad's organization, the Joe Strummer Foundation, for a few years now. What are the ways in which you're involved?
First and foremost, it gives a platform to musicians who otherwise wouldn’t have one, whether providing rehearsal space or shows or interviews. But there are lots of other side projects, like we send producers to Sierra Leone to train people in music and get them off the streets and into the studio. Because it’s so exciting to play music, and I think if you give people the means to be able to create and learn, then I feel like it could help a lot of stuff.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
My main goal this year is to get my new EP out, since the last one was me completely feeling my way through, and now I feel like I know who I am. So I'm going to get out there and do more shows, and then of course do some modeling. I'm really excited; I want to do more of everything. It’s going to be a great year.
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