The Non-Stop Art of Buzzy Lee Future Classic

Northern Transmissions interview with Buzzy Lee's Sasha Spielberg
Buzzy Lee's Sasha Spielberg

Whether it’s making music in Wardell and Just Friends, writing and appearing in her own movies, or even making an appearance in one of her father’s films, Sasha Spielberg (Buzzy Lee) really never seems to take a break. After her previous collaborative projects, Spielberg had wanted to do something all her own, and with an endless supply of voice memos to pull from her new album Facepaint. We caught up with Spielberg as she gears up for another round in the studio to talk about breaking a writing funk and how she made a show on Snapchat when no one else had done it before.

Northern Transmissions: Coming from your time in Wardell and Just Friends, it sounds like you’ve found the perfect middle ground between these two sounds, was that partially what led you to go solo?
Sasha Spielberg: I wrote so many songs just for myself, and they were so personal that I didn’t even know how I wanted them to sound. But we’d be working and I’d listen to songs on the subway home from the studio and realize that I wanted older production sounds. Then I would panic, but then come back the next day to make a sound that was a mix of my two last projects. We just mainly fit the production around the vocals.

NT: What was it like working with Nicolas Jaar again on this album and what was different about the collaborative process compared to what you did in Just Friends?
SS: It felt very similar. We had done this song “Avalanche” and that was a very emotional experience, even though it was a cover. With that song, the whole first minute is just improvisations. That first minute and a half was so emotional, and felt very personal despite its lack of words. I was crying a lot making this record, so it really felt like talking with my best friend about life, and we just happened to be recording.

NT: I imagine there was probably a bit of a leap creatively for you coming off of the collaborative writing of your previous projects, so what was the biggest shift for you going into Buzzy Lee?
SS: I saw that I had thousands of unfinished voice-notes on my phone, so that was really a wakeup call for me. They were all a minute and thirty seconds long, so I would justify it that they would all be interludes on an album. At a certain point I realized I could only have so many interludes, so I made it a goal to finish whichever song I thought was maybe okay, just as a writing exercise. My boyfriend at the time was even pushing me to just finish these songs. I wasn’t even suffering from writer’s block, I just wasn’t allowing myself to go there. I finally went there, and I sent a batch of songs to Nico. He called me out to New York to record, and then we recorded some songs in the room. I love the feeling of coming up with melodies and a chord progression but that’s often where I stop.

NT: Looking at this record you’ve referred to it as throwing a bunch of papers in the air, so with this scatterbrained mentality what was your guiding force to tie it all together?
SS: My brother had told me “You need to sing softer, so much of your voice lies within its softness.” With Wardell, so much of what I was doing was belting out these songs and it felt very performance-like so it was fun. But with this I kept it very minimal, and I wasn’t trying to show off. I remember listening back to something like and thinking it should be more impressive, and Nico said the exact same thing my brother said. So this record was really about making it barely singing, because there’s so much power in restraint.

NT: How did your show Literally Can’t Even start and what was it like trying to create a show for Snapchat when no one has done it before?
SS: We were writing a movie, and in between breaks, we would make little videos on Vine. Someone from Snapchat was following us and asked us if we wanted to an expansion on that with them. It was all very top secret for a while and we really had no idea what it was. We received so much criticism for it, but the process for it was really interesting. We’d record every Saturday for ten weeks, and it was very in the moment since it was only up for 24 hours. That was hard to explain to people, especially my parents. We thought it could be interesting but we didn’t understand the format when we were making it, so we were just seeing what would happen.

NT: Considering all the projects you’re up to, do you ever feel the burn out or have you found a way to keep things from getting out of hand?
SS: Forever I was just thinking I’m going to sing, write, act, make movies etc. That was very post-college when I was green on everything. I think giving 40% to a bunch of different crafts really just takes away from each one. I would rather just give 100% to one. The last few years I’ve really honed in on music because that’s what I love the most. I needed to lose distractions, because music is so personal that it can be hard to go back to that after writing a comedy. Now I’m working on accepting whatever really comes my way.

NT: What’s next for Buzzy Lee?
SS: I keep collaborating with different friends on music videos, and I’m so lucky to have all these really talented friends. I have another video coming out, and then I’m back in the studio to record again. Then I’ll hopefully be back on tour by the fall. Now I have about 40 new songs that I have to record immediately, I’m really ready to record these tracks.

Words by Owen Maxwell