Song-by-Song: ‘ANIMA’ by Suzy & The Lifeguard
Written in Hawaii then recorded in LA, we learn about each of the six tracks on this hypnotizing psych-pop EP
Suzy & The Lifeguard is the alter-ego of LA-based artist Suzy Paradise and a place where her loungy jazz and psychedelic pop can be brought to life. The fist release was a self-titled EP in 2015, co-written and produced by Bleu McAuley (Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Michelle Branch). Half a decade later, those six tracks still sound like a breath of fresh air, managing to be both classic and contemporary. Now, Suzy has released another sextet of songs. Still breezy, but with a darker edge, it has the feel of a walk along the beach at midnight.
Charmed by her music, we asked Suzy to tell us some more about the EP’s creation…
This project was all about being present and trusting the process. I wanted to put a few talented people in a room on a chocolate farm in Kauai and just see what would come of it. Hawaii is a very special place to me – it’s where I spent many of my formative years. I figured if we stayed open to the magic of the experience then something great was bound to happen.
In past works, I had always tried to perfect demos before coming into the studio with a very specific POV. But this time, I wanted to not be overly concerned with the outcome and just provide a place of play.
It’s vibier than the last record, it’s a bit darker overall, but it’s also still silly and fun. I feel like it’s an honest reflection of not only what I have experienced in the last five years but also the fun and magical space we were in.
That being said, we recorded all lyrics/melody/final vox back in LA afterward. Which was so different. I’ve always heard topline first and built harmonic progression to fit it. ANIMA was the opposite.
Titling the EP ANIMA – I liked not only the meaning of the word but the way it sounded – wild; untamed; strong but vulnerable. Also, I feel like the subconscious nature to which we created the record was captured in it.
Now is a song about awakening, synchronicities; feeling like all the world is within your grasp and the past is all starting to make sense to you.
I heard this as a song by The Strokes – it hit me while I was sitting on lava rocks in Mallorca. I strummed it out on the ukulele (which I usually travel with for easy mobile writing) and recorded the chorus on my iPhone. I just felt like I was coming up on something big. I truly felt I was where I was supposed to be at that particular moment.
I did know I wanted the verses to contrast with the chorus – like night/day. Instrumentally we tried to make the verses so you were in a dream, introspective yet explorative, almost whispering/thinking/reflective…then focused/ driven/ exerting this energy of being ready to go.
I remember saying I heard a lasso “WHIP” in the chorus. We used a space echo which sounds like the whales to give it the dreamier quality.
TAKE IT SLOW
This song’s structure came to me pretty quickly. Allee, the bassist/co-producer, and I fiddled around with it as a demo before going to Hawaii. It’s about getting swept up in lust when you’re looking for the real thing; maybe even being unable to tell the difference for yourself.
I wanted the verses to sound flirty, almost nonchalant and uninvested, while the chorus was an honest look into the heart. When you want to really connect, but are unable to let down your guard fully. It comments on how we play games to protect ourselves, but in the end, it really just drives two people apart.
I wanted Guides to explore the concept of there being more to our reality than the five senses reveal; how the feeling of loneliness can be seen simply as an illusion. It’s fascinating to look at the world this way and be open to these possibilities – each and every one of us being surrounded and supported by guiding forces – and how the bigger picture influences our individual experience.
Jamming in Hawaii, I came up with the verse lick on the guitar. I remember Phil, the engineer/co-producer, in particular, liking it. Laying down the drums was especially tricky for this – I literally stood in the room with the drummer acting out sounds as he tracked.
This may very well be my favourite song on the entire EP. We built this track first in Hawaii and then I added top line back in LA with Grant, the vocal producer/mixer. Phil came up with this working title Sand, which was what it felt like… being stuck in quicksand. It’s about being in your head, judging yourself. I’m my own worst critic.
I wanted the background vocals in the chorus to sound like you arguing with yourself…Until finally “something takes over” and you’re able to get out of your own way.
FALL I FELL
This is the oldest of all six songs, I wrote it probably back in 2013 (wow!). For years it sat as a voice memo on my phone, just me and an acoustic guitar. I brought it to Hawaii as a default idea to develop in case we were crunched for time. I always thought there was something special about this tune. It came very quickly, which I find the most memorable ones do.
Back then, I’d been listening to a ton of Van Morrison, particularly Astral Weeks, as well as Amy Winehouse’s first record Frank. I loved how both of them used visual metaphors. I remember wanting to do something in that style. Sitting in my apartment, I had just noticed a few trees of explosive colour with their leaves changing (a rarity in LA). I was also currently in a budding relationship – and thought, “Oh – ‘falling’ in love, the ‘fall,’ ‘falling’ leaves,” and just kinda went with it.
I really wanted that magical feeling of the season to resonate. I always get excited when pumpkins start showing up in grocery stores etc. I’m a Halloween baby and as a Scorpio there’s a very close tie to that particular time of year. (Let’s be honest y’all – it’s the best!)
Oooh this tune is so special. The guitar riff was birthed by one of my best friends & co-writers, Brett. We were hanging in the studio in Hawaii, feeling out ideas. It was a motif he had been coming back to again and again over the years but didn’t know what to do with it. We all immediately dug it. I felt right on board with the “existential/floaty/lost” vibe he expressed.
Immediately I pictured this song as an orbit like you’re floating off into space alone, helpless.
This song is about falling in love with someone who struggles with mental illness and how that person is very much there and then not.
I think the chorus encapsulates the overall message – kind of like how Bob Marley says “My home is in my dome.” We all can seek refuge from an otherwise chaotic world by looking inward, self-soothing and finding peace by not needing anything from others, exuding an unconditional sort of love and being happy with what an experience was regardless of an outcome.
ANIMA is out now. For all the latest news, check out suzyandthelifeguard.com