Interview – Buzzy Lee

Interview – Buzzy Lee

By now the name Buzzy Lee has started to become known within the Synthpop music scene. The musical vision of Sasha Spielberg, Buzzy Lee is the result of years of the artist honing her own songwriting skills, voice, and ability to create a sound that reflected her feelings best. A mix of Pop, Electronic, Alternative Rock, and more, Buzzy Lee continues to grow as an artist with her forthcoming album Internal Affairs
Different from her 2021 debut album Spoiled Love, yet bearing some resemblance, the music of Internal Affairs is subtle, beautiful, and shows that Buzzy Lee is music worth checking out. Recently Sasha Spielberg sat down to talk about her progression as an artist, the work she put into Internal Affairs, writing music with her dad, plus a whole lot more.   

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in entertainment for a while now. Working as an actress, you also have excelled with music. Through everything, what has your journey in art been like to this point?

Buzzy Lee – I think I started at a young age really praying I would be an actress. I was practicing Oscars speeches at ten years old in the mirror; which is so embarrassing, but that is what I was doing! (Laughs) I was positive I was going to go down that route. My greatest love was music, but I had such stage fright through all ages, that I felt acting could be my outlet for all the feelings I had for music; because that was spoken and my voice wouldn’t shake. I started doing theater, musical theater, and using these characters as a way to get my singing voice out. If I were singing on stage as Rick from Bat Boy, I could get my voice out. I was just so afraid to sing, but I felt I could hide behind a character.

I continued acting and it really has taken some time to find my voice relatively, I guess. When I got to college, and started my first band (Wardell) with my brother, I was constantly trying to belt and using a very loud voice to be heard. It wasn’t until I started working with Nico (Nicolas Jaar) that my voice got quieter, but more intense. I think that has been the journey. It started as a young performer, wanting to be seen and belting as hard as I could through different characters, and now I am here.

The Terminal / DreamWorks (2004) 

The Art of Getting By / Fox Searchlight Pictures (2011)

Cryptic Rock – It is interesting to hear how it all developed for you. You have been working under the name Buzzy Lee for around seven years. You have released an EP, full-length record, and now you have a second record coming out. You mentioned how there was a turning point for you to decide how you wanted to project your voice. There is a very atmospheric sound and a lot of subtleties to your music with Buzzy Lee. Tell us, what led to the persona, sound and style of Buzzy Lee? 

Buzzy Lee – What led to it I think was that I was really tired of belting and singing very loudly. I think working with my brother was such an incredible experience; it was truly 50/50 and everything was a collaboration. I dated someone who was so much a singer-songwriter, who was so passionate, and it was a terrible relationship, but he did tell me – if you are a musician you should be able to sit down at a piano and play a song that you have written from start to finish.

That was around 2015, and I realized that every song I had written had been with my brother. So, I took it upon myself to impress my boyfriend, sit at a piano, and make it my life to write songs from start to finish (lyrics done, not just melodic ideas), and play it start to finish. That is when I wrote my EP. I took those songs to Theo (my brother) and he said, “I love these, but they are not really Wardell.”

I sent them to Nico then; he is a frequent collaborator with me, and we have worked together forever. He would always tell me to sing quieter, but in a beautiful way. He once told me, “The quieter you are, the more powerful your voice is.” He really paved the way for the quieter persona that is Buzzy Lee.

Cryptic Rock – And with that you have found a really unique sound. You are now set to release your new album Internal Affairs on March 31st. These songs are beautiful, yet delicate. What is the writing and recording process behind this new collection of songs?

Buzzy Lee – Some of these songs were to go on Spoiled Love, but I brought them to Nico, and he felt they didn’t quite work with the nine songs on that album because it worked so well as is. I didn’t want to discard them, because I really believed in them, and they represented such a moment in my life. So, I took them to Gabe Wax and we started in the Fall of 2020. I was with an entirely different person, and again, it was a relationship that was not working. By the end of the recording I met my now husband; and I was so deeply in love and happy with him. That was such an interesting experience going into it with still feeling the sentiments from a break up before falling into love, but all while still trying to harness the same sentiment. I wanted those feelings to come through, but with a little bit more levity.

Cryptic Rock – Understood, and it works well. These songs obviously have electronic sounds, but it still sounds organic. Overall, it does not sound overproduced. Was that important to you?

Buzzy Lee – It’s so funny that everything feels overproduced to me; because I’m so in love with voice memos and just the bare piano and vocals. I would do an album of voice notes if I could. So, everything to me sounds overproduced.

What I loved about working with Nico is it was sparsely produced; even if he did so much production, the last record has more of a hush sound. This record I wanted to add on in terms of production and have live drums, but I was so scared of it feeling overproduced. Again, everything feels overproduced to me compared to my voice notes. I’m so happy you said that it does not feel overproduced, because it was very important to me.

Cryptic Rock – It certainly shows. Overproduction takes away from the vocal performance and the songs themselves. These lyrics seem very personal. What can you tell us about them?

Buzzy Lee – They are all very personal. They are very experience specific. They are such specific lyrics, but as a whole I hope people can still relate to the idea of being in something that is way past its expiration date and not knowing how to get out.  

Cryptic Rock – Understood. Even though these are singular and personal to you, these are relatable topics. You played some shows for Spoiled Love, so are you planning on doing some touring for Internal Affairs?

Buzzy Lee – So far I’m doing two shows – one in Los Angeles, one in New York. I’m making touring plans right now… so I am in the process of setting that up.

Cryptic Rock – It would be great to see these new songs played live. It will also be interesting to hear them translated into a live setting.

Buzzy Lee – Yea! I’ve been playing “Cinderblock” live for four years now, which is crazy. Besides that, though, nothing else. 

Cryptic Rock – This will be something to look forward to as more shows are announced. You spoke of your progression as a musician. Electronic music is relatively popular at this time, but you seem to approach it differently than others on the scene. What inspired the Electronic styling to your music?

Buzzy Lee – I have to give Nico so much credit for that. It started during our freshman year of college. I was eighteen and didn’t know anything about Electronic music and Nico was so embedded in that world. I would go into his dorm room and he really opened up a new world for me; because his music is also so different from anything out there. He really opened my eyes, because I was really very Classic Rock forward. I was really up on Indie music too; I was always researching it on blogs from the age of fourteen forward. Then I had a friend named Jed who would make mixes of lost songs of the ‘70s; so I was really getting an education in my freshman year of college. Nico really opened my eyes though. I never really listened to Electronic music, so it was always a very interesting collaboration. That was my introduction.

Buzzy Lee – Facepaint / Future Classic (2018)

Buzzy Lee – Spoiled Love /  Future Classic (2020)

Cryptic Rock – It is fascinating that you were not turned onto the genre until later on. So, who are some of your favorite artists?

Buzzy Lee – My taste ranges so much. As a seventh grader I was just obsessed with Led Zeppelin. Then it was The Velvet Underground, Jonnie Mitchell, which then evolved into Fiona Apple and Hole. For this specific record I was listening to Suse Millemann, and a song called “Patterns.” Also, “Total Control” by The Motels. I love Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, and at a young age, The Strokes. My music tastes have just ranged so much. Also, I’ve always loved “Arrow Through Me” by Wings.

Cryptic Rock – It is nice to hear you have such a very eclectic taste. You come from a family from the arts. That said, was your family always supportive of your artistic inclinations?

Buzzy Lee – Oh my gosh almost too much I think; why didn’t I get into coding (Laughs). They were just my biggest supporters. I told my parents over and over again that I was obsessed with singing. However, it wasn’t until my Bat Mitzvah that they really heard me sing.  From that moment on they were so supportive of the music.

I had such stage fright that Bat Mitzvah was the only time my voice really shone through because I was so focused on getting the Hebrew right, so I was not concentrating on my voice; I was just trying to get through my Torah portion. They have just been so supportive though.

Cryptic Rock – It is great to hear you that you have always had that support. And here you are all these years later going strong with your music.

Buzzy Lee – You know what is so funny, I don’t think anyone knows this, but my dad is such an incredible melody maker. Whenever I go over to their house I play their piano. My dad comes in, sits on the bench with me, and plays the top melody over whatever chords I’m making. I recently found five voice memos of my dad’s ideas and they are so incredible. He can’t sing at all… I’m sorry dad. (Laughs) But he has the most incredible ear.  

Cryptic Rock – That is really cool to hear about his musical talents.

Buzzy Lee – I have never told anyone that. Actually, my dream is to release the songs he and I have written together because he is so good!

Buzzy Lee – Internal Affairs / Future Classic (2023)

Cryptic Rock – You should certainly look into doing that in the future! Last question for you. What are some of your favorite films?

Buzzy Lee – That is a great question. Here is the thing, I have so many favorite movies. I can whittle it down to my favorite movies I’ve watched in the past two years. I do have movies I can watch on repeat, like Clueless (1995). Over quarantine, when we were all locked down, I watched 2-3 movies that I had never seen in my life.

Growing up it seemed my dad showed all of us every movie ever made. There are so many movies I haven’t seen obviously, because you can’t see them all. It’s really a hard question. My favorite movies I’ve seen over the last three years would be Body Heat (1981), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), The Long Goodbye (1973), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Postcards from the Edge (1990). I love Horror movies too; I have a lot of favorites there. I also love One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Chinatown (1974), The Third Man (1949), The Fablemans (2022). It is endless, I’m sorry, but my list is really endless. (Laughs)

Cryptic Rock – That is alright, it is hard to choose. It is great to hear that you love Horror movies too. 

Buzzy Lee – I do love Horror movies! I am obsessed with finding old ones that I’ve never seen too.

Body Heat / Warner Bros (1981)

Clueless  / Paramount Pictures (1995)

Buzzy Lee 2023 Tour Dates:

MAY 31, 2023 Moroccan Lounge Los Angeles, CA
JUN 21, 2023 Public Records New York, NY

For more on Buzzy | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 

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