In less than 140 characters, it’s fair to say Maya Yianni has been making bird-like sounds well before the world caught on to it. KINSHIP goes beyond the perimeters of the birdcage and gets personal with the singer-songwriter whose number is definitely on the up.
KINSHIP: So first off, what’s the biggest porky you’ve ever told? Feel free to change people’s names if it’s bound to cause any embarrassment or possible emigration to another country.
Little Liar: Do you know what, I really hate lying, so I don’t have any lies to truth for you! That’s boring isn’t it.
KINSHIP: Is Little Liar just you or is there a band of people who also collaborate on the project?
Little Liar: Little Liar is me, but it’s fundamentally a collaborative project. I perform and record with the band. I’ll write a song, show it to the guys, and then we’ll usually arrange it together. Working with them is natural, They’re so patient when I struggle to articulate myself.
KINSHIP: What instruments do you play and any you aspire to learn? And if you weren’t a musician, what what be your next calling in life?
Little Liar: I’ve always been involved in music but my views and consumption of music have broadened a lot since studying it at University. I’ve been singing and writing songs since I was pretty small. And I started to play guitar to accompany myself about three and a half years ago, I’m no ‘guitarist’, mind. Although my lack of skill can be restricting and frustrating at times, I kind of like that my guitar ability is pretty limited, it means that I’m rather technically unaware of what I’m doing most of the time, I like that, especially when I’m writing, I’m less bound to the rules of theory and more led by what I want to hear. Jamie Coe, my guitarist knows what he’s doing though, so does Ed Burton (drummer) and Idan Brutman (bassist).
To be honest, I’m blessed to be working with such astounding musicians. They keep me in line. Since working with them, I’ve gained a confidence I’ve needed for a long time, and gained the frame of mind that I can just do what I do and people will merely take it or leave it. There used to be that worry in the back of my mind about sounding a certain way, or, pre-empting how people might perceive me, but I’ve come to realise that thinking really distorts my ideas and creates a lot of doubt and insecurity in my mind, which hinders my work a lot before I’ve played a note or written a word. I’ve come to realise that what I do tends to involve as little technology as possible because, to be frank, that’s just a whole other area of distraction for me.
As an expert procrastinator, I have to remove any thing that might divert my creative train of thought. As I’ve gotten older, it has become more and more important for me that what I share with an audience, live or recorded, is as close to the original idea in my head as possible, and not a diluted realisation that’s trudged through a ‘mill’ of complications. I want to learn to play the auto-harp, that’s next on my list. Despite me saying I embrace my limited guitar skills, I’d be a fool to say I don’t wont to improve them. To answer the latter part of your question, if I wasn’t a musician and had no interest in music at all, I’d be a gardener.
KINSHIP: What was the last album you bought? And what are your biggest influences making music? Not necessarily other musicians, this could be art, inspirational people or books for example.
Little Liar: People watching is good. Everywhere I go I find myself building little narratives about people, I guess it’s just day dreaming. My songs are quite exposing, and discuss topics that I’d never talk about in conversation with most people, so my own emotions play a big part in what I write about and also the romantic relationships I’ve encountered. There are a lot of characters, good and bad, that I have encountered throughout my life that make me want to write. And of course, my friends are massively inspiring and influential.
KINSHIP: Tomorrow morning, you get a phone call from one well-known artist, requesting you write/produce for them? Who would that artist be?
Little Liar: That’s quite a tough question, does the artist have to be alive? I don’t think any one would want me to produce for them, I’ve done a bit of production and I know how it all works but If I could write for anyone, alive or dead, it’d be Ella Fitzgerald. With regards to more current artists, I think all the musicians that I admire write their own music, people like Connan Mokasin, Anna Calvi, and St. Vincent; it wouldn’t be the same if that changed. In correlation with some of the thoughts I currently have about mainstream music and the industry, I wouldn’t mind writing a big pop song that broke out of the standardised form that so much music is saturated in these days. I’m all up for recycling ideas and patching them together with new ones but when things start to sound too similar it encourages every one to become passive listeners. Music should be precious. One day, someone will probably use those words against me when I decide to release a banging club anthem album… It doesn’t men that I don’t like pop, it means that I don’t like uninventive and lazy musicians and music, especially when it’s artists that release dull stuff and you KNOW that they’re pretty amazing really.
KINSHIP: If we could turn back time, ‘KINSHIP’ aka I, would have loved to have been a jazz bassist in 1950s New York circa the Cotton Club years. What other musical era would you have liked to have existed in and why?
Little Liar: The Jazz Age, without a doubt. Though, saying that, it wasn’t a great time to be a woman back then.
KINSHIP: Finally, what are you working on at the moment? An EP or full album. And what does the summer hold for you in terms of shows and festivals?
Little Liar: At the moment, we’re working in the studio and gigging in London. I just played at Glastonbury, which was great, apart from clashing with Connan Mockisan and Dolly Parton. I’d seen Connan before so I knew the drill with him (though I’d gladly watch him again), but I cut my set by 20 minutes so I could catch Dolly. As I approached the Pyramid Stage I could hear the introduction to “Joleane”. Damn good timing. Couldn’t see anything though – being short at a festival is shit, saying that being tall isn’t much better because you have people like me telling them to get out the way every 5 minutes…
Coming up, we’re booked to play the ARAF Collective’s new night at the Montague Arms, Queens Road, Peckham (one of my favorite pubs and Collectives) on the 10th October and should also be playing at Steez on the 20th (acoustic) and back again later in the year with the full band, both at the Amersham in New Cross.
I’m excited to release some more music soon, we only have one band track up on the internet at the moment – On the NX Records Mixtape and on the Little Liar Soundcloud so it’ll be good to unleash some more. I’m not sure how I want to disseminate it, I need to think about that. There’s also talk of making a video at some point which would be cool, I’ll just keep going with what we’ve got for now and just see what happens. I’m excited though. Really excited.
Photo: Malcolm Fernandes.
Words: Ade Bankole.