New York Press
January 21, 2009
In the empty back room of a West Village club, the cogs of “alternative” culture are putting the finishing touches on a new teen idol. She’s androgynously pretty and slightly rough, but her vintage parts won’t scare parents. Photographer Mick Rock—whose images instilled in us all a collective memory of David Bowie and Debbie Harry—is circling the room in wide, campy strides. His subject is Lissy Trullie. “I was a shitty model,” she says. “You have to know how to turn off your mind,” the photog replies soothingly.
Lissy Trullie is also the name of her band. It recently played Paris with breakout synth poppers The Virgins. It gigged at Art Basel in Miami. But none of the quartet—save Trullie herself—could make our get together.
The corporate machinery is off to the side of the room: Angele Larroque, a leggy manager, as well as the band’s publicist. Another manager, Jonathan Gottlieb—a bushy haired Brian Epstein—is getting lunch. Joking about them in his streetwise Cockney patter, Mick Rock says, “Managers just don’t look like they used to, they were usually gangster types.” Larroque takes it in and replies softly, “You don’t know what I’m capable of.” The quartet will be playing upstairs in a few hours, but for now Trullie relaxes as she goes through her poses. Rock snaps photos and encourages her. “Needs to be a bit gayer than Brando, luhv.” With growing excitement he adds, “Work the jacket, work the jacket.” The waifish redhead clenches down on her cigarette, slides her hands in her leather motorcycle jacket and gazes at the floor. “Very hot, very hot, very James Dean, yeah totally,” Rock adds.
Several hours later, Le Royale fills up with elegantly wasted trust-fund hipsters. Trullie’s girl groupies swoon to the ear candy of “Self-Taught Learner,” a melodious three-chord ballad about teen suicide. “Oh, I want to die with you,”Trullie wails, as she navigates the stage in four-inch heels.
Erin Krause—a casualty in Trullie’s trail of broken hearts—tells me the song was inspired by real life. “It’s about Lissy’s first love who died in high school.”
The show takes place during CMJ, and today the band is still unsigned. In February, however, it’s releasing an EP on a Brooklyn label named American Myth Recordings.The lineup this night is brand new.Trullie’s old band—a spirited girl group called the Fibs—has been jettisoned in favor of socialites and session musicians including undergrad “It” girl Harley Viera-Newton (who has since left the band), former Saves the Day guitarist Eben D’Amico and drummer Josh Elrod.Viera-Newton even moved into Trullie’s brownstone on East 10th Street, which doubles as the band’s headquarters.
A bisexual teenybopper fantasy is being built, but there were no buyers yet. “People think we’re too cool or too fabulous or some bullshit like that,”Trullie says when I ask if the model connection has hurt her chances with labels. “They say, ‘She’s just a washed up model.’ People are bitter.”
Plenty of models have tried their hands at music—think Karen Elson and the Citizen’s Band or model-actor Jamie Burke’s band Bloody Social—but are often not given a fair shake.Trullie defends indie styled supermodel Agyness Dean’s sideproject, the 5
O’Clock Heroes: “She writes her own songs and plays her own music.”
After being impressed by the mélange of 1960s and ‘70s influences in her songs, I ask which girl group inspires those husky harmonies. “I don’t know if I have that many girl group influences.” “Well just take that influences question and run,” I prod hopefully.
“Uh, I like Debbie Harry.”
Trullie came to my attention at a benefit concert at the Highline Ballroom, opening for her idol Debbie Harry and Adam Green. Mick Rock tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the stage.
“Nigel Harrison [of Blondie] told me this one has something,” he said. The man that made glam suggested we do a profile of her together.
Fledgling scenesters Peaches Geldof and Cory Kennedy showed up early to see her.T here were cute teen girls infatuated with her bisexual vibe. A tall, bobbed brunette with a black motorcycle jacket pleaded with me to get her backstage to “see Lissy.”
Weeks later, a slick lesboerotic “look book” was published featuring Trullie eyeing Kennedy and Viera-Newton as they frolicked around a swimming pool. Like James Dean, the older, cooler kid glancing at Sal Mineo knowingly in Rebel Without a Cause.
The architects behind Lissy Trullie have done a smooth retro take on hookladen pop. Her archetypal signifiers—the motorcycle jacket, white T-shirt and vintage Stratocaster—had made me an unwitting tool of the fashion-rock hype machine.
To realize how concocted Lissy Trullie is, watch a clip from a Fibs show at Cake Shop last year. They strummed amplified acoustic covers, including a spirited rendition of
Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” Trullie looks like she’s having a lot of fun up
there. New York’s rock music world is so deracinated right now that A&R cretins have
slunk into the cracks and recesses of every micro-scene.
Before I met Lissy, her publicist had remarked on her tuneful pop, saying, “It really doesn’t sound contrived.” It struck me as a curious comment and the way he enunciated the statement gave it the slight tinge of a question. I started to press him on the bands artistic development. “I’m going to have to stop there… I’m not familiar with anything else.”
Back at Le Royale,Trullie doesn’t know what to do with a lit butt, so I take it from her fingers and put it out in a half empty glass. “Rock ‘n’ roll.” Her aloof exterior cracks and she giggles. “I went to boarding school. That’s the whole reason I wanted a different persona.”
The topic changes to her day-to-day routine. “I made a bit of money modeling and bought a house,” she tells me. But despite her huge pad, she’s sick of always being broke. “That’s all I have. I’m eating beans out of cans,” she says. “I don’t like to romanticize it: ‘Oh, I’m an artist that sleeps on a cot.’That shit’s retarded. I would fucking kill myself if I had to bartend or waitress.”
“I’ve been living the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle since I was a kid,” she says, letting out a sigh. “I have my own demons that I battled and I still battle.” I ask why she bothers to battle drugs if she enjoys them. She channels the spirit of Jim and Janis and lets it slide through her smoky voice.
“Because it ruins you, you keep living and living until you die.” The next show I catch isn’t mentioned on Brooklyn Vegan or even the band’s website and I’m not told about it by Lissy’s flak. It’s a fashion party at the glitzy Bowery Hotel. On stage, Trullie is literally branded—the Barney’s logo projected behind her. She looks skinnier than before and her voice is breaking. Half the crowd is in the other room. A dude with blownout hair and Ray-Bans is sleeping on a couch nearby.
After the three-song set I catch up with Trullie and her middle-aged drummer. She hangs her head and gives me a look like she’s been caught stealing. I ask them how much coin the band rakes in to undergo that torture. “We don’t talk about money,” the drummer says. “So how did you two start playing together?” I ask.The singer does her best James Dean and sucks on some straight vodka. “I’m a longtime fan of Lissy’s innate…” Josh doesn’t get to finish. “Craigslist,” Lissy interjects, seemingly embarrassed by the charade.
I was on to the project—the “persona” to use her own word. Being an exercise in corporate acumen, her retrofitted decadence was lending a patina of authenticity to the fashion rock circuit. Wow, I was pretty stupid to write about her like a fan, I think, watching her embarrassment give way to an ambivalent shrug.
Lissy’s publicist rushes over and breaks in with a newsflash, “OK, that’s the last question, she has to talk with some labels.”
I look around. The VIP section is empty save the two managers and Viera-Newton packing up her bass. It is a ludicrous, desperate claim that he couldn’t back up.