Graduate studies

The learning curve of Lissy Trullie
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  December 16, 2009

SPEAK UP! Perhaps the most unusual thing Trullie has acquired (after years of letting her music do all the talking) is the sound of her own voice.

I'm not a big fan of the "you are what you eat" theory of musical influence. I've experienced enough defective Radiohead knockoffs in my day to know that a group's favorite bands often have nil to do with how their music will sound. I also think that our systems of influence are a bit more porous and a bit less under our control than any eating metaphor might suggest.

This is an unromantic way of putting it, but artists are like planks of wood, gaining character through little more than exposure.

So if Lissy Trullie, who comes to T.T. the Bear's this Tuesday, is being increasingly fêted in the press as the go-to frontstress of a burgeoning new pocket of retro Patti & Andy downtown cool, that tells us more about how writers cut eagerness with laziness than it does about her own tastes. Understanding where Trullie is coming from is as easy as finding out where she came from.

From her place in the East Village, Trullie tells me about how she split time as a teen between studying art as a boarder at Natick's Walnut Hill School and exploring DC's vibrant DIY scene. She was constantly blushing and meeting minor indie-rock royalty in the form of local bands like the Make-Up, Slant 6, and Fugazi. "I was really young and dorky, so I never really bro'd down."

She continues, "I was pretty spoiled in DC with the scene and the galleries and the museums, but moving here [to NYC] took it all to a new level. Kids who grew up here don't understand that the rest of the world is just not like this. But for a kid to move here at a young age, it's either terrifying or a massive education."

For Trullie, then 16, it was a bit of both. She had no ID and no effective means of hiding her braces. So many of her early discoveries were made in the abandoned spaces of then-sketchy Williamsburg, or watching noise artists at places like Alleged Gallery. She was also starting art school.

"So then I ended up making my own bad music in art galleries," she laughs. "But you have to go through that when you move here. You have to embarrass yourself first. You learn and grow."

Trullie's debut EP, Self-Taught Learner (Downtown), plays like a guided tour of this learning curve. From her time in DC, she took that subtractive sensibility that leaves such ample space in the songs (check the skimpy portions of gritty guitar in the title track). From her time in NYC, she picked up a scruffy songwriting style that leverages swagger with sweetness (and that, granted, owes a bit to her own neighborhood circa 1981). But perhaps the most unusual thing she's acquired, after years of letting the music do all the talking, is the sound of her own voice.

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