Interview: Lily Konigsberg

by Vanessa Valentine

The eclectic Brooklyn-based artist on growing up in NYC, her time in freewheeling art-rock trio, Palberta, and her fanciful new album, Lily We Need To Talk Now  

Konigsberg has been writing songs for as long as she ‘could think cohesive thoughts.’ She started performing in the city as a teenager, immersing herself in the underground live music scene, of which she is now a staple. DIY experiences of music curation in her youth meant that a career in the arts was never a debate. She explains, ‘I never really felt like I had a choice. I was fortunate enough to be in a place where I could explore my hobbies and they could become real, instead of just having to work to survive.’ Acknowledging that not everyone is party to such privilege, she went on, ‘I’m not rich by any means, but I’m grateful for the support I was given.’ 

As a young adult, Konigsberg studied the electronic music course at Bard where she met the rest of the idiosyncratic, Palberta. Speaking of bandmates, Ani Ivry-Block and Nina Ryser, she gushed, ‘Meeting them was a huge part of Bard for me and we’ve now been together for eight years! Even as we’re taking a step back, I’m so thankful to them for all their support.’ As a trio, they spent years working together, crafting an utterly unique chemistry and a foray of experimental punk. ‘I learned a lot of confidence tactics and how to perform with Palberta, and how to genuinely support other women in music. I owe a lot to them as my friends. And as musicians, for just putting me out there.’

Lily We Need To Talk Now finds her working with many of her longtime collaborators, including Ryser of Palberta. Others include: Andrea Schavelli, who she released the 2017 split Good Time Now with; Matt Norman, the other half of avant-pop duo, Lily and Horn Horse; Paco Cathcart of The Cradle, who produced her 2020 EP, It’s Just Like All The Clouds. But it’s her collaboration with friend, Nate Amos, that makes the most notable addition. Konigsberg shared, ‘Nate played on the album and ended up producing the whole thing. He made it what I wanted it to be, which was a really good quality debut album – full of pretty much bangers!’

The project is a record Konigsberg has been slowly chipping away at since 2016, revising various songs over the years. By her estimation there have been twelve different versions of Lily We Need To Talk Now. ‘I started writing it seriously in February 2021. There’s things I took from the past, but the bulk of the final album was done during the pandemic. It was a really isolating time for everyone.’ Candidly discussing heartbreak, Konigsberg revealed, ‘Ultimately it’s an album that is a result of devastating break up. I didn’t know that when I was writing it, but it showcases everything: the anger, the intense sadness, the reflection. The record says it all because that’s what I was going through.’

Beauty is a stunning piano instrumental and a faultless introduction to the record. ‘It’s a melody I wrote in 2016. It is so sad to me – I can hardly ever play it or listen to it. I can’t listen to Beauty or Goodbye’. Goodbye is the penultimate song on the record and its orchestral tones make it a powerful listen. Konigsberg continues, ‘Both songs are full of such melancholy for me. I wrote them and I know they’re good, but it hurts. Now I know that this album is about loss, Beauty seemed like the perfect start. Really brief, but intensely sad.’

In contrast, Sweat Forever is a unique bop. Konigsberg divulges, ‘It’s my most Britney Spears meets an alien combination. Sweat Forever is just about being manic. It doesn’t actually make sense. In the song, I say that I’m a Gemini, but I’m not, I’m a Capricorn. Some of it is from true experience, but a lot of it is just things I made up when I was feeling insane and I had all the energy in the world. That state of mind is kind of confusing.’

Following an anthology of EPs and unreleased tracks, the eleven-track collection is the first complete look inside Konigsberg’s adept mind. She struggles to pinpoint a genre for the record when asked, ‘It’s a few different genres. There’s a pop punk song, there’s some disco, there’s some electronic. Overall, I’d say it’s power-pop with some delicacy.’ Aside from an alien Britney Spears, it’s unlikely you’ll hear any musical influences on Lily We Need To Talk Now. Konigsberg reveals, ‘I barely listen to music. If I’m feeling excited, I’ll listen to Avril Lavigne’s second album. If I’m sad, I tend not to listen to music at all because it makes me feel too much.’ Out of the blue, Konigsberg mumbles, ‘I do really like the way Justin Bieber sings melodies though!’

Alone is the standout track of Lily We Need To Talk Now. The toe-tapping drums and catchy melody make it impossible not to groove along to the beat. Konigsberg wrote the song a few years ago, but it’s another one that was revamped by Amos. ‘It’s about envying people that can really be alone. I have a really hard time with it. The song explores what it’s like seeing that in other people.’ When asked what her favourite song on the album is, Kongisberg replied, ‘One of them is Don’t Be Lazy With Me; it’s so heartbreaking. So raw that I can’t listen to it, but I feel like it’s catchy in a very strange way.’ Lyrically, she says, ‘Hark, I’m really proud of that one. Again, it’s sneakily catchy, I feel like it will grow on people.’

Lily We Need To Talk Now is a record about processing the aftermath of a breakup, but Konigsberg would argue that it’s more universal than that. She says it’s about ‘overcoming heartbreak in all those different phases. It’s the stages of grief.’ Part of that is embracing the exciting things that come next. The album ends fittingly with True, a cathartic and high-energy rocker that reflects ‘The feeling that you can’t live without someone – but you can. It’s like death. You can’t imagine someone in your life not being there, and then they’re not there. And sometimes you’re happy and laughing, and sometimes you’re mourning. But life does go on.’

Lily We Need To Talk Now is out on Wharf Cat records on 29th October.

If you’d like to support us by subscribing to our zine, click here – it’s just £6 a year for four copies (inc p&p).


Want to keep up to date with all our latest pieces? Follow us on social media…