Lysa Flores

Recognized for her full, lovely voice Lysa talks about her music, career

By Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: December 9, 1999

 Lysa Flores

It began with a guitar "borrowed" from her brother, one strummed chord and journals filled with her written thoughts, memories and emotions, accumulated daily since elementary school.

Slowly and methodically, the career of Lysa Flores ? a pioneer in the Chicano/a alternative music scene, an up-and-coming actress starring in independent films and Spanish language TV and on the theatrical stage, and musical director and soundtrack producer for movies ? is growing to full bloom. And with a planned January 2000 release of a second CD, entitled "Trophy Girl," she stands on the brink of wider acceptance and admiration and break out success.

Flores, 25 and a native and resident of East Los Angeles, has an easy-going, soft-spoken manner. She answers question directly, amusedly as a swirl of chaotic activity takes place around her at LatinoLA World HQ.

"I've been writing since elementary school. My parents were very strict, so when I'd get home from school, I didn't have a lot of choices," she remembers. "At 15, I ran a store, selling Doc Martins and music, so I was really interested in the music scene."

About that time, her brother was taking guitar lessons, so while he was learning typical garage standards like Stairway To Heaven, she took the guitar away from him and taught herself to play. "That's when I decided that {music] was what I really wanted to do," she says.

Flores joined a band that same year as a backup vocalist, singing other people's songs. It wasn't until a few years later that she began performing her own compositions. "Playing a guitar, singing for me, it was always just an outlet, an expression that I never intended to share with anyone," she says.

Thankfully, she changed her mind, and took to the stage like a natural, singing her own compositions as both a soloist and the leader of her four-piece band. She enjoyed a brief stint singing, dancing and playing guitar as an "Elvette" for El Vez, the Mexican Elvis in the summer of 1996, touring throughout Europe and the United States.

Recognized for her full, lovely voice that is offset by an aggressive guitar-playing style, her songs revolve around the deeply personal ? her experiences and emotions, good and bad, angry and hopeful. "It is really challenging," she admits. "One of the hardest things [for me] is whether or not people were going to accept what I was saying. But I decided, I am sharing this anyway."

In her early career, some of her songs revolved around the not-so-pleasant aspects of personal relationships. With such honesty subject to interpretation, listeners came away with mixed messages. "A lot of women would appreciate what I was saying, but men would say 'why do you hate guys?' especially when I was younger, when I had a more aggressive attitude," she says, smiling as she recalls those turbulent times. "But it was my person, my experiences that I was sharing. Back then, it was: 'if you like it, great, if you don't, fuck you!'"

It took her a while, but soon she reached a point where an understanding took hold.

"People have a choice to appreciate what I'm doing, or not. It's not a reflection of who they are," she admits. "It was [when I decided] to name my record label "Bring Your Love" that I began the transition that had to be made. That is what I'm doing, bringing my love and my person and my experiences to share with everybody else. It doesn't mean that they have to accept it or even understand the love. It's just sharing, and that way I feel better about what I'm doing."

The first, and so far only, release on the Bring Your Love label is her 1998 CD "Tree of Hope." It is a striking debut, bold, lyrical and metaphorical.

She speaks of the title cut, named after a painting by Frida Kahlo, with a whispered emotion: "[The song] explores Frida, her frustration and expression as an artist and in this relationship with Diego Rivera, also an artist, putting herself through all this weird stuff," she says. "I was trying to tell her story lyrically, while also letting in things I've experienced, like innocence lost and the two sides of Latina women ? one a destroyed, enraged and oppressed being, the other very positive, looking forward at the future."

Another one of her songs from the CD, "The Furthest Room," is the title of a musical play, co-written by Paul Salcido, that enjoyed a lengthy run in a small Hollywood theatre earlier this year and is currently being developed as a movie. "The dialogue is taken from my first album, inspired by my songs," she says. The character she plays is that of a singer/songwriter, not too big of a stretch. Other roles that she has taken on, however, have required acting skills, including a role as the long-suffering daughter of a pimp and emotionally unbalanced housewife in "Star Maps" and young Latino trying to break free of her mother's strong hold in the TV series "Reyes y Rey."

She also served as musical director for "Star Maps," compiling an eclectic roundup of songs, including Mexican regional and rock en espa?ol, along with one of her own compositions "Beg, Borrow and Steal." She is currently compiling songs for another feature, "Around the Block," directed by George Fernandez and another entitled "Never Trust a Serial Killer."

It is in her own musical career where her attention now lies. Putting the finishing touches on "Trophy Girl," including collaborating on the cover art with local artist Alma Lopez, her new music will still be rooted to the community where she lives and the culture she shares, but just as surely it will include the influences of other artists she admires, including Beth Orton and Jeff Buckley.

Even here, her more relaxed attitude is taking hold.

"Where in the first album I concentrated so much on having a whole developed product ? making sure the chords were intricate, that the lyrics were making a statement ? with this one I'm allowing each person in the band to contribute. It's opening up the songwriting so much more. It's really a wonderful, liberating thing," she exclaims.

Another change in tactic will be her reliance on exposing her music through the Internet (smiles all around here at LatinoLA!).

"We're trying to get as much exposure on the web rather than doing radio promotion," she says. "When I first started my record label, one of the first things I encountered was how difficult it is to promote it without the majors behind you," she admits, dismayingly. "It's about putting money in a CD sampler, going to their events, creating a market before anyone has even heard the music!"

Currently, she has a website at http://www.lysaflores.com, currently online while undergoing a redesign. "In January, when the CD is released, we're going to do it through the website. We have been learning as much about it as we can, including doing the press and promotion and the distribution."

And now, it's time for her to leave, but not before she hands over a media kit which contains a copy of her CD (which quickly disappeared from the office ? bring it back, Victor!)

After a quick, painless (or so she says) photo session, it's over. She strides down the hall and enters the elevator that will take her back to the streets of LatinoLA and a world that awaits her musings, her music and her generous love and spirit.

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