Photos by Andrew Lee of Art Dynamics
If you’ve never heard of Liyana Fizi then you’ve probably also never heard of indie-folk-pop band Estrella. You’ve probably also never heard of the addictive song “Stay” either. Heck, I bet you don’t listen to radio much. Because if you have heard of Liyana Fizi, then you’ll know that she is an incredibly talented KL-born singer/songwriter who first debuted in 2006 through her ex-band Estrella.
I had a chance to catch up with Liyana and her band during the recent VW TSI & DSG Media Drive dinner celebration at Tanjong Jara.
Estrella’s self-titled album was released in December ’07, and within a year, the band was rewarded with 8 nominations for the Voize Independent Music Award (VIMA) – including Best Pop Song, Best Pop Group, Best Pop Vocalist and Best Female Vocalist (Overall), just to name a few. Estrella’s first single, “Stay” was a commercial hit, staying at #1 position on FlyFM’s CampurChart for 3 weeks and Hitz.fm Met 10 for 5 weeks.
One word that could probably sum up Liyana’s direction of her music is simplicity. “I like just the voice and acoustic guitar, not a full band,” cited the bubbly lass. The rawness and honesty of acoustics, coupled with Liyana’s soothing, distinctive vocals clearly defines the band’s signature sound.
The name Estrella means ‘starbeam’ in Spanish and in typically Malaysian fashion, is completely mispronounced. Co-founded with lead guitarist Yob, Estrella signed with label Laguna Music in 2008 after many open-mic gigs. One album, some music compilations and many local/international appearances later, Liyana decided to move on independently upon contract expiry with the record label last September, dropping the Estrella name.
Liyana is currently working on a much-awaited new album, with over 10 tracks. Her latest single, which she calls an “emo track” is called “Light Writing”. Check out the music video on YouTube here. The song has enjoyed instant success, staying at #1 spot on FlyFM’s CampurChart for two weeks. The single was specially written and composed by Izaad for Liyana, with Liyana penning the lyrics. Other notable tracks include “Jatuh”, “Kaku” and “Last Notice”, a song about cancer. The new album is more matured in terms of lyrics, arrangement and composition, a distinct departure from Estrella’s debut, which Liyana calls fun and cheesy. So cheesy in fact that she was surprised at the commercial success of “Stay”, the song that shot the band to stardom.
I digress though, I think it’s a sweet and addictive song. Commercial, yes, but cheesy?. Definitely no
Picking up the guitar at 14 years of age, Liyana never had an ambition to be a famous singer. It was always just an outlet for creative expression. “I wouldn’t have as much fun if it was a job or career,” said Liyana. Coming from a musically-inclined family, she has diverse influences (and I do mean diverse!) ranging from the late P. Ramlee, Beatles, Gypsy Kings to Toni Braxton and Sade. She mentioned Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience as a major influence, whom she had an opportunity to meet recently.
“I can’t believe it. I listen to you everyday and here you are ‘lepak mamak’ with me and eating maggi goreng!” adds Liyana, laughing, obviously awe-stricken meeting her idols.
Her love for performing is glaring. Aside from performing at the VW Polo Rocks! road show recently, Liyana was in Melbourne for Muzika Musim Luruh which also featured other talented Malaysian artistes like Hujan and Bo. In September last year, Liyana was in Sydney with her good friend and fellow singer/songwriter Reza Salleh and alternative band One Buck Short, for a gig organised by Tourism Malaysia. And just this year for Malaysia Day, she performed at the Malaysian pavilion, Shanghai World Expo. Top stuff.
She left a short note for her fans, “I love my fans. I appreciate them, especially those who are far away. I thank them for their strong support. I know they are patiently waiting for the new album.” Being a fan myself, I wish Liyana and the band all the success they deserve. While impatiently waiting for her new album I’m putting the ‘cheesy’ track “Stay” on repeat play on iTunes.
- Izaad Amir (or ‘Mat’) – composer, lead guitar , backing vocals
- Pito – bass and percussion
- Ruvi – drums
Catch my full article in the January 2011 issue of Cars.MY magazine, published by MPH.