Before shows were being canceled left and right in the name of public safety, I saw Gesserit at Zebulon in Los Angeles. My husband and I had gone to go check out New York gritty post-punk group Gustaf, and Gesserit was the openers. I fell hard for the stormy daydream meets bluesy funk sound. They had an earnest yet soulful energy to their performance that is refreshing in today’s performers.
Below is my interview with the lead singer and creative siren behind Gesserit – Elizabeth.
Name: Elizabeth Wakefield
Favorite Color: I suppose it depends on the context of the color. It changes for me. I really love a celadon green wall or the purple, blue, yellow and electric red hues of a sunset on the beach.
Zodiac Sign ( If you know your moon and rising sign please indulge us ): Virgo sun, Scorpio rising, Capricorn moon
Childhood Hero: It is also difficult to choose just one hero. I really admired Cher and Elvis as a kid. When I first heard them sing I knew what it was that I wanted out of life: Music.
Home Base: Amarillo, Texas
When was Gesserit born into this world? What is the origin story?
The project officially began under that moniker in 2016. I was living in Brownsville, Brooklyn at the time with my friend Adrienne. The living situation was pretty rough. I was heavily into reading Dune and I was inspired by the Bene Gesserit. Reading helped me transcend the harsh reality surrounding me. The original idea behind the project was to create simple ambient soundscapes to reflect that transcendence. Years later in 2018 a full band was formed. I introduced the songs I had been writing over the years to my bandmates and together we created this current iteration.
Loved the set and seeing the incorporation of a saxophone player, how did you guys connect?
I do door at a venue in Brooklyn and one night this experimental noise jazz band called Wave Table began to play and I was totally in awe. They were running the sound through an analog synth and someone was manipulating the music Brian Eno style. There was a crazed man screaming improvised poetry and a woman playing Baritone Sax. I emailed them shortly after that night asking to play a show together. They didn’t see the email for almost a year, but it was Sarah who responded. We ended up connecting and playing a show together and I had an opening in my project, so I asked her to join. She’s become one of my best friends and a super important component and collaborator in the project!
When I heard you at Zebulon, I heard The The influences and a dash of Fiona Apple. I felt like the music could easily be place on the soundtrack of Empire Records or Foxfire – that is all my interpretation. Who are your musical influences and/ or creative influences?
Oh wow, those are interesting comparisons. I really love The The and Fiona. My musical influences are pretty vast. I take inspiration from many corners of music, not really specific genres or artists. As a child, I was obsessed with country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Lately, I’ve been listening to a ton of Beastie Boys, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, and Leonard Cohen. I’d like to try to deliberately combine these influences for the next record, haha. I imagine that would sound interesting.
I hate 5-year plans. What is your 5-day plan?
My 5-day plan is to enjoy the remainder of my time in Los Angeles before I head back to New York City. I want to take long walks, sunbathe, and see the sunset on the beach one last time.
How do you take your coffee (or tea)?
I like my coffee strong and black. I like my tea soothing and sweet.
Do you have any creative rituals that help you tap into flow?
When I am in New York I spend a lot of my time sitting at my piano bench, playing and writing until I feel satisfied with an idea. In L.A. I’ve been spending a lot of my time sitting in the sun at the park reading books, also with pen and paper at hand, ready to catch ideas as they come.
What are your three favorite spots in NY ( eat, shop, hang out) ?
There is a little cinema called Syndicated directly next door to my apartment in Brooklyn. I haunt that place multiple times a week! Central Park is obviously wonderful. So much of it I have yet to explore. I also really enjoy staying home, honestly. That is probably my favorite place to be above all.
If you have LA favorite spots, would love to know those too…
Going to the beach in Santa Monica is hands down my favorite place to watch the sunset. 1642 in Echo Park is a super cozy bar to catch a vibe and great live bands. My favorite venue we played and visited was Zebulon! Definitely broken in my dancing shoes on that floor.
How much of the set at Zebulon is not recorded and available to stream? When can one expect a release of music?
We played one new song that is not yet recorded, but the other material is from a record we recently finished. I am looking to release the LP this year! Super excited to share it with the world. We currently have one single from the record online called Silence. We are planning to release another single and video very soon!
My husband is a musician and I’m a writer. If we have kids, we’re bound to have a creative child or a rebellious athlete. As a person who is exploring their creative voice, do you have a piece of advice for us that we can keep in mind for our future hypothetical child?
I’m no authority on this! But I would say leaving tons of room for growth and creative freedom is so powerful. There are no rules. Using encouraging language and exposure to culture is so important.