Growing up as Hollywood royalty, Los Angeles musician Sasha Spielberg has always been able to indulge her creative streak, from playing bit parts in her dad’s movies to forming bands, like Wardell with brother Theo and Just Friends with fellow Brown University alum and longtime collaborator Nicolas Jaar. But since she’s stepped into her solo persona as Buzzy Lee, Spielberg has come to embody her truest form – beyond the caricatures and cameos in blockbusters – speaking the raw language of lost love and discovery of self. Her much-delayed debut LP Spoiled Love arrived last Friday via Future Classic, like a ray of warm sunshine or a timid coastal zephyr as the East Coast braced for a foot of snow.
At its heart, Spoiled Love is an authentic chronicle of past relationships. It opens up with three articulate, melodic vocal ballads. Tracks like “Strange Town” have Southern influences. And as the album progresses, “Circles” and “High On You” are more synth-heavy, not unlike Buzzy Lee’s 2018 EP, Facepaint, which Jaar also had a hand in producing. With all the different elements in the album, it comes together surprisingly well. Started in a café in Paris, then assembled throughout three seasons with Jaar (whom Spielberg affectionately refers to as Nico), Spoiled Love delivers all of the above.
First came the lyrics, entirely written in the City of Light. “I was on this European tour. I was also dating a French guy, which is very Emily In Paris. I was a complete parody of myself sitting in a café writing lyrics, holding a baguette,” Spielberg jokes. A couple days later, she headed home to Los Angeles to play the songs for Jaar. “The whole album started with just piano and vocals. The first one we started with in the studio was ‘Circles.’ We created a beat and I was playing keys, and then I came up with a melody in the room,” Spielberg recalls. “That was how we got started; this is how we always do it. We record a synth-heavy song with drums, and then we get into the deeper stuff.”
After working with Spielberg on Facepaint, Jaar had moved to Europe, leaving her to search for another producer, but eventually she came to terms with the fact that no one else could help bring her songs to life the way he could. “When we get into a room together – I know this is so cheesy – it feels very magical,” Spielberg admits. She leaned on Jaar’s motivating guidance as much as his production ideas, particularly for the album’s title track, which Spielberg says she had been hasty about writing lyrics for.
“He was like, ‘Will you just read me the lyrics without the music?’ I knew that he was going to catch me in my bullshitting procrastination, like classic high-school, Sasha; I really plowed through and did not think about the meaning at all. I just was like, ‘The melody will do the work,’” Spielberg recalls. “Nico’s whole thing is like, ‘No. The melody can’t just do the work. The lyrics have to mean something, or else none of this is going to work.’ He put [‘Spoiled Love’] on a loop and left for a walk. For an hour and a half, I rewrote all the lyrics. After I read them back to him, he goes, ‘That’s it.’ Then we recorded ‘Spoiled Love.’”
Two tracks tie together the middle of the album. While “Mendonoma” is only instrumental, it reprises the nostalgic stomp of “Strange Town” like a ghostly, lingering memory; both bring listeners back to the salty air where Spielberg once knew love, or what seemed to be love, anyway. “‘Strange Town’ is about a Northern California coastal town, a place I would go with my ex. It was a place I could be exactly who he wanted me to be, without the distractions of my daily routine in L.A., which he did not approve of,” Spielberg remembers. “He really loved the person I was in Gualala, because we were walking all day, we weren’t on our phones. We were on the beach, we were in the forest, we were by the river. It was just so haunting there.” Even though it was a turbulent relationship, Spielberg stayed in it for four years, justifying her lack of resolve by revisiting these empyrean moments – a behavior anyone who’s suffered silently in a toxic relationships can relate to.
Leaving one harmful cycle, Spielberg found herself in a new relationship where she felt like she was trying on a different costume. “I entered this relationship with someone who I just felt just did not approve of me. I felt like I was working so hard for his validation,” Spielberg says. “I wanted him to love me the way he loved his other girlfriend. I wanted to be this dark, mysterious person for him. We got into a fight and I went to the keyboard – very, very 16-year-old me – and just started writing.” In a moment of swearing off men forever, the single “What Has A Man Done” was born.
The release of Spoiled Love was pushed due to the pandemic – Spielberg had been hoping she’d be able to tour and humanely connect with her fans – but as time went on, she felt the album could not be delayed much longer. “I’ve had one breakup since, and I’ve fallen in love again. It’s just a different world, though the songs still mean so much to me,” she says. She’s already set to record her next album in the middle of February, and though it’s been a struggle to write new material while anticipating the release of Spoiled Love, she’s been playing around with songs and resurrecting old voice notes.
Spielberg has also been busy with her hilarious Twitch series, Gearhead. Streaming once a week, she interviews musicians on their favorite instruments, gear technology, mics, and more. “I do a lot of different genres. I’m trying everything. I want to do country at some point. I want to just interview everyone,” she says. “It is so fun being the interviewer. My whole character is that I know nothing about gear, but I make it seem like I know everything. And then once I’m challenged, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m someone who’s learning about gear through these interviews.”
She easily rattles off the vintage synths she’d love to add to her own collection: “I really want an OB-6, Oberheim. Dear Wishlist, I want a Prophet. Udo, U-D-O, super sick synthesizer. I want that too.” She plans to continue the series throughout the year, and has exciting guests joining at the end of February. To complete her gifted trifecta, you can also get an original Sasha Spielberg watercolor painting of your pet.
With these multiple avenues for her unbridled creativity, she has found some internal validation. Many lessons were learned from her sequence of heartaches, her songs reading like a diary of deliverance. While writing the album was not a cure-all, these past relationships made her reflect on why she was doing the same dance. The time spent spinning her wheels cannot be taken back, but she doesn’t grieve over it.
There is still one thing she feels robbed of, though – live performances. “I do need that fix. There is something so exciting about going on stage,” she says. “There’s an adrenaline rush, and then if people are into it, it just fills you with so much. I can get lost in a performance – which again sounds so cheesy – but if I can get lost and I’m completely present, there’s no better feeling.”