The first time Liza Colby and Kia Warren recorded music together, they looked at each other and collapsed into a shared giggle fit in the studio. Since then, they’ve done the same during live performances; it’s one of many habits of theirs that make their relationship akin to iconic sitcom friendships like Ethel and Lucy, Laverne and Shirley, Pam and Gina.
When they met, Colby and Warren were both front-women of rock bands, Liza Colby Sound and Revel in Dimes. Now, they have their own band, SUSU, which released its debut single, “Let’s Get High,” on 4/20 this year.
The song is both an ode to the members’ friendship and a poetic depiction of psychedelic trips they’ve taken together. “We were crossing our frequencies / a place that we could escape to / and no one else could find,” Colby sings, to which Warren replies: “I could see you looking at me / but I was looking at me through your eyes / all the boxes were turning to circles / couldn’t tell what was yours from what’s mine.”
In the video, colorful images of each woman’s face singing alternate with trippy imagery of lakes, trees, and jellyfish. With the members separated due to the coronavirus, the concept behind it was basically, “Can we please make a video out of nothing? Can we make this happen when we’re on opposite sides of the country?” Colby laughs. The final product is meant to emulate the lava-lamp-like screensavers on laptops — the perfect visual to stare at and meditate to while tripping.
While most of their songs were written sober, Colby and Warren have used weed and psychedelics to get closer to each other and gain inspiration for their music. They remember one acid trip in particular that was formative for their band and their relationship. When they decided to leave the house that day, Warren suddenly became very concerned about what they were wearing. “In my mind, I saw how I wanted to look — it’s one of those Grey Gardens things where you see a lady in a fur coat,” she says. She remembers thinking, “I don’t know if I can go outside if I don’t have a cashmere beanie or something.”
They dug through the closet and dressed themselves the way Warren was envisioning, then wandered back home. Then, Colby’s husband came home, and as they went to bed in separate rooms, the women kept yelling at each other through the wall. “We stumbled across some good gems and discovered ourselves,” Warren remembers. “What I take away [from these experiences] is certainly how I want to express something or a really funny way of encountering something, or if a character came out, like a Grey Gardens character.”
Part of the duo’s connection comes from both being women of color fronting rock bands, which allows them to support each other through the challenges they face. “There are certain kinds of expectations of what a person making rock and roll is,” says Warren. “A lot of the time, when we’d be pitched for something, they’d be like, ‘not bold enough, not black enough,’ and we’d be like, wait a minute, we’re just doing rock and roll — it shouldn’t be contingent upon what the person looks like. When Liza performs, there’s no shying away. She’s always an inspiration, like ‘stick to what you’re doing and don’t feel like you have to fit someone’s expectations.'”
“We are rock and roll just by being us,” says Colby. “Being rock and roll is doing the things that aren’t in the box, that aren’t necessarily what you think they are. And that is what we’re pushing each other every day to do.”
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