Stepping out from behind her band name—Liz Cooper & The Stampede—psych rocker Liz Cooper delivers her second album, Hot Sass under her own name and “without all the extra bullshit.” The Baltimore native, who recently fled Nashville for Brooklyn felt her new music needed to reflect the shift in her personal life and her self-actualization experienced in the time since her 2018 debut, Window Flowers. Released September 3 via Thirty Tigers, Hot Sass is the product of processing and a timestamp of a pivotal moment in her not-so-private life.
“Taking away the band moniker is just one less thing to hide behind, one more thing to own up to,” Cooper tells American Songwriter over the phone. “I’m the type of person who comfortably hides behind anything I possibly can in real life. So I feel like this is a really good thing for me to throw myself into the fire and own up to all things. It makes me uncomfortable. But the only way to grow is to be uncomfortable, which sucks, but it works.”
Over 12-tracks, Cooper captures the fleeting moments from her late 20s with equal parts humor and critique. Produced by Benny Yurco (Michael Nau, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals), mixed by Dan Molad (Lucius, Emily King), and recorded live at Little Jamaica Recordings in Burlington, Vermont, Hot Sass helps close the door on the nine years spent in Music City, making room for a new chapter in New York.
“I am a transient person, so I feel like every opportunity to move to a new place and throw myself into something is always very attractive to me,” she shares. “I’d been in Nashville for a long time, and needed a change for a lot of reasons.”
Much of the project was penned by herself in the van between 2019 tour dates. By November, she was focused on shaping these songs for a show. They went into the studio at the turn of the New Year—around the same time she moved to Brooklyn. The project was complete just in time for “shit to hit the fan” in March of 2020.
Cooper’s momentum came to a screeching halt as she settled into her new, more urban domicile in a seemingly dystopian setting. But even with all the extra time on her hands, the artist was not tempted to touch the final product. She says, “I felt very satisfied with what we had done, which is like the first time that ever happened in my entire life.”
After sitting on the project for nearly a year-and-a-half, the songs still feel very fresh to Cooper. “I’m still sifting through what everything means from this record, which is a very natural thing for artists to do. And I know things change. I’ll have written a song at one point and not know what it means or where it came from and then years later be like ‘Oh, that’s what that means.’ Some I relate to more, and some I now relate to less. But it’s just a constant progression and morphing of certain things.”
Her latest single, “Feeling Good,” is one of those she feels more connected to within the current context. It’s the first song she wrote for the album, and deeply rooted in the music’s overall mood. Her poignancy lyrics work in tandem with celestial instrumentation to inventory her sense of sadness that seems impossible to shake. Now years past the person she was when she wrote the song, Cooper feels the “uneasiness” of the track is increasingly appropriate for the times.
“I feel a lot more balanced in a lot of ways, personally, since I wrote it” she contemplates over the song. “But, I feel like everything in the world is crashing and burning—it’s so hard to stay positive. Everyone is trying to figure out how to live and be a better person and do the best they can during this time. We’re trying to figure out how to move forward, which I feel like last year was extremely hard to do. But I think with time it gets easier. But everything is so frustrating. So listening to this now, I guess I’m definitely still here.”
Album opener, “Slice of Life” sets the tone with a tangible snapshot of a day in the eccentric, unwieldy life of Liz Cooper. “Heart-Shaped Candy” is a pride point of the project. The unguarded approach here underpins the authenticity that defines this album. Cooper says, “This is a very true song for me, and I decided I would write this and say what I want to say. And that’s what this record really is.”
The title track, “Hot Sass” is both a sonic and lyrical centerpiece of the alarmingly inward-looking album. Over the course of this rollicking rock anthem, Cooper rips down the curtain in an instrumental fury. Bridging the gap between herself and her artistic presence reveals the parts of her psyche she worked so hard to hide—her wild side.
“This song is about me breaking down in the Kroger parking lot, which is actually where I am right now — taking my calls parked in another Kroger parking lot,” says Cooper, laughing at the irony. “This one just fell out of me, it was a joke about finding acid and candy in my orange furry purse. The lyrics are ridiculous, but the meaning and the attitude behind it are very real.”
The song captures the spirit of Cooper’s walls coming down, allowing the title to thread through the rest of the rambling project to create some kind of cohesion. The artist didn’t pen songs with this particular project in mind. Instead, she captured the continuum of influence from her day-to-day life with enviable candidness.
“Just the name of this album—Hot Sass—and all of these songs are really just me owning up to my shit,” says Cooper. “This is me figuring myself out and realizing I am a confident, independent woman. Like, ‘hell yeah.'”