“I just got back from my million-hour drive home from Burning Man. Have you ever been?”
For someone fresh off the playa and the accompanying hours on the interstate, Liptruce frontwoman Sarah Angela, known by her nickname S.A., is preternaturally chipper. This year marked her third burn, and she gamely toes the burner line about the power of the intentional community and the impressive art installations. I wouldn’t know, I tell her, seeing as I’ve never been, which means my limited knowledge of Black Rock City is sourced almost entirely from cynical memes on Twitter. She tells me about a few sculptures, the spectacular art cars, and describes the music as “99 percent electronic." And, naturally, that she’s “going to sleep for hours and hours when we hang up.”
But before we hang up, she dials in Liptruce percussionist Luke Mehrens and guitarist Kim O’Hara, and the conversation shifts from the Nevada desert to the trio’s previous project, a self-described “melodically sexy alternative rock band” called Sir! (and, at times when having such a common word for a band name proved frustrating, The Sir Band).
“Sir was our baby. We really loved The Sir Band. We loved everything we did with it,” says S.A
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As Sir, the trio released a debut album titled So Cold in December 2017, including songs partially inspired by the death of Mehren’s fiancée from cancer. Recorded between studios in Los Angeles and Denver, So Cold is a snappy pop record delivered with no shortage of feeling. Album opener “See You” contains all the blindingly openhearted sparkle of a Carly Rae Jepsen track, “Monster” goes for high grand-piano drama, and the title track plunges into moodier, down-tempo alt-rock reminiscent of Bishop Briggs.
But as Sir's members grew as songwriters, so did their collective vision. As such, the idea of moving away from Sir and embracing a new incarnation grew increasingly appealing, and was eventually exactly what they did. Sir is over. Long live Liptruce — a name chosen for reasons sentimental (symbolic of a fresh start) and practical (improved Googleability). They decided to keep So Cold available to stream, but returned to the studio with a new vision.
“I don’t think we ever wanted Sir to be a certain thing or [Liptruce] to be different. It was just natural. It was a natural growth over the last couple years. We grew together, started to trend a different way. We thought a fresh start, new name and everything seemed to make more sense,” says Mehrens.
Now its members are all in. “I’ve been going as far as taking some pop dance lessons. I’m learning to change my look completely as a lead singer,” says S.A. “We’re trying to go all the way, so we’re trying to up our game.”
Liptruce’s proper introduction comes in the form of a pair of singles set for a September 20 release. The first, “You Think You’re Hollywood,” is thick, bass-heavy electro-pop delivered with a mid-’90s, grunge-y edge reminiscent of Republica and Garbage. The second, “Night Things,” is the opposite: a simmering R&B cut with the hazy, complicated sex appeal closer to The xx and Lykke Li. During the bridge, Liptruce takes a cue from Drake and adds a voicemail recording in which S.A. expresses the intensity of her feeling: “You know I don’t really write love songs, but I wrote something about you.”
“We’re from the ’90s,” O’Hara says with a laugh about the voicemail.
“We’re all ’90s kids. That hit home for us,” S.A. agrees. “I was like, ‘Instead of a full-on bridge, what if I just talk for a minute and say what it is I felt when we were writing the lyrics to the song?’ It’s pretty much an exact replica of a voice message I may or may not have left at some point.”
For Liptruce, this is where the real work begins. S.A. isn’t ashamed of the scope of her ambition for the band; she fully intends Liptruce to get “as big as you can get.” More concretely, Mehrens mentions playing with the Roots on The Tonight Show as a bucket-list item.
“I’ve literally seen that vision,” says S.A. “Not to go down cheese lane, but I have seen a vision in my mind of us playing with the Roots as our backup band. That is all the way for me.”
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She’s also convinced that the pop world is increasingly ready to accommodate women like her and O’Hara, aka working women musicians who are up front but aren’t in their twenties. Despite the music industry’s decades-long history of skewing younger (and icing out women who dare to age), S.A. and O'Hara are not necessarily wrong. After all, Cher is having yet another moment. As is Dolly Parton. A lengthy New York Times Magazine profile titled "Madonna at Sixty" prompted a multitude of reactions (including Madonna's ire) in June.
“I don’t think there’s an age cap anymore like there used to be for women. I think that there’s a lot more women in their thirties and forties who are blowing up. I feel confident that we still have time,” S.A. says.
“It’s still my heart and my dream until I’m done pursuing it, whatever that means,” says O’Hara. “The stigma about age and music — it’s like thinking you need a record label to blow up on Spotify. You don’t need a label. You need good music, and we got it. That’s my two cents.”