Lilies on Mars

Lilies On Mars create bewitching lush tracks that they call ‘hypnotic, experimental dream pop.’ They’ve collaborated with Italian music and film legend Franco Battiato, released two albums and have a third on the way. The international three-piece consists of Sardinians Lisa Masia and Marina Cristofalo, and new drummer Gal, who hails from Tel Aviv - all currently based in London. They played SXSW 2012 and have been touring round Europe too. They told us all about swapping kit, baritone guitars and the joys of vintage synths, and showed us round their sound, as well as playing us a special version of their song Passing By.

Sardinia, Italy / Tel Aviv, Israel
Elsewhere Factory Records

Lush dreamy soundscapes

Lilies on Mars’ latest dream pop adventure is the video for new single Oceanic Landscape with Franco Battiato - an edgy singer, composer and filmmaker who has been an Italian national treasure for years. The film features the band’s trademark lush sounds and a good look at their gear - from vintage synths to new Danelectro.

The band admit that it’s hard to categorize their sound. We were thrilled when they performed a lush, dreamy version of their song Passing By just for us. It’s going to be on their next album and we got a great feel for just what goes into their music.

Growing up in Sardinia didn’t offer many opportunities for making music, so Marina and Lisa moved to London a few years ago and renewed their longstanding friendship for a while before deciding to form Lilies On Mars as an experimental project. They wrote some songs together and soon found they had an album’s worth, and some fans as well. They’ve been championed on radio by the likes of Ruth Barnes and Tom Robinson and are now working on their third album - trying out new sounds all the time.

The band played the 2012 SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, doing five gigs in the space of a week, and are going again in 2013. First time round they had to make do without their drummer, Gal, but they rose to the occasion.

The core of the band since the very beginning has always been me and Lisa, so we’ve been in this situation before, we’ve been a duo for a bit as well. Let’s say that Lilies on Mars has been a challenge from the very beginning. We always like to take opportunities, we never say no if we think that an opportunity can help us or make us better musicians. It’s always nice to have a challenge or a deadline, it’s motivating, it feels like you have something else to reach, to gain in your life. We’re not like those kind of bands that perform only if everything is perfect.

We don’t like to see our music in a category, because it’s like a work in progress really, we always like to experiment with different sounds. I think we find it a bit boring to have the same sound in every song. Of course there are some common elements that made our songs sound like Lilies On Mars but we definitely like to experiment with different sounds. It’s very hypnotic, it’s very dreamy, it’s very spacious, it definitely has some psychedelic and dream pop influences, but our influences really vary so much.

We have some bands in common that we really love, and me and Lisa, we’ve been friends for such a long time, so we have very similar tastes, and also some individual things. One of the bands that we have always loved is Blonde Redhead, or Sonic Youth and recently we’ve listened a lot to bands like Beach House and all the dreampop scene - Broadcast, Stereolab.

As well as having musical tastes that complement each other’s, the Lilies are both multi-instrumentalists and like to take turns on each other’s instruments. They also discovered the perfect way of having a bassline without having a bass player.

We’re both guitarists, I don’t like to say that because we like to experiment with other instruments but let’s say that our main instrument is the guitar. There are only three people in the band and when we improvise and play together our first approach is the guitar. We both have these so we thought, OK, maybe if one of us plays the bass, we basically take away from our music on the harmonies, and we didn’t want that. So we thought about another solution, and the only solution we found was to play a baritone guitar so that’s what we did.

The baritone gives us the freedom of playing the guitar and also gives us bass lines. It covers all of those frequencies of the bass. We definitely needed that in our music, but a baritone can get a little more aggressive sometimes compared to the bass so it gives a little bit more.

Songwriting for Lilies On Mars begins with improvising.

We do like to play a lot without really having a starting idea, we just take our instruments and play. Sometimes we do have some melodies or some noises in our head that we want to try and recreate somehow, it can happen in this way. Definitely music comes first.

  • We’ve got the Lilies showing us round their kit and demo-ing their sounds, just click on the side panels.