Photo: Seth Caplan

Elizabeth and the Catapult Carry a Toon That Leaves You “thirsty” for More

What happens when Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult and comedian Robert Dean reunite to make a B&W lyric video (starring Betty Boop) for a splashy new single? Welcome to their dream world.

sincerely, e
Elizabeth and the Catapult
Compass Records
5 March 2021

Acclaim came to Elizabeth and the Catapult, too, with the 2009 release of Taller Children, their full-length album debut (Verve Forecast) as a trio with Lalish and Molad five years after the former Berklee students formed the band. They were recognized by such outlets as Billboard (Underground Artist of the Month), iTunes (Next Big Thing), and the Boston Globe, which wrote, “The self-assured Elizabeth and the Catapult prove what a sultry-voiced Greenwich Village habitué with a Norah Jones jones should do: Just let it flow.”

For the Denver tour stop, I attended two shows on the same night (the other was John Doe with the Sadies), and reviewed both for No Depression. My published takeaway: Elizabeth and the Catapult were “a pleasant and unassuming group that plays a tastefully mixed bag of jaunty jazz, preppy pop and not-quite-ready-for-Top 40 tunes” led by Ziman, who “exhibited a cheerful voice and quirky charm.”

“Momma’s Boy”, one of Taller Children’s upbeat songs that I mentioned from the set, was recognized by Spin.com as “one of the most tuneful kiss-off songs in recent memory.” How’s this for starters: “If you wanna girl to be your mother / Go find another, go find another one / You only call me when your life’s goin’ under / I’m not just a cover, not just a cover.”

Twelve years later on “thirsty”, Ziman is still telling would-be suitors where to go. Hopelessly devoted to music, she can turn her focus toward another true love — the stage — following the release of sincerely, e. “Live performance has always been a major part of my identity,” she shares. “In some ways, it’s the arena where I feel most like myself. I sincerely hope that the world opens up again soon and that it will feel safe to go to a club and play again. In the meantime, I’ll keep myself busy with live streaming, which has been this past year’s silver lining. I’m so grateful that I have been able to share music, even in isolation.”

For Ziman, the Catapult and music lovers everywhere, it’s never too late to dream bigger than the stars.

ELIZABETH ZIMAN GOES ON THE RECORD  

1. How were you able to overcome what you called an “extreme state of writer’s block” to write and record the album? What specific moments led to a “glimmer of hope” that served as a source of inspiration?

Elizabeth Ziman: This past summer, the COVID curve in NYC had flattened and I was starting to believe the worst was over. This taste of hope, albeit only a short window, gave me the legs to start writing about my fears. I needed a bit of distance before diving in, headfirst.

2. How often have you dealt with writer’s block during your music career and what other activities did you pursue in order to either forget about it or help to battle the problem? What hidden talents or favorite hobbies emerged in 2020? 

Elizabeth Ziman: I have encountered writer’s block when I’m about to release an album but typically, I write pretty consistently; even on tour, I’m playing around with lyrics in my head. In this instance, it was a lot heavier than the usual writer’s block. It was an absolute state of shock caused by the pandemic. We were all recalibrating to a very different kind of insular, solitary life. I was processing too much to write anything, until the tension finally broke.

My No. 1 favorite activity is curling up and cuddling with my bunny rabbit, a 9-year-old Norwegian dwarf rabbit, but I also enjoy cooking, knitting, dancing and painting (badly). I just started up the clarinet again, which I haven’t played since the fourth grade. I like doing things that I know I’m not that great at. Honestly, the less pressure, the more likely I’ll try it.

3. What did you learn about yourself during this experience and what advice would you give to singer-songwriters facing similar struggles either before or during the pandemic?

Elizabeth Ziman: I think I’ve embraced more of my flaws and I’m less precious about sounding perfect. I spoke to a lot of friends who were having trouble starting projects because they were putting too much pressure on themselves to make something great or expected a lot from themselves. I would urge other singer-songwriters not to be afraid to do things in an imperfect way. I recorded sincerely, e with one mic, a few instruments and an amp. It wasn’t always perfectly engineered, but it was raw and honest and sounded like the moment of its making. As it turns out, that’s always been my goal — to make a record where the sound expresses exactly where, how and why it was made.

4. How does this record compare with the previous four made as Elizabeth and the Catapult, and what other ways would you like to grow as an artist/person?

Elizabeth Ziman: I made another album at home with Dan Molad (Lucius) over a decade ago that introduced my music to the world, so I’m not a stranger to DIY recordings. However, this is my first fully self-producedrecord. Also, I’m proud of the live performances on this record which, because of the recording’s limitations, made for more unique sounds (i.e. playing water bottles and the piano bench or plucking piano strings).

The experience also made me want to make more records at home, more often. It taught me that I can do more by myself than I thought I could, which means I don’t have to wait for the “perfect situation” to make a record; that was the big takeaway. That said, I am still very much looking forward to musically collaborating again, when it’s safe to do so. It’s definitely something I really miss.

5. What’s the story behind the name of the album?

Elizabeth Ziman: I’ve been likening the album to a love letter, as the performances are intimate and the writing is vulnerable.So, sincerely, e was not only a way to sign the letter from me — e — a one-letter nickname used by friends and loved ones, but also, I wanted to communicate how deeply and sincerely I felt, and continue to feel, these 12 complex stories about loneliness in the pandemic.

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