Prologue by Owen Pallett:
I read an interview with Picastro in 2000 or 2001, and was struck by the uniqueness of Liz Hysen’s commentary. I listened to “Red Your Blues”, loved it, and e-mailed Liz to say so. A few months later, I joined the band, playing a terrible-sounding student viola as best as I could.
Touring with Picastro was, in retrospect, hilarious. Sometimes we shared bills with like-minded acts— Xiu Xiu, Born Heller— but more often than not, we shared the stage with more straight-ahead rock bands, an odd contrast to Liz’s dry-cracked songs.
I got a desk job in 2004 and left the band so I could focus on it, but Liz and I remained close friends, and I continued to contribute to subsequent Picastro albums. Picastro’s albums always showed a band that was in a state of transition, restless, searching for a sonic niche. As time went on, the albums kept getting better and better, more and more distinctive. Picastro’s body of work is a monument to longevity, a demonstration that an idea sometimes needs a decade (or two) to be fully realized. With every subsequent release, Liz’s singular vision with this project becomes more and more tangible, the discreteness of her work from the zeitgeist becomes more pronounced. This new album is a testament to this.
This covers EP was brought about by the uncertainty of things, the joy of not knowing and the magic created by music that falls outside of boundaries. Picastro has existed as a musical entity for a long time, too weird to be a pop band, too many songs to be considered experimental that it was time to celebrate likeminded musicians and bands that have influenced our sound The theme for the album was simple and predictably set off by the pandemic; humans aren’t comfortable when they don’t know what is going to happen and their routines are disrupted so profoundly. But what about the magic of not knowing? What about using the time to re-connect with your friends and peers in a slow and easy way?
“I’ve never met a stranger” evolved out of these concepts and the musicians who contributed to this project represent the ways in which we can all connect and represent our cities, our communities, our relationships as best we can. All the songs were chosen based on their lyrical content starting from Pale Blue Eyes “sometimes I feel so happy, sometimes I feel so sad” at the start of the pandemic, running to Richard Dawson’s “Man’s been struck down by hands unseen”. The magic of all these bands and musicians for me has been their inability to fall neatly into any one category; The Silt, Elfin Saddle, Fire on Fire, Richard Dawson and the Velvet Underground all elegantly skirt around several genres at all times. I am grateful for all these bands and all the musicians who performed on the record.