Buzzy Lee, born Sasha Spielberg, is something of an armchair anthropologist. Makes sense, considering the unique view of people and society that comes with being the daughter of perhaps the world’s most famous director. “For me, he’s just my dad. I was this little seven-year-old that they wouldn’t pay as much attention to, and I would sit back and observe how people were so respectful and loving towards him. It really taught me how there’s a difference between the ‘you’ that people know from your work, and the ‘you’ that you really are.”
If Buzzy’s lineage raises any questions around the origins of her star-power, her clear talent and disruptively optimistic attitude shines brilliantly enough to chase them away. For instance, take her reaction to my informing her that, when I looked up her music on YouTube, one of the videos recommended to me after watching was a playlist entitled “Happy Songs For Lonely People.” Some would be at least a little put- off by the association with such an emotionally charged title. Instead, well aware of what her next sound is, Buzzy responds without hesitation: “I’m so flattered that would come up. That’s totally the sound. It’s upbeat, but with this juxtaposition of happiness over loneliness. It’s like if you think of it as a math equation.”
Take her new EP, Facepaint, as an example. It’s her first solo project under the Buzzy Lee alias. Orchestral, warbling synth pads provide the moody, ambient background that supports Buzzy’s full-bodied vocal musings on her latest social observations. The subtleties of the soundscapes can be attributed in part to superstar producer Nicolas Jaar, whose work is notably more abstract and experimental. The odd-couple pairing is one that Buzzy is well aware of, having worked with Jarr since their years at Brown University.
“Me and Nico met during our freshman year of college (she began attending in 2008), and we could tell just immediately that there was an instant connection,” Buzzy recalls. “I was super in my poppy phase of”—she proceeds to give her best Mariah melisma impression—“and he would take what I was doing and put these dark, minor chords under it. I found it to be so amazing. It was something that I would never have thought of by myself.”
This approach to musical collaboration might have been the beginning of the “happiness over loneliness” equation. I ask why that particular sound is such a good fit for our current global mood. Buzzy, of course, has a theory. “Oh, everyone is going mad these days, but it’s a really interesting subdued madness. It’s a fascinating time for music though, because something good has to come out of this,” she tells me. “With the Internet, we all feel lonely even though we’re technically not, and that has really affected every aspect of our lives. It makes songwriting a lot harder...I’ll be sitting at the piano and come up with one single thing and immediately check my phone.”
I may have checked my phone immediately after transcribing that quote before realizing the irony. Her observations hit close to home for a growing pool of people who are trying to disconnect more often in pursuit of a calmer mind to create with.
“Over New Year’s I went to Death Valley,” Buzzy shares, attesting to the virtues of disconnecting. “There was no service, and I was there for four days. I can say that I was truly happy. There was not one part of me that was lonely.” Her voice is wistful as she recalls the retreat. “The beautiful thing is that when you push through that feeling where you expect to feel loneliness from being disconnected, there’s actually this beautiful happiness that’s at the other end... I mean, ‘Coolhand’”—a standout single from her new EP—“is all about disconnecting from social media and living in the moment.” It’s a skill we could all benefit from strengthening, but especially Buzzy, who has lived in the public eye already, yet who stands to gain even more attention as the curtain rises on a promising career. If nothing else, it’s sure to keep the armchair anthropologist supplied with plenty of material.
1. Fantasy rider submitted by Buzzy Lee for pseudo-psychoanalytic analysis:
-Almond matcha lattes
-One Camel Crush
-A well-curated miniature shoe collection
-Window display food from Japanese restaurants
-Perfume samples, preferably a sweet tuberose
-No balloons because of my fear of them (2)
-A wall of made of kinetic sand and a sharp knife to cut it with. In his seminal text, Archetypes of Fear and the Psychosexual Sublimation of Inculcated
2. In his seminal text, Archetypes of Fear and the Psychosexual Sublimation of Inculcated Mythologies: A Freudian Analysis, Dr. Jacques Raitpassaibon has codified a framework in which the objects of our fears signify the presence of subconscious “mythologies” that have been implanted in us by the machinations of contemporary bourgeoisie cultural mores. An irrational fear of balloons, according to Dr. Raitpassaibon, is especially significant; in these people an object of childhood levity and play is figured into the subconscious as a malevolent presence. There is much to read here w/r/t the presence of this fear in one Buzzy Lee: the balloon can be understood as signifying both a person eager to escape the strictures of the earthbound world, beginning an ascent (whether creative, career-oriented, sexual, or other—though it’s almost always sexual, isn’t it?) to a plane of greater fulfillment, as well as a certain degree of anxiety, well-grounded, in the inherent fragility that comes with any attempted ascent. The balloon rises, yet is always in danger of being popped. But for Buzzy, we believe this fear is unfounded. Her clear talent should ensure that her ascent continues unimpeded.
Written by: Alex Muñoz
Photographed by: Keith Oshiro
Styled by: Mar Peidro
Flaunt Film by Andie Eisen
Hair: Preston Wada
Makeup: Melissa Murdick