Interview with Lana Fleischli of Desperately Seeking Serious

Sadie (right) and Lana (left)

Lana Fleischli is a lot like us–a girl growing up surrounded by music and an “intense craving” to get closer to the root of it all. From a young age–as young as eighth grade, actually–Fleischli acted on her fascinations with riot grrrl and the bustling music scene of her home of LA, putting together a zine called “That’s Interesting” with her old pal, Sadie. Featuring interviews with notable icons like Kim Gordon and Angel Olson, Fleischli got busy cutting and pasting her passion into conversations about the art that mattered to her.

With the pandemic eventually rolling around the setbacks and obstacles many of us are well too familiar with, Lana found herself stuck in a rut she needed to get out of. What resulted from this effort was going digital, and thus Desperately Seeking Serious was born. The platform features an amalgamation of the artist interviews and reviews she was known for, in addition to a classic anonymous advice column from mystery girl Siouxsie, a new podcast titled “Our Lips Aren’t Sealed”, and opportunities for Fleischli’s visuals arts friends to get creative. When she isn’t busy writing for DSS or avoiding paper cuts on physical zine copies, Lana is involved in the scene through her DJ sets (played under the moniker DJ Chocolatebarbangs), interning at Flood Magazine, and spilling the latest music news for live music showcase It’s A School Night. It’s fair to say she’s booked and busy–all before even graduating high school.

For those in the neighborhood, Lana will be hosting and DJ-ing for “A Night Out” on Friday, August 19th at Spoke Bicycle Café.

How did your zine start? What was the inspiration?

When I was in eighth grade, one of my oldest friends Sadie and I wanted to start a zine called “That’s Interesting” and we made a few interviews with people like Kim Gordon and Angel Olsen. We have a Courtney Barnett interview. But during Covid, since we couldn’t see each other, and both of our mental health was getting iffy, it sort of fell off. But I still had this really intense craving to write about music. During the pandemic I would go on walks and listen to albums that I hadn’t before and really tried to educate myself on music a lot more.

So I had all this knowledge now, and was like, “What can I do with it?” So I just started writing, and I made just a basic little site that was, I kind of thought it would be a portfolio for college and be like, “This is how my writing has grown over the past two years” because I was a sophomore at the time. But instead, I would send it to my family and close friends for music recommendations or whatever. And they were like, “You should make this a thing, you should post this publicly and try to build a website because it’s really cool perspective.” At the time, I was like sixteen, and they were like, “It’s cool that you’re a young girl and you know so much about all different kinds of music. Why not make that public knowledge, that’s pretty original.”

So then I was talking to one of my closest friends, and they were like, “Can I contribute in some way?”. And I was like, “Yeah, an advice column would be cool.” So I have a friend that does an anonymous advice column. And then I talked to a lot of my friends who are really talented visual artists and was like, “Do you want to upload some of your art and have a gallery page on my site?”. So it kind of just grew into that. And I DJ as well, I like making playlists. When there’s a playlist and I’m like, “This might be something people like,” I post that. Yeah. It’s my website and I write about music mostly. But I also have written about Roe v. Wade and things like that that I want to talk about, and if I have people reading it why not.

How do you find people to interview? What are you looking for?

For the website specifically, I’ve gotten to interview Arrow de Wilde of Starcrawler and Staz Lindes of The Paranoyds. And then I have some other interviews of like The Linda Lindas which I interviewed for the zine, and then they sort of blew up. I interviewed them like awhile before anything really happened and now they’re huge, and I’m like, “I’ll post this, and people will read it, and that’ll be cool.” And like Heidi Bivens, who is the head of styling on Euphoria. I use a lot of people I know, and Heidi is one of my mom’s best friends and I’ve known her my whole life. It’s pretty easy, making those little connections. My mom manages Sadgirl, and the lead of Sadgirl is Misha Lindes, and his sister is Staz, and I was like, “Hey!”. Just trying to network, even when I go to shows, it’s like, “Oh, I know you, can I do this?”.

Whenever I meet people I try to give them a quick spiel and a quick rundown so maybe I could do something. I even work for this thing called It’s a School Night with Chris Douridas. And at those shows, they find the next big artist. And a lot of artists for shows in LA, and shows in general. All these people like Lizzo and Dua Lipa, who then blew up, but weren’t at the time. It’s pretty cool. But now, it’s like, if these people are predicted to be something, I try to go around and be like, “Hi, I’m Lana, and can I ask you five questions?”. And a lot of the time, they always say “Yeah of course.” So I have a couple interviews stowed away, just to have. I just try to do as much as I can, like networking, or when I go to shows and kind of know people I can say “Hi I’m Lana,” and say for the zine or for the website. And it kind of just works. Funny story, my mom manages Karen O and she had this album Lux Prima a few years ago, and there was this big show for it, and we stayed after, and it was this nice party and a bunch of cool people were there.

And I talked to Brit Daniel of Spoon, and I said “Can I ask you five questions.” His was probably the best quick interview I’ve gotten, because he just gave one word answers and he was really funny. But I also met Mac DeMarco, and I was like, “Hey, can I ask you five questions?” but his friends were like, “No, you should do a full interview” and like, gave me his email. But he was blackout drunk and so were all of them. So I got his email and emailed him, but I was like a freshman in high school and never got a response. Even though I talked to him, he didn’t remember me. So that was like, actually really funny. There’s some power in being a student in high school and being like, “I have this,” and people will be like, “Oh!”. There’s definitely power to that. 

What do I look for? I like to find a story or something funny. I feel like with Brit Daniel his was so short, like I asked him what attracts you to music and he was like, “Well, it turns me on.” I was like, “Okay.” He was talking like a fourteen year old, but I just thought he was so straightforward. Whereas talking to Angel Olsen she told a whole story about her life and how music impacted it and where she came from and the things she’s experienced that led her to this very moment and all of the shows she went to leading up to it and how she wanted to be a cheerleader and popular girl and decided not to and then she became emo or whatever or alt, and then became Angel Olsen. It’s a whole story. So I think looking for the thing that makes them different, makes them stand out. I think different artists all have that. 

What do you believe are the key ingredients to a great interview?

Well, I definitely think good questions are important. And that’s something I still need to work on. It’s like, as an interviewer, you want to research and find something you wanna ask. But there’s also like, is this too much of a rabbit hole? Is this too weird to ask? And it’s balancing it being a question where they can’t say just yes or no, like an open-ended question, and finding things that aren’t already out there. Like, you could look something up, and there’s probably so much information. Especially if it’s someone like Kim Gordon, or someone like that. It’s like, there’s so much information for them, what do you ask? I’ve found that asking the simplest questions, like, “Who inspires you?” can be so, like I always use that one because I think it’s something you can’t just look up.

They probably mention it here or there, but she talked about this whole thing about Andy Warhol and this whole story about how she was actually a visual artist and went to art school for visual art and really intense painting. And then she was like, “Actually, I’m gonna learn guitar.” Never went to school for it, and then, Sonic Youth. Just part of the movements in New York. Just a little question like “Who inspires you?” can lead you through such a thing. But also i think it’s important to balance it out with questions that are detailed and personal to the people you’re interviewing. Because you want it to seem like you did your work and you’re putting as much effort into the interview as they are. Which can be difficult when there’s already a lot of information out there. 

How has being in a collaborative space helped the zine’s success?

I think being in a collaborative space, with the zine yeah, I mean it helped me a lot because I already wanted to start a zine. I mean, a lot of my mom’s friends gave me stuff since I was like, twelve. I was always really into Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl and all this inspirational stuff. But I was always at a loss for how to do it, because I’m not visually artistic, I just don’t… I think visually, but I can’t do that. My work does not work that way, I don’t think visually and artistically, I think in words and music and noise. That’s how my brain works. Getting to work with Sadie, I’ve known her since I was in kindergarten, so I guess I’ve known her for thirteen years now, and we were always very close. So she’s someone I trust, and through it we got to become a lot closer like, “What do I like? What do we collaborate on? How can we divvy up the work so it’s even?”.

It was really teaching me to budget each of our creativity. Kind of evening it out. She has always been one of the most talented visual artists I’ve ever met. I remember the first day I met her, she drew a portrait of me in kindergarten, and I remember, for a five year old, it was really good. I remember being like, “She can draw. This girl’s cool.” She’s always been like that, she’s always been really good at stuff like that. So I was like, “Oh, this works.” Because she’s not a writer.

I remember we went and saw Bikini Kill when we were in eighth grade and we were like, “Wait, this could be cool. I do this, and you do that, and let’s do this together together.” And it just kind of worked because it also made it more enjoyable to spend time with someone and talk it through. Like we’d watch Gilmore Girls or listen to music and just create stuff and it made it way more fun and less like, “Oh we need to get this done!.” It took a lot of the pressure off, because we were just having fun.

Has being involved with the zine changed your perspective on how you consume/view music and art?

Yes. I think it was because I think I’ve been learning a lot and thinking about this a lot recently. I wrote an article for Desperately Seeking Serious about the power and the future in self made things, or handmade things. I think growing up, especially living in Los Angeles in a pretty privileged place, you always want to get the nicest quality things. If you can, like why not? And I mean as a twelve year old, you’re just like sure. There’s a weird mindset, like you want to get a nice magazine. I was talking about and writing about this album that was self produced by an incoming sophomore at another school that reached out to me and asked me to give their music a listen. And I was talking to my friends about what is the future of music. We have a bunch of these conversations, and they were like, “There’s something very special about being able to create your own and do it all yourself.” It has this very intimate craftiness to it. To me, it’s like hearing an acoustic version of a song, because it’s so intimate, you know there’s not… there’s a lot going into it, but they’re not sitting in a big thing and having all of this stuff happening.

So I think with the zine, and with the website and everything, I have so much more of an appreciation for things that are handmade. I feel like you learn that as you get older, like a gift that someone makes for me is way more personal than a gift that… but when you’re younger, you don’t really understand the value in things that are crafty and maybe not perfect. Because there’s so much pressure to have perfection. And I always was like, “Why would someone buy this, these two girls?”. Like maybe our friends would buy it. I was just kind of confused. But we get a lot of orders, because people value our opinion and our point of view and our perspective. But also the fact that this is really cool, and this kind of art is coming back, but it’s not the most common thing, and people value something that’s been put together and is special. 

What have been some teaching moments for you since starting the zine, did you learn anything about yourself or the process of maintaining your platform?

I think I’m constantly in limbo, I’m constantly learning about everything. I think I’m constantly making mistakes and constantly learning from them. With the zine specifically, I was a lot younger when I started it with Sadie, and I think it was like… okay, we had to figure out what we wanted our version of the zine to be. Because we didn’t want it to be black and white, we wanted it to be decently high quality. So we went out and bought paper, and from that we had to learn. We were thirteen, fourteen, we had to learn about budgeting and how much we actually price these so we can make a profit and afford good ink that won’t bleed through the paper. It’s just a whole thing. That’s something I remember having to learn that was really annoying, because you don’t want to think about money when you’re creating and stuff’s expensive, and that’s a big thing. With the website, I’m not making anything off of it, I’m just doing it for fun.

And I think with this, it’s learning about…. I did it a lot during the pandemic, and I was doing it every weekend, because I had time to do everything. I got to listen to as much music as I wanted, I didn’t really have anything else going on. And it was really nice, to be able to just write as much as possible. Whereas now, I’m going to be a senior, I’m doing college stuff, I’m working a lot more for a lot of different other projects. It’s hard, just because this isn’t… I’m working for Flood Magazine, which is a magazine here, and It’s a School Night, and those are things that are actually moving, like I have a boss, I have to do all this stuff. In my mind I always put that more as a priority instead of prioritizing what I created, even though that’s not like, “the biggest thing.”

But to me, it’s like my baby. I started it. Same thing with the zine, we put it off for two years and then we were like, Okay, we actually have to do this. Why not? We have to push ourselves a little bit and keep it going. It’s satisfying when you do it, but it’s hard to get started. But at the same time you have to manage how to take care of yourself. Like with writing every week, I started getting burned out because I had been doing it for a year and a half. And I started maybe not forcing myself to write about something that I might not be super genuine about, and really focusing on and spending more time with an album if I feel like I’m gonna get more out of it, and writing when I feel like I have something I actually need to say, instead of “I need to keep this schedule up.” Because at a certain point the writing wasn’t what I wanted it to be. 

What experiences have you gotten from creating the zine? What is your favorite experience?

My favorite memory overall was just getting to hang out with Sadie in her room and talking about music. She’d be sitting at her desk making collages and I’d be writing. We had this thing called Plain Jane, which was supposed to be this teenage girl’s diary and like you’re looking at her recent experiences, but it’s kind of a concert review but also this character pseudonym we made up late one night.

It’s fun because I get to do creative writing and she’s sitting there like kind of doing whatever, or throughout the night it would get later and later and we’d be sitting on the floor on pillows. I’d be working on the playlist or cutting stuff out for her and handing it over. It was this constant, it was just so relaxing at a certain point because it was such a fun experience and we hadn’t gotten to do it in awhile. That was honestly my favorite experience. And getting to print them and sell them and being like, “Oh my god!”. And writing all the names on the envelopes and writing little happy faces and stars and trying to make it personal. Honestly, the best part is getting to have fun with it and having a good time making it and not having too much pressure and making it just fun. 

How do you feel your platform has grown since its conception into the present day?

I think they’ve definitely grown, and I’d like them to keep growing. I know it’s not huge, but I’d like it to be something. Because I put a lot of time and effort into it, and ideally I’d like to have my own media empire and be a boss and get to create everything. And I want to have the time and resources to do so. That would be great, because I don’t want to get burned out. I would like to be able to live my life and do what I want and still be excited every day to come and create stuff. And I feel like that’s what I’m learning. Resources are necessary, and being able to take time for yourself is super necessary, because having to force myself makes it kind of hard, and I’d like to be able to have a good time constantly, because I think that’s the best part. And that’s why I like being creative, because I’m enjoying it. And that’s the gift we get, and I’m grateful for that. 

Has it grown? Yeah. Enough. I’ve gotten people to read it, I’ve gotten good feedback. Sometimes I’ll go through the Instagram for Desperately Seeking Serious and I’ll see someone I’ve never met be like, “Someone tagged you in their story.” And it’ll be like, “Thank you to Desperately Seeking Serious for introducing me to this artist because I’ve never heard of them and now they’re my favorite.” That happened with Joy Crooks, who now is blowing up, but like a year ago I had just started listening to her and someone I never met was like, “Hey, this is really cool. Thank you.” It’s really rewarding to have that and know I’ve grown enough that some people I don’t know are seeing it and are excited about it.

Like yesterday I made merch with my friend and everyone was like, “Oh my god, where can I buy it?”. It’s so exciting. Even that was fun, like we got to go screen print and I’ve never done that before. Just constantly finding ways to be creative and build up something for myself is kind of the most rewarding thing. And being able to write and publish something, it’s just the best. It’s really fun, and I’m very excited and happy that I have the time and am able to do this. 

What direction do you hope the zine is headed in the future?

I hope that we can keep doing it. That’s the biggest thing right now, because we took so much time off just because of both of our lives, and we don’t go to the same school, and it’s hard to see each other. We both have very difficult schedules. And I think that makes it a little hard, especially like, we’re working on the fourth one, which I’m really excited about, and we’re gonna go to college, and do all this stuff. And the zine is like the beginning of all of it for me, and it’s so special to me. I hope we can keep doing it and it’s not… I think at a certain point, for us it became a stress, because we were like, “Oh, we did not make any money, we have no money to buy any more materials.” And it fully came out of money we were making. Like I was babysitting trying to make money to support it.

And that became kind of stressful, because we had to do school and we had to do this and we had to make money to create something. And that does make it kind of difficult. Because you want to just be able to do it. Especially when you’re like, fourteen, fifteen, you’re like, “Why do I have to make money to just do creative stuff?”. But you do. But now I think we’re older, and I have a couple jobs. And just by figuring out what to do to keep it going so we can afford materials would be ideal. Hopefully, no matter where we go, we can keep working on it. I value even just sharing time with someone who’s now one of my best friends. And actually getting to work on stuff and getting to be like, “Oh my god guys, look what we did, it’s so fun!”. And getting to interview people, and getting to transcribe interviews. It’s really awesome, but it’s a commitment. And I think that’s the only thing, it’s the only downside. Like how do you organize your time to do work together can be difficult. And I didn’t have a car, either. Now I have a license and can drive, but I didn’t always. Now that we’re older things are better, but it used to be like, “Mom, can you drive me to her house so we can work on the zine?”. Hopefully we can keep going, that’s what we hope for the zine. 


Desperately Seeking Serious’ Instagram

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