On the day InReview talks to singer Carla Lippis, a shipment of her new album Mondo Psycho has just landed, literally, on her doorstep.
“I’m trying to get them all inside before it rains,” she says.
It’s a momentous occasion for the native South Australian, given this is her debut album after more than 20 years in the business.
During that time, the 42-year-old performer has lived and worked around the world, including in London’s West End, touring Europe with Italian post-folk band Sacri Cuori and back in Adelaide as a regular performer at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Lippis’s depth of talent and diversity have culminated in Mondo Psycho, which sees her stepping away from her cabaret roots and morphing into a dramatic, looming character – a “rabid Liza Minnelli”, as she puts it.
“It sets something off in me that’s primal. It’s like a volcano that’s been dormant for years and I just had to do this otherwise I’m going to regret it; I’m going to regret not taking a risk. It’s that whole ‘be bold’ thing.
“Because I’m so influenced by the theatrical nature of the London cabaret world – it taught me so much and I brought those sensibilities over into my performance in Mondo Psycho.
“Then we added that kind of post-punk, post-rock sound that we love, which doesn’t fit the cabaret genre at all. So this album has actually been years in the making, drawing on all the music and sounds that we love, and it’s quite cinematic at the same time.”
Joining her on Mondo Psycho is Lippis’s husband and collaborator Geoff Crowther on guitar, Ross McHenry on bass, Duncan Campbell on synth, Django Rowe on second guitar and New York-based Angus Mason on drums.
The talented line-up debuted Mondo Psycho at WOMADelaide in 2022, taping it and turning it into this album. During the live performance audiences were treated to Lippis’s vocal rage and ominous on-stage performance, which sees her wearing heavy black eye make-up and Pagliacci-inspired clown costumes, making her appear both mesmerising and menacing as she moves across the stage.
Describing it as post-apocalyptic, Lippis says she has channelled her anger and frustration into the new sound, fuelled by circumstances which saw her forced to leave London in 2020 at the height of her success. When she and Crowther returned to Adelaide, “everything just kind of stopped”.
“So we put together this new band and WOMAD approached me and asked if I could put on a show, and that ended up being Mondo Psycho, and this new sound was born.
“It’s about me communicating my rage and anger and frustration, not just with the world, but also with some things that have happened in my life over the last four years. I had the choice to either implode or channel it through something. I decided to explode on stage instead.”
Lippis and the band have just performed Mondo Psycho to a sold-out crowd at Hobart’s Dark Mofo, and will also be appearing at Melbourne venue Stay Gold on June 23. She will launch the album in Adelaide at The Gov on July 1.
The singer will also be performing at Adelaide Guitar Festival next month in a show called The Music of Jeff Beck, and is collaborating on a new work with Restless Dance Theatre.
However, it’s clear that Mondo Psycho marks a turning point in Lippis’s artistic career. It’s personal and powerful, laying her bare in an honest, emotive scream to be heard.
“I felt a sense of urgency,” she says. “I just started the ball rolling, because you don’t know what you’re capable of and we have to take the risks to get there.”
The singer is very open about the music industry’s approach to women and, in particular, older women. She says she felt her “clock ticking” as an artist and needed to step into this new avant-garde sense of self.
“As a late bloomer in music, I’ve constantly been told ‘You’re too old to foster industry backing’, because few in the industry here want to take a risk on an artist that isn’t young, impressionable and easily manipulated into fulfilling the commercial interest of others,” she says.
“I feel like we’re still living in this weird ageist world with musicians where music is about being young and beautiful. Whereas living in Europe taught me that being a musician is for life.
“I was feeling kind of sad when I came back [from London], because we’re still really driven here by youth culture and I feel this is something we need to change.”
While Mondo Psycho is unashamedly an assault on the senses, it also displays layers of light and shade and “moments of tenderness juxtaposed with this rabid intensity”, Lippis says.
“We can’t all be Led Zeppelin, who were making classic albums in their 20s – that’s the exception to the rule. Generally, people take a lifetime to discover who they are as an artist. This is just the next step for us, and who knows what will come after that?”
Tickets are still available for the Mondo Psycho launch at The Governor Hindmarsh on July 1 (visit carlalippis.com). To buy and download Mondo Psycho, visit carlalippis.bandcamp.com.
Your support will help us continue the important work of InReview in publishing free professional journalism that celebrates, interrogates and amplifies arts and culture in South Australia.Donate Here