Making a career out of a creative field feels like a modern impossibility. Either you’re one of the very lucky few able to succeed through traditional channels, or you’re one of the even luckier folks to create output that enough people like to support via crowdfunding. Both are, obviously, an incredible compliment to both talent and also to filling a niche.
In this line of logic, I would like to posit that Lucia Fasano is the niche filler of a generation.
Fasano, who bounces between L.A. and Portland, also bounces seamlessly between stand-up, music, comic books, and any other platform that grabs her. She has a message of positivity, inclusion, and overcoming adversity via the power of friendship that would sound saccharine coming from anyone that wasn’t a physical manifestation of all that is good and pure in the world. Fasano’s ability to recognize the appropriate format for different narratives and then see them through to completion is a testament to a creative eye and a sense of dedication that it is, quite frankly, unfair for someone of her age to possess. Or maybe it is fair, and she’s just better at this than the rest of us. That’s…. Okay, that’s definitely it.
Here is a Paste exclusive premiere of a video for “Check In” from her new album, currently raising funds on Kickstarter.
Here’s our conversation with Lucia Fasano about her new album Best Friend Forever, produced by Jessica Boudreaux of Summer Cannibals.
Paste: Lucia, how would you define your career?
Lucia Fasano: Um, I would define my career as pursuing all the interconnected artistic things that I hold dear. I would consider my career a balance between comedy and tragedy through acting and stand-up and improv, as well as writing music, writing comic books. My career has been years of performing personal music in small DIY spaces, as well as performing stand-up comedy in underground spaces and being very online, making jokes and making connections with people. So I grew up in the film industry and around art, and I’ve always felt like I have to make art. You know, and I have to make art to deal with all my feelings. So if I’m angry or if I’m wanting someone to like me, to make them laugh, I have to make art, and I have to do it for a living, whether it works out or not. So since I graduated from high school, I’ve been in bands, performing in L.A., then moving to Portland and being involved in their comedy scene and music scene. And that has led to writing comic books and it’s led to working with The Doubleclicks and that overlap with the nerd community. I’ve been organizing Planned Parenthood fundraising shows and involved in playing in those communities and playing with fans from the music industry. So there’s this sort of finding anything I feel passionate about having to use my artistic skills to make it work.
Paste: You sound like you’re describing some sort of West Coast Lovecraft curse where you’re like “I can’t experience feelings until I turn them into a painting or an album or social change. Only then can I feel again.”
Fasano: Yeah, basically. Growing up with parents making movies and making monsters in their garage, it’s like I have to. And my album is kind of like my monster in my garage because it’s something that I’ve worked on and has taken on a lot of different shapes and taken a lot of the dark sides of me and now You have to see it. Look at my creation! I’m a Dr. Frankenstein with my music. I went to Portland and studied liberal studies, so basically the comic book program, the improv program. As I like to say, I went to school to play, so basically the idea of having—it always sounds pretentious but—the idea of having a life where I’m not performing or making weird personal art, it’s just not going to happen. Like I tried it. I tried working at a preschool, applied to many sandwich places and been ghosted by two of them, so…
Paste: You’ve been ghosted by sandwiches?
Fasano: Yeah, I’ve been ghosted by sandwiches, and they haunt me to this day.
Paste: You have acknowledged the sort of fear of millennials that I think my parent’s generation has, which is that the kids are gonna go to college, and they’re gonna study what you just described, which was “I studied fun and stories.” But it doesn’t sound like you have regret over that. It seems it’s really improved your life. So what kind of advice do you get to offer to people who are younger than you and want to pursue The Feelings Arts?
Fasano: In a song I talk about “I got through school. I didn’t want to.” That’s one of the lines, and you know, a big thing my dad and I would discuss was “What are you going to major in?” and “What’s the point?” He was very much like “You don’t even need college. You can just go and work on a set or go and tour your music. And I was raised with that, as well as “You need to study something real and maybe you should become a doctor.” I don’t know. But my advice would be like, I knew, even if I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do for a living, I knew I would only be happy if I was making art compulsively, so I chose a major that would be complementary to what I was already doing. So in college, I was already organizing feminist charity show fundraisers and already going to open mics. I was already passionate about comic books. And so I just tried to take the classes that would most benefit what I already knew I was passionate about, and that ended up being having a broad major. And so, taking a bunch of women’s studies classes in Portland, Oregon sometimes makes you less radical and more wanna put a pencil through your head.
Paste: I knew your dad and he was much beloved, and I can hear the voice that he must have used because he’s a very punk rock guy, just “Hey, show up to a goddamn movie set and go make your thing.” So between what his advice would be and your experience would be, to young women out there looking to make a break into any sort of creative field, what’s the sort of in-between advice you think you’ve probably learned between the two of you?
Fasano: Um, well, one thing I’ve loved about performing has been when people have come up to me and said “I can’t believe you talked about your problem or feeling like that. That was so brave.” Or coming up to me and saying that that song really touched them. There’s this idea that I can’t do that, that I can’t be that open and vulnerable on stage and like the more you do it, the less scary it is. And I hear like…there’s a lot of like “Oh, how would I get into that?” Women most commonly have imposter syndrome, and I feel like just ignoring that and just showing up and, you know, whether it’s showing up to volunteer somewhere or sending an email.
Paste: It sounds like your takeaway from all this is just sort of like—the best thing you can do is just show up.
Fasano: Yeah, just show up. And you don’t have to be confident. But you have to be… doing it. So people will come to me asking for my feminist take on something. And like I don’t see myself at all as, you know, the expert on any of that stuff, but people know that I’m outspoken, that I care about those things and have done those things. Same with comedy, it’s like I show up to the mics or put together my own shows, and it’s suddenly I’m on a panel being asked about comedy. Like you don’t have to be an expert. You just have to yeah, show up and do it. And if you don’t see this thing out there that you want to do, then just make it yourself.
Paste: Find spaces. You find the margins and then you start to exist there.
Fasano: Yeah so, a big thing that I do that I recommend is I just talk to people. Like some of my closest friends I met because I heard them talking about a podcast and went “I like podcasts, too.” And this was in like 2011, so actually not a lot of people were talking about podcasts. The way that I met Tess Fowler, who is my comics partner on two comics, the sci-fi comic that premiered on Paste from “All We Ever Wanted” and the “Where We Live” comic, which is up for an Eisner this Friday at Comic-Con. The way that I met Tess Fowler was at my family’s local Italian deli. Not owned by my family. I don’t know how to explain it. My local Italian deli. She was there with her husband and they were both wearing nerdy shirts. And I said, “I love your nerdy shirts! I’m a nerd!” And I just started talking to them, and she told me about how she’s was working on Rat Queens at the time, and I was like “Do you have a Facebook?”
Here is the premiere of the video and song “Spend The Night”
Fasano: My new album is called Best Friend Forever, and it is an album that explores the role of being a best friend. And for the new video “Check In”, I’m talking about my dad. And my dad and I had a very codependent relationship where we were each other’s best friend. The album also explores having your romantic partner that you love. The album explores toxic friendships and scene drama, you know, living in Portland, being from L.A., being in different creative scenes. I think it’s really about being in your 20s and learning who you can trust, not letting toxic people define who you are. And that’s what a lot of Best Friend is. I put my needs aside so I could be the ideal best friend for people who were not careful with my heart. And so, a lot of the album is about the heartbreak of realizing that some best friendships end and you’re ultimately better off for it. It’s sort of honoring that heartbreak of being afraid that you’re going to have to let a friendship go, the sort of coming to terms with being gaslit.
Paste: That “best friend” element seems to come across with a partially GLaDOS or Child’s Play-style threatening element: “This is your best friend. Hi, I’m Buddy. I’m your responsibility now and things are going to go very poorly because you invited me in.” Is that a part of everything you’re doing here: presenting the dark edge of the co-dependent part of it?
Fasano: I realized that I’ve taken on that role and I’ve applied that role to other people, and it’s kind of, there’s a lot of pressure to that label. And I’ve seen people use “Oh, you’re my best friend, so you need to do this for me.” And I think about my own role in that pressure. There’s definitely a dark side to making any one person in your life hold that tassel of being the person that’s supposed to take care of you because we have to take care of ourselves. And whether that’s a parent that has to take care of themselves or your friend has to be okay if you can’t answer their text. You know? Or your friend has to be okay if you can’t come to their show. My song “Best Friends,” it opens talking about being young and getting into a close relationship—close friendship, I’ll say, so it doesn’t sound romantic—and then watching it fall apart over the years. And in comedy and music, there’s a lot of mentorship roles. And you are being mentored by people that are maybe just a little bit older than you or maybe have their own issues and pasts that you don’t know about because you’re young and vulnerable and you idolize these other artists and performers. And you’re in both a working relationship and you go out for drinks after the show. You know, it’s a very. To quote Robin Thicke, the lines are blurred. What really shook me out of the spell that I was under was that I had a close friend in comedy refer to me as their employee.
Paste: So what is your approach to how to bridge darkness and comedy and irony and honesty? What do you consider positive about it and how are you taking, like, in the same way you’d take tragedy in your real life and turn it into comedy on the stand-up stage, how are you taking the things that are complicated ideas to you and recycling them into fun?
Fasano: On the album, one of the new songs is called “Kitty,” like Kitty Genovese but also like the little cat self-defense keychain that I have. And that song is about street harassment and about just other just scary experiences that I’ve had. And then I have a song called “Pocket Light,” which is not about a vibrator. It’s about a cellphone, but it sounds like it’s about a vibrator. And that’s about, very literally written after I found out about several tragedies like the massacre in France or at the Pulse nightclub on my phone because I wouldn’t get off Twitter at like four in the morning. And I thought, OK, I’m going to write a really gleeful folk or alt country song about how I won’t put my fucking phone away because I’m addicted to it. So that song and “Kitty” is like partially a fun, surf rock song that sounds really upbeat and positive and has a lot of da da da da da da, but that song is about people calling for help and nobody helping them. So that’s definitely how I’ve been taking these dark things in my life.
Lucia Fasano’s second album Best Friend Forever is currently up on Kickstarter.
Brock Wilbur is a writer and comedian from Los Angeles who lives with his wife Vivian Kane and their cat, Cat. He is the co-author (with Nathan Rabin) of the forthcoming book Postal for the Boss Fight Books series.