Pop Songwriting and Punk Rock: A talk with Sizzy Rocket

Sabrina Louise Bernstein may be a pop songwriter, but rock ‘n’ roll is in her blood.

Under the Bowie-inspired moniker, Sizzy Rocket, the Las Vegas native really found her footing as an 18 year old studying music in New York, which resulted in the emotionally-charged, larger-than-life LP “Thrills” in 2016. Penning tunes for artists like Noah Cyrus and Hey Violet along the way, she’s recently followed up with the dirty pop mixtape “Hot Summer,” and promises her next EP, due out early next year to be her most introspective and majestic work yet.

Interview and Photography by Andy Gorel


Andy: You went to Clive Davis at NYU for a bit. How do you feel living and New York studying music helped you find yourself as an artist?

Sizzy: I definitely wouldn’t be Sizzy without New York. I read the book “Please Kill Me” when I was 17, right before I moved there and went to NYU. It’s about the history of punk, like The Velvet Underground, New York. That made me wanna go there and find the rock scene. I played Pianos my freshman year, the aesthetic of New York, the grittiness and the history defined me. I don’t think I would be the same artist without that city. In pretty much all of my songs, there’s always a reference to New York.

I fell in love as soon as I moved there too, and I think that combination of being eighteen, in New York, and in love for the first time is so potent. It was like a life changing experience.

 

I think that combination of being eighteen, in New York, and in love for the first time is so potent. It was like a life changing experience.

 

Andy: What was it like making the decision to drop out and pursue music?

Sizzy: Yeah, it was really hard cause I always liked school. I was valedictorian in high school, and I like knowing and learning things. But when I signed my pub deal with universal, I was like “Ok I’m just gonna go for it.” I wanna get my degree one day, but in something weird like poetry.

I feel like I tapped out being in a classroom learning about music, and I just wanted to go do it.

Andy: Your debut album “Thrills” covers a lot of ground and possesses a lot of character. What was the vision behind those songs, and what influenced them?

Sizzy: Making that album was interesting because I was just writing a lot, but not with myself in mind. So when we put it all together, it didn’t feel cohesive to me. But all the songs are definitely things that happened to me. “Joy Ride” is literally speeding down a street in West Virginia. All of them are real things that happened to me, so I’m drawn to the songwriting, but there was so much label bullshit happening, a lot of A&R-ing, which as an artist is confusing. Cause you’re like “Am I who you say I am? Or am I who I say I am?”

 

 

Andy: What’s your favorite track on it?

Sizzy: Champagne Room. I think that one is the most honest, and the production is really great.

Andy: More recently you released “Hot Summer” which is different than “Thrills.” It’s definitely more rock n roll.

Sizzy: Yes. Good.

Andy: How did the process of shifting into this style happen? Is it who you always were and “Thrills” was different?

Sizzy: Well “Thrills” is still punky, lyrically. I’d say I didn’t lose my perspective, I just kinda heightened it a bit. “Hot Summer” was honestly just a really fun tape I wanted to put out. “Thrills” was a proper album, but “Hot Summer” was more of an update on what I’ve been doing.

I’m most excited for this release coming out next year. It’s dark. It will be interesting to see the reaction from the kids.

 

The beautiful thing about 2017 is you can have like seven different projects and they can all be different. That project is exciting to me cause it’s just raw as fuck.

 

Andy: Speaking of rock n’ roll. You wanna talk about your side project Shiny Wet Machine?

Sizzy: Like I said, I discovered punk when I was seventeen, and that’s kind of like the through line, in the lyrics or in the show. So I was like why don’t I have this side project of real punk because I really wanna do it, and it’s in me. I feel like that will be an ongoing thing. The beautiful thing about 2017 is you can have like seven different projects and they can all be different. That project is exciting to me cause it’s just raw as fuck.

We have more unreleased shit as well, but we’re just waiting on the right time to release it.

Andy: You’ve got a very loud persona and “brand” – rock ‘n’ roll like we said. Do you have any influences on your presence?

Sizzy: Yeah, Iggy Pop is one of my biggest. Blondie, Joan Jett, Jack White, Patti Smith. All rock ‘n’ roll people. Karen O is a big one. Peaches is a big one. I feel like you can hear Peaches all over “Hot Summer.”

Andy: Is there a certain time period you feel your sound and/or persona really belong to?

Sizzy: Seventies New York Punk. If I could play CBGB’s…

 

I consider myself a raconteur songwriter. Everything is a story and an experience, but I like it to still be big.

 

Andy: Who have been some of your biggest songwriting or stylistic influences?

Sizzy: I consider myself a raconteur songwriter. Everything is a story and an experience, but I like it to still be big. Obviously Justin Tranter is killing it, and I think he’s doing the same thing. You can be artsy and quirky in the verses, but it has to have that big hook. When I’m writing records, I’m always thinking about that.

Sonically – fuck I wanna talk about this new EP so bad. I’ve been producing a little bit. It’s very minimal. Piano, drums, guitar. I love the xx record that came out this year. It’s so beautiful and big, but there are only a couple things happening. I really like that sound right now.

I’m just so excited. They’re dark as fuck. I moved to LA and was really sad for a second. It’s minimal. My voice and the writing are at the front, whereas I feel “Thrills” was more about the package.

I feel like my whole time as an artist – cause I’ve been doing this since I was a kid – has been people defining me, telling me who i should be. This is the first time I’ve stripped everything back, and been like “Ok, this is what it is.” It’s just me at my core.

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