For anyone who’s been feeling the world is running low on female rockers, who can toss off a riff on their guitars and dominate the stage a la Joan Jett or The Bangles, a local musician is stepping up to the mic.
Liz Berg, a Brookfield resident, is releasing her second album, “Coattails,” this Saturday. Although her earlier music featured mostly acoustic guitar, she said she crafted “Coattails” into a harder rock album to fill what she sees as a void in the modern music scene.
“When I was growing up, we had Joan Jett on the radio,” she said, “and there aren’t really those types of strong, intelligent women out there today. But people still love that music. They love seeing a woman who doesn’t necessarily sing prettily and can rip on a guitar.”
And Berg certainly sees herself living up to the female rocker image. She started in music as a guitar player in Van Halen and Aerosmith cover bands while growing up in her native Lyons, and said she continues to assert herself today on stage and in the studio
“I’m definitely in collaboration with the guys around me,” she said. “It’s not one of those things where a band picks up a cutesy female and tells her what to sing and play.”
Berg teaches music and gigs as a DJ on the side, but she has mainly been pursuing her solo career, playing shows across the Chicagoland area for about the last 10 years. Not only does she write her own songs, sing and play guitar, she also plays the drums, bass and piano.
Berg also does all the work when it comes to putting out her albums. For “Coattails” and her first CD, “Not the Same,” in 2003, she had to find a producer, a recording studio and a company to release her albums. For “Coattails,” she said, the process took more than a year.
“I’ve heard each of these songs in different variations thousands of times,” she said.
Because of this, however, Berg said she feels much more personally attached to her work and its final product.
“My heart and soul and time has been completely invested in this,” she said.
Not only is “Coattails” a venture into a different kind of sound for Berg, it also explores a completely opposite theme from her first album. She said that while “Not the Same” explored nonconformity and self-awareness, this new release deals with the idea of dependence.
“The word ‘coattails’ represents the values or relationships that people cling to unnecessarily when instead they can be searching inward,” she explained.
The theme is illustrated in the song “Co-Dependent,” with the lyrics, “No such thing as a happy pill, no such thing as a cheap thrill. A problem cannot be solved if it’s permanently stalled.”
Berg said the songs aren’t necessarily based on her own life-in fact, she described herself as “an extremely happy artist who writes about dark themes”-but come from her observations of people around her.
“I’ve found that the majority of the people I meet are desperately unhappy, either with their relationships or their jobs,” she said. “I tried to pinpoint what it is that is making these people unhappy, and I saw that a lot of it was brought on by themselves because they’re attaching themselves to coattails.”
Berg will be celebrating the release of “Coattails” with a release party, open to the public, this Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Garv Inn, 6546 Windsor Ave. in Berwyn. She said she would be playing most of the songs off the new album with her two regular bandmates, bassist Dan Laczynski of LaGrange and drummer Rick Vitek of Brookfield, who also plays drums on most of the tracks on the album.
Copies of “Coattails” will be on sale for the first time at the release party, along with T-shirts and other Liz Berg merchandise. The album will also be available online through Berg’s Web site, www.lizberg.com, and at www.cdbaby.com, an online distributor of independent music. Fans can also listen to four songs from “Coattails” at Berg’s Myspace profile, at www.myspace.com/lizbergmusic.
And while she said all these different online outlets have made it easier for her to sell and promote her music, Berg did note that those who make it to her live shows will have the added pleasure of seeing the already hard rock on “Coattails” kicked up a few notches.
“When you’ve got the three of us together, the music becomes intensified,” she said. “We rock the songs, kick the songs out more when we’re live.”