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Chicagoan Lili Trifilio goes from Bunny to Tiger with solo project

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 9/14/2020 By Adam Lukach, Chicago Tribune
a woman standing in front of a flower: Lili Trifilio has recently been focusing on a new solo project alongside her work with Beach Bunny which is on pandemic hiatus. © E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Lili Trifilio has recently been focusing on a new solo project alongside her work with Beach Bunny which is on pandemic hiatus.

Just like Chicago’s beaches, Beach Bunny has been closed for the summer. The surf-pop outfit was poised to build on a big start to the year, having just released its “Honeymoon” album and completed the West Coast leg of a planned international tour.

Then the pandemic shutdown wiped all that out.

Between the West and East Coast legs of its tour, Beach Bunny returned home to Chicago for what it expected to be a layover visit. Obviously, that turned into a months-long stay-slash-quarantine.

“We’d heard the buzz and stuff. It wasn’t really like affecting the shows that much, until we played two shows in Denver,” said Lili Trifilio, the Beach Bunny frontperson and songwriter. “And second of the shows, the opening band was just like, ‘We’re not going to play. We’re just going to go home.’ Then like half the people showed up.”

Pretty soon, Trifilio and the rest of the band — a lineup that includes Jon Alvarado, Aidan Cada and Matt Henkels — went home too, nixing the band’s biggest tour to date, one that had included dates at Coachella and Riot Fest. Not only was it a bummer for Beach Bunny to retreat home, but Trifilio said the persistence of COVID-19 cast a shadow on the creative process this summer.

Vocalist/guitarist Lili Trifilio leads Beach Bunny at Metro in Chicago on Feb. 22, 2020. © Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Vocalist/guitarist Lili Trifilio leads Beach Bunny at Metro in Chicago on Feb. 22, 2020.

“In terms of jamming, I would send the boys the songs and be like, ‘OK, this, this is what the EP is going to be.’ I feel like they’d listen to them, but no one was really thinking about the next project in the moment,” Trifilio said. “I was an optimist. I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be over by June,’ and then June hit, and it’s like a whole other batch of issues.”

a couple of people that are sitting in the living room: Beach Bunny is, from left, guitarist Matt Henkels, singer/guitarist/songwriter Lili Trifilio, bassist Anthony Vaccaro, and drummer Jon Alvarado. © Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Beach Bunny is, from left, guitarist Matt Henkels, singer/guitarist/songwriter Lili Trifilio, bassist Anthony Vaccaro, and drummer Jon Alvarado.

A few weeks into a solo quarantine at her apartment solo, however, Trifolio went to stay at her parents’. She had been hanging out with a neighbor who is a producer prior to quarantine, and once she was “bored out of (her) mind” at home, Trifilio decided to pick production back up by her lonesome.

“I was like, ’You know what? ‘I’m gonna buy Logic. I’m just gonna learn it. I don’t really care if what I make is bad. I’m just gonna try to just figure out how this works.’ And I just fell in love with it. This is a whole — it was unlocking like a different part of my brain.”

The experiments inspired Tiger Lili, Trifilio’s new “self-titled” project separate from Beach Bunny. She released the first song under the moniker, “Lightning,” on the first of September, and said the solo work has become an outlet for all the rest of her creative energy.

“I didn’t really want to try to write anything that sounded like Beach Bunny,” she said. “If you talk to anyone on the team, I feel like every week, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to make a country album,’ ‘I want to make this electronic album,’ ‘Oh, I want to make this chill beats album.’ And they’re like, ‘We need to figure out what you want to do.’”

Beach Bunny has recently felt comfortable to get back in the studio and start practicing again, Trifilio said, and it has been fleshing out an EP release with engineer/producer Joe Reinhart, who also worked on “Honeymoon.” Called “Blame Game,” the release date should be in the next two months.

The EP includes new material from this summer with “maybe a heaviness, or a bit more punk sound” to it, Trifilio said. She also pulled back on the sad girl lyrics, she said, and laughed.

“I feel like quarantine in general just made me do a lot of reflecting. It was nice having the space to write some songs that were more reflective of situations and weren’t so reactive, which is usually what my songs are.”

Tiger Lili won’t be going anywhere either, though. Trifilio said she has plans to release some kind of full length project in late 2020 or early 2021. And it’s one product of quarantine that she’s thankful for.

“I’m really happy that I got to put something out this year with Tiger Lily. I doubt I would have started that project if it hadn’t been for quarantine. I definitely would not have learned anything about producing, so (in) that way I’m grateful for that.”

adlukach@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @lucheezy

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©2020 the Chicago Tribune

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