How does it feel when someone tells you that you’re “so young?” Or even “too young?” How does it feel that “at your age” you’re supposed to be “something?” The pressure of being held to a specific standard as a young adult, especially when you have potential, is a construct that is constantly looming. Should the younger generation give a f*ck?
Cellist/singer-songwriter, Aubrey Liston, who performs under the name Xioma, is unraveling these cliches and spinning them into the shimmering reveries of her debut record. On the surface, she understands what being a young person in the 21st century is like, untangling all of the experience and trying to make something out of it. But even though Liston and the population of passionate 20-somethings are trying their hardest, how do they convince anyone of what they’re capable of? Well, with her cello in hand and the complex, moving tracks of “When I turn 30 (I’ll feel secure about everything)”, Liston has a chance.
We wanted to hear from Liston’s perspective about her debut record and how she’s been navigating the waters of growing up. Liston’s unabashed thoughts give a thoughtful context to how she’s been learning and making sh*t work for her. Each song is a journey through their experience, narrating their growth, and quite frankly, it’s inspirational.
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Written By: Deanna DiLandro @deannadilandro
When did you start playing cello and when did you begin to create the fusion you call "cello-punk”?
I started playing cello when I was 12, and started songwriting when I was 14. Xioma, though, was born during a gap year (or 3 lol) while I was living in Appalachia Ohio.
The tracks seem to guide us through different points in your timeline as a young adult. How do they come together to represent your goals? What is the record about in your words?
I think the record is about the relationships we tend to ignore; not just social relations, but also how you relate to yourself and your history. “Wild Woman” is about the relationship in which a person doesn’t see how you’ve grown and treats you according to their expectations instead of the reality. “Stranger” is about the disconnect of someone who can’t see you because of bias that blocks connection. I wrote “Mother” after a conversation I had with my mom. It’s an ode to the most bizarre human connection: growing a life from your own body knowing that there’s no guarantee of a reward, or even that the child will value whatever it is you do.
I wrote “Images” on a Saturday morning— I had been working 50 hour weeks and was also full-time in school. I was exhausted which is always when my depression is most daunting. It’s interesting to me how connected my mind and body are.
I love records that have a flow and I think of this one of having an arch shape. “Images” is the song with the most emotional intensity. The tracks previous are building to it. “Normal” is a love song for the friends who make me feel normal. “Who cares?” has the title line of the record, When I Turn 30 (I will feel secure about everything)— which I think is funny and reassuring. I think it is also a contemplation of the relationships where I allowed people to take too much of me.
The last song is perhaps my favorite song on the record. It quotes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “No feeling is ever (final).” I have carried that line with me everywhere for the past 5 years— whether I’m prostrate on the ground sobbing, feeling nothing at all, or reeling with love and gratitude. Emotions often feel the same to me in that way— overwhelming. Musically it quotes almost every song from the record which feels so good to me— it’s like a bird eye’s view of every connection I’ve had and every feeling I’ve felt, wrapped in grateful acceptance.
The songs "Stranger" and "Mother" follow each other in the track list. Is that intentional? Does this have anything to do with how both sets of people may influence our young lives?
Yes, I think so. I would go even further and say that the first 3 tracks are about important external relationships and their influence.
What is your definition of "Normal" and do you think people fall in and out of this classification? Or is it just completely misinterpreted?
Being normal is bullshit. Harry G. Frankfurt explained the idea of bullshit well, saying that when we lie we are aware that we are lying; when we bullshit— we have no awareness of the truth.
I think this is what we do with the idea of “normal.” We’re so keen to the idea of belonging that we mask/normalize ourselves to get there, but what we really want is connection which requires radical truth. It’s always my friends who are scarily honest about themselves that make me feel seen. And that’s what I really want.
How do you think we can stop caring about what others think of us as we grow up? Do you think this happens naturally? Let’s stop giving a sh*t, right?
I love Sarah Knight's idea of a "fuck budget". I can only give so many fucks and I simply don’t have the time to give a fuck about what the majority of people think of me. Being conscious of this has helped me to some degree, but my theory is that a lot of it comes with age. I think that as you become older you realize that your time is depleting and it no longer makes sense to spend your energy on anything/one you don’t want to.
On your way to 30 years old, what are some of the ways you've noticed your own growth?
I’ve noticed growth is not linear. I’ve noticed I’m less tolerant of people who don’t treat me well. I’ve noticed that I’m a little bit quicker at understanding that I only want to invest my energy in things/people/ideas that I value; everything else can fall away.