Listen And Watch: TAS In Session With The Luyas On 91.5 WNYE
Montréal's experimental popsters The Luyas are currently touring with The Dodos and play Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg this Monday, September 12.
Led by the pretty vocals and cryptic lyricism of frontwoman Jessie Stein, The Luyas are still supporting their wintertime release, Too Beautiful To Work, out now on Dead Oceans.
The quartet, which also includes keyboardist/horn player Pietro Amato, keyboardist Mathieu Charbonneau and drummer Stef Schnieder - recently visited The Alternate Side for a very special session with Alisa Ali which you can hear in its entirety this Friday, September 9, at 11 a.m. EDT on TAS on 91.5 WNYE and streaming on the TAS website.
Alisa Ali: Do you look at this album as your first real album since Faker Death was a little, as you say, on the short side?
Jessie Stein: This one’s pretty short too (laughs). I like short albums. I like a quick experience. It’s weird, you lose track of time and forget that there was a record before, a record after. I guess it’s our second record, but I don’t really think about the chronology of it all. I get swept up.
Alisa: When you look back on the music you created, do you look back on a certain period?
Stef Schneider: Well, for sure. It started the group, Jessie and Pietro were just getting together and making some music and shortly after I joined. As soon as we got together it was not long at all before we made that album. We were barely even a band; it just happened. Those early songs were all documented on that and they developed a little bit more live. And Mathieu wasn’t in the band yet so surely, there’s a big difference between the second and the first album. Now that we’re a “fourtet.”
Alisa: Do you feel this is your “sound” now?
Jessie: I think we’ve changed a lot as a band since [our first record]. It was a really important step and it was us building the true architecture for ourselves as a collaborative group. I believe it was a real collaboration artistically whereas the other one was so quick and more of a time piece. It couldn’t have possibly been representative of anything other than a beginning. Now we’re really a band because we lived in a band together for months.
Alisa: That’s the true sign of being a band.
Jessie: When you know each other’s smells.
Alisa: Do you still enjoy the songs from Faker Death and play them live?
Jessie: Yeah! I think it’s a really cool record. I stand behind it. I feel like in this day and age, because music is immediately digested the moment it’s released, there’s this idea that everything needs to be crafted and perfected like this giant art piece. I love that idea and I love making records that attempt to be a giant project. But at the same time I think Faker Death is cool because it’s much lighter hearted than that. We were playing music together and recorded the songs that we were doing then. That’s a legitimate way to experience music. I don’t think everything needs to be a perfect acumen of a vision.
Alisa: I feel like Too Beautiful To Work is really a headphones record. There’s so much going on and so many layers. You hear something different each time you listen to the album. With your vocals, I don’t always understand what you’re saying ….
Jessie: Canadian accent!
Alisa: Some of my favorite music comes from Canada!
Jessie: No, I know what you meant! It’s in a bubble in the middle of the mix too, but that’s intentional … I don’t think we’re intentional oblique or intentionally trying to be incomprehensible per se; it’s not a mask so much that we always make the decision that seemed the most musical to fit the song. I think the vocals are actually pretty loud on the record but sometimes the way that they sound is a little hard to figure out on the first pass. I defnitely am saying stuff! I sometimes listen to the Cocteau Twins and I’m just like, what is this woman on about? And the other night we played a show and someone went, “Jessie, what do you think the percentage of the songs are that you sing in French?” And I don’t sing a single lick in French! It’s basic modern English!
Alisa: To me this record is more of a feeling than painting a very direct picture.
Jessie: To me it’s about a certain kind of mental confusion so it makes sense to kind of drape it in an aesthetic that establishes that sensibility. Maybe one day I’ll tell you exactly how I feel in plain, compressed and unreverberated English.
Alisa: When you’re writing lyrics, does it come easily to you?
Jessie: Well, on this record a lot of them came quickly. We’ve been talking about making our next record fairly soon and how I want to spend a little bit more time maybe saying something more specific and direct. The last time around it was intentionally about a certain elusiveness. A concrete sense of a particular situation that I’m not going to get too deep into. But I think for our next record I’m going to have to do the opposite and hole up in a bunker somewhere and figure out what I mean. Make sure I say it directly. It really depends.
The first record was different from the second record and I want to keep the lyrical element of the band open and changing from piece to piece. Some of the songs took me a long time to write. More than a day. And some of the lyrics I finished in the studio. There’s a song on the record called “Tiny Head” that we wrote the same day we recorded it, from start to finish. “Spherical Mattress” we wrote the same day we recorded.
Alisa: One thing I notice about Canadians is that you guys really embrace collaboration. Talk about some of the guests on the record.
Jessie: Owen brought a bunch of his friends to play his arrangements and we only met them briefly but they were incredible players. We also had Colin Stetson who’s the best saxophone player in the world. He played on one of our songs and Sarah Neufeld who is sometimes in our band played violin on one fo the songs. Our friend Daniel Romano played a little bit of bass and sang. He even played a tiny little bit of drums?
Stef: I was playing keyboard on that song.
Jessie: I was supposed to be the drummer on it because I wrote it on drums. But I wasn’t a very good drummer.
Stef: But no one else knew the keyboard parts, so I had to play keyboard. And can’t play keyboards and drums at the same time. Jessie: So Danny played drums.
Alisa; You also play a Moodswinger, a 12-string electric zither designed by a Dutch luthier, Yuri Landman. How many of these are in existence?
Jessie: There is one other exact copy that Yuri has and some varients. An earlier model that one of the guys from Liars has. I don’t know if they use it. It’s way heavier and not as red as mine. Theirs is green. There’s pretty much two of a kind if you look at the exact model. It’s a bit of a monster. It’s very interesting and it can bite you. But it’s really cool and it’s still allowed to be in the band. I happened upon it. I was on tour with another band and Yuri was giving a lecture before one of our concerts. He was speaking Dutch and my Dutch is very rusty. I didn’t understand what he was saying, but I heard his instruments and the prototype for this instrument really interested me. So we got into a long conversation about the Western scale and how oppressive it is. He built me [this] and Stefan and Pietro brought it back for me from Europe and then I had to figure out how to play it. I’m still working on that ... I have to commit to going deeper.