Getting Back to The Luyas – SE@HPX2016
Montréal outfit The Luyas have been releasing landmark art-pop gems since delivering their debut Flickering Lights in 2009. I had the chance to sit down with frontwoman Jessie Stein ahead of their appearance at Halifax Pop Explosion to discuss the resurgence of the group since the release of Says You this past September, getting back to tour life, and finding inspiration both inside and outside of the music industry.
Mike Roy: To get started, I wanted to let you how great the Says You EP is – I’ve been hooked on it since I first heard it last month. You haven’t put out a record from the studio in about four years, so how was it getting back into the swing of things for this release?
Jessie Stein: Well, thank you! [laughs] Four years looks a lot longer than it actually is. Our last record, we toured it for a year, and we had been touring for years and years on end, so then we took a break to focus on other things. I think it gave us an opportunity to refresh the inspirations and get a grip on what we wanted to say or do. We’re long time collaborators, so it was pretty smooth for the most part.
Have you been keeping yourself creatively busy in the downtime between records?
Yeah! My focus was definitely less on art during that period between records. I was always writing a little, but not significantly. I’ve been working on a degree and just working a job. There was definitely a period where I was “musiced out,” but it’s pretty cool because now I feel like I have fresh eyes and fresh ears.
I’m sure refining yourself in building other aspects of your life is a wonderful motivation to eventually return to writing some songs, or playing shows, or even just getting on the road.
It’s harder to be excited about touring if you’re drained on touring. Equally, it’s harder to get excited about art when you’re feeling tired. It’s a very trite and repetitive thing to say, but there are a lot of voices out there now and an oversupply of creative works. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be difficult to navigate that world as your job It was pretty awesome to unhinge myself from that music culture, and be able to come back to it with a more playful and pleasure-based approach.
I’m sure the landscape of making and releasing music has changed in the time that The Luyas has been a project on-the-go. Do you think that The Luyas have maybe established a specific sound in that time?
Well, you tell me! [laughs] I’m like the worst person to ask about what we sound like. It’s easy to come up with “I have brown hair, I have hazel eyes, I’m this tall” when talking about yourself, but most people have a warped view as if you can only see yourself in a mirror, and I think the same applies to your music. From watching my collaborators and my peers in our music community, and continue to develop work, I would say most bands have a fingerprint. Even if they attempt radical changes to style or approach, often times it’s the same people working on the same project, it’ll be like “Jessie dresses up as a goth,” “Jessie dresses up as a pumpkin,” and in each case, it still looks like me. I think that no matter what, the band can dress up in different styles, but is still going to sound like themselves to a certain degree. Maybe I’m wrong though, what do you think?
I was going to say myself that going from the last record [2012’s Animator] to what’s going on in Says You, it seems loose in a great way. I’ve been watching a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s Sci-Fi lately and this record feels like it has that same sense of playfulness and space to it. I think you’ve definitely tapped into something with playing in the structure of a pop song.
Yeah, you definitely don’t always know what you’re going to get. [laughs] But somehow, it will always be us. Like you said, a lot of this record was improvised so there was a lot of looseness in recording, but I think that’s what we were going for.
I read online that there might be more tracks that have come out of this recording session for Says You. Is it possible that a full-length record may be out in the near-future?
It’s possible that there may be a new full-length record from the Luyas in the future [laughs]. We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff ready to go, it’s just a matter of timing. You know what’s funny, is that if Says You was three minutes longer or we chopped up some songs into separate tracks, it could be a LP. It’s definitely nice to have a feeling of warming the band back up since it’s been a number of years since performing, and for some reason with an EP, there is less pressure and we can get our tour legs warmed up. The live shows have been going so well and it’s been super fun, and it’s really touching to have everyone come out. I’m excited to make our way out East!
Yeah, we’re excited to have you here on the East Coast! I know it’s been a while, and you’ve got a great roster of musicians in the Luyas (Bucky Wheaton, Michael Feuerstack, Stef Schneider and Pietro Amato). Are they all coming out East?
Unfortunately, Bucky isn’t coming out on tour since we just got a mini-van and can only fit four of us in it [laughs], so Stef will be doing most of the drumming on tour.
That’s totally fair. Working with musicians such as they, who are so experienced and you guys have been together for so long, are there any surprises you continue to learn about them?
Oh, man. They’re all so awesome! But I’ve also been playing music with them for ten years, so it’s hard for them to surprise me. Pietro Amato has become surprisingly responsible! [laughs] When we started the band, he was mainly a French Horn players, and he has become a keyboard and studio wizard, so that’s been really fun to see. Mike Feuerstack is very tender and lyrical and awesomely detailed in his songwriting, so if you know him from that music, you might be surprised to see him let loose on guitar [in The Luyas]. Stef is a full-on rhythm section in a lot of ways this tour. He’s not only playing all the drums, which is two musicians on the record, but he is also playing synth-bass on a lot of it. In the context of these songs, he is like the Spider-Man of rock.
That’s wonderful! Being able to track that evolution from the days of starting the band to now is pretty awesome. I wish I had the chance to interview every band from the beginning and then 10 years into their career.
They’re my best friends. They are the nicest and most creative people.
To leave things off, what are some of the things you’re excited to see when you’re out on the East Coast?
I always like to stop at that giant blueberry at the gas station in Oxford. [laughs] We always take a cheesy photo in front of that. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out East. I lived in Halifax for a year at one point, but I don’t even know if we toured Animator out there, so it’s been a long time.
You can catch The Luyas at Halifax Pop Explosion on Thursday, October 20th at Gus’ Pub with Walrus, Pet Sun and Traces.