The Importance of Staying Fascinated: Best Fit meets The Luyas

-

Last week saw the release of The Luyas third album, Animator, an album which finds the band reconfigured, taking their next step of development and crafting what frontwoman Jessie Stein terms “a weird, psychedelic, desperate plea to the universe to make something impossible possible.” We spoke to her at her home in Montreal about making a record that you can feel and the importance of staying fascinated with life and art.

We begin by talking about how Animator fits within the fuller story of The Luyas, given the departure of original drummer Stefan Schneider and the arrival of Mark ‘Bucky’ Wheaton. “With Faker Death we had been a band for four weeks. It’s a document of something premature. I don’t buy into this thing that everything should be a finished product or commodity, for us it’s a cool snapshot. With  Too Beautiful To Work…” At this point Stein breaks off with a laugh to marvel at the fact that she has a catalogue to discuss, before continuing “…it was more of a band finding their sound, in a playful way. Not experimental but experimenting within ourselves and our playing.”

“This record is different,” she continues. “We lost our original drummer, who remains a great friend. But then Matheiu  is on this record, and Bucky, so it’s like we have two new members. We recorded it quickly ourselves, Pietro produced it. It’s a much more contained communication, clear and focused. It’s the product of more years sleeping in the same hotel room, listening to the same things, in the same places, and more shared stories that have touched all of us. We love each other a lot. We were able to make this record because the connection was there. The whole thing feels like a month long dream.”

The album begins with the 9 minute ‘Montuno’, a swirling multi-part track that envelopes and shifts with repetition and phases. To start the album with such a track might be considered a bold move, but I suggest that the tracks can be seen as a statement of intent for what follows. It’s clear that the track means a lot to Stein, as what was intended to be a brief comment turns into a full explanation of the songs purpose. “It has a very specific set of meanings to me. As soon as we managed to record it we knew it had to be the lead song – it’s hard to put a piece like that anywhere else. It’s an anchor for the whole record, or a thesis – it sets the tone. To me it was about feeling trapped in the daily cycles of life, the repetitive nature of things we do to stay alive. Most moments are not inspired moments you actually forget.”

“Like yesterday,” she continues, “I remembered my shoelace came untied and I looked down and they were tied – but I couldn’t remember doing it. It drove me crazy – every day there are so many actions we take that we don’t fully know we are doing – like autopilot, committed to memory. We do it because we need to dismiss them because you couldn’t think about all that. So thats the first part of the song. Then there is this moment where the music becomes really nostalgic and its a realisation that you are going to die. And life is sweet. And sad. Then there is a cataclysm; everything goes wild – that’s the moment of death where everything falls away from you but you have to let it go… and then there’s the song when the lyrics start. The lyrics were written when I was under-slept and thinking about people who passed away, and I imagined reflecting after my death on what it was and how embarrassing a person I’ve been at moments and how much it means to me.”

During the recording of Animator the band received news of the sudden passing of a friend, and Stein admits that much of the record comes from questions that she was asking as a result. “Dealing with death is new to me. Obviously there is sadness and loss, but then you also have this detached part that is like “What exactly happened? Why do people turn to this or that?” and emotionally you understand why people turn to religion, or myth. It made me start allowing myself to believe in things, because I didn’t think it mattered if I was right or wrong. I’m not a depressed person, happily. But I have been around people who have struggled with it, but this record is more perplexed than anything- trying to wrap its head around those ideas. It’s about dealing with loss. It’s certainly sad. but there are songs about other things like love, and family and having crushes… you know, it’s kind of a reflection of life… and a pretty balanced one. It’s how I feel about my life, I think I have a pretty great life.”

One of the things that shines throughout the interview is Stein’s desire to learn and explore different worlds, both musical and through other forms of creativity. At one point she rallies against the “It’s the only thing I know how to do” school of indie rock: “That’s so fucking boring to me. C’mon, get a job. Learn something. Talk to me about something. Anything. If all you can do is play guitar then you probably aren’t going to write a song I care about anyway. Every life you could choose for yourself as an adult, when you look at it you can never just do one thing. A scientist can be a scientist but they have to deal with politics, taxes, people. As a musician you have to have opinions about things, know how to keep yourself healthy. It’s one of the rules in the Luyas – we aren’t allowed to be boring. Rule 1: No rules. Rule 2: Don’t be boring. It’s a little kick in the butt.”

This constant search for learning and experience has clearly had an effect on the record, from the cover image of dance pioneer Loie Fuller to the video collaborations that have been made for the album. The cover image of Fuller came about after a rare family holiday to New York saw Stein find herself in an old museum where on a tiny screen they were showing some footage of Fuller’s fabric dances. “Although filmed in black and white, the directors had colours painted on the fabric frame by frame – the incredible dance and the changing colours were mesmerizing.” The footage would later go on to inspire the collaboration with Montreal choreographer Katie Ward for the video to ‘Fifty Fifty’. I ask how the collaboration came about: “Music is the artform that works for me the most consistently, and the thing that i’ve had most experience in- and the most aptitude of any form. I love it. But it’s exciting to me because of the effect it has – transcendence, of what the world might be about, to validate or intensify feelings. That’s what attracts me to art. So when Katie Ward, my favourite choreographer was interested in doing something with me I said yes. I was so happy and honoured.”

“The collaboration with Mylène Simard for the ‘Montuno‘ video was different,” she continues. “I didn’t know her work but Pietro introduced us. He knew I had this idea that would be really hard to pull off, and she really went for it and it has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I can’t wait to show the world. It’s worthwhile to explore different things to expand your life as an artist or a person, to absorb those things from the people you are lucky enough to be surround by – and it can feed back into your art or creation. But really the ultimate art piece is your own life and making that exciting. Staying fascinated is important to me.”

Animator finds The Luyas scaling back some of the more abrasive side of their previous work, replacing them with lush string and horn arrangements that feel contemplative and full. ‘Face’ in particular has a low slung bass line that could have been easily lifted from a rare Gainsbourg cut. Stein is happy to acknowledge such influences: “We were listening to a lot of Brazilian psychedelic music last year and a lot of very bodily music, music that has a lot of sex and groove and thats something thats missing from a lot of “Indie Rock”. For my tastes. What I really loved about late and more experimental samba and tropicallia and certain weirdo lounge artists like Scott Walker, Lee Hazelwood and Serge Gainsbourg is that even when there are experimentations in sound and arrangement, there’s always something very grounding and substantial about it and then these little flares of chaos that tickle around a solid core.”

“I just think that right now what I’m interested in is making music that makes you feel. What I learned is that when you do something that doesn’t sound like it’s been done before or freaky – it’s gratifying in the moment but it’s harder to let your imagination go in to it. It becomes a more intellectual experience. I don’t want to be a brainless band at all but it is interesting to feel and be able to access it intellectually after, rather than accessing in your mind and then having to listen to it a bunch more before you can let it go. Obviously our band has always done everything with heart. We wanted to make something with depth on a number of levels, one of those was how it feels in your body when you hear it. I think Animator achieves that better than any of our other records so far.”

The Luyas head to Europe with Destroyer in November and play a London headline show at Birthdays on 09 December. Animator is out now on Dead Oceans.