Interview • Son Lux
You’re back in 2018 with Brighter Wounds, a new album. You’ve introduced this album with a first extract Dream State. I listened carefully to the lyrics and, it might just be my perception, but I had the feeling that life/death, water/earth, waking/dreaming were more intertwined than opposed.
Ryan: Definitely! You’ve just made me realized a better response about the album cover as well. The hands are intertwined, one is the other and neither are normal.
Ian: And there is a struggle!
During the making of this record you went through joyful and painful experiences. Do you think that this record had to be a little more personal than the previous ones?
Ryan: It felt to me that it needed to be. I really can never imagine making music that isn’t personal. An explicit goal of Son Lux music has always been and continues to be, from a lyrical perspective, a music that invites interpretation and invites our listener to bring their own perceptions and experiences to the music. That’s true about Brighter Wounds but it wasn’t an explicit goal. It was more a natural outcome. This album is more autobiographical and it felt natural and honest to be transparent in a more directly responsive way.
I’ve read that your son was born on the day after the election.
Ryan: No, he was born 12/12 so he was born under Obama! (laughing)
His fourth birthday will be one hell of a party!
Ryan: Hopefully his first birthday will be as well but maybe I’m being too hopeful! The three of us were together the week of the election so it’s possible that you heard or read about the day after the election being a moment when we had a solemn mourning.
You said in an interview that the lyrics usually come last. Was it the case with this record?
Ian: It was mostly still that but it was also subtler than before. There were some songs that Ryan had written with melodies and lyrics first.
Ryan: Yes, there were more instances of like start-to-finish kind of songs. I did more writing with the piano that I had in the past but it’s still largely true. Even in the final stages of these songs coming together in the studio, I was asking these guys to help me figure out what was working vocally and lyrically. We were near the end of the process but I was still struggling. It feels more natural for me to begin away from songs altogether but begin to design a world of sounds. It’s almost like building a house but actually starting with a painting that goes on the wall. Then, building the wall, building the room, decorating the room and then on and on and on until you have a house.
A big house or a penthouse!
Ryan: (laughing) Preferably! It’s actually interesting that you say that, I live on the top floor of a building right now!
I have to admit I couldn’t stop listening to All Directions. It’s really mesmerizing! Could you tell me a bit about this song?
Ryan: Actually, we never really talk about this. This is our favourite song on the record as well! I mean, we have our favourites and it’s one of them. It definitely feels like an emotional core for the record. I was actually working on a film score in LA and I took a break from working on it for a few minutes and I came up with this disgusting beat. I put a marker in the project “!!!! DO NOT LOSE THIS !!!!” When you’re writing a film score, it becomes really messy. You can lose things easily if you don’t make notes. I didn’t lose it fortunately! Originally it was a very electronic idea and then we had an early session and we didn’t know what the song was gonna be but we just called that the disgusting beat. Ian recorded it on acoustic drums during the first session but it was tuned in a particular way and nothing happened with the track for a long time. Then I wrote a piece for yMusic and I kinda wrote it knowing that I would use it later. For some crazy reasons, I revisited it and it was a beautiful moment. In fact, that song was actually the first song I recorded vocals for on the whole record.
Ian: We thought we had set a high bar with this song! (laughing)
Do you always rework songs? When do you know that one version of a song will be the last?
Ian: We kinda have a deadline I guess! (laughing) It does really help, you work towards it and you just do everything you can until this deadline. It’s almost like you have a hit list of tasks, even though that sounds a bit clinical. It actually helps, especially since we don’t live in the same city.
Songs like All Directions and Surrounded are very powerful. Have you already thought about their rendition live?
Ian: We have. For All Directions we thought about how hard it’s gonna be to do and I think we’ll probably have to change it. For Surrounded, I thought a lot about how I’m gonna do it live cause the ending is insane, like apocalyptic drums. I have some ideas, it’s gonna be pretty cool!
Ryan: One of the things that we are proud of as a band is our ability to reinvent our songs for the stage. We see it as an opportunity and it’s not a bummer.
You also make music on your own or with different projects. Ian, you’ve released a debut EP, Spiritual Leader. Rafiq, you’ve said you wanted to release new music.
Rafiq: Well, I have new music! (laughing) I have a new album that’s coming next spring that Ian put it on. It’s my first recording where I assume the role of producer, sound designer and composer. It’s a kind of very crafted approach to sound, sort of inner woven with an aesthetic orientation towards improvisation and liveness and human kind of rawness. It will be out next spring on ANTI- Records and we’re gonna be touring that in the US and Europe.
You’ve actually answered my next question. I wanted to know if you kept boundaries between what you do on your own or if it was always a bit connected to Son Lux.
Ian: It really depends. For my record I kind of did it mostly on my own. There was also the nature of the way I did it, it was like through exploring a particular technology and like I set some limitations on myself for how I wanted to make it and those limitations made it a little harder to collaborate
Ryan: But at the same time, Sun Lux is going to benefit from it.
Ian: Yes, I am using some of the new skills I learned for it in the recording and the live show. I didn’t like consciously set any boundaries like “I need to get away from this!” (laughing). It’s all very kind of open
Rafiq: It’s also helpful to make music outside this band and it’s helpful to have other outlets in which you are either working more introspectively or being kind of put into conversation with different musicians. You know every time each of us does something like that, we grow and bring things back to the table.
Brighter Wounds will be released via City Slang so that makes five records on four different label! Is it a way to ensure your creative freedom?
Ian: First interesting thing about that is that even though we’ve changed labels a lot, we’ve had the same manager since 2006. We’re not so bad to work with! (laughing)
Ryan: We have good relationships with all, well, most of the labels! (laughing) One of the wonderful things about engaging in the marketplace with your music is that you get to meet different kinds of people that aren’t like you but, you know, share a passion in music. You get to collaborate and work together and partner on bringing the music into the world. Not every partnership is meant to be a lasting partnership and the way that label contracts can be arranged is that they can be written in such a way that can allow flexibility for both parties to explore a season of life together and then stay together or move on. I feel like I’ve benefited personally and professionally from the perspective and the efforts of different labels because each one is gonna try different things and think about things slightly different and I’ve seen each relationship as an opportunity to learn, to make mistakes but also to succeed.
So, it’s quite intended!
Ryan: Absolutely! I mean, for me, outside of the music itself, I feel under very little compulsion, if any at all, to yoke myself in a long-term fashion with anyone. The exception would be our manager Michael who’s, I feel at this point, so integrated into what we’re doing, he feels like he’s very much part of the creative team, even though he doesn’t pick up an instrument or whatever. But you know, beyond that, I think a lot of people find themselves in long-term contracts and multi-record contracts and things that have no allowance for anyone to leave the arrangement and oftentimes that’s fantastic but sometimes it’s not the most ideal scenario for everyone involved.
Let’s end this interview with a game. I’m going to give you beginnings of famous songs and you’ll have to finish the sentence with your own words.
All I want for Christmas is … my Pyrex! It’s just the first thing that popped into my head! (Rafiq)
When I found myself in times of trouble … I cry! (Ian)
If you want to be my lover you gotta … taste the hair on my neck! (Ryan)
I’m up all night to … feel the breeze on the back of my neck in the early morning while I’m eating an egg and cheese biscuit sandwich from Bojangles famous chicken and biscuits in Raleigh North Carolina! (Rafiq)
I can’t live if living is without … you know, it’s funny because I’m actually kind of lactose intolerant but I was gonna say cheese! (Ian)
But we are living in a material world and I am … caught between the leaves and the roots. (Ryan)
You gotta fight for your right to … exist in a system that wasn’t designed for you. (Ian)
Photo de une : Lisa Wassmann