- The Luyas

Photo courtesy of Paper Bag Records.

The Luyas make music with experimentation and a little bit of magic. Their strategy stems not from a handbook, but an intuitive chance at linking together imagination with rhythm. Accordingly, this effervescent quartet from Montreal has deemed their genre “lucky,” and they seem to be finding good fortune in the realm of spontaneity.

“I just think that right now what I’m interested in is making music that makes you feel,” frontwoman Jessica Stein told TheBestofFit.com. “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 have been around since 2006 when they started performing live as a group, releasing their first album, Faker Death, the following year. Like many indie acts, they are an amalgamation of musicians who were playing in other bands or still are, but their strength as a unit appears to be taking them far. Furthermore, their assortment of tools makes like an audio chemistry experiment. Take guitars, a French horn, keyboards, drums and percussion, and the “Moodswinger,” a 12-string electric zither designed by the Dutch experimental luthier Yuri Landman, and the results are not to be replicated.

Speaking on the band’s identity, Stein tells About.com in 2011, “I was in different bands over the years, with different people: indie-rock, pop bands. The Luyas is a band that’s taken a few years to turn into a serious project, and the beauty of that is that we’ve gotten to know each other really well; musically and as people. We’ve got a great dynamic, now; I feel like we’ve been able to find a sound that satisfies me just enough to make me want to keep trying to find a new sound.”

To find their raison d’etre, the group avoids traditional rock standards, and explores the idea of setting their tone in unusual contexts. Their sophomore release, Too Beautiful to Work, though autobiographical, took on the notion of mental illness, hallucination and insanity. They claim not to speak from experience, however, more indirect observation.

“I spent a lot of time humanizing schizophrenia and suicidal tendencies in my head; trying to understand other people’s perspectives on their own mentalities,” Stein says.

For their latest album Animator, The Luyas attempted to offer deeper insight into their collective, also bringing in life moments, such as a friend’s passing, that played a role in their dynamic. They worked on “contained communication, clean and focused,” telling stories from life on the road and development of the band over the past six years. Furthermore, they play by no particular format or rules. The album begins with a nine-minute prologue to assert what Stein refers to as its “thesis,” and subsequently embody the cyclical nature of life. These are things that repeat themselves or have no explicit understanding.

“I remembered my shoelace came untied and I looked down and they were tied – but I couldn’t remember doing it,” Stein recalls offering one specific example. “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 that’s the first part of the song. Then there is this moment where the music becomes really nostalgic and it’s a realization 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.”

Yet despite their unrestrained nature, there are some guidelines to what it means to be a part of Luyas. No indie rock attitude – no “I don’t care about the world or my job or my life” – an artist must have an opinion and make a statement.

“A scientist can be a scientist but they have to deal with politics, taxes, people,” Stein points out. “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.”