"Dance Music For The Introverted"
I've talked to Lyra, who performs as lyra messier. The multi-talented ambient music artist has just released her self-titled album. In our interview she gave me some insights into her life and music. Please enjoy reading!
Anne: Hi Lyra! Thank you for taking the time! How are you today?
Lyra: If we temporarily ignore that the world seems to be on fire right now, I’m pretty decent. My life has been fairly quiet lately — I’m currently looking for work and trying to shield myself from the summer heat. I’m lucky to not have been in a precarious financial situation before the coronavirus mess started; plenty of musicians and other people in the industry are in big trouble now, which is worrying.
Anne: You are pretty creative - making music, reviewing music and you are also doing some creative stuff on GitHub. What inspires you?
"I wrote my own website"
Lyra: I’ve always been a big fan of everything music-related, but I also take an interest in technology and software. I dabble in web development occasionally — I wrote my own website using my fairly rudimentary coding knowledge. Pretty much everything else I am doing has to do with music, though. I guess you could consider the music I listen to my main inspiration because it influences so much of what I do. As you mentioned I also write about music, primarily for a Dutch-speaking blog called Dansende Beren. I tend to cover the genres that also inspire my own work, which can range from indie-pop to progressive rock and more experimental electronic stuff.
Anne: You've just released your album "lyra messier". How did you come to the decision to self-title it?
Lyra: I’ve self-titled it "lyra messier” everywhere because obviously, streaming services don’t just accept an album without a title, but really it’s supposed to be untitled.
Anne: How long did it take you to record it?
Lyra: I spent about four years on it in some capacity, although it mostly took that long because I’m a habitual procrastinator. Some of the songs are fairly old; "Collision” and "Apollo” already existed in some form in 2015. The album was already 80 per cent done well over a year before its release, but I just couldn’t be bothered to open the project files and do the last bits of work on them. The lockdown proved to be the perfect opportunity to stop putting that off.
"I love to go with the flow"
Anne: Your music sounds well-considered and sonorous. Very energetic and driving parts are taking turns with deep ambient sound baths. I like that a lot! Do you always have a plan first and build your songs from scratch like a coder or is it more like jamming? What happens when you start writing a song?
Lyra: I tend to start with an initial idea and build the songs from there. I occasionally have a fully-formed song in my head before playing the first note, but even then things can take a very different turn when I actually start working on it.
I tend to just go with the flow when it comes to songwriting. This sometimes results in pieces that just keep getting longer — hence the two 10 minute tracks on the album — but I’ve always enjoyed a good epic, slow-building song.
Anne: You describe yourself as "the world’s leading white noise generator" - What makes ambient music so fascinating?
"Ambient music used in moderation can be very powerful"
Lyra: Although entire albums of completely ambient music don’t always appeal to me, I think when used in moderation it can be extremely powerful. I love the floating, dreamlike state it can induce in me. The new album is structured to have a few low-key breathers in between the action, and I think those pieces are just as essential to the puzzle.
Anne: Do you have any favorite instruments or synths?
Lyra: I only own a piano and a few MIDI controllers; I’ve never been a big instrument hoarder. I love the sound of the hang, though. Portico Quartet uses it in lots of their songs. "Allosome” on the album contains a synthesized version of that sound, but I would love to own a real one. Beyond that, I can always appreciate a simple, big guitar riff. The sound of that blasting through your speakers at a high volume never gets old.
I can’t actually play the guitar, but luckily I was able to steal the talent of my guitarist friend Achilles De Raedt (who is also in the rock band HYPER!) for the more rock-oriented songs.
Anne: Did you always want to be a musician?
"Music has always been a part of me"
Lyra: I’ve been involved with music for about as long as I can remember. I started taking music theory and piano lessons after school when I was about seven years old. It’s always been a big part of who I am. I never really envisioned music being my main job, since it’s still mostly something I use as a creative outlet for myself. It’s always lovely to see that other people are enjoying my work, though.
Anne: It's 2020 - Why are there still so few women out there making music?
"Women need to let their creativity flow"
Lyra: Honestly, I don’t know. I think women are still not encouraged to let their creativity run free in the same way men are. Luckily I have plenty of female music-making friends, although I’ve noticed that my little niche of solo music production is still extremely male-dominated.
Anne: Are there any women that you would describe as inspirations for your work? Do you have any role models?
Lyra: Most of my direct musical inspirations are men. Take people like Jon Hopkins, Steven Wilson, and bands such as 65daysofstatic and Everything Everything. I do love plenty of music made by women, though. Nilüfer Yanya and Marika Hackman are two extremely talented artists who I think have released stellar albums in the past few years, which the music press has largely overlooked. Though not as influential on my more progressive instrumental music, I can certainly appreciate their work just as much.
Anne: How would you describe your music?
"It's my personal little genre"
Lyra: It feels to me like a natural synthesis of everything I listen to, which comes together to become my personal little genre. Although the songs range from straightforward instrumental rock to abstract electronica, I think you can always tell that they’re mine. Or to put it more bluntly: it’s dance music for introverts who spend all day in their bedroom with the curtains permanently shut.
Anne: You are at a festival listening to a band you love. You are getting the message, that the next act has postponed their show to the next day. The next slot is free. They are looking for a newcomer to step in and play. They are asking you first to do it. You will get all the gear you need for your performance. Do you enter the stage?
Lyra: If I’m given access to the right gear, absolutely! I’d love to perform for an audience since I never really have. The only thing I’m worried about is that my music is fairly studio-oriented; it was not really conceived to be performed live.
"I would love to play live in a traditional band setting"
I think it would be very cool to play in a more traditional band setting, as long as I can find the right balance between live elements and sounds played back on tape — since hiring a dozen keyboardists to play all the different parts seems a bit far out of my league (laughs).
Anne: What are your plans for the future?
Lyra: I’ve never been a great planner, honestly. I tend to just see where life leads. I already have a few ideas for new material, which I won’t spoil, but I think the result could be pretty cool! I’ll stop teasing here, though, since knowing myself it may take me several years before I dare release any of it. But hey, one can dream.
Anne: Thank you very much for this enchanting interview! It was a pleasure getting to know you! All the best to you and let's keep in touch!
Pictures: Anne-Leen Declercq