Son Lux is just one of those bands that, when they come on the audio equipment of your choosing, you know it’s them. Led by singer/ mult-instrumentalist wizard Ryan Lott, they’ve managed stand out despite the impossibility of doing so in today’s hyper-saturated deep space of music. Maybe it’s because of Ryan’s quivering, breathy vocals that your brain instantly registers as familiar, or the cinematic production, or the rolling bursts of strings and synths punctuated by tranquil moments of calm that does it … IDK, guys, I just don’t know. Other great potential reasons for their pervasive originality include, but are not limited to: Emotionally shattering synths! Suspenseful crashes of percussion! The percolating sense of urgency and gathering motion that maintains tireless omnipresence throughout their discography! Can you tell I like Son Lux?
Irregardless, their newest album, BONES, delivers on their promise of ingenuity. We caught up Ryan, as well as his band-mates Ian Chang (ye olde drummer boy) and Rafiq Bhatia (guitar), to talk about the album and its workings before their July 9th show at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.
Of course, it was only a matter of time until we started talking about their new video for “You Don’t Know Me” starring Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, the best MCs, the problem with Bjork and merits of morning sex … but, we’ll get to that.
Read on, minions.
First off, the obvious question. Your new album BONES is Son Lux’s first LP as a trio, rather than a one-man-band. What made you want to grow? Did adding two members drastically change Son Lux’s creative process?
RL: I formed the trio with the intent to create a dynamic and versatile ensemble to reinvent Lanterns for the stage, and tour it a bit. But we immediately discovered a personal and creative chemistry that demanded more. We added dates and more dates, and naturally began writing new music together as we toured around the world. The creative process was rather unique, of course, as this was a truly collaborative effort. But it was natural and self-energizing because we all trust each other creatively.
You’ve stated on a few occasions that you are among the fortunate few who don’t encounter writers’ block. Yet, by virtue of some combination of training and disposition, you take a very “brainy” approach to music. As someone for whom creation goes hand-in-sweaty-hand with anxiety, this is unthinkable! Please tell me that you are tortured in other ways, and share a couple instances with the class?
RL: Well, it’s not that I don’t ever have writer’s block. I just have a system in place to thwart it; the trick for me is that I have several projects/songs in development at all times. So at any point I feel a lack of energy or fluidity with one thing, I shift to the other. This creates a perpetual cycle, as each thing fuels ideas for the other while also reducing the strain on each. That said, I have to be willing to fight for an idea, whether through boredom or fatigue or insouciance. I ask myself, “At the end of this day, what will I regret having left undone?”
You just dropped a video for the “You Don’t Know Me” music video starring Orphan Black’s prodigiously talented Tatiana Maslany (!!!). Tatiana has cited Son Lux as one of her faves in the past. When and how did you guys link up? Which clone would you be and why?
RL: She came to one of our shows in London last year and tweeted about it. I was a fan of the show, so I reached out and we became friends. My wife and I introduced her to Brooklyn for the first time on one of her visits to NYC. If I had to choose which clone to be, I’d be Tatiana herself … Like the last question, I’m going with the all-at-once answer.
I saw that Rafiq recently called out our mutually beloved Björk on Twitter for telling SPIN that “Sound is the n*****r of the world”– which was, sadly, only her most recent iteration of that deeply problematic sentiment over the years. Can you name a personal fave (in any medium) who is “problematic” and how, if at all, it’s affected your enjoyment of their art?
RL: Yea, those were disappointing moments. It’s natural to idolize a person whose music has transformed one’s world, and hers has certainly transformed ours. But to a large degree, a person’s art exists apart from her/himself, so it’s important not to confuse one for the other. This is not to say that people should not be held accountable for their words, but I don’t think the enjoyment of their artistic output should hinge on them (especially since one’s intent is often unclear out of context). If someone whose music I despise says something wonderful, it won’t make me like their music. The inverse is true, and this logic extends beyond art. Just as I can love and appreciate the music of someone whose personal views differ from mine, I can love someone with opposing religious or political views.
It appears that Ian is either in or has drummed for approximately fifty-eleven bands. How did he get involved with Son Lux? Do you know any secrets of his you can spill?
IC: He/I can clone himself/myself.
Ryan, you and Rafiq have worked on hip hop projects and spoken to the genre’s broader influence on your creative process. Aside from Sisyphus collaborator Serengeti, who are your top three MCs? It can be of all time or in recent years; whatever floats your boat.
RB: Biggie, DOOM, Kendrick.
It seems that Rafiq frequently overlaps comedically with comedian Hari Kondabalu (I’m jealous). How would you characterize your sense of humor? Are there any comedians you particularly admire?
RB: I grew up in the South and hit my late teens in the years following 9/11. Dave Chappelle’s comedy – and particularly his commentary on race – helped me recognize what was problematic about the world around me, and gave me an outlet for the frustrations that came with trying to fit into that.
If you could retroactively create the soundtrack/score for one film, what would it be and why?
RL: Oooh, good question. It would be interesting to return to a great, timeless film that’s only showing its age in its score. Seems like that happens a lot, though I can’t think of a good example right now. Sorry that this was a lame answer.
You are absolved. Briefly tell me your feelings on (a) emojis (b) Drake (c) morning sex (do you feel compelled to brush your teeth first or nah?).
RB & IC: Ian and I answered this one together:
(a+b): “I texted her and then she texted me and then I texted her and then she never texted me back” [crying emoji, crying emoji, crying emoji]
(c): Yes (noooo)
You’re originally from Denver, so I have to ask: Do you 420 blaze? What’s your preferred smoking method? How does legalization make you feel on an emotional and physical level?
IC: One of us does, one of us used to, and one of us never has. You decide.