As one half of the genre-defying duo Prayers, Leafar Seyer has his feet firmly planted in two worlds. On one hand he’s a goth, sporting black nails, a crucifix earring, and professing a deep abiding love for groups like Depeche Mode and Joy Division. On the other hand he is a proud chicano, tattooed with the symbols of his second family, the Sherman Grant Hills Park gang of southeastern San Diego. His Instagram page could feature anything from images of the singer in a swanky New York City hotel room to a picture of him throwing up gang signs with a friend who just got out of prison. He is a walking juxtaposition, a living oxymoron who has taken the seemingly opposite of worlds of goth and gangbanging to create the entirely unique genre of cholo goth. Along with producer Dave Parley’s hard hitting synth beats, Seyer’s songs are defiant tales of violence and melancholia. Sentiments that are amplified by meticulously art directed, shot in gorgeous black and white and starring the coolest, most stylish cliques in around—people who, like Seyer—find themselves straddling two subcultures.
In this latest instalment of Behind the Lens, Seyer discusses the visual aesthetic of Prayers, shares shome behind the scenes photos from his new music video and explains his love for 80s English synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys.
Noisey: The majority of your videos are in filmed in black and white. What is it about this pared back aesthetic that appeals to you and works with the music?
Leafar Seyer: I dream in black and white. When people listen to Prayers, a tailored visual is formed in their mind based on their life experiences. So to preserve the spirit and the integrity of my craft, it's very important that I allow the audience to see the world as I see it. Color is beautiful but it can also be misleading. Black and white is honest and upfront. People either love us or hate us, black and white is exactly that.
Historically, goth music relies on visual artistry almost as much as its sound. At what point did you solidify the visual aspects of Prayers? Was it before, during, or after you conceived the group’s musical direction?
Before. Aesthetics have always been of high importance to me. What attracted me to goth culture initially is it's romantic and morose perspective and it's revealed in the lifestyle. By making peace with death we are able to see the beauty in things and goth culture embodies that.
Your videos usually open with a wide shot of a desolate space: slums, a graveyard, railroad tracks. Do you find that your music is best suited for those kind of forlorn settings?
Yes. Those settings all represent life stemming out of chaos the quiet before the storm. Those "slums" as you said, are in my neighborhood, the place I call home. My father is buried in that cemetery. The videos and music go hand in hand with the life I’m living. It’s the same with the people in the videos. Those aren’t actors. The guys in the video are members of the gang I belong to, the women are my lovers, and the children are my nieces and nephews. I'm showing our audience the places and the people that have influenced the music. I'm not out on some movie set hiring actors. These people and places are a part of my daily life.
You’re the frontman of the band, and Dave Parley is the producer. Do you two collaborate on the visual aspects of the band or is that primarily your responsibility?
Correction. I’m the poet behind Prayers. I’m also the visionary muse whose story is being told, with the selfless support of Dave Parley.
Your music often deals with themes of life and death, good and evil. In your life outside of Prayers, how often are you confronted with these things?
Every fucking day. This music is a testament to the life I’m living. It's a testament to the people that have fought for me and to all of those that have opposed me. It’s tattooed all over my body.
Can you give an example of how a real-life event shaped your music or your music videos?
If I gave you current examples, I’d be incriminating myself and others. Those videos are interpreting my life as I've lived it. All I’m doing is remembering things that have happened to me in real life and turning those memories into music videos. They are not from a place of fiction. They’re things that I’ve gone through. The music is the same. I’m just sharing my experiences with our audience. Verbally through the music and visually through the videos.
In your newest video you cover “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys, whom you have cited as one of your fundamental influences. Do you remember your first experience with PSB? Did they strike you on a musical level, a visual level or both?
Pet Shop Boys struck me on a musical level. Their music raised me and helped me escape reality. It was the soundtrack to my youth before I joined a gang. The past is always present and I'm grateful for the opportunity to pay them homage with our version of “West End Girls.”
Tell me about your decision to wear a priest’s collar in the video for “West End Girls.”
It has to do with the ideology of authority and how we perceive people according to what they’re wearing. For example a police officer in a uniform or a doctor in his lab coat. Clothing tells a story that is heard by the subconscious mind. When I put the priest collar on, it opened up a dialogue in people’s mind without me having to use words. Which is why you’re asking me this question. So it’s obviously working. It grabs your attention in the most subtle way.
In addition to being a musician, you're a restaurateur, writer, and visual artist. How do these other projects influence your music? Has a painting, movie, or a story ever acted as a catalyst for a song?
All of those things have given my life texture and meaning. They have shaped my music, my art and the way I live life. They’ve presented different perspectives and challenges that have influenced the person I am today.
What’s next for Prayers?
We plan to dethrone the false gods who take but never give!
Prayers Tour Dates
8.23 Portland, OR @ Star Theater
8.25 Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
8.27 Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue
8.28 Denver, CO @ Riot Fest
8.30 Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
9.1 Dallas, TX @ Dada
9.2. Austin, TX @ Red 7
9.3 San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
9.5 New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
9.6 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
9.7 Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
9.9 Philadelphia, PA @ Coda
9.10 Detroit, MI @ Pike Room
9.11 Chicago, IL @ Riot Fest