Photo by John Londono Less money, mo' problems is too often the case for artists today, especially for bands looking to break out from their scene's pack. Music today exists at a time of fragmentation; a constant hum of too many options to choose from. Combined with increasing permit costs for bands hoping to tour between countries, it's more challenging than ever for emerging artists to break even on the hours, energy, and cash thrown into their work.
Atmospheric Montreal indie staples the Luyas capture these feelings perfectly with the hypnotic, distorted hook of "Self-Unemployed," the first song from their upcoming album Human Voicing set to arrive on February 24 through Paper Bag Records. Jessie Stein cooly repeats "when you don't make money, you don't make hope" and more tongue-in-cheek phrases as guitar and keys rise and fall around her serene voice. It's the kind of mesmerizing collage that's come to define the Luyas at ten years strong.
Listen to the new track below and read our interview with Stein about "Self-Unemployed," balancing work with music, and advice for bands who are literally going for broke.
Noisey: "Self-Unemployed" is a cheeky title and seems to wink at the financial hardships bands face to chase art over commerce. How did the song come to be?
Jessie Stein: Being self-unemployed is a Mikie joke. The song itself is a jumble of images and things I wrote down. My favourite choreographer, Katie Ward, did a piece last year called "Infinity Doughnut," which was a total mindblower. She had all the dancers doing repetitive movements that seemed banal at first but came together to make this wonderful lifeworld. Some kind of sense emerged out of the mess of repeated randomness. It felt like walking down a busy street. I wanted to make a song like that, so lyrically it's collage - a mix of jokes, judgments, signs I read, stuff I overheard. Musically, it's improv we made up the day we recorded it. Everyone doing their little movement over and over to make a thing.
Where does "Self-Unemployed" fit within Human Voicing? It's got such an abrasive, distorted hook – is it telling of what to expect on the album?
It's the second song I think. It's indicative of the record! It's on it! There are other songs on there too. There's a range of material and sounds but it was all made over the same sessions and they hold together with a certain logic.
You've previously spoken with us about working in neuroscience which is pretty badass. How many of you work other jobs to support your music now? Do you find the balance challenging?
I am the only one in the band with another job than music, though I don't work in neuroscience any more. The balance between work and music is not that challenging. I think it's pretty normal. Most humans on this planet have to work and make compromises all of the time. I'm fortunate enough to have a lot of flexibility and a pretty fulfilling and interesting life. I get to study and do what feels like meaningful work and make art with my friends. I generally think of it as a luxury and a privilege to have access to so much richness.
Any tips for near-broke bands looking to keep costs low on the road and in the studio?
You can try, but it's bloody expensive. We used to always cook our meals backstage in a rice cooker. We'd have $20 in groceries for the whole band each day. It was healthier than what we could get on the road for the most part. But really that's just a drop in the bucket. Once a band starts working and touring a lot, it starts costing a lot of money before it ever makes any. If it ever makes any money. It's a wonderful life and a terrible job.
You all celebrated ten years of being friends and bandmates as the Luyas in December. What drives you to keep working at music together?
The money and the fame.
Jill Krajewski is a writer living in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter.