Luyas – Photo by Richmond Lam

While many bands wielding an arsenal of synthesizers categorize themselves as electronica, the Luyas do not easily fit the description. The Montreal band augments their electronic sounds with orchestral instrumentation and technical guitar riffs, fitting perfectly on Canada’s trophy shelf of experimental indie bands alongside the likes of Stars and Broken Social Scene.
Soon after their second album Too Beautiful To Work, the Luyas jumped into the studio to record the third album, Animator. The LP is released on October 16, just in time for CMJ Music Marathon.
We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Jessie Stein via phone from her apartment in Montreal to discuss the upcoming album, French dancers, and the concept of life.
Your 2011 album, Too Beautiful To Work consisted of upbeat electronic sounds intermingling with orchestral instruments, like strings and french horns. “Fifty Fifty” from Animator is harder and more rock-ish in feel than that material.
“Fifty Fifty” is kind of the rock song on the record, but it’s not really a representative of the sound of the record. It is actually a more electronic record than our last record. There are tons of synthesizers and it’s really romantic in terms of chord progressions and it’s really groovy, for lack of a more dignified word. Too Beautiful To Work is a lot more glitchy and it goes off in all these different little universes, like each song is kind of it’s own little world. And Animator is more cohesive and it all comes from the same mental space. We made it really quickly.

I read that you began recording the album with news of a death. Could you tell me about that story and how it affected the recording exactly?
Basically, a really close friend of the band passed away on the first day that we started recording and we got the news in the studio. You know, when somebody really close to you dies, it takes awhile to think about it. And we went through these existential processes to figure out how to handle it and relate to that information. Also, you grieve and you just miss the person, and we sort of just did that together creatively and definitely got into the songs, both the sound and the merits of the record. I think that it’s just one of the big feats on the record because you know, death is a part of life’s end and I think all the best songs are about love and death. I think that’s what our record is about.
Does that relate to the Loïe Fuller on the cover?
No, not exactly. Loïe Fuller is just this beautiful, quixotic character. She was a dancer at the turn of the century and she invented this dance called the Danse Serpentine, the Serpentine Dance. There are beautiful videos of her. I was like, being this beautiful impossible thing which has always been a really romantic notion to me, the idea of something being slightly fictional, kind of impossible, and trying to approximate that. I think that Animator has elements of that in it where as we are all dealing with sadness and we kind are kind of trying to not make it true for ourselves. In that way, Loïe being on the cover coming out of Mt. Vesuvius apropos because it’s a compilation of two images: one of Mt. Vesuvius erupting and one of Loïe Fuller. She’s like exploding out of the volcano. It’s like this impossible, powerful, psychedelic image. And that appeals to me.
Regarding Montuno’s video, could you explain what the song and the clip are about?
That song is about being alive, having a life and just kind of going through the drudgeries of day to day. You realize that you’re going to die and then finding yourself dead and being nostalgic for life and being embarrassed at what a dork you were and also still knowing that life was sweet to you. It’s supposed to be this reflection on how ridiculous everything that we do is in light of death, but yet how important that ridiculousness is to us. The video is sort of about that. It’s also just a collection of incredibly psychedelic images which is fun.

So are you guys excited to play CMJ?
Yeah, I’m excited to play. I don’t get über excited to go have a bunch of meetings or anything like that. I’m just into playing for people. I think that my tactic, like I’ve done festivals a bunch of times now, is if I decide to play them, I just think about them as shows and we try not to get wrapped up in any of the stuff because it’s just weird, not fun, and just hang out with our friends. And I love New York so I’m just excited to spend just as much time there as I can.
Are there any other bands at CMJ you guys are excited to see?
I have no idea who’s playing. We’re like locked into showcases left, right, and center, so I don’t really know. I think our friends Port St. Willow are going to play and our friends Valleys are going to play so I wanna go see them. And I know the Antlers are doing some radio session I might get to go see.
How did you guys come up with “the Luyas” as a band name? Is there a story behind it?
We were looking for a name that didn’t mean anything. Which was we didn’t want to be called “The Recycled Cars” or something. And so we just wanted to find something that was beautiful that didn’t mean anything except for us. And so just like a real name, like a lot of names don’t mean anything. The Luyas. It just feels so good to say that.

The Luyas plays at Pianos on Thursday, October 18, and Cake Shop and Pianos on Friday, October 19, a part of CMJ 2012, as well as at Glasslands on Saturday, November 3 and the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, November 6.