Artists struggle to illustrate honest, human emotion in their work— in Animator, it came to The Luyas in a stroke of unfortunate luck.
Close your eyes whilst listening to “Montuno,” the album’s opening track, and it runs like a film on the backs of your eyelids; it is the beautiful and eerily realistic soundtrack that plays in one’s mind while coping with loss.
At first “Montuno” feels upbeat and determined, but a desperately sad violin cuts the optimism and carries the listener towards a
horrifying instrumental collision and front-woman Jessie Stein’s dazed monologue. It’s as if the song itself goes through the three stages of grief: disbelief, experiencing the loss and reintegration.
“I would call it a serious record,” said the band’s drummer, Bucky Wheaton. “It’s not overly dramatic, light or playful.”
Stein joined bandmates Pietro Amato, Mathieu Charbonneau, Wheaton and Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld at Montreal’s Treatment Room on a nippy February morning to work lyrics into music. Wheaton was recently hired as The Luyas’ new drummer, and the group expected the day would revolve around blending his beat into their already established chemistry.
A phone call changed everything.
The next day, Stein tweeted, “We started making a record yesterday. It is dedicated 100% to Christopher Reimer, honorary luya, who was our brother.”
Reimer, the guitarist of Calgary rock band Women, died in his sleep at 26 and was a close friend to every Luya, except Wheaton.
“It was difficult to see friends so sad, and frustrating not to be able to share it with them or do anything about it,” said Wheaton. “It took a lot of strength from them, but there was determination in the air.”
Though the shock of Reimer’s death initially came as a distraction, Wheaton claims they were more inspired than anything else to make an honest record. The band worked nonstop, barely to sleep, and after one week of recording Stein tweeted, “First day off since the news. Now I’m fucked.”
The Luyas have a tendency to work efficiently until a project is done, rather than spreading the recording process over several months.
“Our first record was recorded two months after the band was started,” said Luyas brass player and founding member, Amato. “We wrote a bunch of songs and recorded them right away.”
The band’s current lineup is the product of multiple friendships. Stein has been good friends with Amato since he played with Torngat, an indie instrumental trio also featuring Charbonneau. Stein dreamt of playing with Torngat and hoped to one day write lyrics to accompany their music. That never materialized, instead Pietro and Stein collaborated on the side, and with the addition of Charbonneau and now ex-drummer Stefan Schneider, The Luyas were born. Schneider left the band this year to pursue a career in yoga, and Amato recruited an old Concordia classmate — Wheaton.
The Luyas debuted Animator in front of a live audience last weekend at New York City’s College Media Journal Music Marathon. Wheaton revealed feelings of excitement and fear before heading south, for he’s used to performing the record in studio.
“Making a record out of music that you don’t normally play live means that when you do play it live it changes more drastically, rather than music that you first performed live and then recorded,” said Wheaton. “We’ll see how strong the material is live and figure out if we need to make changes to it.”
Animator, released Oct. 16, is bound to attract critical acclaim — let’s hope it lives up to the live test.
The Luyas’ Animator album launch show is on Tuesday Nov. 13 at the Mile-End Cabaret (5240 Parc. Ave). Tickets are $15 + service charges.