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Lydia - Leighton Antelman (2008) Print
Written by Patrick Douglas   
Tuesday, 28 October 2008

ImageYou can really tell a good indie band when you hear one. The key ingredient to being included in such an exclusive genre is the ability to mix soft and sometimes existential lyrics with emotionally generated songs. The combination often creates the perfect “mood” music.

                Bands like Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists and Nada Surf are modern indie bands who have mastered the ability to pull off the aforementioned formula.

                 One of the fastest rising indie bands of 2008 has to be Lydia, who recently issued their second album “Illuminate” back in October. Vocalist Leighton Antelman talked to TCS about the band's rise October 28, 2008, while in New Jersey.

 

Leighton?

Hey, what’s going on, man?

What’s up, man?

Nothing. Just hanging out in New Jersey, about to drive to Michigan. It’s snowing here now.

Nice. I’m up in Montana.

Nice. Is it cold?

No. It may even hit 70 today.

Really?

I don’t know what the heck is going on.

That’s cool. At least you’re warmer than us.

How’s this tour going thus far?

It’s good. We are probably about a week in at this point. I think half of the shows have been sold out, the other ones have been pretty packed. We’re pretty happy to be on the tour.

You’re about to head over to this part of the country, although you’re not coming to Montana. Do you ever look forward to traveling in certain areas of the country when you see it on the itinerary?

Yeah, most definitely. There are a few cities that I really like. I guess everybody in the band probably has their different cities that they like. Me personally, we recorded the whole record in Atlanta, so I look forward to going to cities like Atlanta. Everybody’s big fans of Chicago. I don’t know if you live near Missoula, but Missoula, Montana is a really cool city. Is that near you at all?

Yeah, it is actually.

I’m a big fan of that city. It’s cool. It’s like a little college town or something, right?

Yeah, nestled up against the mountains.

Totally.

Have you been here as a performer?

Yeah, we played a show there but it’s probably been a few years. We had a totally different lineup. We played at the Missoula Youth Center or something (laughs). I remember the city was really cool.

One of the bands that I sometimes hear you getting compared to, The Decemberists, their lead man Colin Meloy, was in a band in Missoula called Tarkio back in the day.

Really? I like that band, they’re a good band.

He’s from Montana, so there’s a little bit of trivia for you (laughs).

(laughs).

‘Illuminate’ has seen two release dates, the most recent one being last week. What led to that type of distribution and talk a little bit about how happy you are that it received that rerelease?

It was rereleased a week ago today, last Tuesday. We were completely stoked about it. Up until now, we’ve basically been doing everything DIY. To have it actually be available to pick up at Best Buy is amazing to me. We’re just really happy that Universal is helping us out with all of it.

These songs definitely tell stories. Tell me about your strengths as a songwriter and where you think it stands out the most on this record.

My approach to songwriting in general is; if I can paint a picture for somebody or if I can get something visual inside your head through music, I think that’s a success to me. This album, I took that approach and tried to make it heartfelt and just very visual. Like you would listen to it and see a picture or see a movie as you’re listening to it. People ask me if it’s a concept record. It’s not a concept record. There are two or three songs that are linked together, but it’s not a full concept record. There’s different stories throughout the whole thing, but it’s not one whole story. Each song has it’s own story.

This band is lumped into that indie rock category, which has really taken off these days with bands like Nada Surf and The Decemberists and Death Cab For Cutie, really punching through to the mainstream. What’s the most exciting aspect of that categorization for you guys and what do you think of being mentioned along side those other bands?

I think it’s incredible that anybody would put our names next to Death Cab for Cutie because I think they’re an incredible band. We get that question a lot actually in terms of ‘What would you describe your music as?’ and I don’t know, I’m not sure if it’s a cliché, but we just don’t fit into a category like we’re an indie rock band or we’re an emo band. I just write music and whatever people wanna call it, they can call it. It’s just Death Cab For Cutie is amazing.

What does this art form do for you as far as give you an outlet to express your emotions and kind of cathartically deal with issues in life?

It’s actually a big help to me. Personally, I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but I kind of spend a lot of time by myself. (laughs). You can take that for what it is, I guess, but I spend a lot of time inside my own head, so music lets me get it out of me and let other people interpret it the way they think it is. It helps me a lot.

Music in general is such a powerful medium. It doesn’t matter what music you excel at, chances are there’s someone out there who will understand it. My 2 and a half year old son is to a point where he’ll hear tones, like a song on TV, and know that it’s sad. It’s a sad tune. How do you hope people will respond to the music you make when they first hear it?

I would hope that they would obviously enjoy it when they first get into it. That’s the most incredible thing about music is what you just said, that a 2-year-old has the vision to know what music is. He can hear something and relate it to a different TV show or story. I would hope when somebody would hear one of our songs, it would bring them back to a point in their life or a picture in their head.

Do you think that we’re all programmed that when we hear a certain note or tone, we equate it to an emotion?

I think that’s incredible that you can hear a note or tone and it determines whether you’re sad or angry or really hyper. I think that’s why people love music in general and why there are so many genres in general. People wanna make a certain note to make you feel a certain way. That’s what I would interpret that as.

Take me back to the beginning when you guys initially got together as a band and really decided to go for it.

I’ve known Steve, the guitar player in the band, since junior high school. That’s always been our thing. Everyone else was … most people in junior high don’t play music, but ever since 7th grade, we were booking our own shows and recording music. We had a little 4-track recorder and we would record at any chance we had. I don’t wanna say that I’ve always wanted to do it, but at some point I can’t see myself doing anything else.

ImageHow does one go about booking shows in 7th grade?

(laughs). That’s the thing. Looking back, I’m like, ‘Man, we were ambitious.’ We would get contacts with other older bands in high school and would be like ‘Put us on this show,’ so we’d be playing with a bunch of high school bands and we were like 13, 12, around there. I had an older brother in high school and I would talk to his friends and try to get us on shows. I guess, looking back, I think we were pretty ambitious about it. At one point, it just kind of turned over to, this isn’t really a hobby anymore. This is what we’re gonna pursue as a career. That was kind of a cool point.

How old are you now?

I’m 22.

That’s about 10 years in music then, right?

Yeah.

At a young age of 22, you’re already a seasoned veteran in music (laughs).

I’ve been doing it for a decade (laughs). Right.

Not a lot of people can say that. Even musicians that have been around for a long time, they can’t pinpoint the 7th grade as the start of their gigging days.

Yeah, I think that directly correlates to how our latest record came out. We have been writing songs together for so long that we just kind of know how each other works. We have a really good writing process.

Having six people in the band is somewhat rare these days too but it adds a nice dimension to the music. Tell me about your bandmates and how you all contribute to the group.

Live, we play with six people and in the studio it’s just me and Steve, pretty much. We kind of write it all and then we’ll present it to the band. That’s how our writing process works. Having six people is cool. I used to play guitar and sing, but we have a guitar player so now I just sing. I think it’s working out really well. I can concentrate on the vocals and not try to do two things at once.

With the economy tanking right now and record labels having their issues, how does all of that affect you as a musician who is trying to concentrate on art, but also concentrating on selling records and tickets?

It’s hard. I think we’re in the same spot as the record labels. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to make money and it sucks because it shouldn’t be like that. Music isn’t supposed to be about how you make money, but when it comes down to it, it sucks ‘cause it kind of is. People need money to survive and the fact that people are worrying about how to make their next pay check, which is hard at this point, because we make a little bit of money but we don’t make enough for everybody to be well off. At this point, it’s a little hard to keep the band together, so I’m happy that we have a full band and nobody’s threatened to quit or anything.

That’s always a good thing (laughs).

Yeah (laughs).

If you could share the stage with any bands that have ever played, past or present, which ones would you choose?

That’s a good question. I’m gonna go ahead and say Queen past and present, I think I would say Bright Eyes.

Nice. Leighton, I appreciate the conversation. It looks like you’ll miss the cold and stormy weather out this way.

That’s good. It was good talking to you, man.

Hopefully run into you down the road.

Thank you very much. Take care.

You too.

Bye.

 

 

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