You may remember the album review I wrote about Son Lux’s debut album a few months back. Well, as soon as I heard that album I knew it would be perfect for a project I was doing for my 20th Century Music class about the intersection of classical and modern independent music. I emailed him and he graciously agreed to answer some questions on the subject. I’m hoping to upload the whole project (it’s like a fake podcast, except way nerdier) but I need to fix some stuff first. The full interview is after the jump.
1. Explain how you got to this point in your career. How did you start out in music? When did you realize that you wanted to make a career out of it? When and why did you decide to go the indie-rock-star route rather than the professional classical musician/composer route?
i never chose the “indie-rock-star” route. possibly now more than ever, an artist has the ability to carve out seemingly disparate paths at once. son lux is some part of Ryan Lott, but not all. growing up studying classical piano and composition, i also studied rock on the side, playing in bands. in college i had to sneak out of the occasional “required” recital to make it to my gig at the bar in time. it was a natural progression to explore both worlds at once. and that’s what makes son lux unique is that it’s not just an expression of my pop side, but also my chamber music side. i’m exploring that marriage more and more as i work out live arrangements and new material for the next record. i’ve only just laid a foundation.
2. Explain the process you go through to write a song. Do you write it out on paper? Do you just kind of improvise and see what sounds good? Do you do something else?
i definitely don’t have usually i start by exploring the possibilities of a small fragment of sound through manipulation of various kinds. or, i’ll just start by making a beat. other times i sit at the piano and improvise for a while to derive harmonic/melodic material as a starting point. i usually write the text for a song completely separately. though for me, writing lyrics i never notate anything unless i’m writing parts for a player, like with the sax quartet in “raise.” i’m equally as concerned about the “color” of a sound as i am with rhythm or harmony. traditional notation is too crude, and increasingly irrelevant since the advent of the recording technology.
3. Do you have thoughts about why bands with classical elements (yourself, Andrew Bird, Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire, etc) have become increasingly popular over the last few years and/or about what that means for both classical and independent music?
it’s easier than ever to discover and consume many kinds of music from different times and places. and you are what you eat. i think it’s a great thing that not only are artists consuming and creating music that draws from creatively disparate sources (as we’ve always done), but that the listeners are increasingly embracing it.
4. Anything else you would like to say about classical music, independent music, or the intersection of the other two?
genres don’t matter anymore, which is evidenced by the fact that people are no longer coming up with names for new forms of music and explorations. pretty soon it’ll all be alphabetical.