Producer and composer Ryan Lott, who is better known by his fame name Son Lux, keeps his fingers in a variety of musical pies. The pie-du-jour is Alternate Worlds, a new EP which re-combobulates four songs from his recent album Lanterns, and features a collaboration with everyone’s favourite Kiwi, Lorde.
Lott is returning to London next week for a show at XOYO and Londonist pounced on the opportunity to interrogate him about his various projects as well as the new EP.
Hi Ryan. For those not conversant in Sonluxian, tell us — how did you start out making music?
It was a family rule to take piano lessons. I’m one of three siblings and we all had to do it and we all hated it. At some point, though, I felt compelled to make my own sounds and change what was on the page. When making my own music entered the equation, music came alive to me.
Your Wikipedia page describes your music as post-rock and alternative hip hop — would you agree with that description?
[Laughs] Of course not. But my music embraces contrast by design, so genre signifiers are tricky.
There is a broad spectrum to the work you do. How do you decide whether a particular song would be a Son Lux track or, say a Sisyphus track?
Well, all the Sisyphus stuff was written together. We all created very early sketches separately, but we all wrote with the intent to share. However, there are definitely instances of “bleed” between my commissioned work for dance and the Son Lux project. Usually, my music for dance never sees a proper release, so I’m often looking for my favourite moments from that material to find a new home on a Son Lux record.
The new EP reimagines four songs from Lanterns. Why did you decide to revisit these particular cuts?
I’m always revisiting my own material. I did something similar with 2010’s EP Weapons, which returns, in multiple variations, to a song of the same name from my first record. The melody from Weapons, in fact, returns periodically in my own new compositions and even in remixes I do of others’ work.
How did the collaboration with Lorde come about?
She tweeted about Lanterns at one point and began to follow me on Twitter. We began talking about an, er… easy collaboration. “Easy” was her favorite song from Lanterns, so we decided to reinvent it, since I was already planning alternate versions of songs for the Alternate Worlds EP. She tracked her vocals to the original and then I completely re-designed the instrumental in response to her new performance and lyrics. She was super cool and invested in it. Her vocals came back to me perfect, ready-to-go. That’s very rare. All the wonderful vocal production, with the creepy octave-doubling and all, was her doing. And that whole expression, the performance, new lyrics, and the production, was what really fueled the reinvention. Her ideas were so particular and articulate, they warranted a bold restart on the track. And when I presented her with the new version, she had some great ideas about final touches.
Are there any other newish / up and coming artists you’d like to collaborate with next?
I’ve always want to work with Colin Stetson and I can imagine some kind of unique collaboration with Dawn of MIDI. Kendrick and Björk are also on my list.
You worked on the soundtrack to the film Looper — was writing music specifically for film completely different to working on an album, for example?
The tools are the same but the aim is fundamentally different. When composing for film, every single aspect must serve the picture. That said, I scored my first feature recently, which is screening now at Cannes, as Son Lux. I wrote new songs for the film, in addition to some traditional scoring. That was tricky but amazingly rewarding, as it challenged me to approach the Son Lux ethos from a new perspective.
What’s the film called?
It’s called Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and it stars James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain.
Why did you decide to release the EP on three distinct vinyl editions?
Beyond the unique sonic result of pressing grooves into vinyl, records are artefacts of our experience of music. So various editions are an elaboration on that idea. And of course, “alternate” version of vinyl works with for this particular Alternate Worlds release. Also, the EP is a type of mirror, or reflection of Lanterns and there are/were multiple versions of that record, too.
What do you think it is about vinyl that, despite so many technological advances in the way we consume music today, music lovers have reverted to it as a much loved format?
It’s a symbol of a shared culture but also a meaningful and functional artefact of one’s personal experience with music. The return to vinyl en masse is in part a reaction to the invisible and infinite cloud of music now available to us digitally. It’s a step toward the comfortingly confined and measurable and, as such, restores a sense of music as a “sacred” thing.
Do you buy vinyl yourself?
I used to have a record player but I don’t right now. I’ve been living out of suitcases for almost a year, so I’ve been living lean. Once I’m a bit more settled into my new home and studio in Brooklyn, I’ll invest in a proper one to use for playback, but also as a sound source for collecting and experimenting with sound. So that I can sample at full resolution, I still buy CDs or buy CD-quality (or higher) flac downloads.
You recently played your first London show at the Lexington. What was that like?
I remember the audience was incredibly supportive, both during the set and also afterwards. We like to hang out and make new friends. One girl recognised the “Schoolboy Q” quote we made in the final song, which is rare.
How would you describe a typical Son Lux show?
Ecstatic, improvised, risky, emotional, sweaty, loud, quiet.
And what’s next for you after this current tour comes to an end?
We’re already in the very early stages of a new record. After this run and before the next, we’ll continue to chip away at it. Momentum!