THE LUYAS with FIVER and THE RIDERLESS at the Garrison, Wednesday (November 7), doors 8 pm, all ages. $10-$12. RT, SS. See listing.
The Luyas are not a psychedelic band, but psychedelic stuff happened to them during the making of their mesmerizing third album, Animator (Paper Bag/Dead Oceans). Take the incident with the tape machine onto which they'd recorded some drum tracks.
"It started playing back on its own," explains frontwoman Jessie Stein from her Montreal apartment. "But backwards and really slowly. No one was anywhere near the machine at the time."
Stranger still, the sounds coming from it were a lot like the music made by a close friend of theirs who had died just a few weeks earlier. It freaked them out, and they decided to turn it into album closer Crimes Machine.
Around the same time, while still deeply grieving, Stein was visiting the office of a woman she didn't know well when the subject of Stein's recent bereavement came up.
"The woman just started crying and saying, ‘He's here. I can feel him here and you need to talk to him.' It got deeper than that, but basically it was a really intense experience."
"A really intense experience" aptly sums up the writing and recording sessions for the album. Stein, French horn player Pietro Amato, keyboardist Mathieu Charbonneau and drummer Mark Wheaton got the news of their friend's death shortly after they'd started writing, and quickly the project turned into an "emotional purge."
But Stein, the primary songwriter and lyricist, will tell you that Animator is as much about being alive as it is about death. Her girlish voice consistently adds buoyancy and uplift to the music's unpredictable textures, layers and structures, all saturated in warm echo and slowly building toward dramatic, cathartic moments. Bass lines, rhythmic groove and existential lyrics are more prominent this time around, and Stein has traded in her zither-like Moodswinger for electric guitar and keyboards.
Still, she feels the end result is a fitting tribute to her friend.
"I don't really believe in anything unless it's convenient to my personal mythology," she says, with a big laugh. "I'm a fairly grounded person, and my spiritual experiences tend to be emotional and related to art and people. They're never really metaphysical. I've never seen a ghost. That's not something I've entertained for very long.
"But it's strange what can happen when you're in a vulnerable state. You become really open to things that might not be real but that have a certain poetry that's worth giving a nod to. It doesn't even matter if there's really a ghost in the tape machine if you feel like there's a ghost in the tape machine."