I met up with Son Lux before their show at Brighton Music Hall this summer and was instantly taken by lead singer/songwriter Ryan Lott’s charisma, kindness and sense of humor. So taken, that I completely forgot how starstuck I should have been. Artistically dynamic, technical and emotive – Ryan’s music is a dancer’s dream. Movement is felt, beats embraced and hearts touched. But there we were, having a completely normal conversation. This is one of my favorite interviews because Ryan’s humility and humanness came across even more than the haunting ways he portrays his story, emotions and rhythmic timing through music. It was a pleasure to speak with him and honor to have him on this site.
Is there a specific song that reminds you of an isolated event in your childhood or a feeling from that time?
Oh, that’s a good one. I didn’t listen to a lot of music as a little kid because my family’s not musical so it isn’t a part of our family, culturally. The only reason I studied music, originally, was because it was just kind of a family rule to study piano and it was sort of a matter of discipline more than anything else. So I don’t have those powerful childhood recollections of music. I have powerful childhood recollections, but music isn’t part of them. So when music really started to matter to me, I was experiencing classical music and grunge together at the same time. It’d either have to be some Beethoven piano sonata or like…Pearl Jam (laughs).
Was there a festival or show that made you ‘euphoric’?
Oh, I think I’m fortunate to have pretty euphoric experiences often when we perform. Every show is really unique but most of them have some sort of elevation, some sort of otherness, something that’s out of the ordinary. Incredible.
Get lost in it?
Yeah…Two nights ago we were in Washington D.C. and we basically brought a bunch of horn players on stage with us and they were members of the President’s own Marine band which is reserved for the President’s ceremonies and everything the President does on an official basis. As well as things like official ceremonies for political officials who are really important. They performed with us – not in an official capacity – but we just happened to steal some of them for the show and it was pretty special.
You’re headlining the Lotus Play Beats festival – what five other acts would you want in the line up with you?
Aw man, that’s a good question…probably a bunch of weird stuff…
I’m into it.
I’d love to see Dawn of Midi on the bill. They’re pretty insane, we’re good friends with them and they are amazing. I would try to put some afro-beat stuff on there. There’s a band called Owiny Sigoma that I really, really like. I’m not sure exactly where they’re from. There’s another friend of ours who’s an incredible saxophonist, named Colin Stetson. He would be amazing. All of these are really, really different from one another which would be really neat. I think it’d be fun if there was a noise guy – or woman- and if his performance was spatialized somewhere – like if it was part of the experience going to the festival, but not necessarily something that you’d sit and watch and listen to. But, maybe it’s like a curated environment around the performance as you come in or leave. That’s be kind of great. And then I’m an egomaniac, so I think Son Lux should be a part of the line-up.
I’d add you to the ol’ lineup, for sure. What were some of your inspirations for Bones?
(laughs) The biggest creative catalyst for the record is the new chemistry of the band and I think there are definitely themes – a lot of geeky musical stuff, that went into fueling the energy behind it. Ultimately, it stemmed from that unique chemistry that we discovered together.
You’re known for saying that you feel most at home in the studio – how do you make that comfort translate at a live show?
I don’t think that I do. I think it’s important to speak two different languages. The experience of music as a listener, experiencing sound is so different from creating it. To speak the same language is not necessarily a smart idea. There’s going to be overlap but I think that a lot of people make the mistake of trying to bring what they do in the studio on stage and vice versa. They try to bring their live performance – what they’re comfortable doing on stage and what they excel at on stage- into the studio and think that it’s automatically going to be a great record. But ultimately, again, the experience of headphones and the experience of watching a band live are two very different things.
You’re signed to Glassnote – are there any artists on you own label that you’d like to collaborate with?
I’ve worked with Liz from HOLYCHILD on the song ‘This Time‘ and also Elena from Daughter chimed in a bit on the record which was great. I’m all about unexpected collaborations so I usually try to find something special in the collaboration. I could imagine myself collaborating with just about anyone. It’d be really great to work with Childish Gambino because I love hip-hop, but also because I know that he’s open minded about that and what that actually means. We have mutual friends too, so on a friendship level that would just be really cool.
If you had to listen to five songs for the rest of your life, what five would you pick?
Oh man. They’d either have to be all Bob Dylan songs or all Prince songs. Prince and Bob Dylan.
Wildest dream collaborations?
I have to say the standard thing that everyone says, which would be Bjork…because that’s the right answer (laughs).
Can you talk about the impact your music has been having on the work being done by a lot of notable contemporary dancers?
Absolutely, my wife is a contemporary dancer and when we met in school, when we were 19, she got me into writing music for dance because I started writing for her. We graduated, got married and as my career developed one of my primary creative outlets was for dance. Modern dance demands all kinds of different things of music, so it was a cool opportunity for me to cut my teeth into different kinds of things. Since then, I’ve been able to write for all kinds of things – not just modern dance, but ballet, as well.
What’s a must-see when you go to Denver?
There’s an amazing museum there called the Denver Art Museum. It has amazing architecture that’s actually pretty controversial. Also, the Rockies are pretty damn awesome.
Lastly, can we do some one-word associations?
The Walking Dead.
Jennifer (laughs). Can you tell I miss my wife?