EXCLUSIVE Interview: Nyles Lannon
Chuck Norton, DeadJournalist.com
What you need to know about Nyles Lannon:
- Nyles Lannon is a San Francisco-based artist;
- Lannon released his debut LP, Chemical Friends, in 2004 as n.lannon;
- His latest album, Pressure, was released in September 2007;
- Lannon was previously a member of the band Film School;
- He is working on a new EP for a Spring 2008 release date.
DeadJournalist.com proudly brings you this exclusive with Nyles Lannon.
So a lot has happened in the year since we last spoke, not the least of which is the release of a new full-length album. What's the story behind Pressure?
NL: This album was really challenging for me. There were several times when I honestly thought I would never finish it. Looking back, I was kind of stuck in this hazy world of uncertainty, self-doubt and frustration. Maybe I was just depressed. I was having serious doubts about the track my life was on - you know, at 34, the broke musician, still trying to "Make It", still hanging on to the dream … It's a big cliché, but when you are actually living it, these periods of doubt can really affect you and can be very difficult.
So this album was written in that mind-set. It's an anxious, dark, complex album. It still has its uplifting moments of course, but there is a lot of confusion, guilt, obsession, and questioning throughout. Unlike my album Chemical Friends, Pressure not a self-therapeutic breakup album. It's something altogether different, more like a midlife musical crisis. I had something to prove to myself. I wanted to write songs that sounded new to me, fresh, stylistically varied. I'm not really sure why this album had to be that, really, but that was the vision. It left me many times spinning in circles and it was quite a strange challenge to trick myself into writing songs that were different that what I would typically do.
The album kind of took over my life. Basic day-to-day things - like paying rent and eating - were growing into elusive challenges. It would have been impossible for me to get through without the support of the people around me. My family and my girlfriend (fiancé) are my biggest fans, and without their support, it would all be impossible. I truly, truly mean that. At the end of the day, the album came to represent, to me, how much I really love them.
Sonically, this album has a bluesy, thicker vibe than other things I've done. It's kind of its own world, with its own sound, its own frame of reference. Each song on Pressure is different - it's a collection of folk songs, rock songs, shoegaze, country, ambient, electronic … all part of an organic whole. The songs all need each other. On a technical level, I mixed a lot of it analog to tape, which is a big change from the computer! And there is a lot of live percussion mixed with the electronic stuff - its all overlapping, which is another new thing. Really, this album is different in every way possible.
You've had plenty of favorable reviews (including a quickie from us friendly folks at DeadJournalist). Do you still get excited when someone like Paste Magazine gives you a positive review? Or do you find that you've become immune to the praise and criticism?
NL: We're never immune, completely, but I definitely think the criticisms start to bite less as time goes on. I care more about hearing from fans, seeing people at shows, selling CDs to fans, hearing their reactions. When someone emails me and tells me the album changed their life, that means way more than if a crabby reviewer can muster up enough energy to listen to more than the first song.
Of course it still feels edifying to get a good review, especially in a magazine like Paste. Their support, for a little-known artist like me, is vital. But as an artist, you must keep it all in perspective and realize it's just as easy to get a bad review. Good records get bad reviews all the time. It goes both ways. I got a review in a magazine called West Coast Performer that was so off the mark it made me laugh. What can I do? Just keep moving.
Are you touring in support of the album?
NL: I haven't been able to put together a good national tour that makes sense financially. I have only been able to do small West Coast tours for now. When the album gets out there a bit, hopefully some good opportunities will present themselves.
During the last year you ended your long-time membership the band Film School. How did that come about?
NL: It was really just a natural thing. I had been in the band a long time, through all the hard years building it up. I just needed a break, and I really wanted to start a new chapter in my life. It was time. So I stepped out and started to focus on my own solo work full time. This has allowed me to make another album as well as really focus on my music career in production, commercial music and scoring film.
Now that you are fully entrenched as a solo artist; what is next in the career of Nyles Lannon?
NL: I'm planning a really great video with a fantastic filmmaker that I really admire. You can read about that on my Web site soon. I will be cranking out new songs in the next couple months for an EP in the spring.
I also have a couple other projects that are begging for attention that will hopefully see the light of day soon. I'm a little overwhelmed with it all. Sometimes when you have too many songs going, none of them actually get done!
And recently I've been making a lot of commercial music. It has been an interesting change for me, but it keeps me productive. It also seems to really be the only way I can potentially make enough money playing music. I wish it was different - that music fans still bought albums and I could make a living selling just my albums. But it seems like those days are gone. The vast majority of music consumers think its ok to copy CDs and not pay for music.
It's funny, because even though albums sales have evaporated, music is more ubiquitous than ever. Music is constantly playing in every commercial, tv show and movie - it has become completely assimilated into consumer culture. The silver lining to this situation is that music is more essential to the economy than ever. For musicians trying to make a living, we can exploit this advertising and film world and keep doing what we love as a career.
So even though people don't pay for albums, they do pay for consumer products, for HBO, and for Netflix. They pay for the music they hear on ads, in movies, and on Sex in the City, without realizing it. And that is one of the ways I can still get paid.
I think as long as I can keep writing albums, I will be happy! I will always write songs from the heart. I see the commercial stuff as part of a necessary ying/yang situation. And honestly sometimes I feel I've got the best 'job' in the world. I enjoy it, for now.
You got pegged as one of MySpace's featured artist a few weeks ago. Did you get overrun with comments and message from 15 year olds?
NL: It was overwhelming. Good and bad. I connected with many new fans. I also got a lot of emails from people who were jealous and angry that indie rock gets featured at all …Tons of spam ... delete, delete.
Actually, MySpace has become seriously irritating on the spam front. I'm looking forward to the next fad.
All kidding side, did you see a tangible spike in interested after that occurred?
NL: Sales went up a bit, downloads went up a bit. But it's really peanuts. I have a lot of new 'friends'. But of course it's one thing to be a 'friend' on MySpace, it's another to support the artist in the real world.
How have the social networking sites - and the litany of music related site like last.fm - affected a touring musician like you?
NL: Why can't I mass e-mail all my 'friends' on MySpace? What exactly is the point? I have to post these stupid bulletins that get hardly seen by anyone! But despite the obvious limitations, it is better than nothing.
I must say that most of my fans found my music online. And every time I play, there is always someone that learned of my music recently from a site. iTunes, Last FM, online radio like SomaFM. They all matter.
While you are on the road touring, what are you hobbies/what do you do to pass some of the down time?
Ha ha. Well, these days I'm mostly the one driving! But if I'm not driving, I try to read when the road is not too curvy. I read Sam Harris 'The End of Faith', Tom Wolfe's 'Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' and a book about Charlie Manson … I like to read about San Francisco's crazy history.
We sometimes will camp as well, stop and get a dose of nature. Tours can be so dreary at times, and camping is a great change of pace. Risky though. We aren't exactly the most nature-inclined bunch.
One Drink; One Movie; One Album:
Coffee; Inland Empire; Beatles White Album!
Editors note: This is the second interview Nyles Lannon has done with DeadJournalist.com. To read is previous interview from September 2006, click: here