London trio Lyena kicked off 2021 with the release of debut single 'Keep Swimming' which exposes memories of simpler times tied up with frustration and fear of the current landscape. They channel the views of angsty millennials and tell stories about everything from social media to gender divide and homelessness.
Please introduces yourselves to our readers / Sum up your band for me in a few words.
Jake: We’re Lyena, a three-piece from London. We’ve been called post-punk a few times and it has a nice ring to it so we’re going with that at the moment. I’m Jake and I play drums, Dave plays bass and Omar shouts and plays guitar. We all shout sometimes actually.
How did you guys meet? Who came up with the band name 'Lyena' and what is the meaning behind it?
Dave: Jake and I were in a band together beforehand. When that broke up, we were at a bit of a loose end and couldn’t really find another band that stuck. In the end, we were introduced to Omar, who was also looking for a new band, through the band Gaygirl who are mutual friends of ours. We hit it off in a Wetherspoons one afternoon and it all just happened from there. The name of the band was something we didn’t want to focus on too much at first. We just wanted to focus on playing music and one day after rehearsing we decided to just get all the band admin done and pick a name. We wanted a name that looked familiar but was unique to us and had all the socials available. All the best animal based band names like Jackal, Liger and Tigercub were taken so we decided to make our own hybrid.
You just released your debut single 'Keep Swimming' – What is it about? What inspired it's writing?
Jake: The song came about really quickly. Like everyone, we did not enjoy lockdown 1.0 at all and were all in pretty dark places at times. We were frustrated that we couldn’t make any music remotely. We tried the whole acoustic live sessions thing but it just wasn’t us. That brief period in the summer when we could mix inside and rehearse again the first thing we did was get together in the studio and play for hours. Keep Swimming was the result of our first session back, and just epitomises the joy and energy we had when we could all play together again. The song is essentially just about not letting the bad times keep you down, and there’s always something better on the horizon.
Omar: It draws parallels between two really rough times in a person’s life and how they can use what they learned in the first to get through the second. It was important for us that our first release of the year was something a bit more uplifting. We’d written a lot of much darker tracks over the last year and just wanted to kick off 2021 with something a bit more ‘poppy’.
Have you always been interested in music? Was there a particular song/performance that made you say “Woah! I wanna do that.”?
Omar: A huge moment for me was when Queens of the Stone Age released ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ back in 2005. On my first listen through the record ‘Everybody Knows That You’re Insane’ came on and I was completely blown away. I’d just started playing the guitar and I just couldn’t understand how they were able to create such a tense atmosphere and so many different layers of sounds that worked so perfectly together. It took me a few hours to get through the album cause I just played that track back over and over again.
Dave: I’ve always been interested in music because my family are all big into music. Seeing Biffy on their ‘Puzzles’ tour made me want to have a proper go at it.
Jake: For me, it was watching Bloc Party at Glastonbury in 2009 on TV. Matt Tong was just going HAAM and the whole band looked to be having the time of their life. It was mesmerising.
How to you write songs / choose material which will ultimately end up as a record?
Omar: We never go into rehearsal with fully formed songs, it’s always a process of pulling together ideas and trying them out when we’re all in the same room. The way we write is really spontaneous and we’d usually have the song structure down within the first few times playing around with an idea. It’s liberating to be in a situation where you’re not too attached to songs you’re working on. If it works within the first hour or so that’s great, if not we’ll probably just drop it and work on something else. There’s a couple of ideas that we have gone back to, but usually we just move on and let that song live in our voice notes forever.
Jake: Then when it comes to recording, we record what feels right at the time. We have plenty of songs that we’ve recorded but never released. We’ve probably only released half of the songs we’ve recorded. That’s because for one reason or another we didn’t feel that they were ready. We’ve got plenty of bangers coming out this year though!
Do you have any hobbies that you turn to to rejuvenate your creativity / What do you do outside of the band?
Jake: I’ve got really into running over lockdown, that really helps clear my head.
Dave: I’m always reading, going for walks, and find it important to take some time away from what i’m doing at that time.
Omar: Recently, sitting has been my main hobby and that doesn’t do much for creativity. I used to go for walks to get inspired and would love people watching and hearing snippets of conversations. Hearing people’s conversations without context make great lyrics.
Favourite thing to do in London?!?
Dave: Normally go to as many gigs as possible, can’t do it at the minute because of the rona.
Omar: Also going to gigs. There’s so many amazing venues in London and we could go and see a different band at a different venue every night and support local artists and venues. I live round the corner from The Shackelwell Arms which is a great place to discover new music.
Jake: Mr Bao in Peckham. The best food you’ll ever eat.
What’s the best/worst advice you ever received?
Jake: Best advice has to be ‘Make merch meaningful’. People want something that has value even if it’s outside of the band.
Dave: The worst advice for me was ‘Play drunk because you’ll enjoy it more and not feel the nerves’. That’s bullshit, you just play worse but more confidently.
Bands to watch out for? / What's on your playlist right now??
Omar: I’m loving up Kid Kapichi’s new album at the moment! And I’ve been listening to a lot of Low Hummer, Squid and Childcare.
Dave: Italia 90, New Secret Weapon and TV Priest’s new album.
Jake: I discovered Yard Act recently and we’re hoping to go see them in 2022. Also loving The Magazine Club and Egyptian Blue.
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