Fireside Chats: With Leafy Suburbs
Lyndon Blue is a man with many friends. He is impossible to hate. If somehow, he rubs you the wrong way, you might be on the list of people I would want to have nothing to do with. (and when I say list in this case, I probably hint something like Arya Stark’s kind of list)
Anyhow, Lyndon Blue is a man with many talents, the first and foremost is the skill in which he masters the musical arts. He is proficient with the violin, guitar, double bass, bass guitar and keyboard. He also writes for Cool Perth Nights when he has some Sriracha/ABC-spicy music to tell Perthlings about.
As I began my interview, Lyndon prepares himself a delicious satay tofu (well i’m more partial to the satay part than I am on the tofu part). One of Lyndon’s many acts is Leafy Suburbs, which represents his foray into the world of ambient and electronica, and he has recently released a record named ‘Blushes’ which is out via Roof Garden Records, a Glasgow-based label (Glasgow is renowned producing top-tier musical acts such as CHVRCHES). Clayton Lin, part-time music journalist, film and arts reviewer and amateur-professional Magic: The Gathering player sits down with the man himself to talk about tunes
C: To get to the present, one must look to the past- how did Leafy Suburbs come about?
L: All my musical projects basically start because I get an urge to make something (or something I accidentally like), but it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the world of an existing project. At the time around late 2011, I had a few things on the go but none of them really lent themselves to fully electronic soundscapes, which was something I enjoyed making. I was also getting inspired by “musique concrete” and new age ambient type stuff. So those interests came together and made sense to me under one umbrella.
C: For the uninitiated, what is “musique concrete?”
L: Basically, it’s just an early form of sampling- using recorded sounds from the world as musical material, as opposed to using purpose made musical instruments.
L (cont.): It emerged from the work of French composer Pierre Schaeffer who said he wanted to collect “concrete sounds, wherever they came from, and to abstract musical values they were potentially containing and finding way to create it. Which to me, is very inspiring. I spend a lot of time walking around, if I hear something of interest, I’ll record it on my phone or field recorder, then go home and find the bits that to me, are the most “musically” compelling and use that as the foundation for a new tune.
C: No conversation about you would go without mentioning that you play in a lot of bands, or fill in as substitutes in other people’s bands. How do you juggle of all this?
L: Hahah, with some difficulty. For example, we did the launch for the new Leafy Suburbs record two nights ago, and then this coming weekend I'm playing with the Solar Barge Big Band at a top secret festival in WA, I'm sure you can guess which one. And it does take a bit of mental and emotional gymnastics to get out of one headspace and into the other. I like to think I'm getting better at pacing myself, for example it's been a few years since I was willing to play multiple gigs with different projects on the same night. That was silly and I was getting burnt out.
C: Okay, let’s get to the main event- to the record at hand- ‘Blushes’ which you’ve mentioned revolves around themes in the realm of science fiction. Can you elaborate?
L: Sure can, so, the record's called 'Blushes' which refers to the old Hebrew name for Mars... 'Ma'adim' or 'The One Who Blushes.' I was reading about Mars and thinking about it how it's been flagged culturally as this kind of contingency plan, a destination to colonise once we (maybe inevitably) ruin the Earth. And I found it amusing, this idea that resettling on Mars would be this kind of embarrassing concession - a reason to 'blush' - rather than a triumphant moment of space conquest.
L: (cont.) What does this have to the music? Nothing necessarily, there are no lyrics, so you can take or leave the thematics. I guess the music and the concepts that I've framed it with kind of developed in parallel, and you can hear the space junk, the cold Martian winds, the digital interference and so on in there if you listen for it. But it's not supposed to be a coherent narrative or anything, Leafy Suburbs is all about evocation rather than trying to represent anything directly.
C: Obviously it’s not often that you have music associated with rather celestial subject matter, but there are probably examples out there. Was there anything that inspired the direction of this record?
L: Strangely enough I had never considered that question until now, like in terms of what actually influenced it sonically. I guess had been listening to more aggressive, cold-sounding dance music - for example a lot of footwork and techno, and some of that seemed to resonate with the apocalyptic themes. Kind of stripping back the human warmth and letting the machines just spin out.
L: (cont.) But then there are some warm moments 'cause I'm a big softy at heart. The track 'Sun Dew' is a more juicy, upbeat tune where I was imagining a sun dew plant gaining purchase in Martian soil. And I'd say it was probably influenced in part by Mort Garson... his 'Plantasia' album is a big favourite of mine. Oh and 'Sojourner' was built around an Ariana Grande vocal sample, go figure.
C: Was there any interesting lessons learned, or new techniques you applied in the creation of this record?
L: Mmm, the process for this record wouldn't have been particularly interesting to look at - no microphones poised over waterfalls or anything. But it was interesting for me personally: it was the first time I recorded tracks by "performing" them in Ableton Live, as opposed to developing layers and spending hours tweaking the arrangements. I think it sounds a bit more spontaneous as a result. I also used various DJ effects to add variation as the sections played out - things like beat repeat, bandpass filters and live delay... which is not to say I know how to DJ, but I was trying to kinda get into that mindset. I wanted to achieve a kind of "alien dance floor" aesthetic.
C: Leafy Suburbs has previously released other EPs and records, such as ‘Slow Light’ and ‘Psychic Lease’. How do you feel ‘Blushes’ differentiates from the aforementioned titles?
L: I think it definitely sounds colder and more digital... those other two records you mention both had plenty of live synth, some guitar and field recordings from nature. The more recent album, Honda Jazz, is also quite warm and organic sounding in a lot of ways. So I guess the short answer is, Blushes is less "earthy."
C: What next for Leafy Suburbs, after this record?
L: I've got a backlog of tracks that will hopefully see a release in the next 6 months or so. 'Blushes' is strictly digital which I think suits its sound, but looking forward to getting some vinyl out, which would be a first for the project. The forthcoming material will be a mix of "lush" electronic sounds and maybe some elements that people wouldn't normally associate with Leafy Suburbs. I like setting limitations for projects, but also pushing at the corners to expand the possibilities.
Breakfast: Generous spread of eggs and sourdough toast with mexican style beans, coriander, mango salsa, avocado and many varieties of hot sauce. And a big pot of coffee.
Lunch: Just a Perfect Sandwich. The Di Chiera Veg Conti was a good example. And the sandwiches you can curate at Elmar's on Beaufort Street.
Dinner: It's a draw between pizza (which is the sort of food that makes life worth living) and like, a felafel situation with heaps of baba ganoush and hommus and pickled turnips and olives and everything. Oof.
Other tidbits: Lyndon also likes to garden, planting some tomatoes and strawberries. They are yet to mature and bear fruit.
Listen to Leafy Suburbs Blushes here