Generally when I ask touring musicians if they have any favorite memories of Philadelphia, they tell me about a particular sandwich that they enjoyed… or a venue with a weird balcony… Jessie Stein is the first person to tell me a story about running around a church sanctuary. Jessie Stein is the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for Montreal (we’ll-just-call-them) indie rockers (they’re about halfway between indie pop and art rock) The Luyas. She’s referring to the band’s gig on December 3rd of 2010 at the First Unitarian Church: “We did a show with the Antlers at the Church that was really amazing. Our green room was like the main chapel, so me and our drummer, Stef, did like laps around the church to get ourselves psyched.” This isn’t exactly out of line with Stein’s general attitude. When I called her up she told me that she was currently, “walking around this crazy junk stop in Kingston, New York… There’s a really cool accordion and awesome old cookie boxes.” Although when I ask her about potential purchases, sadly she laments, “Our van is so full, I’m not allowed to appreciate things anymore…” Her quirk never falters throughout our fifteen-minute chat… and neither does her live commentary on her junk finds. “Right now I’m in the old toy truck isle,” she proclaims, after quickly discussing the band’s current tour. Shortly afterwards she updates me: “Now I’m in the old, vintage water ski section.”
Jessie Stein’s quirk is beyond delightful and quite refreshing, especially considering their latest musical output. The Luyas third LP, Animator, which dropped last October on Dead Oceans, was written and recorded immediately following the death of a very close friend. The necessary catharsis seems to have served as the biggest inspiration for the album, which had the band sounding more serious than ever before (Not that the sunny whimsy of Ms. Stein doesn’t peek out its head.) The album is lush, moody, and long-winded, leading listeners into pleasant dazes. “We wanted to make the album a little groovier, a little sexier than the last,” Stein tells me. When asked about musical influences, she admits, “I listened to a lot of Broadcast at the time… We’re always listening to a lot of experimental rock. We listen to a lot of Brazilian music, like Brazilian music from the 60’s.” However, she goes on to clarify that what they’re listening to doesn’t have as direct of an influence on The Luyas’ sound as you might think: “It’s not that we don’t have influences, but we’ve been playing together for so long that the way we write music has more to do with ourselves and how we vibe as a band.”
Stein tells me the highlight for the band since the album’s release has definitely been playing live.
“We’ve been playing lots of shows that are really really cool, especially the shows we played in Europe… We got to tour with Destroyer, which was awesome because they’re one of my favorite bands ever… Just getting into the material is really fun. It’s a really cool record to play live.”
The Luyas are currently on a “quirkily” interesting June tour that makes a stop at PhilaMOCA this Monday, June 10th. The tour is a double-headlining endeavor with Julian Lynch, which has The Luyas performing as Mr. Lynch’s backing band and Lynch sitting in on The Luyas’ set… and they alternate who closes the show every night. When I ask Stein how the tour came about, she simply explains, “I just asked him if he thought it would be fun and he thought it would be fun. But yeah, I just asked.” Of the evening, she tells me, “You can expect some cool sounds and good vibes and interesting people.” She’s also particularly excited to play PhilaMOCA, which she’s heard good thing about: “I think it’s really fun to be the kind of band that can play a lot of different places. Although, I do like it when people aren’t sitting down. I’ve been wanting to do more DIY spaces, but with good sound.” But as much as The Luyas are enjoying touring, they would seem to be ready to start working on some new music. When I ask Stein what she’s excited about in the second half of 2013, she explains, “It’s time to start finding a new musical calling and find out what we want to say and how we want to say it.”