An Interview by Annie Bloch
Glowing in the dark: Lyon
An interview with Lyon and his journey towards his new self-titled debut album.
A cloud of fog and me in the middle. Driving down the oyggjarvegur (island highway), I don't know exactly where I am. Apart from the sheep to my left and right, there is no one around me. Maintaining a speed of 30 km/h, I’m handling the radio with my free hand and open Lyon’s CD case.
On the cover is Lyon himself walking from a distance, almost at one with the darkness. The first chords are played, and Lyon’s voice comes through the speakers. To me, it feels this is exactly where it belongs. A hoarse voice in the middle of nowhere.
A little later, the same CD case lies on the table between Lyon and me. A few days after the national holiday, Ólavsøka, we’re meeting up for a coffee to chat about his album and the mystery within.
This is your first album. Is it an album of recent songs or songs you’ve been collecting over the last years?
I started to write songs when I was 17. I played the piano and the guitar and I felt that I had to do something more, which is why I started to write songs. But I moved to Denmark to study architecture and got sidetracked for a year or two. Then I started singing in an academy called the Complete Vocal Institute in Copenhagen, and as I wasn’t bothered to sing covers, I wrote my own material instead. This album is written over a period of five years.
Is it like a best of album?
No, I think it is rather what I wanted to put out. I have some other stuff, but it didn’t really fit. I was searching for my own sound and a style that I like. Some of the songs were already there, in that style. So I tried to narrow it down to what I call 'surfmusic,' although you’d probably call it 'bluesy singer/songwriter.' It’s inspired by the period of the 60s as well as prior to that.
So when you were trying to put songs together, were you rather looking from a musical point of view opposed to the stories behind the songs?
Well, there is actually a story guideline through the songs as well, but I didn’t realise it until I put it together. It is quite a subconscious thing. It describes my spiritual journey, you could say. I was raised in a baptism community. So some of the songs deal with this religious background. The material goes from religious doubts to very abstract ideas and images about what religion is. Some song are based on the fall of men or the Eden story. I think the religious imagery is often very poetic, although I don’t see myself as a very religious person anymore.
One line struck me the first time I heard your album: “Give me a cup of the blood of the Lord, and I will drink it up.” This is a very strong image. Were you thinking about how people would react to these lyrics? Since religion is a very sensitive topic...
I once saw a documentary that was analyzing this symbolism of drinking the Lord’s blood and eating the Lord’s flesh, and it made me question what it means. There is this cannibalistic element of it. Christian religion has some grotesque imagery: you drink blood and you eat flesh. It does change in your mouth. That was the origin of this song Blood. And it still is more of an open question to me, as it doesn’t have the intention to say “believe in the Lord,” definitely not.
The cover of your CD is black - is this darkness reflecting the gloominess of your lyrics and music?
A lot of Faroese musicians including myself think about the landscape. The winters can be very hard. A lot of wind, the sun is only out for four hours. This darkness really affects your mood. I have always been fascinated by the darkness and gloominess of this country, although it can be dreadful. I have walked a lot in the mountains, since I was a teenager and it left impressions on me that stick with me. That there is actually very little life in the mountains. It was just obvious to me to make the CD case like that, since there is always a dark twist in the songs.
Do you want to say something about the song Sister?
That one is true. I can just say that it is true. (Pause.) It’s one of the most personal songs that I’ve written. I’m always reluctant to say something directly about it. I never do that at concerts either. I hate when people do that.
It is a family situation we have. It is about a sister that I have never seen.
It’s an ambiguous line: “Don’t you recognise these are your brothers eyes looking at you.” It could mean an actual meeting, but also a reunion in Heaven. It is based around that notion.
When did you record it?
During the years 2010 to 2013, I recorded three of the songs with Benjamin. Then last year, I won the Faroese Battle of the Bands "Sement" with a band called “Lyon & The Colour Storm” that was like a backing band for me as a singer. I didn’t plan on winning, but we did and we got three days in the studio, but no time to record it. The band split up and I continued using my name, Lyon. With a new band constellation, we recorded the other eight songs in Studio Bloch then. So it is actually a compilation of two projects.
So this CD really took its time. What does it feel like to have it in your hands now? Can you completely relate to it?
Definitely! I have been with this project 100 per cent all the way. Everything has been a total pleasure. Writing it, rehearsing it, recording it. But it is actually nice to have it done. Now I can start something new: Go out and perform it. It has been a long process.
So you haven't grown tired of the songs?
Not at all. I don’t listen to them. Now that it’s printed there’s no need to listen to the songs. But I like performing them, I like the energies of the songs.
Are you planning any more concerts in the Faroe Islands?
I would like to play a concert in Sandavágur, since I lived there for three years. They have a little garage, which is kind of underground. I’m leaving in late September, so there’s still time to organise something.
Save yourself a copy of Lyon’s great new debut album in TUTL shop or here on the website and keep track on Lyon’s Facebook page here.