French rock band LYS is an act on their way to achieving success in the US and Europe, and we were lucky enough to catch up with them in Austin on the first day of SXSW 2016. LYS were excited to talk about their music, their time in America, and their recently released record “Redbud,” out last year.
Starting off the conversation was front man and lead guitarist Niko, who said he started the band as a solo project in 2007 and that “in the beginning it was my project and I wrote songs in my studio, and then I decided to create a full band, bringing in members from high school. But since 2013 it has also been Tom and Jeremy.” Anthony Merrec, who helped arrange the band’s bass lines, did not attend the interview. Also missing in action was Steve Hewitt, who helped write the drums.
Each member has had much experience with music before joining LYS. Tom, the band’s drummer, learned the instrument from his father. “He would put me on his knees and I would play,” Tom said. For Jeremy, the groups lead guitarist, his musical education began at the age 12, when he started spending much of his time listening to rock bands from the UK. The scene clearly had an impact on him, because even though the band has a more rock feel to them, he says to this day that his biggest influences are electronic and trance, with rock coming in a close third. “The first rock band to influence me was Oasis,” Jeremy said, acknowledging that it comes through on the group’s latest release.
While “Redbud” came out only a year ago, we wanted to ask about the bands songwriting process and what it was like to write the LP. Niko mentioned that “the album was written on tour in 2013 and 2014.” While the writing process for Redbud was not a largely collaborative effort, Niko mentions that he writes all of the songs including the lyrics and music, while Manon, who plays bass during their live shows, helped him write many of the guitar riffs fans hear on the release.
While the band is from the West Coast of France in a small town called Rennes, two hours from Paris, LYS decided to make their way to London in 2011 to scope out more career opportunities, and along the way they met a few influential people who would help boost their career, creating many opportunities for the group, including the release their debut album, “Go Your Own Way,” which dropped a year after their arrival in London.
“We felt the need to play outside France because we don’t really sound French, I think we sound more like the UK or maybe American,” Niko said. “We had some opportunities to play in some good clubs and we met some professionals of the music industry there in London, including the drummer of Placebo and his manager, and the producer of The Cure. It was a really important step for us when we went to London.”
When discussing their latest effort Redbud, we asked the group to provide details on how the record has been received in America as well as in Europe. “If it were easier to live in America we would be here,” Niko said. “If it were easy and possible, we would love to live in America to develop the band here, as the response has been enthusiastic and cheerful. In France it’s been cool too, but it’s different. It’s not the same musical culture. So in the UK and America, the response has been better.”
When asked what types of genres French music fans enjoy listening to, the band tells us that “it is not rock and roll, but mostly pop.” And of course, “it’s also better when you sing in French,” Tom added. “They don’t like bands like us who sing in English, because they can’t understand English. It’s also about marketing. If you want to be heard on a French radio station, then you must sing in French.”
So, what brought them to Austin? Like many other international acts, it’s all about the unique opportunity presented by our city’s biggest festivals. “We have to use the contacts we make from [SXSW] to secure a deal, as we’ve played in the US several times. We’ve played SXSW as well as in Houston, so I think we will have an opportunity to do something here. We’ll see.”
And contacts are exactly what they made. Here are photos of them hanging out in Austin with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age during the festival…
While the band have a short stay in America for the time being, their music will certainly make a lasting impression. And after listening to “Redbud,” most listeners agree that it is a record with a sound and style all its own. As LYS continues to spread their passion for music, it’s only a matter of time before all of us in Austin hear more from this quickly rising band and their explosive take on rock.
Check out the LYS song “New Way Home,” performed live at SXSW 2013, below.