PHOTO CREDIT: Ollie Alexander
MY first interview of the week is...
with the fantastic Luxley. He talks about his new E.P., Chromatics, and a rare condition called chromasthesia; what the music scene is like in New Orleans and the artists/sounds that inspire him – he tells me who he’d support on tour and what his rider would be.
I ask which three albums are most important to him and what he wants people to get from his E.P.’s messages; whether he will come to the U.K. at all and which rising artists we should follow – he selects a great track to end things with.
Hi, Luxley. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been a great week so far - despite the lack of sleep. I’ve been finishing a record, full-time bartending to support myself and promoting my recent record, Chromatics.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Ryan Gray. Some people just call me Luxley. I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. My artist name, Luxley, comes from the word, lux, which means light in Latin. I live with a condition called chromasthesia - where I see music in color. It’s also how I write my music.
PHOTO CREDIT: Joseph Frierson
I started Luxley when I left medical school in 2012. I had been producing music as a creative outlet while studying medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. I wrote my first record E.P., Spirit, while bartending full-time. It was co-produced by Ayad Al-Adhamy (ex-member of Passion Pit, Team Spirit) and engineer/mixer Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, The Strokes). I had the amazing opportunity to have the E.P. featured in NYLON magazine, among other online blogs like EARMILK, The Huffington Post and Interview Magazine (founded by Andy Warhol).
Chromatics is your new E.P. What inspired its creation and what was it like putting it together?
Chromatics is an expression of my chromasthesia - a condition where I see sound as color. I discovered it when I got into a car accident when I was younger. I didn’t know how to describe the experience until I went to medical school and found literature describing it. This record is much different from my last. Chromatics is a departure from the traditional studio model of working with an outside producer.
After spending a lot of time experimenting on synths, electronics and getting to know myself more as an artist, I realized that I was passionately building a vast library of colorful sounds, textures and Pop-centric melodies that would eventually become the virtual worlds found on the record. The songs are arranged by the colors that I see and the track artwork corresponds to the colors that I see when hearing the songs. The biggest driving force for this new record is having people see the colors that I see and have them experience the feelings created by the color spectrum of the record.
Is there a song from the set that you would consider a favourite?
Near Me tends to be my favorite. I always recommend people spinning the Chromatics record while exercising or doing activities that force you to use ear buds. Immersive listening really enhances your experience with the colors of the record.
The tracks are arranged in order of colour - and it is clear the E.P. is very personal. What do you want people to take away from Chromatics?
I want people to take away the colors from the record and have the opportunity to listen to music differently by visualizing colorscapes and experiencing the unique feelings painted by them. I don’t believe you have to have chromasthesia to perceive music this way: it’s something more than that because it’s found in the universal element which I playfully denote as ‘Lx’. Lx is the element that relates to the act or quality of seeing music in color and it’s found outside ourselves. It’s free for all of us who really want it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Justine Bird
How did you get into music? Was it something you were passionate about from a young age?
When my parents got divorced at a young age, I found solace by teaching myself music by ear. I really couldn’t find happiness outside of music because of the family strife. I taught myself how to play piano when they bought me one before the separation. I immediately became passionate about learning other instruments like guitar, bass; audio electronic devices and vocals. I quickly moved to writing my first songs on guitar and eventually on synthesizers.
Being based in New Orleans, how important is the music of the city and the people regarding your work?
The influence of New Orleans has really grounded me on organic instrumentation because live music is a foundation of the culture. New Orleans’ influence has become more evident in my latest record, Chromatics, as well as my next one (currently untitled). Reggae, Jazz; Blues and Funk are popular genres in the New Orleans music culture and they seep into tracks like Near Me (Reggae), No. 4 (Blues) and Take a Chance (Funk). The next record incorporates more Jazz and brass-band instrumentation, which are both staples of the New Orleans music culture.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
930 Club in Washington, D.C. on October 20th, 2014. I played to a sold-out crowd on my birthday with Bombay Bicycle Club and Milo Greene. I never mentioned it to the crowd that night, but I will never forget the celebration that ensued afterwards with Bombay Bicycle Club and Milo Greene in the basement of the 930 Club.
It makes me tear up when I think about that night.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ollie Alexander
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Friendly Fires – Pala (a band based out of St. Albans, England)
This record re-instilled my passion for music and how I see it in color. I could literally describe all of the colors of this record in real-time if we did a listening party.
311 – From Chaos (a band based out of Omaha, Nebraska)
This record taught me so much about how to be confident and believe in yourself as an artist. This is one of the bands playing when I got into the car accident when I was younger.
Jimmy Eat World – Futures (a band based out of Arizona)
This record taught me how to tell emotional stories through music and how to express yourself with it in a beautifully raw (Rock) manner.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Luxley, Tycho; Pretty Lights, Angele or ZHU.
Craft cocktail mini-bar: I’d like to bartend for all of artists on the bill; stage and production crew and media personnel after the show. They would need to try the You Got the Lux? cocktail.
The bar would need to be stocked so that I could serve my old-fashioned riff:
§ Toasted sesame-infused rye whiskey
PHOTO CREDIT: Joseph Frierson
o Additional bar stock: wine selections of old and new world wines (white and red), a few bottles of Dom Perignon and Monkey 47 Gin.
· A small D.J. booth so that a local artist or musician fan could be featured.
· Colored lighting.
· Personal chef who bakes amazing breads.
· Hummus, charcuterie boards and fine cheese selections.
· A closet or safe place to store all of my colored jump-suits.
Are you planning any gigs in the coming months?
How important is performing? Do you prefer it to life in the studio?
In the long-term, I prefer the process of writing more than anything but the momentary experiences of performing live are unparalleled. I have big plans for a really vivid and unique live show in the future.
Will you come to the U.K. during 2019?
Unfortunately I won’t be, but I’ve heard from many people that I should get my music represented more in the U.K. because my style would be most receptive there.
IN THIS PHOTO: Chris Malinchak
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I get very little time to step away from music because I currently work as a full-time bartender to support myself and the Luxley project. When I’m not bartending, I’m writing and promoting music. If I step away from everything to get fresh air, I go for a bike ride; swim, box or indulge in the exquisite food and cocktail culture of New Orleans. From time to time, I’ll try and catch Electronica shows at the Techno Club or Republic in New Orleans.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Angèle – Flou