ASoulfulSound: Congratulations on your debut. We are loving it! Please introduce us to everyone.
Lahayna: Lahayna is James ‘J’ Ullman (Vocals), Matt Edun (Guitar & Backing Vocals) Chris ‘Churchy’ Church (Bass) and Rory Littlebury (Drums & Percussion).
ASoulfulSound: After your initial success in 2007 with your single In the City, your debut was shelved for 10 years. What caused the delay and how did that impact the finished product today? (A lot can happen in 10 years…)
Lahayna: After the success of ‘In the City’ we locked ourselves away at The Way studio in Hackney with producer Luke Buttery to record the album. This was the culmination of 100’s shows all over the UK, which developed our sound and craft organically. We had a lot of songs ready from our live shows and others that we developed in the studio. We always worked well under the pressure to record and create! The album was recorded over several sessions spanning several months.
Unfortunately the lack of financial backing from a label finally caught up with us and we came to the difficult conclusion that despite having a great product, we had limited resources and avenues to promote it. A lot has changed however in the past 10 years and that’s no longer a barrier to unsigned bands.
The final record is the perfect representation of Lahayna – great songwriting, imaginative compositions, eclectic influences and most importantly fun. Our only regret is that we were unable to master the version of Passenger that appears on the album as the original tapes were lost due to the passage of time. It’s such a great recording however that it had to go on the album and it’s still a standout.
ASoulfulSound: So, tell us about your connection/collaboration with the Burning Condors and how that came about.
Lahayna: Matt, Chris and Rory were also members of Burning Condors, an art punk four piece that released its debut album ‘Round Our Way’ in 2013.
Burning Condors formed a couple of years after Lahayna and grew out of songs Matt had started writing with more country, rockabilly and garage rock influences. This was a very different direction and the raw production and energy of Burning Condors forms a neat counterpoint with Lahayna’s more polished and melodic approach.
One song (‘Love is Dead’) actually appears on both the Lahayna and Burning Condors albums with different arrangements!
ASoulfulSound: When we heard members of the Condors were involved, we were very excited. We we kind of expecting a punk/bluesy/rockabilly vibe. While we LOVE that Condors’ vibe, we’re feeling more of a psychedelic/pop rock/Guess Who vibe! How would you describe your sound and who were some of your influences?
Lahayna: As a band, the influences were coming from very different places. Churchy was listening to a lot of Britpop, Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Beatles and the like, as was Rory who was also into the comparatively heavier grungier sound of Nirvana and Foo Fighters. J was into the great soul and R&B singers, as well acoustic surfy pop music such as Donovan Frankenreiter and Jack Johnson. Matt was listening to the old Delta and Chicago blues records of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.
[MATT] I would say that from my own perspective, the environment I was in was the key influence as this formed the backdrop for the parts I played and the writing. At the time just before and around the recording, I spent most of my weekends going from hanging out at the World’s End in Camden, which at the time was playing rock and goth, going on to the funk and soul night at Madame JoJos in Soho straight to Rockabilly Rebels in Hackney. I had also spent time in California and Seattle travelling the North American West Coast over two visits, both before recording started and during a break between sessions. I listened to loads of new music and went to music festivals where there was a lot of alt country music: Bob, the guy I stayed with in Seattle, had Manu Chao’s albums on repeat the whole time and I became a fan.
The place we all found common ground was in Motown and Stax soul and the more melodic end of the Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magic era onwards) and these were probably our constant points of reference. But, as you can hear, there is definitely an “eclectic feel” to the album which I think reflects the open-mindedness of a new band trying to absorb every possible influence and give their own reflection from that intense, and at times superficial, London 24/7 live fast twenty-something lifestyle we were all living. Over the years my way of processing influences has changed: now to fully absorb I reset myself as a musician and let go of all the baggage I bring from the music I’ve already learnt and return to zero so I can learn from within the music itself: this can be really scary and humbling. But then, over time, I can start adding the experiences that I already had: there is always some common ground to be found and this leads to new places. In my early twenties I wasn’t in the environment and didn’t have the necessary patience and self-security to do this.
I think the ultimate influence that different artists and music in general has on me is that it is how I am able to experience and understand the world as well as express myself to it as part of it. My own philosophy is that the optimum state we can be in as people is zero, because then you are forever open; influenced and learning without prejudice. My most profound experiences of this have been through music but I try and translate that across my life: be it musical genres or cultures that appear to be at extremes with my own starting point, I have come to realise how different yet at the same time similar every single thing is and the points where each can learn from the other and where they merge into one of the same.
ASoulfulSound: Can you give a shout out to your amazing female vocalists?
Lahayna: [‘J’] Nicola Davis was the singer – she was my vocal coach for a while and we persuaded her to come down and sing on some of the tracks, she really helped me and was an incredible singer in her own right. If only she had being doing lead and me backing the song might have sounded 100x better!!
ASoulfulSound: Your single ‘House of Cards’ is being offered as an opportunity to donate to Papyrus. Can you tell us your connection with the charity for the prevention of young suicide?
Lahayna: [MATT] Personally, there have been three events which I look on as “before and after” moments in my life: when I emigrated to Spain at the age of 30, the birth of my daughter at 22 years old and, the first was my first real experience of death, when a close friend committed suicide. He had just turned 18 and over the year leading up to this, was trying to come to terms with the death of his mother (who had also committed suicide). Shortly after, his sister was to take her own life.
I spent many years trying not only to come to terms with the death of a close friend, but understand what (and why this) had happened and how any one of us can get into the situation where this seems like the only option. I spent time with his father after, seeing a broken man who had lost his whole family: and I spent many years questioning the meaning of life through this context. Whilst suicide can happen at any time, it continues to be a taboo topic and I think there is a lack of understanding of how especially vulnerable we are as we face the changes at the age of becoming an adult: the work of a charity like Papyrus is fundamental for changing such attitudes.
The lyrics to the song ‘House of Cards’ were written over 10 years ago and the process was cathartic for me: as such it has never really felt like “my song” and I have felt a lot of trepidation with regard to releasing it, especially commercially. However, on reflection as the years have passed, I hope that this could be something incredibly positive: the lyrics were used in Alix Chapel’s book “The Throwaway Boy” as a metaphor for understanding life after a mental breakdown and I hope they may help anyone who is affected by a similar situation, whilst any financial proceeds can go towards raising awareness; providing support to those affected and prevention of something, which is very close to my heart.
We approached Papyrus as a band due to the vital work they do in preventing youth suicide and raising awareness. We wanted to ensure we were able to do something positive with any proceeds or PR received from the release.
ASoulfulSound: Where can learn/hear more about you?
Lahayna: You can read more about Lahayna on our blog; including our views on the loss of grassroots music venues, the street art that influenced us and other unusual stories about situations we’ve found ourselves in!
You can follow us on social media as follows:
ASoulfulSound: Any tour plans?
Lahayna: We’ve got no plans to tour again at this stage. Our sole aim was to release the album and allow our fans to hear it for the first time as it was unfinished business for us as a band.
Lahayna was a big part of our lives, including those around us. It’s been amazing to discover that the fans that supported us back in 2007 still have an interest 10 years later, which is really humbling for us. This album release is for them.
ASoulfulSound: What’s next for the band?
Lahayna: The single ‘House of Cards’ and debut album ‘Lahayna’ are both available now via all major digital sites and can also be streamed on Spotify. Please do order your copies!
We’ve all been involved in exciting and varied projects since we recorded ‘Lahayna’. The next one is likely to come from Matt, so watch this space…
Matt is currently studying and working with José del Tomate, the son of Tomatito, who are both wonderful guitarists and legends in Andalusia and throughout the flamenco world. He’s listening to South American guitarists such as Roberto Grela, Baden Powell and Luiz Bonfá as well as Carnatic musicians such as Prasanna and Guitar Shylu (with whom he’ll will collaborate next year in Chennai).
Churchy is really into stenciling and created the cover artwork for ‘Lahayna’. He’s planning to develop his interest further in this area.
J is still singing and performing, Rory is still Rory so we’re sure you’ll see plenty from all of us over the coming years as we take different directions. None of us really know what the future will bring, but we’re excited by it.
ASoulfulSound: We wish you all the best. We are excited for you and look forward to more from you. Please keep in touch.