While listening to Lyla Foy’s debut full-length album, Mirrors the Sky, it’s difficult not to drift off into a daydream. Lyla sings with a soft, ethereal quality over sparse, twinkly electronic sounds that float into the back of your mind and nestle there, as you can see in this dreamy video for the single “Honeymoon,” which she’s letting us premiere!
I got to chat with Lyla about her music while she was on tour in Belgium recently.
MEGAN SELING: Have you always been musically inclined?
LYLA FOY: I wasn’t one of those musical kids. I didn’t have musical parents, and I wasn’t pushed to learn instruments or anything like that. I started teaching myself guitar as a teenager. I wanted to write songs, so I’d write my own little tunes and just teach myself what I needed to know to play them. So I guess I came to music a little bit later.
When did you figure out that you could sing?
I don’t really think of myself as a singer. I write songs, and I sing them the best I can. I got my own little recording setup when I was quite young, and I just experimented and tested stuff out and listened back to it. That taught me what I liked to hear and what I didn’t like to hear. I didn’t like my own voice when I first started hearing it. It was like, “Oh no, I’m not into this at all!” [Laughs] It was something I had to grow to like. It certainly wasn’t like, “Oh my god, I’m an amazing singer!”
When you’re writing songs, what comes first, the music or the lyrics?
Definitely always the music—I need some kind of music to inspire [my] lyrics. It could be a beat, a chord progression, or a bass line. I quite like writing to bass lines, because it’s more open, you just have this blank canvas to write cool melodies over. Writing to a beat is pretty fun as well, because you get more rhythmic, percussive vocals. If I’ve written a moody chord progression, that will trigger something that was there already, I suppose, in my mind. But I always need those musical triggers to get it out.
Your music has such a cinematic quality, and the video we’re premiering today is so gorgeous! Are you thinking about specific visual moments when you write?
Yeah, definitely. I’m super nostalgic, so I’m always looking through old photos, and sometimes a photo will trigger a lyric idea. My lyrics are metaphorical, based on images—you listen to it and you have your own thoughts about it, which is actually what I like, because I don’t want people to just hear my boring story about this or that or the other! I want them to have their own story behind the song, if that makes any sense.
You’re on tour right now, right?
Yeah, we’re in Belgium, in this awesome city called Ghent. It’s a really medieval-looking city and the weather is warm. It feels like another world! It’s amazing.
On long tour drives do you guys load up on snacks?
My band does. My drummer has an addiction to crisps. My snack craving is string cheese, especially the ones you get in the States. I absolutely love them. I buy them in bulk. I’m like a mouse, I love it!
You used to record music under the name WALL—I really like the Shoestring EP you released last year under that name. Why did you start using your real name?
WALL was just a bedroom project, really. I had no plans for a band, so I wanted to choose a slightly mysterious name. When we started doing it properly, I reassessed the situation and I was like, “Yeah, this is just me, so I can just put my name to that and I’ll be fine.”
Was it intimidating to put your real name on it?
A tiny bit. I didn’t have any plans to do much with my songs—I didn’t know that anyone would want to release anything. And I’m not one of those super confident people who’s like, “Check me out, check out my songs!” I like to cower behind a band name. It feels weird. But it’s fine. ♦
Megan Seling is a writer and baker currently living in Nashville (with a big chunk of her heart still living in Seattle). She yells about music, sugar, and hockey on Twitter.