Harpists and violinists aren’t typically in modern music bands. While nontraditional is always welcomed here, you can’t expect Marilu Donovan and Adam Markiewicz of the group LEYA to follow tradition. The group has released some of the most intriguing music you’ll ever hear, while incorporating new tones and sound structures into everything they do. In the midst of their current tour, we reached out to the duo about how they began, how they come up with songs and what fans and onlookers can expect from their live shows.
The fact that this group exists speaks volumes about artists living in a large scale city. While LEYA hails from New York, such a minimalist neo-classical music that’s outlying the avant garde world might not play well in middle America. As per the band, being far beyond what most people are used to wasn’t their intention. “In most markets the idea of a harp/violin is pretty foreign. It’s not purposefully outlying or meant to be alienating. But of course, some people will end up feeling that way,” responds Donovan.
Adds Markiewicz, “we really just created music that made sense to the two of us. Our experience touring this around is that people everywhere are ready for it and receptive. No one really needs to think that hard about it.”
Th band’s first album The Fool contains some of the most complex structures people can hear in modern music. Yet with that they seem to almost embrace and approach that comes off as simplicity. The small amount of songs made us wonder if that was a goal when writing the album. “We definitely work with the idea of simplicity as a rule, but that’s just our natural approach – work it over, refine the elements, keep it stupid. We like to think of this stuff as pop music, so we’re definitely writing songs,” remarks Markiewicz.
The intriguing part of the music LEYA creates, is how haunting it is. The final songs from The Fool feature collaborations with Sunk Heaven and Eartheater. We were intrigued as to how those collaborations came to be and if they helped the sound of those songs as well as how much of that sound bled into their follow up Angel Lust. “The Fool works with a collaborative thread that is meant to open up the second half of the record – everyone involved is a close friend and provides part of the picture of the world around us – of course it’s only a small piece of that, but still. While ‘Seek’ and ‘S2D’ were written collaboratively, they really borrow from Sunk Heaven and PC Worship’s worlds, whereas ‘666’ is a song we wrote and asked Alex to write vocals for. She obviously slayed it, and that definitely created the impetus for future work together,” replies Merkiewicz.
Donovan adds, “YES! Alex KILLED ‘666!’ Adam and I both love working with other artists – both as LEYA, and individually. The collaboration tracks that we have released are all collaborations with artists that also happen to be good friends of ours. It’s easy and fun to call up a friend and be like “wanna make a song” — hopefully one day we’ll be able to make tracks with artists we don’t know – secretly keeping my fingers crossed for that Lana collab,”
The Angel Lust EP features Eartheater and makes one wonder how integral the artist was in the creation of the release. Align that with the band’s hectic schedule, and you wonder how they had time to make their new album Flood Dream. Marilu states, “We very intentionally wrote these parts for Alex – her vibe, vocal style and range. She added vocals and there was literally no back and forth with the tracks – she just did her thing and we loved it – and vice versa. It was so special and rare to work with another artist and just absolutely trust each other. Angel Lust was a very organic process for us.
LEYA is a full time job for about 5 people, but there are only 2 of us… It’s hard to find the time for everything, but somehow we scrap it together. Logistically speaking, Flood Dream was written over the period of about 8 months. Three of the songs we re-imagined from the soundtrack we scored in summer 2018 for the erotic film “I Love You” produced by Pornhub and directed by Brooke Candy. Then, during the first 3 months of 2019, we left New York, touring a majority of the time, but also taking long stretches to write while we hung out in LA and the Texas hill country, where my family has property. “
The band’s new album is bookmarked with arpeggiated tones from the harp and the violin swaying throughout. Subtle yet complex, Flood Dream has visual elements that come from the music. Transferring it live could be difficult. The song “Weight” with GABI is a great example of these visual elements. “Personally I think Flood Dream is just an evolution of the basic LEYA vibe, as it should be. We didn’t set out to turn what we were doing on its head, but rather just worked hard on the same thing we have been. People often talk to us about the visual aspect of this music, and we definitely love to work in those spheres through (thus far) video and film work, but who knows where that might lead in the future,” remarks Markiewicz.
“Oh man, I would love to fuck with live visuals or something – hopefully at some point. For the most part, our live show sounds very similar to the record. Most of the songs were recorded exactly how we play them live. For now, we are pretty happy staying true to that narrative. For this tour, we really are doing a lot of the same things we have in the past – we keep the sets relatively short, and try to give a variety of music from all of our records. Other than playing music on tour, we love to eat in every city we play in! Restaurants, strip clubs, and hiking are LEYA tour MUSTS,” remarks Donovan.
Flood Dream is ready to purchase physically directly from NNA Tapes. It’s also ready to stream on all streaming sites or to purchase in all digital outlets. LEYA is on tour tonight in New Orleans, LA at The Mudlark Public Theatre until May 07 in Amsterdam, Netherlands at De School. Their complete tour schedule is available to access here.
Image Credits: Photo by Serge Serum.