Interview with The Midnight

80s retrowave duo to release third album Oct 13

September 22nd, 2017
Mary Bonney
Category: Interview, News

Pop culture is riding a surging wave of eighties nostalgia in television (like Netflix hits Stranger Things and Glow) or fashion trends or current pop music. With the resurgence of electronic dance music on popular radio, synth and electronic experimentation is spreading like wildfire. Enter the retrowave eighties bands, niche projects that are paying homage to the synthwave generation through interpretations of the dreamy and dramatic tunes of that era. It’s a fresh take on the familiar and the movement includes bands like Timecop1983, FM-84, and my current favorite The Midnight.

The Midnight consists of Tim McEwan, a producer by way of Denmark who now resides in Los Angeles, and Tyler Lyle, a songwriter from the deep south. The pair live on opposite coasts yet create impressively infectious, nostalgia-inducing tracks. Today, The Midnight premiered “Crystalline”, the debut single off their third album Nocturnal, set for release on Friday, October 13th. The single boasts visually descriptive lyrics, killer saxophone solos and a Phil Collins drum fill that’ll take you back.

The Midnight spoke with the LA Music Blog about how they dream up perfectly-crafted eighties-inspired tracks, their plans for a Los Angeles performance in the fall and what to expect on their “much darker, more cinematic” upcoming record.

LA Music Blog: What made you embark on this eighties musical journey? What’s your connection to that era?

Tim: I took it in that direction. I met Tyler at a writing session back in 2012. That was before we knew what this whole thing was going to be and it developed over a few years. We had a chemistry in the studio whenever we wrote… Tyler was already an artist and singer songwriter in this own right, and I brought this new, other sound to his more folk style of writing.

I come from a pop background – British pop, R&B and electro and things like that. I grew up in the eighties, we both did, and I listened to Toto, Phil Collins, The Police, all of that when I was a kid, so it was natural. I’d never had a proper outlet for really being fully eighties, going all out and living out that kind of “teenage dream”. We had these songs and I spent a while figuring out the tone and feel of the project. It was my aesthetic and we mixed it up with Tyler’s writing style. That was the birth of The Midnight. It set the tone and we grew from there.

Tyler: I was writing pop music in Los Angeles, the three to five co-writes a week. We had written a few songs and Tim came in with a strong direction. I said yes because it was interesting and cool. My experience of eighties music was Dwight Yoakam and Garth Brooks. It was much later that I found Springsteen, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel and that side of eighties pop music. [The Midnight] was a great experiment because I got to try out songwriting from a different angle. It was more image-based rather than narrative based, like the country songs I grew up listening to as a kid.

A sampling of The Midnight’s visual inspiration (Instagram)

You’re obviously inspired by nostalgic images and your lyrics reflect the “teenage dream” you mentioned. You look back on that time with such positivity despite how many bad decisions we make in our youth. How do you tap into feelings like that, such as in the song “Los Angeles” with lyrics like, “my heart feels the weight of all I don’t know.” How do connect back to those feelings from your younger years?

Tyler: I would first say that I grew up in a pretty conservative household. My adolescent was not that of a typical kid. I wasn’t sneaking cigarettes behind the football game. I left my very conservative upbringing late [in life]. This songwriting with The Midnight is the William Carlos William version of lyric writing. It’s very visceral. I’m tying this youth, adolescent, erotic idea to spirituality in a way. Songs like “Los Angeles” have wish fulfillment, but I’m also talking about some experience with the divine. As someone who didn’t really get to experience that “teenage dream” ideal, I’m maybe kind of going back and writing it for myself because I didn’t get to live it.

Tim handles the instrumentation before Tyler comes in with the lyrics, right?

Tim: Yeah, generally. For the most part, Tyler writes the lyrics and most of the melodies. Sometimes I might have an idea or two for the melodies and may tweak them a little bit, but that’s really his area. I come up with the chords and the tracks and wrap my world around his songs. It was interesting because one of the first songs we wrote was “Gloria”. That chorus was an old idea he had in his scrapbook. I asked if he had any rough ideas… and he played the chorus for “Gloria”. His chords for it were much more like Bob Dylan, more folk and straight forward. I took that exact melody and played around with different chords so it sat differently in the scale. I brought my preferences and taste into the melody he already wrote and it became a new song. We bring different sides out of each other, it makes it interesting.

And your instrumentation can be really different as well. You have explore upbeat, dance-ready songs “Sunset” and dramatic ballads like “Synthetic”. Do you feel you push each other outside of your comfort zones? 

Tim: I’ve never thought of it as “outside our comfort zones”. I don’t exactly push Tyler. I might ask if lyrically we can take something in a certain direction. I would say I’m lucky because the production skill set of what I do is so outside of Tyler’s area of knowledge. Tyler isn’t interested in learning how to produce eighties music. It makes it liberating for both him and me. He gives me creative freedom.

“Synthetic” is actually the only song I’m on the vocals. My writing style is slightly different than Tyler and I write more pop  in terms of melodies. That song was [written] when I had come out of a breakup and I was pulling out the emotions. It was therapy. Generally with our songs, I play the chords and Tyler and I discuss what we like. I leave him alone and let him do his thing. We may tweak it after but most of the time, we just do our things and it’s really freeing and fun for us.

Tyler: Unfortunately for Tim, his thing takes much longer amount of time than my thing.

Tim: Also because I’m a perfectionist and extremely slow.

You release instrumental versions of your albums as well. What prompted that?

Tim: Within the synthwave world and this genre, a lot of fans love instrumentals. Most synthwave tracks don’t have vocals on them. We had a lot of people who loved the songs but were also interested in just the tracks. One fan asked for the instrumentals and I thought why not? I put it up so everyone wins and both kinds are available. A lot of synthwave fans like having access to instrumentals because a lot of them are producers. They like listening and digging into the details.

How do you decide what songs are instrumental versus those that have lyrics?

Tim: While I’m making the track, I’ll think it has an instrumental feel. If I’m not sure, then I’ll send Tyler a few ideas and he usually gravitates to ones he likes. If I still like the track and he wasn’t inspired to write on it, I make an instrumental. Sometimes they have a really distinct feel, like the track “Crockett’s Revenge”. Nothing came of it [lyrically] and I thought it worked better without it. It was almost too much to have vocals on top of it since it was more a piece of movie score rather than a pop song. Generally, it happens while we come up with the idea, and we go with what feels natural. If Tyler wants to write on it, he always does. On our new EP Nocturnal, it’s going to be more half and half in terms of instrumental tracks versus songs with vocals.

You guys are bi-costal and California pops up a lot in your music. You post lots of images of the beach and you have a song named “Los Angeles”. Does New York influence your writing as well Tyler?

Tyler: “Endless Summer” was written about Coney Island. “Vampires” was a scene right out of American Pyscho in the vein of eighties midtown New York Wall Street. There’s a lot of new material coming up that was influenced by New York.

You’ve been dropping hints about the upcoming album, describing it as “slick, moody and more introspective”. The overall feel is that it will be “darker” than your previous two releases.

Tyler: It comes out on Friday the thirteenth, so it certainly has a Halloween, John Carpenter eighties element to it, but it’s still very much a Midnight record.

Tim: It’ll be more moody I think. It’ll feel more nighttime than summery.

Sounds like it’ll be more cinematic and more in line with a film score to create a mood, not for driving to the beach.

Tim: That’s a good way of putting it. It’ll be more in line with “Vampires” or another track called “Equalizer”. What inspires me is usually movies. The aesthetic I’m going for with this new EP is more older Michael Mann movies like Thief and Heat or James Cameron’s The Terminator from 1984. That kind of nighttime, Los Angeles, cruising around the city, streetlights, neon, maybe a little bit of rain coming down the windscreen. It’ll have more moody, cooler vibe. It’ll be less John Hughes and more Miami Vice at night.

The music of your nostalgia-driven tracks is so distinctive and evokes such strong eighties imagery. It matches your aesthetic from what you also post online to capture that era. 

Tim: I’m so glad to hear that. It’s always fascinating to me, because those are the images I see in my head. To hear someone hears our music and that’s the aesthetic they’re getting without seeing our social media. You’re getting out of it what I’m taking in.

Photo credit: Nick Asokan

Your fans are seeing those images as well! This year, you asked your fans to contribute visuals for your debut show in San Francisco this past July and had a terrific response. 

Tim: That was Tyler’s idea. I wanted visuals for the show because the venue had a big screen but I didn’t have time to make videos. He said we should ask people to submit visuals and if we got enough, we could use them in the set. We didn’t know our set list and were hoping for four or five. We got around fifty video from tons of fans who put hours of work into it! That was amazing and we felt very lucky. We want to post all of them on our website because it was incredible.

Tyler: I was astounded by the number of hours that people put into making them. Everyone was really upbeat about sending stuff in. It’s such a cool, supportive community.

So fans are getting inspired to make visuals from your music, which is visually based. Full circle! Do you have future plans to come to Los Angeles to perform?

Tyler: We’re waiting for confirmation but we are hoping to play Los Angeles in November.

Anything else to add?

Tyler: I just watched Terminator 2 for the first time in fifteen years and it was awesome.

For more information on The Midnight:
Official Site
Official Facebook

Show Preview and Interview with Wand’s Cory Hanson

A look into Wand’s forthcoming album “Plum”

September 17th, 2017
Jillian Goldfluss
Category: Interview, News

Photo by Abby Banks

Cory Hanson wanted to approach Wand’s fourth LP Plum with a renewed sense of collaboration and spontaneity. Ever since the band’s inception in 2013, Cory had been composing music from “the top down.” He would put together the lyrics and arrangements, record the demo, and present his fellow band members with their respective parts. As the band grew more harmonious on stage and in the studio, Hanson discovered that the process would have to be more collaborative if the band were to evolve in a positive and dynamic way.

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LAMB Session: Ocean Park Standoff

Summer Gods on the rise.

August 30th, 2017
Lex Voight

On the strength of two songs alone, Ocean Park Standoff landed a national tour with alternative legends Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups. The Summer Gods Tour, as it has been dubbed, is hitting the Greek Theater on 7/20 so be sure to get your tickets stat.
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LAMB Session: Sarah Darling

Nashville comes to LA

August 9th, 2017
Lex Voight

Three records in, Sarah Darling is taking charge of every aspect of her sound. Her last record, Dream Country, shows an amazing amount of confidence and control for a burgeoning country starlet, incorporating a wide array of influences and interests while maintaining a Nashville heart.
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LAMB Session: Amanda Fondell

Swedish Idol sets sight on US Soil

July 28th, 2017
Lex Voight

Sweden’s Amanda Fondell has been a mover and shaker since winning Swedish Idol’s Eighth Series back in 2011. Six years later, shes turning her eyes towards the states, looking to dominate in the pop/soul/electro market much the same way fellow countryman Robyn has for some time. Amanda is sweet, her answers are unpolished and endearingly somewhat lost in translation, and though her frustration with the language is clear, clearer still is her good-natured smile and passion for her work.
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LAMB Session: Allie X

Promoting her debut full-length Collxtion II!

June 9th, 2017
Lex Voight

Allie X is clearly a star on the rise. The enigmatic musician has caught the attentions of everyone from Katy Perry to major fashion photographers to labels and beyond. Her debut full-length record, Collxtion II, is dropping today and to help promote it she stopped by LAMB for a brief acoustic session and interview.
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Interview with Taking Back Sunday

On the eve of Strange 80’s Sweet Relief Benefit

May 8th, 2017
Lex Voight

Taking Back Sunday are truly a band that needs no introduction. Anyone who hasn’t heard of them till now has been living under a massive pop-music sized rock. They may not be your bread and butter, but the impact that they have had on both popular music and punk is undeniable. The band is going to be here this Sunday, May 14th, at the Fonda Theatre with a whole host of other incredible acts including Tenacious D, Anthrax, Velvet Revolver, Weird Al and Goldfinger for “Strange 80’s” — a benefit for Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.
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Interview with Matthew Koma

Talks new singles, Hotel Café, & more!

March 17th, 2017
Zein Khleif
Courtesy of: Insomniac

We love Matthew Koma here at the Blog. He’s a multi-talent: a master (and GRAMMY-winning) songwriter, a producer, a vocalist, and a DJ. Well, get ready, because this musical aficionado will be performing two acoustic sets in LA this month! He’ll be gracing the Hotel Café stage on March 20th and 29th, so be sure to grab your tickets while you still can.

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Interview with The Dig

David Baldwin on new album, March 18 show at Echo

March 13th, 2017
Kyle B. Smith
Category: Interview

The Dig are LA-bound. Set to appear at The Echo on Saturday, March 18, their new album Bloodshot Tokyo is out now. It’s a collection of ear worms that evokes an MGMT hybrid of Oracular Spectacular and the unexpected, psych out of its follow up, Congratulations. Maybe add in a dash of The Flaming Lips, for good measure.

Highlights include the radio-ready track, “Jet Black Hair,” thumpy underwater glam rock in “Bleeding Heart (You Are The One),” and the never ending free fall in the chorus of “Simple Love.”

LA Music Blog caught up with singer and guitarist David Baldwin to talk about The Dig’s history, Bloodshot Tokyo, and the NYC band’s relationship with Los Angeles.

Some of The Dig’s band members have been together for quite awhile. When, where, and how did you meet? Have you always been known as The Dig?

Emile (Mosseri) and I met when we were about 11 years old in the suburbs outside New York City. We went to the same middle school, and started playing music together. We were in a Rage Against the Machine cover band, which was the first thing we did. In high school we started a funk band together, and that’s when we met Erick (Eiser). We were all about 15. Then we met Mark (Demiglio) in New York around 2011. So it’s been about 6 years as the current unit.

Why the “Bloodshot Tokyo” title?

We had spent a couple years on the album. There was one song in there that didn’t make it on to the final record. But it was title of the song that we thought best captured the feel of the album.

I read that at your album release show in Brooklyn, the band tossed black wigs in to the audience for your performance of “Jet Black Hair.” Was that a one shot deal, or should The Echo be ready for wigs?

Yeah, we’re actually gonna do that again at a couple more shows. But it’s starting to get a bit pricey!

The new album is, in a way, one that I would dub a melancholy party album. Does that resonate?

Yeah that’s pretty accurate. There is generally a mellow quality to the way our vocals sound, so that juxtaposed with trying to make it sound a bit more fun than our last releases. Maybe it’s the mix of going through funky and soul influences, and our singing in a more mellow category.

You played The Satellite in 2014. Have you played any other LA venues or had any memorable gigs here in town?

LA’s been a place where we have had a lot of really fun shows. The Bootleg Theater is always been a really fun place to play for us. And we had a great show at El Rey with Ben Kweller. Obviously that is an amazing venue. We’ve gotten in to a few different rooms there that we like a lot.

The show at The Echo is an early set. What can fans expect?

One thing that will be cool is that we are playing with some friends of ours. Our really good friend Boone Howard is going to be playing that night. He is incredible and has amazing songs. We’re doing a run of shows with him, and that is one of the first ones. That’ll be really great. We will be playing a lot of new stuff. Most of the new stuff. Definitely some stuff from the past couple of releases too, but slanted towards the new record. There may be some wigs involved too.

What do you like to do when passing through LA?

We all have some family out there, which is always cool to get to hang with them. Also, our manager and friend Rob lives there. So getting to see family and friends. And the last time we were there, we shot an infomercial for the new album, which was a nice way to spend our time off in LA – creating something for the band.

For more information: The Dig

For tickets to the show this Saturday at The Echo, click here.

Please note that this is an early show with a ticket time of 5:30pm. Support acts are Nico Yaryan and Boone Howard.

Interview with TSOL’s Jack Grisham

Punk, purge, productivity & The Trigger Complex

March 7th, 2017
Lex Voight

TSOL have been an institution for nearly 40 years in the punk scene. One of Southern California’s first mainstays in the hardcore scene, True Sounds of Liberty have been an ever-evolving and expanding artistic vehicle.
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