It’s been just hours since Lydia announced that they would be continuing on from a brief hiatus, and PropertyOfZack could not be more proud to post our brand new interview with Leighton Antelman. Leighton and I discussed the tale-spin of Lydia’s run towards their hiatus, reasons for the hiatus, continuing on with the band, new music from Lydia, Leighton’s project with Matt Malpass called The Cinema, touring, and more. It’s absolutely one of the best interviews we’ve ever done for the site, so be sure to read it and catch up on everything you might not know!
Things have been semi-quiet with you the last few months as you’ve been recording, but before that you were putting a rest to Lydia. Assailants was released over the summer with the pretense of it being the last record. How was the reception to it?
I mean, I think it was good. The farewell tour we did was amazing. I think if you ask most Lydia fans they’re going to say Illuminate is their favorite record; I don’t know why, but for some reason that record has a cult following. I think the reaction to the final release was good overall.
I think many people had fears going into it with the loss of Mindy and her not being replaced, but I also think people were blown away with the release once it came out. Did you see a similar thing?
I think they had an open mind. It’s hard to say. When it comes down to it, it’s weird because Mindy left the band and right before we went on the last tour Steve left the band as well. In the general public, I might have like an asshole type of a reputation or something, but different things happened that were out of my control. I was probably 80% of the writing for everything for vocals and music, so it was the same type of formula with me and Craig doing a lot of the writing. I think people were pretty open to it.
The songs on Assailants seemed to be much more personal lyrically than prior releases. Is that definitely true? And was it hard for you to put that all out there knowing it would be the last thing released under the Lydia name?
No, I don’t think it was. There’s always a bit of fear when you release a record to the general public and the world because you obviously like it because you did it, but you never know how it’s going to be taken. For example, I personally don’t like our first record, This December. I can’t even go back and listen to it. I get emails all the time about people asking if they can get the record because they love it so much and because it’s only on eBay for $100. There’s always a little fear and whatnot. I guess I kind of just go with what I’m doing at the time and not try to think about how it’s going to be received or reacted to.
I think fans had a lot of questions and felt sort just in how the last six or so months of Lydia went down. Are you content with how the band came to an end?
If I’m being honest, it was a little messy. Not involving Mindy, but just right before we went on the farewell tour. The band parting ways with Mindy was totally civil. There wasn’t any bad blood; I still talk to her all the time and we’re still good friends. Right before we went on the farewell tour, about a week before we went, it kind of just came to heads with me and Steve, the two dudes that started the band. And so that was a little bit not what I wanted the band to end like, but shit happens and I’m sure every band has some bad turmoil that happens. Overall, I don’t have any regrets about it at all.
POZ: Did that put a sour taste in your mouth before heading out with Steven leaving?
Leighton: Absolutely, but at the same point, it was at the point where if he would’ve came on the tour it would’ve been much, much worse than how it actually turned out with him not coming out. It was inevitable to happen so I’m actually thankful that it happened before we went out on the road because then it would’ve gotten messy while on the road. So it was really a blessing and a good thing that it happened the week before we left. I did have to scramble and whatnot because I wasn’t even supposed to play guitar on the last tour. Funniest story, we had a guitar player fly out from Seattle and he came to one rehearsal and I get an email the next day that he went to the airport after the rehearsal and flew home. So he left and then Steve left after that also, so we were two members less than we had planned on a week before we left for the tour. So I scrambled and put pieces together to get it to go out and had to actually work on the road. It actually turned out better than it ever could have; it was kind of a blessing.
How was the Goodbye & Farewell tour in the US over the summer?
It was the best tour I’ve ever been on.
You took the tour over to Australia in the fall. How was that experience?
That was amazing. I actually have some strong feelings to maybe live over there for a little bit. That place is absolutely amazing. The general demeanor of people and their attitudes over there is really awesome. I just really like it.
A farewell DVD was being shot and then reports came in that it had been lost. Can you explain what happened there? How close was it to being finished?
That was really tough; that sucked. We had a ton of footage; our tour manager filmed the whole thing. He was like a video type of guy so he was filming a ton of stuff. We put out a little trailer and I was really excited to put it together. He had all the footage and it wasn’t on a separate computer and his computer ended up just blowing up or whatever so he took it to the shop to get it fixed and long story short, all the footage was straight up lost. I’m not actually sure how far along it was, but the end result was that all the footage was lost. The trailer is all that’s left. I’m bummed about it, but it is what it is.
And are there any plans to press Illuminate or Assailants on vinyl?
Yeah, I’ve actually gotten a ridiculous amount of emails to get Illuminate pressed on vinyl. Like I said, for some reason that CD has a cult following. I would love to get it pressed, but I don’t technically have the right to do that. Universal still owns that record so sadly enough I’m not allowed to press the CD that I wrote on vinyl. There has been an overwhelming amount of emails to get that oressed. Some for Assailants too, but mostly Illuminate. That would be awesome, but I don’t realistically see that happening.
News that you were beginning your next project got out pretty much as soon as Lydia finished. Did the writing process for you shift as you became a “solo” artist?
Yes and no. The way Lydia works is that I would write a song completely and then Steve would write a song. It wasn’t like we ever wrote together in Lydia. It was always coming from two separate entities and then putting shit together in the studio. It’s definitely more relaxing. Me and Steve never really had the best relationship, but we both respected each other as musicians. It won’t be the same writing process as for Lydia, but it still has the same feel and I’m still writing all these songs on my own. I’ve had these songs for a while now. Probably like three or four of them since before we put out Assailants. I’m really excited to record the songs. I’m flying to Atlanta in like two and a half weeks to record it.
You’ve always worked with different band members, so was creating this somewhat the same and not a totally different experience for you?
The thing with that is that there have been a lot of minor changes in Lydia, but it’s always been the same exact people in the studio actually tracking. The only people that have actually tracked any Lydia records are me, Steve, the old guitar player, and Craig. There was never a new bass player that came in and played the parts or Mindy playing keys; I would track the keys and some bass and Steve would do guitars and bass. It was always the same people actually tracking the record. The only thing that changed was the touring lineup.
I believe you were originally recording an EP, but changed it to an LP. Did you just have more material that you wanted to release?
It’s always been an album.
POZ: How many tracks do you have?
Leighton: I would say I have about thirteen or fourteen tracks. Me and Craig and Malpass are going to narrow it down to ten.
POZ: So you’re going to continue to work with Craig?
Leighton: Absolutely, he’s coming out there with me. On Tuesday we’re announcing that the twelve or ten songs I’m going to track in two weeks in Atlanta with Craig… we actually decided that it’s actually going to be the fourth Lydia record. It’s the same material. Like I said before, I’ve always done a majority of the writing, so I’ve had all this material and then Craig kind of convinced me to put it out as a Lydia record. I thought about it for a while and then decided to put out a fourth Lydia record now that all the turmoil is kind of gone and everything is in a much better situation. I never wanted the band to breakup in general, but shit out of my control happened.
Do you think there will be any negative reaction from fans with the announcement?
Oh yeah, I’m sure. I have a statement written, and there is always going to be negative reaction with anything you do. Lydia fans have been emailing me nonstop for a year now. I feel like anybody who is receiving it negatively will be outweighed by the people who want another Lydia record.
Does this move sit better with you than starting a whole solo career for yourself?
I’ve worked so hard for almost eight years, so I felt like I shouldn’t have to throw that all away just because me and the other guy that kind of was dragging me down split away. I felt like I’d done all the work and had put in so much time with the band that I owed it to myself to keep going and to put out this music that people are going to continue to like and take in.
Do these new songs for Lydia, which were originally going to be for your solo project, sound like Lydia? How would you compare it to Assailants?
In a short answer, I would say it’s almost more folky. I’ve always been into that type of vibe. Anything that you’ve heard on the Lydia record that is kind of minor-ish was from Steve and anything more major-ish sounding was me. I guess it is definitely more of a major-ish sounding record. The songs certainly aren’t a whole new style, which was one of the reasons to put it out under Lydia because it has a Lydia vibe to it, but I’m not coming out with this crazy new style.
Like you said, you’ll be recording in June. When do you want to finish up by?
I’ll be there for exactly a month. So I’ll get there on May 28th and we’re going to track until June 28th. That’s when it’ll be done and probably mastered by early-July and probably released in late-August or early-September.
Do you plan on putting that out by yourself again?
I’m a big advocate of that at this point. Unless you’re Lady Gaga or John Mayer I don’t see a reason for a band of our size to be on a label just from personal experience. I don’t really have an interest in labels any more.
POZ: Did putting out Assailants by yourself go smoothly?
Leighton: Oh my god, it was night and day. It probably sold, on a good day, maybe half of Illuminate sold and the band probably saw four times more money than Illuminate. It’s kind of ridiculous.
POZ: Do the work that you have to put in is totally worth it.
Leighton: Not only for money, but I’m not a big fan of labels.
Was it easy for you and Craig to regroup and to Lydia, or did it come with struggles?
There was definitely some struggle. I was pretty convinced that I was just going to do my own thing and just put it out under my own name. I was pretty set on that for a little while, but Craig was the one that convinced me to put it out under Lydia because we had come all these years with it and it would be a real shame just to let it die because of one person, which was the sole reason, if I’m being honest, that Lydia had to do a farewell tour and break up. It’s because of one person. He kind of talked some sense into me and I agreed with him that it would be a shame to let that whole portion of my life go to waste just because of one person. There was definitely some struggle in my own mind and it took me half a year to figure out. At this point I’m really excited to put out a new Lydia record.
Is Steven aware that you’re continuing on?
[Laughs] No, he actually doesn’t know the news yet. At this point, we’re not enemies; we’re civil to each other. I spoke to him a few weeks ago. I honestly just finally decided this about two weeks ago. It’s been bouncing back and forth, but I decided on it. He told me when there was a bunch of turmoil that if I wanted to continue Lydia that it was cool. He’s fine with it, he just actually doesn’t know it’s happening yet.
Do you have any idea what you want to do in terms of touring with Lydia?
We probably will keep the same lineup. I actually loved the dudes we did the farewell tour with. That was the funnest and most successful tour I’ve ever been on. I honestly didn’t know you could tour with that. It was amazing. We’ll probably go with that same lineup of solid musicians.
In regards to your project with Matt: Matt has said that he showed you some of his demos while you were recording Assailants. How interested were you right off the back?
I was really interested. Believe it or not, I was the one to convince him to do it. He showed me one song specifically when I was out there and I just loved it. It’s one of the songs that we recorded and I did the vocals on. Immediately I was into it. I’ve always enjoyed pop music. I’m actually going to start working on a couple songs with this hip-hop guy here in LA. I get songs sent to me all day long and usually I listen to them for the humor factor, but this guy sent me a song and it was really good, so I’m going to do a hook on this guy’s stuff. It just hit me and it was a cool pop mainstream song and it was different and I’m always down to try something different. I said we had to do something with it because I thought it was really cool and I felt that it could go somewhere. Six/seven months later we have an album ready to put out.
What’s the project name?
It’s called The Cinema.
Was it a totally new experience for you to create music off of a project that was more someone else’s in the beginning stages?
It was. It was really interesting. I had a great time with it because it was so different and new. Usually I’m starting the beat or the guitar part and starting everything, so blindly getting thrown into a song was really interesting for me. That’s why I also enjoy working on a hip-hop song because I’m thrown in the mix and I kind of have to just wing it on the spot. I thought that was really interesting. I couldn’t go back to the beat or whatever. It was cool just getting thrown into a song.
I believe Matt started every song so it would push you to work off of that instead of you starting the song, which was meant to push you to write purposely unnaturally. How was that?
It was weird and definitely strange. That’s why I really enjoy working with Matt. He’s one of those dudes that won’t beat around the bush when he hears it; he’ll be like, “No, you need to try to do something here and different there.” Me being out of my comfort zone really pushed the project into what it is now and into what people are going to hear. It’s something really cool because the majority of the people that hear it, their first reaction is going to be, “That’s the dude from Lydia? Really?” I think that’s a really cool position to have someone in where fans second-guess it. I don’t like when a band breaks up and the singer goes solo and the project sounds exactly the same as the band. I thought it was cool to really change up my style and my taste in music I guess.
Did your writing include lyrics, or just vocal parts?
He would come to me with a really rough version of a song; always a beat and some keyboards and maybe an acoustic guitar or electric. At the time I was in Arizona while we were going back and forth, so I would take it in Arizona and I would put keys and guitar parts on it. He would do the base work of it and I would put all the bells and whistles and the ear candy and vocals on it. Then we’d go back and forth like that until we were ready to take it to the studio and record it.
Matt has compared it to The Postal Service and general pop. How would you describe it?
I would agree with that to an extent. I always hate when bands “sound like this,” but it’s definitely kind of techno-ish, no that’s the wrong word. It’s definitely kind of indie-pop.
I know Matt and you have talked about touring for that project, but when should we expect that to happen?
I actually don’t know where Matt stands on that and if he wants to be a part of it. I get the vibe that he just wants to be the mad scientist behind it all and I’d take it out on tour. There has also been talk of him coming and playing on tour on stage. I don’t think he’s played a show in seven or eight years so he’s a little nervous and awkward about being on stage again. There’s definitely talk of taking the release out on the road. I’m about 80% sure we will. There will be some sort of Cinema tour.
Would you like to tour between the time you finish up Lydia and when the record comes out?
For this year I’m thinking that there’s most likely going to be a Cinema tour in August or September and a Lydia tour in October and then a flip-flop kind of thing going back and forth for different tours.
When is The Cinema record coming out?
The first single will be out on Tuesday. The whole chunk of music will be out within a month of that. We’re still figuring out when that will be, but we’re releasing the first single on Tuesday.
Do you and Matt want to keep recording new music after this?
We haven’t talked much about that, but I think we want to. Subconsciously we’re waiting to see what the general reaction is to the music. If it’s a really good reaction we’ll make more music. Even if it isn’t, we probably will.
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