The Luyas are breaking all the rules

Arts & Entertainment/Music by

The Luyas are on cop watch. At least that’s what lead singer/guitarist Jessie Stein says as she attempts to drive and talk to me on the phone at the same time – an illegal activity. Add in the fact that it’s snowing, and I start to get worried that this interview could be hazardously cut short – which would be a tragedy for one of Montreal’s most promising bands, especially one with so much on the horizon.

The Luyas started out with Stein, of the SS Cardiacs and Miracle Fortress, joining up with Pietro Amato and Stefan Schneider, both of Bell Orchestre, on french horn and drums respectively. In addition to vocals and guitar, Stein also plays one of only three moodswingers in the world: a custom-built zither-like instrument that has become a unique Luyas trademark. With these tools at hand, they released 2007’s Faker Death.

Now four years, one album, appearances at Pop Montreal and NXNE, and one soon-to-be released album later, what could once be considered a side-project is now a full-time commitment for everyone involved.

“It’s definitely all of our priority and our main project right now,” says Schneider. “We’re really excited to put out this album in the next few months and just to give ‘er hard as a band.”

Their upcoming self-titled release sees the band becoming a more cohesive unit than they were on Faker Death, and this is expected to come through in a tighter sound.

“On this album we’re a band,” says Amato. “Faker Death is kind of Jessie’s songs and Stef and I are off doing our own thing. It’s really interesting how [on that record] everything intertwines and ends up working in the end, but it does definitely feel like this record is more of a band working together with more of a unified vision … The next record that’s coming out sounds unlike anything you’ve ever heard.”

And what does “nothing you’ve ever heard” sound like?

“You’re not supposed to describe sound, you’re supposed to listen to it,” says Stein.

Fair enough.

As cryptic as they may be, The Luyas do divulge that the new record features lots of keyboards and string arrangements by Owen Pallett, of Final Fantasy fame. It’s this new instrumentation that resulted in the addition of new members Mathieu Charbonneau on keys and Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire on violin.

“We wanted to fill out the sound a bit to make it sound a little bit more like on the record,” says Amato. “It ended up sounding nothing like it. Our live show is pretty different than the record, but [the addition] was just so the sound wouldn’t feel as bare as it did before.”

The Luyas play Il Motore on February 6, with Shapes and Sizes.