Son Lux started out as the solo project of composer and musician Ryan Lott, who released three LPs before adding guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang. The trio’s first release 2015’s Bones, explored their onstage chemistry and they followed this up earlier this year with the more autobiographical and introspective Brighter Wounds. EP Yesterday’s Wake also released in 2018 is a collection of five tracks that continues some of the motifs found on Brighter Wounds.

We caught up with Ryan, Ian and Rafiq whilst on their European tour to discuss their new EP, making honest music and parenthood.

Hi guys how are you? And how’s the tour going?

Ian: Really good, thanks. We started the tour of pretty slow, we did a show in Athens and then flew to Zurich and then had a couple of days off. Since then we’ve been going pretty much every day. At this point, we’re at the end of the album cycle so we know the music pretty well and it’s nice just to get out there and do your thing. We’re also seeing a lot of cities for the first time, which is always exciting.

How was the show in Wroclaw last night? I hear you have a strong following here in Poland.

Ian: It is yeah, not sure why? I think the first time we came to Poland we were already pleasantly surprised by how well we were received. We did a show in Poznan in a tiny place but it was sold out 150 people or something.

Ryan: It was real early days.

Ian: Then we played a show in Warsaw to four hundred people and we were surprised. After that, we played OFF festival, which gave us a nice jump. The fact it’s grown to what it is now from there is amazing. Also the fact that something about the music connects with the people here; I’m not sure why that is but it’s cool with me.

How does living bi-coastal play into the preparations for a tour?

Ian: I live in Dallas, Texas now.

Ryan: We’re now triangulated.

Ian: When we made this last record I was still living in New York, but when we were prepping for this tour I was living in Dallas. What we do is usually meet up in LA or New York for a chunk of time dedicated to working on new music or rehearsing new music.

Ryan: It’s not a lot different because we are all so busy.

Ian: When we were all in New York we didn’t see each other all that often, because there’s always something going on.

Ryan: Even when Rafiq and I would get together because we lived in the same neighbourhood a lot of times it was just to have coffee or to hang out.

Rafiq: Yeah, we would just go for a coffee or go for a walk.

Ian: In a way it’s making it a situation where we’re forced to dedicate a week. Actually this last record we probably worked on it in more in just one place than with previous records.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s something totally new with this record, is that we dedicated a chunk of time in a traditional studio environment; we normally would dash in and out of the studio one day at a time. In this case, we did a residency that was two weeks long and we were there from morning to night every day and kept our gear there. We had assistants and it was just a proper operation, it was pretty thrilling.

Ian: It was awesome, clocking in every day.

Did it feel more like a job?

Ryan: In a way but in a good way.

Rafiq: Everything was set up and we didn’t have to break everything down. We really used the hell out of it. A lot of the time we had parallel operations going; Ryan would be working in one studio doing vocals whilst Ian and I were working in the other studio on other things.

Ian: It’s a privilege to be able to do that in New York because studios tend to be really expensive. Usually you hop in the studio, get drum-tracking done and then you have to take everything home or to small mixing studios.

Ryan, You’ve previously said you started playing the piano because of a family rule. Do you have any plans to carry on the family tradition with your son?

Ryan: Nobody’s ever asked me that before, well obviously me wife and I have talked about it. My wife is a dancer and a choreographer, I think she would feel the same way about dance. She also started very young when she was six, both of us have been doing what we are doing now for essentially for thirty-three years. It would be hard for both of us to say that we don’t want the same kind of early-rooted discipline and passion. I think while I would implement this rule I’ll work to keep an open mind about the impact of the rule. In other words like with my siblings if it turns out to be just an exercise in discipline then so be it.

When you were coming up with the name Son Lux did you ever think you’d be getting asked about fatherhood?

Ryan: I definitely wasn’t thinking about fatherhood at the time. Son to me then meant a bunch of different things that had nothing to do with me being a father, it wasn’t part of my brain at that time.

You’ve touched on this a little bit already; how did you approach Brighter Wounds differently compared to Bones? Did you feel you’d grown together more musically?

Ryan: I don’t know did we grow?

Rafiq: We’ve talked about a language that we all developed around process. There’s been a deeper integration between elements and processes that would ordinarily come in post-recording versus in terms of how the part is actually being planned. Previously we would take audio as raw source material and manipulate it in a way. Our way with working with audio has filtered more into the way where we are performing on our instruments. It feels more natural. It’s certainly not the case that those things were completely segregated before, we were already thinking about our instruments in those cases, but it’s gotten more crystallised.

Ian: I think the environment we mentioned before, being in the studio everyday leant itself to making this subconsciously happen. It’s interesting because the first record we worked on Bones, the energy was definitely influenced by our energy on stage. Like Rafiq was saying I’d venture to say that Brighter Wounds has more playing on it. But there’s something about the energy on Bones that was influenced by discovering your voice in a live context in a different way. Us working in the studio together as well as Rafiq and I learning a lot about audio processing and production really filtered into our playing. Bones was really influenced by our live shows and following that the way we played was more influenced by making that record and was more cyclical. So we have grown but it’s maybe hard for us to wrap our heads around because we’re so close to it, to see how things have changed.

Was there a conscious decision to make the album more personal?

Ryan: Yeah, lyrically speaking it’s a more autobiographical record than previous records. I sort of got to a point where I was starting to write things that were autobiographical. I didn’t really want to lean in that direction but I felt that it would be dishonest not to. I’ve always wanted to say out loud that I’m trying to make ‘honest’ music. With lyricists, there’s this assumption that if I pen something that sounds personal then it’s about me and that's a slippery slope because maybe it isn’t. I don’t want the music to be about me, for some people that’s not an issue but I want there to be some sort of separation because the music is its own thing. Especially now as a trio, this isn’t Ryan Lott’s story. All that said I did get to the point writing a lot of these lyrics where I was trying to resist it. I basically conceded that a greater autobiographical piece of me was the most honest approach to what was really stirring around in my brain and soul whilst making the music. So to resist that would be a disservice to how I felt the nature of longings and yearnings to every other nature of the music.

You stated in the past that you don’t like to give away your intentions, was that harder to resist when going more autobiographical?

Ryan: Like I said it’s definitely where I want my starting point to be, I want to make sure everyone can develop their own connections to the music. I also conceive that as a listener songs that have incredible specificity and have incredible autobiographical information are just as resonant to me even though I can’t relate to them directly or literally. My whole calculus is suspect in that sense. I recently got back into Joni Mitchell’s Blue, which was one of the first records I loved. I realised I could still sing along to every word. There are records like that, Paul Simon is another where somehow the lines that pulled my heartstrings the hardest are the ones I can’t relate to. I’ve been really thinking about that a lot.

You also released a new EP Yesterday’s Wake a few weeks ago, can you iterate how the EP relates to Brighter Wounds?

Ian: ‘Yesterday’s Wake’ and ‘Delivery’, those two songs were made in the same sessions as the rest of Brighter Wounds. It was a combination of a few things, firstly you can only fit so much music on vinyl, we knew we had to avoid doing a double LP. So we had to shelve a couple of things from the record. Those two felt like natural choices that didn’t necessarily belong to the collection.

Ryan: As soon as we made that decision we realised it served the album very well because it’s a heavy record.

Ian: Things like that become pretty clear when sequencing an album.

Rafiq: You can look at it in two different ways, either as a limitation and what stuff do we have to get rid of; or as an opportunity to create the leanest meanest most concise message we are trying to communicate.

Ian: Also, I think it’s helped highlight those two songs better. Especially ‘Yesterday’s Wake’ would have been lost on Brighter Wounds. Now as part of a smaller collection of songs, it ended up working out.

Ryan: Broadly speaking the EP is part of a tradition of creating a peripheral release to the album.

Ian: We’ve always been into that.

Ryan: We revisited material, there’s also some interesting cross-pollination between the two new songs and songs on Brighter Wounds. The track ‘Yesterday’s Wake’ contains the phrase ‘Brighter Wounds’ which is actually where I came up the idea for the album title. The song ‘Young is closely related to ‘Delivery’ even though sonically they share nothing in common, the chorus melody and lyrics are the same. It’s just a different sonic environment so ‘Delivery’ and ‘Young’ are in my mind the same song just from two different planets.