Fronted by singer-songwriter Layne Putnam, LAYNE takes pop-punk angst and blends it with skittering beats. And over all of that, Ms. Putnam's voice brings the heavy and the dark to LAYNE's brand of pop.

I caught up with Ms. Putnam via telephone to better know the artist behind the music. Even in just short amount of time, the energy and love she has for music was palpable. Some of that can be attributed to music being in her family's DNA. But, the enthusiasm with each response Layne gave proves your favorite musicians are just like you; kids at heart with an addiction to the way music, in all its forms, brings forth a primal energy.

So, go under the influence with LAYNE and get to know a musician (in every sense of the word) a little bit better; take a listen to their new single, 'Topical'; think about life, music, and love.

I know you come from a musical family. But before we delve into that, let's start from the beginning. What was it like growing up in South Dakota?

Um, growing up in South Dakota was cool. I grew up in a really mountainous area, so I was in nature a lot and surrounded by a lot of local musicians. It was a pretty "grass roots-y" kind of scene. I think it definitely shaped me in who I am as a person. It humbled me to come from a place like that. I'm glad to be out here [LA] now. But, it's definitely made me respect hard work and nature and all the things that make me, me.

And looking at that local music scene, your father was a musician as well, a fiddle player. What was it like growing up in that scene of more rural, fiddle-playing South Dakota?

I think growing up with my dad was good in many ways. Not because of him being a musician- I guess it was 'cause he was a musician- but, I think the most crucial part of me becoming a musician was there was always jam sessions in my house. And I was always going to like songwriters' houses and hanging out and being forced to jump in and play a lead line even though I had no idea what I was doing, you know? So, I was always surrounded by a bunch of players that kind of threw me in and made me play. And there was always instruments around my house. And my brother played music. And we had all these weird instruments like trombones, saxophones, drums, piano, and even more weird stuff. So, when I got the chance to pick them up and play them, I ended up sticking with it.

Nice! And in those jam sessions, was there a specific genre that people stuck to? Or did you all just play whatever you felt like playing?

Um, I think a lot of the music was more kind of bluegrass, Americana. But, my dad was playing a lot of like Western Swing - '70s Western Swing; music like that. But, with the internet - I mean, I had the internet, obviously (laughing). Yeah, I was in tune, going on MySpace and finding bands. And there's a cool indie rock and pop punk scene up there as well. And a lot of Minneapolis bands, too; a lot of indie bands from there I was into. So, I wasn't shut off from the world. Yeah, but, in South Dakota, I feel like it's mostly bluegrass.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to paint the picture that you grew up on a secluded farm with no TV or internet.

(Laughing) Oh, no, no worries!

Okay, cool. So, when you started forming your own musical identity as you got older, branching out and discovering those bands, was there a specific genre you were drawn to, or did you just keep it open and whatever you liked, you liked?

Yeah, I listened to a lot of the music my older brother did. Because he was always finding new records and stuff. So, when I was younger, I was listening to a lot of pop-punk and rock music. I grew up on Blink-182 and +44, Angels and Airwaves, and stuff like that. But I was also listening to a lot female fronted bands as well, those female rock chicks. I was into, you know, Paramore and all of that when I was in 6th grade and pop punk bands when I was in middle school. But I think I was more interested in indie stuff like Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara, Now, Now. I think I just like expanded. And that music scene expanded as well and kind of opened up to more pop influenced stuff. And then I started getting into bands like... I don't even know, there's so many. But regardless, that was in my past. I then started getting into the emo world and then expanded into listening to more pop and stuff like that.

When did you move out to LA?

I moved out here about a little over three years ago, maybe? I graduated early and then decided to move out here because I was going to be at one coast or the other. And then I decided on LA and I've been here ever since.

Okay, and when did you form your band as it is now? Did you have any groups or bands you were in before LAYNE?

Yeah, well, I've always kind of been LAYNE. Every project I've been in since I was little has been LAYNE. It's never been anything- well, I guess my band in middle school was called something different. But, I was playing shows as LAYNE all through high school. And then when I moved out here, I just really wanted to get the band going and get the right guys. It took me like a year-and-a-half probably to find the right dudes. But, I've always been LAYNE. It's been an evolution. I just see it as a collective rather than a band and without this person it's not... it's a collective. Some people pass through and some people stay.

That's really interesting taking that approach. Since it's been a collective and evolving over the years with various members, how has the sound developed or changed over the years? Did it sound different than it does now?

Yeah, it's definitely evolved. I think as far as the sound goes, I generally write all the parts. I write all the guitar parts in general. And now Alexander writes as well; the drum parts, he plays the drums. But I generally write all the guitar parts and all the bass parts, the vocals, the chords and all that. So the sound is me evolving.

We've had members cycle through; we've had different guitar players and bass players. But as far as that, the sound hasn't really changed just because I'm usually writing it. But, I think Alex and I... when I started working with him, we immediately connected and had very similar colors. We think about music in the same colors. And he fit so perfectly into what my brain was already doing, I think that just enhanced it. I think we use each other as tools. I think he could do things I couldn't. So, it's just an evolution. I don't think it's necessarily changed the sound or the direction we're going.

Isn't that when you find that creative partner that just clicks? Everything just locks in.

Oh, totally. There's nothing like it. It's incredible. Especially when you play so much together, you just like sing the same melody over the top of something and you just like, "Yep!" (Laughs). You just get in that groove. But, yeah, it's amazing.

So, while you write a lot of the parts of the compositions, including lyrics, and he writes the drum parts, it sounds like everything is still very collaborative. When working on a song and composing, do you normally write lyrics first, music first, or just whatever happens, happens, depending on the song?

It's different every song, I think. I recently started to revert back to how I used to write to help myself open up a little bit. But, um, I generally write- I play drums- so I generally start with a drum loop and then build guitar parts. Because I write single notey parts that are melodic over the drums and work on the guitar parts. The vocals are what usually comes last. But, sometimes, I have songs that start off getting written on the guitar. Those songs usually come about when I'm sad. If I'm really sad, I'll sit down with a guitar and write a song; just me and a guitar or me and a piano. But, if I'm writing a groovy song, it always starts with a rhythm section or a bass part and then I build on it with the vocals and the top line and my backing vocals. So, it depends. It's different every time.

When it comes to writing songs, some of that is innate, but some of that comes from years of growing up jamming. For your process, were there any players you grew up listening to/ jamming with that influenced your approach to songwriting?

I think, songwriting to me is such an interesting question because, I got my first guitar when I was little. It was super small and special for my little hands. And I played mandolin when I was super little because it was like a smaller neck. So writing songs was always... I mean, I couldn't get on the computer when I was five years old and learn a cover or anything. so I would just play the guitar and sing stuff over it. And that's how I started writing. And then, as I got older, I started analyzing songs and taking them apart. I started realizing structurally what's happening and learning about that. I took classes. I went to this thing called 'Grammy Camp' in high school. And that kind of helped me reiterate those things that I had learned. And I was building on that.

I analyze things a lot. I take songs apart and study, "why is this, like this" and stuff like that. And as far as my playing style goes, I listen to a lot of Prince, St. Vincent, and stuff. So, I was really inspired by... I think at the core I'm a drummer. The way I think is like a drummer. So, my guitar parts and my bass parts and stuff were more centered around rhythm than they were around melody. So, my style is very much around me playing the drums. So, I'm very right-handed when it comes to all my guitar parts. They're all single notey, groovy parts. I think that influenced my style for sure, me being a rhythmic person. But, yeah, just being around other musicians all the time you definitely pick up little things and learn more all the time. That was a long explanation but... (laughs).

Not at all. This is why we're doing this, to get that out there! So, right now, is LAYNE more just a duo with touring musicians, or are there other more permanent members besides you and Alex?

Um, it's me and Alex; me and Alex are the faces of the band. But I mean, as far as how it functions, it really is a collective. The guys who play with us, the guitar player and bass player, they are... we treat people like they are all part of the project. I don't like to treat people like they are just touring dudes. They're part of it, just like everyone else on the team, regardless of what part they're working on. But we try and keep it that way. We're a strange project in that way. We don't like to hire dudes out. We want people who want to play with us. So, it's an interesting situation. I think the best way to describe LAYNE is really a collective. Because everybody in it is working on it. The people we have working on the project want to be part of it and care about it. And that's what we just kind of held on to moving forward. But, Alex and I are the base right now.

That's awesome. And that kind of leads into the next question. When you have people that aren't just play for hire, but are emotionally involved in the work, how does that help with playing live together? Is there more feeding off of each other, not just playing due to memorization?

Yeah, when we play live, we play like a band. We stand up there together, all four of us. It's not just like me with my back up band. We treat each other like a band and play like a band. And I'm always open to them putting their spin on it. I think people always play better when you let them play like themselves, to an extent. I usually write the part but then sometimes it shifts live and they think to play something cool live that I never would have thought of. Or like, add a chord somewhere or something. We play like a rock band and when we're on stage we act like a band and I don't see them as back us for us- we're a unit up there. They are emotionally invested, so it's fun. It feels better that way for everybody.

Nice, nice. So, to take it a little bit lighter, you're a life-long musician. Who are some artists or producers that would be dream collaborations for you to work with?

Oh my gosh, there's so many. I think there's a lot of artists that musically I appreciate and look up to. The artists and producers that I would really want to work with are artists beyond music like Björk, Ben Gibbard, and even like Rick Rubin 'cause he's like crazy. I mean, St. Vincent is another one. Music is like one thing, but being in a band or being an artist, there's so much more than that. And you can do things packed with visuals and stuff. I'm really inspired by people that are artists and outside just music. But, yeah, I think asking me who I want to tour with is different than asking me who I want to play with. I think, I'd love to with someone like Björk. And, as far as touring goes, I think it'd be awesome to tour with people like The 1975, PVRIS; someone in that realm.

It's interesting with the scope of artists you were bringing up. Growing up, I always associated pop with "bubblegum pop". But I think it's becoming more and more apparent that while Britney Spears is pop, Radiohead is pop as well. What's your take on the whole aspect of 'genre' in today's music? Because as a critic, I see genre taking a backseat to how globally accessible music is now. What's your take on that?

Yeah, I totally agree. That's the hardest question ever when people ask, "Well, what genre are you?" That's such a dying thing in my mind. But, I think now there's getting to be so many sub-categories- your indie-pop-rock-R&B- like, there's so many sub-genres. I think I agree with you totally on that. I think it's kind of a dying thing. And the word "pop" - some people take it as Britney Spears, some people take it as popular music- so it's kind of a dying thing. But, I think what's more impactful than genre is saying like - I've noticed a lot of blogs do - "for fans of" and then list of some bands. I mean, I hate that as well. It's kind of a struggle anyways. But, yeah, I agree with you and I think that genre is dying and we need to find a way to explain a band in a few words without listing every sub-genre they are, you know?

What advice would you give to those out there who are writing their first songs and looking to pursue music?

Well first off, just do it. Just mess around, get super weird. I think people get like, "I want to be this", and they try and emulate that. And that's a death sentence in itself, in my opinion. But, just getting weird. The other thing is, play instruments. A lot of kids are like, "I play guitar", you know? But, in my opinion, if you play other instruments too, like the drums- my mind has opened up as a guitar player because I play the drums. My mind has opened up as a piano player because I play guitar. Playing other instruments is super important, especially with writing. Because you can hear what's happening. And if you know what's happening when they're hitting the snare, you can sing the melody on top of that and realize, "Oh, hey, that's catchy." And just like, thinking about, the bigger picture, I guess? I get caught up in a song or a riff or something and I'm always thinking about what I'm singing. Just realizing like this feels good, it fits into a color scheme I like, and just run with that. Because I've done things where it doesn't feel like you, but you can make anything you. Just do something and then strip it completely away. Take the melody and the chords and make something new with it. That would be my advice, I guess.

You can catch LAYNE on tour in support of The Black Hills EP. You may even get treated to some new tunes.