Kicking off the morning with an exciting premiere, we have Galen Ayers who has returned with the infectiously catchy new song “Melancoholic.” The song captures the dizzy, nostalgic flairs the title itself embraces.
Galen Ayers didn’t set out to pursue a music career. In fact, she attempted to run in the opposite direction, despite studying ethnomusicology along with religion as a double-major undergrad. (She also has a double master’s in the psychology of religion and Buddhism.) But eventually, she discovered her DNA could not be denied. Ayers, whose late father,Kevin, co-founded the influential British psych-rock band Soft Machine, finally gave in to that most demanding of muses: fate. The happy result is Monument, a beguiling album of folk-inflected dream-pop set for release July 27, 2018 on Bombinate Records.
“I’ve tried so many things not to be a musician,“ Ayers admits, “but it just keeps coming back. The reason is because it’s such a complete way of breaching that meaningless gap that occurs when shit happens in life. I love painting, writing and sculpting, but I haven’t found anything as complete as the process of writing a song.”
It’s not as if Ayers is a performing neophyte, however. She and her friend Kirsty Newton have spent quite a few years duetting as Siskin; before that, she’d also recorded songs with a number of prominent artists such as film director Mike Figgis, and the Talking Heads/TomTom Club musiciansTina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, though the latter recordings were never officially released.
Her new work, produced by longtime friend Paul Simm, carries the emotional heft of a woman finally adjusting to life beyond the outsized shadow cast by her famous father, who’d toured with Hendrix and worked with Brian Eno, John Cale, one-time lover Nico, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, Mike Oldfield and a long list of others, and in 2007 released an album recorded with members ofTeenage Fanclub.
The songs on Monument, written on the Greek island of Hydra in the two years following his death, were her way of working through devastating grief — and eventually redefining her sense of self.
“I was his metaphorical wife, daughter, sister, best friend, advisor,” says Ayers, who also served as his caregiver in his declining years. “When he passed, my reasons for living had to shift. That was super healthy for me, but the process was terrifying. I wouldn’t have survived without music.”
Her musical inheritance includes a dexterity that allows her to mingle multiple genres and textures, sung in a lovely soprano suggesting visitations by both Aimee Mann and Jane Siberry. On “Run Baby Run,” full of woodwinds and vibratoed keyboards, her airy bilingual delivery conjures Bebel Gilberto; on “U-turn,” she channels the dreamy ’50s and ’60s stylings of Debbie Reynolds, Shelley Fabares or Lesley Gore, inspired by the cheeky ’60s hit, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” But Ayers can segue from the impressionistic, gauzy pop of “U-Turn” or “Ain’t the Way” to a stark, confessional intimacy and intensity that can’t quite be characterized as pop or folk. It’s most notable on “You Choose” and “Into the Sea (Calm Down),” but appears on “Collide” and elsewhere. The final tracks draw on the pain of her loss, which she also addresses by dedicating the album “to the love between a father and a daughter.”
But she admits, “These last few years have been a transition for me. When you grow up the child of an exhibitionist, you by default become the voyeur. Even though people are looking towards you, they’re looking at your parent –– not at you. So you develop this keen sense of just observation.”
She learned to become a participant in other ways, including writing op-eds for the Huffington Postand devoting energy to numerous causes, including serving as an ambassador to Friends of the Earth and volunteering to help trauma victims address psychological issues.
But with Monument, she devotes energy to exploring musical styles/genres, touching on her own grieving and healing experiences with her voice and lyrics acting as thread tying everything together and the result is a sterling work.
“It took a lot of bravery for me to do this,” Galen says. “I like thinking things through. But here, I allowed myself to be really simple and really emotional. I just felt like I owed it to myself to be honest.”
In addition, we get to discuss with Ayers about their new material and more!
Can you talk to us more about your song “Melancoholic”?
It’s a word I made up to describe stages in my life where I now recognize I was addicted to ‘things that could never happen’, ‘things that could have been,’ and never living in the present moment. I think we all have a little of a ‘Melancoholic’ in us. Sadness, tragedy, drama can be very exciting and addictive until it’s not.
Did any event, in particular, inspire you to write this song?
I woke up to my own shadow and caught the light just in time to gain some clarity about what was stopping me from finding joy.
Any plans to release a video for the song?
As soon as the album is fully out, we will probably release a video, yes. I’d like to do a live video for it. It’s a really fun song to play with a full band live.
The song comes off your new album Monument – what’s the story behind the title?
I love the sound of the word, and I like that monuments can have double meanings. We tend to erect monuments to either commemorate something that we are proud of having achieved, or out of shame and as a reminder to not do that mistake again. I also like that the word is dynamic and that the meaning of a monument can change with time. I also think that relationships can be monuments in our life.
How was the writing and recording process?
It was a long and deep process with lots of daunting crevices and high moments, and required a lot of patience from both myself and my producer Paul Simm- both for different reasons.The writing was mainly done in solitude and then the recording process was a much more social endeavour. I loved meeting all the musicians and technicians who ended up helping create the unique sound of this record. I am very grateful to them.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I find most of my inspiration from human nature and its relationship to the natural world. I am ultimately guided by what connects us all — the need to be loved and to love. This album in particular revolved around my relationship with my father. The songs primarily focus on my life and our life together before and after he passed away in 2013. Many of the songs on Monument encompass what I wish I had said, or hadn’t said, and what I thought was left to say, though the words of my songs keep changing in meaning as I heal. Five years since my father’s passing, I still talk to him daily and his music always surrounds me. I think he would be proud of me that I made music out of our experiences.
Having travelled throughout the world and meeting new cultures – how has this upbringing influenced your music?
I have been really lucky through travelling so much to experience first hand that we are all here sharing one planet, no matter who you think you are. We are all interdependent and music can help remind us of that. And we need reminding, that’s for sure!
Any plans to hit the road?
Working on plans right now. So far NYC, LA, UK. more soon.
What else is happening next in Galen Ayers’ world?
While I watch this album finally make its way out into the mainstream, I am going to get back to what I love most- collecting beautiful words and catching songs with the help of my inner ‘intranet.’
Her father — and that demanding muse — would expect no less.