Interview: Five Minutes with Lycio

Alt-pop trio Lycio has officially released their single ‘Nightfall’ via Lycio Records. The Birmingham-based based group consists of Genie Mendez (vocalist and lyricist), Charlie Kellie (keyboardist)  and Alex Lowe (drummer). Their main objective is empowering women entering the entertainment industry and providing safe venues for their audience to watch them live in. Thus far, Lycio have performed at the famous Sofar sounds London, Big Feastival 2019 and Alternative Escape 2019. They have also performed three live acoustic tracks on BBC Introducing West Midlands, as well as performing for Chris Evans’ CarFest for BBC Children in Need. Their track ‘Evil People’ was featured on BBC 6 Tom Robinson’s Fresh Favs in 2018. 

We find out more about Lycio in our exclusive below. 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

It’s escapism really, it’s non-judgemental. Music is a form of expression; it’s freeing and therapeutic. We didn’t consciously plan to go into the arts, we all sort of fell into it. It’s a distraction from real life, it’s the only time when we’re not thinking about some of the problems in the world. But also, it’s just fun to play a cool song.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

It’s a mix really. Sometimes we have a concept and then we put a sound to the idea. But more often than not, we just jam; discovering a sound whilst we’re playing live – at this point, we go “ah, we like that” – so we find something we all latch on to and then it sort of evolves from there.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Not at the moment. But in the future, it’s something that we’d be open to.

What’s on your current playlist?

Loads! What isn’t on our playlist. If I (Genie) could only say one artist, I would say King Princess. Charlie and Alex are currently listening to a lot of Jack Garratt and Childish Gambino / Donald Glover.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

We’ve got really supportive fans. They know the songs and it’s cool hearing them singing along when we’re playing – that never gets old. And when there are people that don’t know us, it’s nice to see them digging the new stuff.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

An important thing to us is that we create all of our own electronic sounds. Charlie has an interest in electronic soundscapes, and he can play these live for Genie to write over.

Our setup is like one live organism that reacts and interacts with itself. Synths, vocals, drums; everything can interact with each other, that’s the beauty of it. We use a lot of cool real-time effects, such as sidechaining. It’s like one musical experiment.

We feel like we have a sound partly because we record in unconventional spaces, record unusual sounds, and obscure percussion. For example, recently we hooked up an old upright piano which is 4 semitones out – to record live. We don’t shy away from imperfections (human or otherwise); which we think gives the music its life, humanity, and real-ness. 

Our tracks could easily end up as pop songs, but Genie uses figurative language and dark verse tones to contradict and move away from that direction lyrically.  

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Recording can be an exhausting process for two of us. Alex and Genie find the process stressful; we love it, but we care so much that we get frustrated if we feel we aren’t getting our full potential on record. We track drums live in Alex’s studio. This is the longest part. Charlie’s process is very much the opposite. He doesn’t feel the stress, it’s all in the box so can just take his time and relax until he gets the perfect take. Interestingly, Genie is more comfortable in a relaxed environment; often tracking vocals in the bedroom instead of the studio. 

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I (Genie) was about 13 and I wasn’t really enjoying school. One day I bought a guitar for twenty pounds in a charity shop, started writing songs and quickly realized I was pretty good at it. I then left to go to a performing arts school. I (Alex) was studying to be a physicist until I realized that it wasn’t for me; I was just playing drums around London anyway. I also had a very classical background, but it never occurred to me to go into the classical world. I (Charlie) realized at university the fulfillment I got from music and technology, where I was always encouraged to experiment and explore new things.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Good monitors, setlist and a source of hydration.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Little Grim are really cool, we played with them at The Great Escape Festival last year.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

A real instrument, a cool sound or a vocal hook. Hyping ourselves up in the kitchen listening to other music always helps. We work well when we turn the mood lighting on in the studio, get the fairy lights flashing, and start jamming an idea for Genie to vibe off. This takes from minutes to hours. We get creative when we put pressure on ourselves to write. 

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

We use Ableton live which is probably a given, across two latops, one for music, and the other for real-time FX. But our secret weapon is MAX MSP/M4L (and Java, which has brought stability to our live setup). We mostly use Native Instruments software like Massive, Kontakt and Reaktor. We use an SPD which is connected via midi so it can interact with the music in real-time and create cool effects like live sidechaining. We’re also integrating live vocal effects with iZotopes Vocal Synth 2.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Nope, not at present.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

We’ve got much better at comparing the quality of our tracks to other artists that are out there and doing it. Our ears have improved; we went through a period of mixing and producing our tracks entirely ourselves which gave us room to experiment and develop our skills. It was this period that helped us to refine our sound and process. We also realized how difficult it is working entirely on our own, and the benefits of referring to other tracks as a reference. It was a beautiful moment of self-reflection when we realized how differently people can interpret a mix.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

We’ve got our releases planned for the next two years. We’re so excited to be able to consistently put out new music. We have some festivals booked in for this summer and a headline show in the works. We’ll be getting to London as soon as we can as well.

Famous last words?

Believe in your craft, even if nobody else currently is.

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