Lucid Fly members Nikki Layne and Doug Mecca met back in 2000 and the chemistry was instantly undeniable. Their name was ripped from a newspaper headline that read, “Lucid Flies Into the Record Book” referring to astronaut Shannon Lucid. The two started working on material that would eventually see the light of day in 2005 with the release of their debut EP Adapting to Gravity. A move from Florida to LA happened in 2007 as they two continued to work on perfecting their vision and sound, which wasn’t always an easy journey as members entered and excited more than once. Still, Layne and Mecca stayed focused and continued releasing material while building their fanbase around the world with their form of melodic prog-rock. Their latest release Building Castles In Air, which made our 34 Best Albums of 2016 list, is their first full length album and we feel it’s the finest piece of work to date. We recently had a chance to sit down with Nikki Layne to talk about the new album and much more.
Every super hero or villain has an origin and a band is no different, minus the government experiments and radioactive spiders. How did you and Doug (Mecca) connect back in 2000?
Nikki Layne/Lucid Fly: I’ve been around music all of my life, so it’s been in my blood for a long time and I knew I wanted to start a band. I put an ad in a music rag in Orlando at the time. Doug was from Tampa and he was looking to relocate and start a band. He was the first person to answer the ad and the first audition that I ever went on. We’ve literally been in the band together ever since.
I will admit that I am rather new to the Lucid Fly family and I first read about you as you were putting this new album together. Then, I went back and traced your history and was surprised to find out that you’ve been together since 2000. The band has really grown since the Adapting to Gravity EP in 2005.
It’s ironic because just last week I went back and listened to every song that Doug and I have recorded and it was an enlightening experience for me. We have grown and we’ve also gone through several member changes since 2000. I think that with each of those changes that our styles changes a little bit as well. I think we’ve had a tendency to want to push ourselves and it’s all about the details with us. I think it’s also a natural progression if you’ve been doing it for that long to continue to push yourself and get better as you draw from all of your influences.
Did you self-produce this new album?
We’ve basically self-produced everything that we’ve written, but with this one it wasn’t completely self-produced. We did do the majority of the arrangements and everything, but when we got to recording the bass and vocals we worked with a co-producer Steven Leavitt. We try to iron out all of the details and get the songs to where we want them to be before we use any outside input, but at the time we didn’t have a bassist, so Doug actually ended up tracking all of the bass for this album. He felt like he needed a producer to help him to do that and he even grew a beard to become a bassist.
Was that a requirement?
Just a different persona I guess (laughs).
Something that jumped out at me in your press release was that you had never played these songs live before you recorded them for the album.
We still haven’t; that was something that we decided to do before we started recording. In the past, we’ve always played all of the songs before we recorded them and the once we did record them, they really didn’t feel new anymore. Most bands record and album and then they tour on that music; so we decided to get these recorded, rehearse and then go out and play them. We’re rehearsing now and trying to put these songs together and it’s tricky to make them sound like they are on the album. It’s a challenge because there are a lot of layers there.
That sounds like it’s quite a task to do so.
There’s where we’re at now; we’ve used a lot of sequencing with the last two EPs which adds some of that atmosphere and texture. Ultimately, we want to add a second guitar player because we wrote extra guitar with this album and it would be better to have a real person playing it rather than having it on a backing track. It’s all sounding great so far, so it’s just a process of deciding which parts do we play live, which parts do we need to possible add a member, so that’s what we’re working on.
Let’s flip the script; we’re any of the songs more difficult than others, for whatever reason, to get to the finish version that you wanted?
I think Doug spent a lot of time working on guitar tones as well as the bass parts trying to figure out tones that he wanted to get. All of the songs are tricky, even for us to play, so we really pushed ourselves to our own limits this time. We’re all perfectionists as well, so there were a lot of re-dos.
I saw that you worked with Forrester Savell again, who you worked with on the Stasis EP. How did you connect with him?
We’ve never actually been in the same room working with him because he is in Australia. He’s a musical genius and he’s worked on some of our all-time favorite albums. We were at the point where we were going to be deciding on who to mix and master the album and I am the time of person who likes to go with my first choice. I just reached out and told him that we wanted to work with him. It was a long shot, but I wrote this really heart felt and honest message to him and he was game to jump on-board. He did one song on Stasis and we didn’t even have to have any notes going back and forth because the version that he sent back is what we put out. We’re perfectionists and very anal with details and how we want things to sound, so that was unheard of. There are ten songs on this new album, so we did go back and forth on this quite a bit. I hope that we can eventually have him produce us because that we would definitely be a dream.
I read your interview with Ania Tomicka who did the beautiful artwork for the new album. How did you find her?
One thing that we love to do is work with other artists. With Stasis, we had artist paint the cover artwork and we actually have that painting in our living room. We knew we wanted to find a great artist for this one and someone who puts as much heart and detail into their art as we do the music. I really like surrealism and I was looking for something along that genre of art, so I started scouring the internet. I think I narrowed it down to five people and I found out when Ania contacted us that we have a lot of very similar musical interests which I thought was cool. One of her dreams and something on her bucketlist was to work with a band, so it was kind of a synchronicity and it all fell into place. We let her hear the music, the vocals hadn’t been tracked yet, to get a vibe and feel for what we were going for. We told her to send us back what she felt and that art is what she sent back to us. We were blown away; she put elements of every single song into the actual finished project.
Has there been any talk of tour dates yet?
We want to play these songs live for everyone and especially those who supported our campaign and made this album possible. Our first priority will be to play in our hometown of LA and then work our way out from there. Ideally, I would love to play on the East coast because I think there is a market for it there and we’re originally from Florida. There are plenty of reasons for us to be touring, so that’s our goal.
Is there anything else on your radar that you want to mention?
We want to do some videos, so we’re trying to get some feelers from the fans as to which songs they’d like to see videos for. I love having visuals to go along with the songs. Playing live is definitely a priority and I think we’ll do some acoustic stuff as well. Our music translates very well acoustically and the feedback that we’ve received when we’ve done so has been really well. I’m real curious to see how this new set of songs will sound acoustically.
Now that we’ve loosened you up with the easy questions, it’s time to end it with a couple of tough ones. Are you a binge watcher of anything?
I watch The Housewives, all of them and I don’t even know why. On the flipside, I love Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel. They go through trials and tribulations and it reminds me of the struggles that bands go through. I think that’s why I resonate with that show so much.
Do you have any guilty pleasures, other than Housewives, that might surprise even your most dedicated fan?
I’m always thrown off when someone asks me something like this. I like to try different types of foods and I will try anything once.
What’s something you tried and decided once was definitely enough?
Chicken feet; there were too many tendons and toenails or whatever.
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