Mon, 02 Jun 2014 09:46:00
It’s no surprise that Augustana mainman Dan Layuys is a big movie fan—especially after one listen to his band’s stunning new album Life Imitating Life. The music itself conjures vivid and vibrant pictures of living and love that are definitely big screen-worthy.
"I love films as much as the next guy," he affirms. "That art form speaks to me. I love movies that are very cinematic. I'm a big fan of Roger Deakins. He does a lot of The Coen Brothers movies. You get a real feeling of the landscape. I felt like there was a landscape that I wanted to sonically take a picture of. It's almost like when you read a novel and you adapt your own visual landscape to it."
You'll be adapting your own visuals to Life Imitating Life. It's simultaneously the group’s catchiest and most cohesive offering to date, making it a piece worth listening to (or watching) again and again.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Dan Layus of Augustana talks Life Imitating Life, and so much more.
What ties Life Imitating Life together for you?
More than anything, there's the biggest sense of glue lyrically and melodically. I take away that cohesion from the writing and production process. It does feel cohesive from front to back. That's less the case with the music, even though it happens a little here and there. The reason it feels like one piece is it was written over the course of a very specific time in my life.
What are some of the pervasive lyrical themes for you?
It's a little bit of everything. There's some heartbreak on my own part as far as feeling like I broke my own heart and my own spirit before I began writing this record. I'm feeling a lot of sense of disappointment with myself. The whole thing unravels from there in a really positive way. It's rebuilding the structure of a good, happy, positive, and loving life and being that kind of human. That's something my wife and I—and the other people I surround myself with—strive to do on a daily basis. We try to treat ourselves right, treat other people right, and do the right thing. A lot of this record is based on that sense of focus instead of trying to find out what that all means and how to get there. Even if you get there, are you still lost? You never have the answers. There are waves of moments where you feel like you do.
Well, where is there?
Exactly! Where is the "finish line", really? With my wife, I was watching the Academy Awards. Matthew McConaughey was doing his acceptance speech. It was really strikingly similar to the way I felt. I thought, "Man, that guy just nailed the way I feel! I hope that's the record I made". He talks about how gratitude reciprocates. Negativity can roll downhill, but positivity can to. You work hard and pay it forward. His hero is always chasing himself in the next ten years—25, 35, 45, and so on. That's the feeling you get on this record. This is almost a literal translation of my own feelings on life. They just happen to be in song form as opposed to just writing or blogging. That's a great form of translation as well. I don't know why mine is song, but it is. I think that was something that really spoke to me when McConaughey said it. You're always chasing your better self. I don't ever know that you ever really arrive. You just get back on the journey. Hopefully, you can affect people in a positive way.
What's the story behind "Remember Me"?
That's certainly one of my favorites as well. That's a song I'd been wanting to write for years. I had that idea, and it just took me a long time to zero in on exactly what that song should be. I wanted it to be right. I didn't want the waste opportunity to really say something to my wife, my kids, and people that I love in a special way. I wanted it to be informative. I wanted myself and the listener to feel the almost mundane nature of really missing somebody, especially if I were to pass on before my time. I felt like I needed to leave that behind. Life is crazy. You never know what's around the corner. I needed that song to be there for my family so they'd know I felt a certain way about them. As a human, there's a sense of wanting and needing to be remembered by those whom you love. You want to feel like you made an impact as if the world won't be the same without you there for them. Maybe it's selfish in a way, but really it's more about them than yourself.
Which song resonates with you the most at the moment?
They all resonate with me for different reasons. I wrote songs one-through-ten exactly how I wanted them to be written. I wanted to look back in ten years and be proud of all the pieces of music. There are points that feel like Americana rockers. I wrote "I Really Think So", with Gary Louis from The Jayhawks who is one of my all-time heroes. Something like that resonates with me just as much as something like "Remember Me". All of those styles have deep personal connections to the tissue of who I am spiritually. That's a long way of saying, "I like all of them" [Laughs].
If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I've always loved Jerry Maguire. Maybe it's somewhere in that world! I've been very inspired by that film. It's one of my all-time favorites. Jerry has it all. Then, he's down and out. He finds love, but he screws it up. He comes back to the house and realizes that's what he wants. They have that hug at the end after the concussion, and it's the greatest moment. I love that. I have those kinds of relationships where friends have been so helpful and reliable when I needed them. Basically, it'd be a Cameron Crowe film!
What’s your favorite Augustana song?