Tag: suny lyons

Interview: Suny Lyons

Suny Lyons is a music producer who owns Popheart Productions, a recording studio in Athens, Georgia. He’s played in the bands pacificUV, Hope For Agoldensummer, Dream Boat, and Lovers.

Suny Lyons

After The Show: Of all your roles – music producer, recording engineer, website & graphic designer, performer, musician – which comes easiest/most naturally to you, and which is most challenging?

Suny: Producing and recording music is the obsession that occupies most of my natural energies, and performance is almost always a part of my process. I play plenty of instruments, create arrangements, and contribute compositionally on just about every project. Making records has been my job for the last 16 years, but even before that I did it every day as a hobby. Recording was my bedroom obsession as a teenager with a four track cassette deck. In my opinion nothing could be more challenging than producing an amazing record, which on some level is probably part of what fuels my life-long obsession.

Designing websites and graphics is a related occupation that came out of necessity over time. I have some background in visual arts and computer programming, so over the years people starting asking me to help with these kinds of projects, usually relating to records. 10 years later it’s just become part of my everyday job. I mostly think of the work I do for people in web development and graphic design to be about brand development, and the projects I take on still usually relate to the arts in some way.

Between all your projects, what’s the time breakdown like?

I’m pretty much in the studio 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. [Web] Development projects usually happen early in the morning, late at night, or on my days off. Managing the record label stays pretty far down my list, for better or worse. It’s really hard to make time for running a non-profit label [Mazarine].

What made you want to start Popheart Productions? Do you think much about being an entrepreneur?

Having my own studio is just practical. Long ago the very first studio I regularly worked in was Chase Park Transduction, which was then and still is a pretty big shop with plenty of producers sharing the calendar every month. Over the course of 7 years there I gradually had to acknowledge the obvious benefits of having my own space. I’ve worked in lots of studios over the years since and they’re all (mostly) wonderful places, but basically the best way that I can control quality and keep the costs down for the artists is in my own studio rather than someone else’s.

Every person I’ve ever known with a career in production is an entrepreneur. Clearly the production business has changed a lot in the last 20 years, and getting hired to work in a studio as an employee is something that basically doesn’t ever happen anymore. I get a lot of emails from recent graduates of recording schools like Full Sail asking about whether I’m hiring and my heart gets a little heavy every time when I have to be the person to explain to them that it totally doesn’t work that way.

Basically, the only way to make records for a living is to be an entrepreneur on some level, so that’s what I am.

I like that “Me and the Kansas Queens” on Bedroom Tapes is about your experience touring with Hope For Agoldensummer. I also love “The Want Back” – anything you’d like to share about that song’s meaning?

Well, Page and Claire Campbell are like sisters to me and I love them. They’re each the most expressive and talented women in the world in their own ways and that’s part of what the song is about. We also spent a lot of time on the road together with Hope For Agoldensummer and tour tends to be a pretty exhausting, emotionally intense enterprise. So many songs come out of touring, and maybe “Me and the Kansas Queens” is just a little more obviously written from that perspective.

You know, being on the road over and over with any band can also feel like having your identity stripped away in many senses. Eventually it feels like all that’s left is this little kernel of your original self, and you try to use that as best you can to express yourself and share your art with an audience every day. So the song is also an attempt to describe how that feels.

“The Want Back” is a love song about the feeling of trying to escape a person but always coming back around to a desire to fall back into the flawed, damaged place you left behind.

Suny Lyons Banjo

You played a big role in creating (my favorite album of all time!) I Am The West. What do you remember about the recording process?

Wow 2006-2007 feels so long ago now. Carolyn came to Athens for a few weeks at the beginning of that production process and we made a bunch of demos in my old home studio. Then I moved to Portand, Oregon for a year and we made the record in another studio I setup out there. I worked on those songs every day for a very long time so I’m glad to hear that you like them!

I played just about every instrument, wrote every arrangement, we even adapted some of the songs melodically and lyrically from some old bedroom tape ideas I had at the time. It was a long and intense process even before Carolyn started actually singing the songs.

Why’d you formerly use a pseudonym?

I suppose I’ve always had name issues. My birth name was actually Daniel Rickard (I now cheekily refer to it as a previous pseudonym). I legally changed my name to Suny Lyons after years of never using my birth name for anything and finally deciding to officially let it go.

As for the meaning of my actual name, Suny Lyons — I’ve spent a lot of time in Indonesia in my life and Suny comes from the Javanese word “sun” which means kiss. It started out as a nickname given to me by some Kacapi and Suling players I was recording in Bandung and the name just kind of stuck over time. Lyons also has a deeper personal meaning but makes sense in the most obvious way too…you know, a sense of lion-heartedness, which is also an adaptation of the meaning of Rickard.

So, basically Suny Lyons means kissable and brave.

Thanks for sharing Suny! Check out SunyLyons.com for more info on his musical projects.

Interview with Hope For Agoldensummer

I spoke to Claire of Hope For Agoldensummer, a three-piece band led by sisters Claire and Page Campbell from Athens, Georgia.

After The Show: Starting mid-September, you’ll not only open for Patterson Hood but you’ll also sit in with his band during their sets. How are you preparing for that?

Claire Campbell: I actually just texted Patterson yesterday because we haven’t had any rehearsals since last time we played a show together, so as of now we haven’t started preparing yet. What happens is we have marathon rehearsals at Drive-By Truckers practice space. Sometime after dinner we’ll rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until we can rehearse no more.

With his sets, there is no set list – he just works off a giant list of songs we know, so we have a huge catalogue of songs that have to be ready at all times for whatever he decides he wants to play. The other thing about Patterson is that he doesn’t always call out songs, so sometimes he’ll just start a song and we’ll have to figure out which song it is in the first few bars. I’ll be playing banjo and realize I have to quickly change instruments!

When you’re playing shows in the south or in cities in the northeast, have you noticed differences in how audiences react to your music?

At first it seems like more of a novelty thing to people who aren’t from the south or from the southeast. But we win them over with our terrible jokes and stage banter. I feel like we get a pretty good reception across the board. Some places take longer to warm up.

What was your experience using Indiegogo to fund your fourth album, and why did you choose it over KickStarter?

We chose Indiegogo because we had a rather lofty financial goal of what we wanted to raise. If you don’t meet your goal with Kickstarter, you lose everything. In our case, the album was mostly in the can when we started fundraising. We were raising to cover the material cost of making the physical album and then to hire a publicist for the album – those things are the expensive things, and why we wanted to pre-sell it and do the fundraising campaign.

Even if we didn’t meet our goal we’d still get to keep the money we raised on IndieGoGo. The album was going to come out regardless of how much money we raised.

You play with some really interesting, unusual instruments like banjo, singing saw, and even a cheese grater. What’s your favorite and/or most unusual instrument you play?

My favorite is just the guitar; it’s the most fun. That’s what I write most of my songs on. I don’t tour with it, but I have a tiny old nylon string guitar from Vietnam and that’s what I mainly just sit at home & play – it’s effortless.

The weirdest thing I play is the singing saw. It’s a beautiful sound, in small amounts…it can definitely be overused. I can get tired of hearing it sometimes. We try to use it very sparingly, whenever we do use it. I don’t release a lot of raging singing saw solos in our folk songs. For Page, her current favorite weird thing is probably an Echoplex tape machine. We don’t tour with it and rarely use it.

I love the line “Mr. Bloom / I’ve made some room / in my mind / for thoughts of you.” Do you want to discuss the meaning and evolution of the song “Daniel Bloom”?

It’s kind of a long story. Daniel Bloom is a really good friend of mine who lives in Athens. When I first moved to Athens in ‘98, he was the first or second person I met. I was studying religion and he was studying philosophy so we had a lot to talk about. We had been talking about bugs…I said you can eat cockroaches – they would be protein & safe to eat, but it turns out after research that you can’t eat them because they carry terrible diseases. We made a bet that whoever was wrong had to write a song about the other person & perform it in public. The song slowly evolved to involve what I had written about him for that bet, but also parts of a love letter from someone else.

Hopefully that song will have a music video to go along with it – our plan is to do a motorcycling music video where I drive and Page stands on the foot peg mouthing the words to the song. We’d then have different members of a motorcycle gang chase us…we’ll see what happens.

What aspects of the business of music do you like and not like?

I don’t like hardly any aspects of it. I’ve been in it for so long that I’ve gotten really weary of it. I don’t really like booking shows anymore, and I don’t really like publicizing my shows. We hired a publicist for this album and tour, but I honestly feel like we could have probably pulled most of it off ourselves & gotten the same results, for the most part.

I got sort of disenchanted with the whole rat race and competition, and my ideas and priorities changed as far as how much time I wanted to devote to music & how much time I wanted to devote to all the other things in my life. At this point, I try to keep my nose out of the business of music as much as possible, and it’s probably to the detriment of our band.

Page is a graphic designer now & I’m a doula – we have other passions that have come to the surface. They haven’t overtaken music at all but are definitely of equal importance as music.

You’ve said that music isn’t how you make money; it’s how you spend money. That’s such a powerful, succinct statement about the current state of music and the struggle of the majority of bands.

Yes. For most people it’s an expensive hobby…I hate to say the word hobby, but is money the determining factor? Probably not. Our band breaks even, although we have massive amounts of credit card debt after the last tour. Except if you started actually figuring in the man and woman hours, we definitely would be in the red. None of us are pulling remotely a fair wage from being in this band, but we love it & we do get fulfillment from the other ways we make a living, so I think that’s okay.

I am happy where we are, for sure, right now. I’m not unsatisfied & I don’t look back at decisions we’ve made & have massive amounts of regret. I feel like we are successful whether or not we earn our living from music. I waver back and forth – on the business of music. I know it’s frustrating for everybody. This town [Athens] is great for being a musician because people are used to hiring people who go on tour, but most people here are not making a living wage.

You do great covers like “Time After Time” and even an Aaliyah song. Are there any covers people can expect on your upcoming tour?

Well actually I was just thinking of pitching some Elvis songs to Page. We do a lot of old R&B from Georgia like James Brown and Little Richard, but I was thinking like an Elvis song maybe…and Chuck Berry. Then there’s this really weird song about “why would you wanna break up.” Do you know that song?

No…

It has really strange timing – the rhythm is weird and the chorus is amazing – sorry I don’t know who it’s by. Patterson’s band is going to be our backup band so we’re trying to keep things simple, and we’ll probably be playing the exact same set every night because we’ll have to teach people our songs. I have pieces of songs but nothing new. We might do a new song of Page’s. But Page is insanely prolific, which is good when I have writer’s block.

*Thank you Hope For Agoldensummer — catch the band on tourlist of shows here

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