Telling Right From Real—An Interview With Lydia Ainsworth

By James Li

Lydia Ainsworth is the newest signee to Arbutus Records, the Montreal label known for its roster of experimental pop acts like Grimes, Braids, and Blue Hawaii. The Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based musician combines pop sensibilities with artistic ambition on her debut album Right from Real. But even this early into her career, she’s attracted the attention of the indiesphere: Right from Real was Stereogum’s Album of the Week, and her song “Hologram” was named Best New Track by Pitchfork. Demo Magazine reached out to Lydia to talk about her thoughts on movies, Bulgarian singing, and snakes.

Demo Magazine: You studied film scoring at NYU. Does film influence your music at all? If so, any films or directors in particular?

Lydia Ainsworth: The scores for Clockwork Orange, Vertigo, Koyaanisqatsi, The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover in particular have influenced me.

DM: If you could work with any director, what would your dream collaboration be?

LA: I really want to write a film score for French horns and women’s choir. Whatever project / director requires that, I am down!

DM: Could you describe the creative process of writing your debut album, Right from Real?

LA: I recorded most of it from my bedroom, building the tracks up and stripping them down a million times over before I felt content with the production. It took me two and half years to complete. I would take a lot of walks throughout the process, listening to the demos or listening to inspiring music to gain perspective and inspiration.

DM: Are there any overarching musical or lyrical themes on Right from Real? I might be wrong, but I get a very dreamlike impression from your album.

LA: The album relies on a kind of dream logic, but at the same time music is not an escape for me; for me music is an exploration of reality in a quest to see and feel things in real life more authentically. An overarching theme throughout is the notion that the impossible is possible and all around is all around if you only look hard enough.

DM: I was looking at the musicians you follow on Twitter and I was a little surprised to learn that you’re a fan of dancehall deejay Popcaan. Do you have any other favourite musicians that other people might not expect?

LA: I am OBSESSED with Popcaan. It is the only album on my iPod that I’ve been listening to the past two months.

DM: You’ve mentioned that you’re a fan of Bulgarian folk music. How does that influence your own music?

LA: I am inspired by the tension and power in Bulgarian choral singing. This inspiration finds its way into my music in various ways that may not be obvious to a listener. I have some Bulgarian choir samples peppered throughout the songs but I also draw from the power of the very close harmonies in my string arrangements.

DM: I heard that you bring a live snake on stage for your shows. Can you tell us anything about what your live performances are like?

LA: This was a one time special performance for POP Montreal. The snake belonged to the artist Alex Hercule who designed the set which was beautiful, a plexiglass perch for Baguette, his snake. My live performances feature me singing and playing keyboard. I am usually accompanied by a cellist and a violinist and drummer. Some kind of beautiful visual like this installation at POP is something I always strive to incorporate when possible.

DM: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?

LA: Like the shivers caused by a lucid dream.

Media photo courtesy of Jessica Upton-Crowe and Cardinal PR.

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