In chapter three of DiS's lengthy chat with the erstwhile Grandaddy frontman, Jason Lytle talks heroes, colleagues, passions and guilty pleasures, revealing himself to perhaps be the world's only fan of both Enya AND Mastodon.
DiS: I guess you touched on it before, but is there anyone you would like to share a stage with that you haven’t already? The Rolling Stones?
Jason Lytle: [laughs] The Rolling Stones… people used to ask me about Jeff Lynne, ‘cause I’m such a huge ELO fan, but I’m like "how if I get to pretend that I’m Jeff Lynne and I get to be on stage with his keyboard player and drummer?". I got this close to doing something like that. I have all these weird, freak ELO fans, who send me obscure recordings, and I have these instrumental versions of these proper album tracks. And I thought ‘yeah, that could be a pretty good little interlude or encore to put on an ELO cd and then do one little ELO karaoke song’!
DiS: Which one would you do?
JL: The thing was – I had three songs, but the range was way too high. [imitates a high-pitched Jeff Lynne] And then I realized, "damn, Jeff Lynne has a pretty high voice!". There was 'Telephone Line', 'Livin’ Thing' and one called 'Waterfall', which was almost a b-sidey kind of song. It’s actually one of my favorite ELO songs. I was like, "yeah, it’d be great!", and then I tried to sing it and went "holy cow, this doesn’t sound too good! So much for that idea!".
DiS: You appear on M. Ward’s latest album, and there seems to be at least a vague collective that consists of him, Conor Oberst, Jenny Lewis, Ben Gibbard and other people. Have you considered joining forces further, perhaps tour with any of these people? There must be a fairly good overlap in fan bases...
JL: Yeah, that would be great! I don’t have a problem running into any of those people. Actually, I do have kind of a master list that my booking agent asked me to send – like, "if you could tour with anybody". And I think Conor was on there, and Matt Ward as well. I think it’s a lot more common these days to a package deal. Economically speaking it makes a lot more sense with all these bands to play together. That could be cool. I wouldn’t oppose to that.
DiS: What current bands are you excited about?
JL: I’m a huge Metric fan. They’re fronted by this woman called Emily Haines, who put out an album a couple of years ago. They have three or four albums. They’re from Canada. It’s one of those things, where it’s really distracting, ‘cause she’s really pretty… She almost looks like a model or whatever. But she actually has a rattle-snaggle tooth – like a broken piano tooth – so it kind of messes her look up a little bit, in a perfect way. For those guys who like a woman with a limp. But the music is a great combination of guitar and synth, and unfortunately people compare it to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and it’s just not right, ‘cause she writes really good songs. And she made this album, which is all piano songs. She was taking a break from Metric. They just released this highly-anticipated album [Fantasises], and it’s fucking good. It was like, "thank you, I’d been waiting for that to come out!". And I like song number three on that new MGMT record! [laughs]
Video: Jason Lytle: 'Brand New Sun' (live at SXSW)
DiS: Are there any current acts you genuinely despise? Some that perhaps represent what’s wrong with music?
JL: That’s a great question. There are a lot of things that annoy the shit out of me. [thinks for a really long time, then realizes he can’t come up with a current band for this category] God, maybe this is a good thing! Maybe this means I’m becoming more compassionate and sort of… forgiving. [laughs] I used to always make fun of this band, Maroon 5. But we were driving around today, and one of their songs came on the radio, and I was like "fuck, that’s a great song!". That’s good, though, right? To search out the goodness in all situations. It was that one song, too. [sings it in a slightly mocking voice] "This love has taken it’s toll on me…" Shit, it’s a good song. I enjoyed it.
DiS: What if it doesn’t have to be a current band?
JL: Whenever The Doors come on the radio, I just get really, really angry.
DiS: What’s wrong with The Doors?
JL: Jim Morrison is wrong with The Doors.
DiS: You don’t feel the mojo?
JL: I do not feel the mojo. It’s actually a good, valid question. Who is it that just really makes you mad? And the only thing I could think of right off the bat was that every time the fucking Doors come on, I change the station immediately. I don’t even give it a chance, to figure it out or try to decipher why it makes me, like… violent. [laughs] But I think I don’t like the fact that Jim Morrison took the rich kid, tortured artist thing to a whole new level. I don’t like rich kids, tortured artists.
DiS: What about poor kids, tortured artists?
JL: I don’t automatically buy into the whole tortured artist concept. ‘Cause life is hard, life is a struggle, but there are all kinds of wonderful things to be appreciative of.
DiS: You sing melancholic tunes, though. Why aren’t you a tortured artist?
JL: [baffled silence]
JL: No… It’s gotten out of hand with some people. Some people are just sad. Life can be great, it can be perfect, but you’re struck with these waves of sadness. And I don’t wanna be like that. I think at some point I realized that I could go beyond that. Sort of get rid of it. But we all know what the blues are. Just being miserable with the situation and trying to make some sense of it, and the only way you know how is to make, you know, blues.
DiS: Do you know the band Sophia?
DiS: They're’s a band with this American guy, and he sings the saddest, saddest music in the world. It’s so depressing, but it’s really beautiful. And then when he’s on stage, or if you happen to meet him after a show, he’s usually in a really good mood, and you get the sense that he’s getting all this sadness out through his songs while he’s on stage.
JL: Oh yeah. I get that. It’s a little touchy to be so premeditative about it – like "I can’t wait to play these sad songs, ‘cause then I’m gonna be happy!". It’s not gonna go like that.
DiS: Would you play 'The Warming Sun' from Sumday live?
JL: I would if I could. It’s actually a kind of difficult song to play. The chord positions are really difficult. I’ve done it drunk at house parties and played my way through it, and it’s doable, but in a band situation there’s kind of a lot going on sonically.
DiS: But it’s not that it’s too hard emotionally?
JL: You know what’s funny? The girl I sing it about… I still have her picture on my keyboard. But it’s all good stuff. I don’t wallow in tragedy. Part of the reason I moved to Montana is that I love mountains and the natural world, and these things make me happy and they make me a good person. But there’s sadness and fucking joy everywhere. It’s about embracing human conditions, rather than stifling, suppressing and denying, you know? And it’s okay to document it.
DiS: What’s your guiltiest musical pleasure? Besides Maroon 5.
JL: I know there’s an answer.
DiS: The Beach Boys song?
JL: No… It’s definitely Enya. I’m a fucking huge Enya fan. I swear to God.
DiS: Why is it a guilty pleasure? Why aren’t you mentioning Enya in every interview you do?
JL: Actually, I have mentioned it a number of times! As a matter of fact, I just sent my good friend Aaron [Espinoza] from Earlimart a copy of my album, and as a sign of appreciation he sent me a shirt that his friend did. You know the ‘I heart NY’ shirts? He made a lot of different ones, and Aaron sent me this huge ‘I heart Enya’ one, and it’s hanging in a prominent area in my studio.
DiS: What’s so good about the music?
JL: She’s created her own thing. She’s an enigma. She’s a total mystery. And she produces her own stuff. She lives in a fucking castle in Ireland. And then she has this studio. She’s like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, except she makes Enya albums instead of nuclear stuff! (laughs) But it’s a gooey, guilty pleasure. It’s just so over the top. Nobody else sounds like that. And I really like it. Enya on the fucking cliffs next to a castle, with the wind blowing and an orchestra with fifty Enya voices coming out of their keyboards, and I’m just like "yes!". But I try to mix it up. Like trying to calm down after listening to Mastodon. I love the new Mastodon album as well!