D.K. Lyons on sophomoric rambling

At a time when music is being consumed in more burst-like increments – playlists, TikToks, etc. – 2024 is certainly taking us for a left turn with some higher-profile double albums. Veteran pop-punkers Sum 41 dropped their 20-track swan song record, Heaven :x: Hell last month, and of course there’s Taylor Swift who dumped 31 songs on us a little over a week ago, with rumblings that there could be even more. It’s a bold strategy that underground indie-pop artist, D.K. Lyons, has also tapped into with his new release, Sophomoric Rambling, which contains 20 songs that purposely run the length of a therapy session. Now that’s a cool idea. And for an album purist like me, it’s incredibly encouraging that artists are reminding us of the power of an album as a full body of work. I caught up with D.K. shortly after release date, to talk about the record, the accompanying short film, and what it’s like making music in Manhattan.

Hey man! First off, congrats on Sophomoric Rambling! How long have you been working on this, your second full length?

Thank you so much! This has been a two year process to get to the finish line. It started in February of 2022 at a time when I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do next. I had just come off an EP release that didn’t garner as much attention as I had hoped for and ironically was kind of feeling turned off at the idea of starting another big project. I spent one afternoon just digging through old demos and found one circa 2017 that spoke to me and within an hour had rewritten it into ‘The Girls of Summer’. From there I got excited to just focus on making singles for a bit, but within the span of a few months, the majority of the album was kind of in front of me and a general concept crystalised as well. From there, it was taking the time to really push myself on arrangements, sound choice, and melody before taking each song into the studio to bring to life properly with my longtime collaborator Steve Hansen.

In a time when people seem to be craving more “bite-sized” releases of music a la singles, TikTok clips, etc., 20 songs is quite ambitious. What motivated you to tackle such a vast collection all at once, as opposed to releasing say, two 10-song albums?

This is such a great question, one I’m still not convinced I have the answer to! I’m a ridiculous person in a lot of ways, so when the idea came to me to make an album that was exactly an hour long to mirror a therapy session, the idea of committing to that bit got me really excited. And while I wanted to get to an hour, I also wanted to make sure I was making highly consumable songs that could live on their own as well, hence the lengthy track list. But I spent a lot of time thinking about the sequencing, the topics covered, the sonic landscape, everything I could to make sure that if someone does sit down to listen, they feel like the hour flows well and stays engaging the entire time.

You’ve said one of the influences behind your music is a “triad of powerful women who raised you” – talk to me about who they are and how they’ve shaped you.

Yes for sure. Sadly, I lost my dad when I was 6 and my mom was always working multiple jobs growing up, so aside from her being an incredible influence as a writer, poet, and person in her own right, I was also spending a lot of time with my aunt and my grandmother growing up, both who had influence on me in other ways, shaping my work ethic, curiosity, romanticism, etc.

Where else did you find inspiration for Sophomoric Rambling?

While I have my core set of favourite artists like Tom Petty, The 1975, Prince, and Third Eye Blind, I’ve really tried to open my ears over the last few years to as much music as possible, both new and old. There are shades of Charli XCX, Jason Isbell, D’Angelo, JuiceWRLD, Phoebe Bridgers and the like on the album. Lyrically, I’ve tried to become much more intentional about making sure I’m not repeating myself, so each song is very much about a specific person, concept, or feeling, and my lyrical inspiration came from a lot of self-analysis about these things, not unlike a proper therapy session.

In addition to a 20-song record, you’ve also put together a companion short film. What is the magic elixir you’ve consumed to find the time and energy, and how can I buy some?

Haha, you would not believe me, but I’ve had clinical sleep issues since I was a kid and don’t feel like I’ve had a truly regenerative night’s sleep since I was a teenager! But I’ve always created in different arenas since I was a little kid, from songwriting to imaginary baseball leagues in my yard to mapping out imaginary ski resorts with colored pencils on large sheets of paper. I’ve just always been motivated to create, so when inspiration strikes, something inside me just takes over and I try to hang on for the ride!

I’m incredibly lazy in other aspects of my life to balance all of this out, don’t you worry haha. But I’ve also gotta give you props; you’re certainly on a similar level with your own band, collaborations, journalism, AND being a great father/husband. So clearly we’ve both been drinking similar elixirs!

Haha, well thank you for saying that. That’s really interesting though, because not only have I also historically had sleep issues, I also used to conjure up imaginary baseball leagues in my yard. Did we just become best friends?!? All kidding aside… where did the idea come from for the film, and what was it like working in that medium compared to recording an album?

My day job for the past eight years has been in video production, so I’ve been blessed to have gained so much experience in the space as well as some amazing collaborators that help with all of my wild music video concepts. So when the idea to do a companion film came to me, it was actually quite natural from a production standpoint. The challenge though was writing dialogue for a screen vs. a song and then putting in the prep work to actually make that dialogue as believable as possible as an actor.

I spent months refining the script and trying to do full script reads three to four times a day. And even when we got on set I felt like I could have prepared more and gone even deeper, but such is life and I’m still proud of what we made. The best part was it was just me and three of my friends renting out a peerspace for four hours, so it was such a relaxed, organic environment to make it in.

New York City is obviously a creative haven, with such a diverse array of talent and events. What are your favourite parts about being a musician in the Big Apple?

I’m truly so blessed to be doing what I am where I am, but especially with the people I’m doing it with. I kind of entered 2023 with the goal of branching out more and trying to connect with as many fellow musicians as I could and it’s been so incredible to look back now at how many amazing and deep friendships I’ve developed in the year plus since. And as part of that, you get brought into their creative processes and projects and that then feeds and pushes my own work. So, the environment is obviously amazing, but it’s the people that really make it magical.

If you could direct readers to one song from the record to introduce yourself, which song would it be and why?

Such a tough question! I feel like the song that’s been the most immediate for people to get into has been ‘When We Were Falling’ in Love which represents me well both from a sonic and lyrical perspective. But my favourite song is ‘Road Trip Mixtape’ for sure, not only because it represents those two things as well, but also because of the subject matter as an ode to my amazing sister and the message that song conveys.

Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received, music-related or otherwise?

I think I told someone else this recently as well, but the best piece of advice I’ve ever received is that only you have the power to give up on your dreams. Being an artist and a musician has been a dream of mine since I was five years old and even though the path I’ve taken is a lot more winding and lengthy than five-year-old me would have preferred, I feel more resolute than I ever have in continuing down the path because my passion for that dream is stronger than ever.

Sophomoric Rambling by D.K. Lyons is out now on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify.

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