When starting something new, people tend to need time to get into the rhythm of things; but this isn’t true for new local indie-rock band, LLYN. As 2019 was coming to a close and 2020 was roaring to life, I sat down with LLYN to discuss their history, the upcoming debut EP release, and their record release show at Rose Bowl Tavern in February.
LLYN was pieced together within the last couple of years by Jonathan Trevino (guitar and vocals) and Jake Frasca (drums), who met one night while hanging out downtown.
"He was wearing a Counterparts shirt and we nerded out over hardcore for like, an hour. Then we said, 'Let’s do nothing like that.'" Jonathan Trevino said.
Soon thereafter they met Gabe Gerhardt (bass, vocals) and Teddy Lerch (guitar, vocals), both had previously been in experimental rock band, ZXO. Lerch still plays in local metal band Shazu and the rest of LLYN expressed love for hardcore music during our interview, citing multiple bands that they were either a part of or listened to. To hear the music LLYN has been working on as of late, you would never know they were so into hardcore.
"I think this all started when everyone sold their distortion pedals and got delay pedals" said Gerhardt.
Smile Politely: Recently you [Gerhardt and Trevino] moved into a house together, and so I am curious about how that has effected [LLYN's] creative process?
Trevino: It certainly helps having our own space to write and play in. It’s also really easy to communicate and share ideas on the spot.
Jake Frasca: Having the house is nice because we were practicing at an airport hangar before then.
The hangar belongs to Frasca’s parents, who own Frasca Field in northern Urbana.
When asked whether the move impacted the making of their new record, they said no. Most of the material on the EP had been written before the move.
"It’s been a two-year process where we finally recorded in July and August of last year" Frasca said.
The band recorded with Mark Wyman, a local sound engineer known for his work within the community, at Earth Analog and ToneGood Studio.
SP: What has your experiene been like working with Wyman?
Teddy Lerch: It was awesome. He’s got the perfect balance between getting down to business and having fun with it, which really helps take the edge off of recording.
Image: A poster for an Inter-Pygmalion show announcing LLYN's album release show with bands You Folk and Nectar at the Rose Bowl Tavern on Saturday February 15, 2020. The four members of LLYN stand in a row with shadows across their face, a black background predominates the black-and-white poster. Photo by Anna Longworth.
Gerhardt and Frasca said that Wyman wasn’t afraid of making suggestions about doing things a little different than what they were doing during the recording process, including goofing off from time to time.
Frasca: I feel like that unbiased ear was really helpful. But we would work for a few hours and then we’d do something weird like fart into a microphone.
Gerhardt: That was when I realized the album was going to turn out good. He totally entertained the idea of Jake farting into a mic and then ran it through a bunch of effects. We really appreciated his willingness to explore.
Both singles are off of their upcoming EP, Fever Dream, which releases everywhere digitally on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. The next day they are having a record release show at Rose Bowl Tavern at 8 p.m. with fellow indie-rockers, You Folk, and local power-pop heroes, Nectar.
The EP is shaping up to be a dream-pop collage harkening back to bands like The Cure and Turnover. With the huge amount of influences in the band, it was hard to pin down a singular driving force for their songwriting style.
Lerch: Creatively, we tried to keep things as even as possible. There are six songs on the record, two of which I sing, two that Jon sings, and two that Gabe sings.
Gerhardt: Fever Dream is the culmination of all of us learning how to be better songwriters while still relinquishing the complete control of being a songwriter. We really embraced the collaborative nature of being in a band.
Gerhardt added that no one song was completely written by one person, which was difficult for Lerch as he, “tends to spearhead songwriting and take control.” But this time he tried to do less of that.
In the same vein of collaboration, Kenna Mae of local folk band Relevator, sang on “Wasting Time.” Gerhardt spoke about a melody he had come up with for the song, but then said that he wanted a different voice to sing it. Relevator just so happened to be recording at the same time and place as LLYN when the thought came across his mind.
"I knew Kenna had nailed it when they sung that part in the studio," said Gerhardt.
I asked the band how the experience of playing in town has been for so many years. The guys said that they started in hardcore bands, playing a lot of D.I.Y. basements and community centers, but then started to play a lot of clubs and bars as they got older.
"I would say the experience of playing shows here has changed for everybody over the past few years," Gerardt said. "There’s a little bit of a venue drought with Cowboy Monkey, The Highdive, Mike and Molly’s, and more, all being gone now. Campus shows are a totally different circuit too."
Even though Champaign’s downtown scene isn’t what it used to be, the boys in LLYN still expressed fond feelings over the town that fostered their musicianship. Hopefully they will continue to make great music here for a little while longer.
Listen to Fever Dream anywhere online on February 14th and catch them at Rose Bowl Tavern on February 15th at 8 p.m., where you can pick up a CD and a LLYN branded scented candle.