Lydia: Celebrating 10 Years of Illuminate

Lydia frontman and founder Leighton Antelman doesn’t take his band for granted… anymore.

When the Arizona-based indie-rock project initially formed in 2003, a high school-aged Antelman was mostly just messing around and having fun writing songs with his friends. “I was winging it,” he describes.

When high school ended, Antelman enrolled at Arizona State but, only a year in, realized higher education wasn’t right for him. So, as an experiment (and, he notes, against every older adult’s recommendation), he hit the road with Lydia. Now it’s 14 years later, and he’s been churning out albums and touring ever since.

Today, Lydia are seven albums into their career, with their latest output, Liquor, arriving on June 22 via Weekday Records. The trio, which now features core trio Antelman, Matt Keller, and Shawn Strader, all live in the Phoenix suburbs and continue to collaborate on new material.

When writing Liquor, a title Antelman says is taken directly from the album’s lyrics, the group began tinkering around with new songs shortly after they finished touring behind their 2015 record, Run Wild. “I don’t know if we’ve ever been a band to sit down in a room and Led Zeppelin-jam out songs,” he says. “We have our own separate studios in our respective houses, so we all kind of write on our own.”

When they weren’t driving to each other’s houses to share fresh material, the trio also came together at Big Bear Lake in California, where they recorded three tracks from Liquor. Renting a house together, the group holed up and recorded a mountain of material, which they later whittled down to form the bones of Liquor.

Liquor also marks the first time in a decade that Lydia is releasing work under a record label: Sony imprint Weekday Records, which is also home to singer Lauren Ruth Ward, who appears as a guest on the yearning, organ-tinged anthem “Red Lights.”

“Lauren’s awesome,” says Antelman. “She has a phenomenal voice.”

Collaborating with his bandmates to choose the jarring album art, which features a young woman face up in a bathtub, mouth positioned under an open faucet, Antelman speaks fondly of their choice and the photoshoot itself. “The girl in [the album art] is actually our guitar player’s girlfriend,” says Antelman. “That’s at his house that he moved into a week before, and there’s this really cool-looking bathtub.”

Once Lydia was ready to record the rest of Liquor, Weekday helped them team up with renowned producer Eric Palmquist, who’s previously helmed records for post-hardcore legends Thrice and alternative standouts MUTEMATH. With Palmquist, Lydia recorded the remaining seven Liquor tracks at Palmquist Studios in Los Angeles. “We went there for a few days, tried out a couple of songs, and everyone was vibing pretty hard,” says Antelman of how he first connected with Palmquist. Everyone was getting along, so, we were thinking, let’s do the rest of [the songs] with Eric.”

Though Lydia produced it, one of the tracks Palmquist took to the mixing console was album single “Let It Cover Me Up,” an eerie, anxious song that starts and stops like a wind-up clock. “That one was definitely one of the first tracks we actually ever did for the record,” says Antelman. “It had this creepy piano part that I had for the verse and pre-chorus. And then I brought it to the dudes, and they put this weird spin on it for the time-signature change, where it speeds up for the chorus. My first time hearing it, I said, ‘Damn, that’s sexy.”

Equally unsettling is the aching album opener and single “Sunlight,” which showcases a complex relationship with its subject (“Tell me you love me used to… You’re just my favorite motherfucker I know”), though Antelman declines to expand on its meaning. “I’m never one to give this detailed backstory of songs,” he explains. “It seems like I’m ruining whatever they want to take from it. You should take whatever you want to take from it.”

Antelman will have the chance to hear what his fans make of Lydia’s new material when the band hits the road again in the spring, when they’ll be touring with emo revivalists Moose Blood. Antelman can’t wait to get on the road, claiming that he’s “getting kinda stir crazy.”

Moving forward, you count on Lydia to keep rolling out new music; writing is just something Antelman builds into his day, like any job. “I think a lot of musicians can get into trouble if they’re waiting for something to inspire them,” he says.

But it’s not just any job. Antelman is profoundly grateful that he gets to write and record music for a living—especially in the outfit he founded more than a decade earlier. “As the years go on, I think, ‘Wow, this is crazy that I still get to do this and it still pays the bills. I still can do what I love for a living.’”

By Rachel Brodsky

Pop Rock outfit from Phoenix, Arizona, formed in 2003.

(Originally named Troop 101)

Soulful, fresh, genre-defying. These are only a few of the terms that immediately spark the mind when greeted with Anarbor’s gutsy and transcending EP, Free Your Mind. When noted that the aforementioned genre is pop-rock, it seems even more special that a band with this talent and bravado would push itself away from a scene where predetermined trappings threaten to undermine its singular integrity.
“We know that every single kid out there is tired of the same old dance-pop record that gets released every single week. Our goal is to be the music scene’s saving grace,” says guitarist Mike Kitlas. “It will tell our listeners that we are here to stay and we are not a fad band that will fade out as soon as dance-pop is outdated.”

Free Your Mind extends beyond the cut-and-paste albums being churned out, instead infusing dynamic guitars behind the soul-shaking howls and relatable melodies from frontman Slade Echeverria. Crafted in Los Angeles by producer Mike Green (Paramore, Good Charlotte) over a four-week span in Los Angeles, Free Your Mind's formation came from a desire to break out from the "fad band" chokehold and delve into what was real.
The EP's lyrical themes of drama-addled love are age-appropriate for this band still fresh from cap and gown status, yet show emerging maturity and growth while navigating the waters of life on the road and in the press, as well as their loss of anonymity. Not one track doesn’t contain a purpose or reason ripped from the band’s own personal headlines, and the EP title wasn’t without a conscious peek into their agenda, either.
“We want to challenge kids to think outside of the norm, and really find themselves, rather then just following what the crowd is doing,” Kitlas said. “We want to show our listeners that they are not alone, we all go through our struggles and everyone has their ups and downs in life.”
The seven-track EP, kicks off with a mischievous call to a wayward paramour on “Let The Games Begin,” before sliding into the instant hip-shaking grooves of “The Brightest Green,” a slice of Maroon 5-ish soul that takes on a life of its own. Anarbor takes a familiar formula but adds a warmth and genuineness to every guitar lick and lyric that keeps them relatable yet unique. Each track seamlessly follows the next, spinning clever lyrics and brisk guitars, and each adds another deft chapter to this memorable volume.

“The distinctive sound we are reaching for is rock and roll. We don't use any instruments in our songs that we don’t play live, we are going for a very raw and real sound for this record,” Kitlas said. When noted that shared influences range from Third Eye Blind to Red Hot Chili Peppers, it’s even more apparent where the EP’s driving and fully-executed rock-based energy gained its roots.
The easy nature and chemistry of the band from Phoenix, Arizona, formed in 2003 is more than just a cosmic luck for an emerging band. Because this, in years of formation, is by no means a freshman band. Echeverria and Kitlas became friends in grade school, and continued to grow up experiencing many life-changing events together, securing a bond that eventually extended to music, and a decision to make it their ultimate ambition. The band signed to Hopeless Records before they even received their high school diplomas.
More than just a sum of its parts, the writing process for Anarbor is a group united, with each member adding input in acoustic jam sessions that allows everyone to collaborate and contribute creatively. It’s a cohesion that allowed each member’s personal preferences and talents shine when it came to recording.

Sharing the stage with everyone from Fall Out Boy to the Gin Blossoms, as well as a coveted spot on this year’s Take Action! Tour, Anarbor is gaining steady recognition as the diverse band to watch among a sea of faux rock ‘n rollers. This motivated and utterly gifted band will resonate with any listener who knows a thing or two about learning who you are and putting your ambitions into motion.
“We want people to walk away feeling comforted and confident in themselves,” Kitlas said. “Music is a universal language that everyone can relate to. We talk about our real life stories, feelings and situations. You can expect real music and real lyrics, no filler.”

More recently, Anarbor independently released their eponymous third studio album entitled, “Anarbor” in June of 2016. The album was self-funded and produced by long-time collaborator Matt Keller (Lydia, The Maine, The Summer Set, Katastro). Anarbor is comprised of lead vocalist and bassist Slade Echeverria, guitarist Adam Juwig and guitarist Danny Stravers.

Current Line-Up
Slade Echeverria - Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar
Danny Stravers - Rhythm Guitar
Adam Juwig - Lead Guitar

Former Members
Jess Myers - Bass Guitar
Mike Kitlas - Guitar
Greg Garrity - Drums

Family Thief

$22 advance / $25 day of show


Upcoming Events
The Teragram Ballroom