Lydia: Taking it to the Street

THIS INDIE ROCK BAND out of the American Southwest is taking their organic ambient sound to new places, touring the States with a fresh album drop entitled Liquor. The brainchild of frontman and guitarist Leighton Antelman, Lydia draws influence from guys like Coldplay and Radiohead. Together with Matt Keller and Shawn Strader, Antelman performs songs with the sole purpose of provoking emotion. With a consistent touring schedule, fans at every stop and over 60,000 followers on social media, these guys don’t subscribe to the idea of fame, and are just along for the ride. Performing together on and off the road for the past ten years, Lydia delivers a breezy, feel-good sound that has captured our attention and landed a permanent spot our playlists. Deitra Magazine photographer Leslie Tucker got the chance to chat with Lydia when they performed at the Outland Ballroom in Springfield, Missouri on the Midwestern leg of their tour.

Photos and video property of the artists.

Interviewed by Leslie Tucker

Deitra Mag: What inspired you to perform music? How did you guys come together as a group?

Shawn Strader: As teenagers in high school we were all just artistically inclined, for one reason or another. Along the way we all were doing our own music endeavors in Phoenix and we found each other through the grapevine. I mean, Phoenix is a small community of musicians playing around and we were all like, “Oh, you're dope, let’s play music.”

DM: Is there a main songwriter for the group or do you guys collaborate all together?

Shawn: We all collaborate together. We'll write in our own separate mini studios and then we'll come together and kind of hash it out.

DM: Do you guys have a claim to fame?

Shawn: (laughs) I'm not even sure what that means.

Matt: We're not famous, so nah.

DM: Not even in your hometown?

Leighton: What would be an example of a claim to fame?

DM: What are you known for?

Leighton: (laughs) Being assholes.

Matt: That's exactly it. Really nice assholes.

DM: That’s good. I think everyone has a little bit of an “asshole-ish” side to them.

Matt: Absolutely! You gotta be in touch with it. (laughs)

DM: Things can get crazy performing on stage. You can bump into each other all the time. What's is it like? Is it harmonious in the sense that nothing ever goes wrong, or does shit hit the fan a lot?

Matt: I work really hard to make sure that nothing ever goes wrong.

Leighton: Matt is like the tech dude and he kind of runs the behind the scenes stuff to make sure that nothing fucks up on stage.

Matt: We're idiots, so a lot of idiot-proofing goes into it.

DM: A lot of taping down cables?

Matt: You have no idea! (laughs)

DM: How many rolls of duct tape do you guys go through per show?

Matt: Gaff tape is about the size of a melon and we'll go through one every 2-3 weeks.

DM: Sounds like something you’d put on the rider just in case.

Matt: No, no. I wish! Shit's expensive.

Leighton: I bet we could put that on the rider.

Shawn: Not a bad idea.

Matt: Take off the veggie tray, get gaff tape (laughs). Can't have celery, but we can play "Edward 40-Hands." (laughs)

DM: Whenever time allows, do you try to watch the opening bands?

Matt: Absolutely. We're usually on tour with a package. We just got done with direct support with a band called Moose Blood, and it was the same package every single night, so you get to know the other bands and songs and stuff. The last show of the Moose Blood tour was in Montreal so we could either just drive from Montreal to Phoenix or we could play some shows on the way back. It's different bands every night, and it's cool to watch the local bands and see what they have.

DM: And network, because you never know who you’re going to meet.

Matt: Absolutely, it's important.

DM: That’s awesome. I know there are some bigger bands that don’t, and that’s kind of a bummer, but maybe their schedules don’t allow it.

Matt: We're not a bigger band. (laughs)

DM: Here’s a fun question for you guys: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you on tour?

All: (laughs)

DM: We want details! We want some crazy-ass details.

Shawn: I don't know, everything's crazy.

Leighton: That's such a good question.

Matt: Half of our crew didn't make it into Canada.

Shawn: On this tour half of our crew couldn't make it.

Matt: We were eight people deep, and then four people made it in.

Shawn: And so the self proclaimed assholes and our hired drummer made it into Canada.

DM: So, you guys don’t have any felonies? (collective laughs) 

DM: For the long overnight hauls, when you’re driving from city to city, what do you do to stay awake?

Leighton: Honestly, we made a decision to still tour with a van and trailer, so we don't do a lot of overnight hauls. We've made a decision for our wellbeing, health and just the necessities to stay in a hotel every night. We afford ourselves that luxury. But when we do drive overnight...

Matt: It sucks

Leighton: It sucks because, A: somebody has to stay awake and we try to leave him the co-pilot, and B: if it's cold, we're all terrified of ice.

Matt: It's been a hot minute since we've done it.

Leighton: When did we do it?

Matt: We didn't do it at all on this tour. We did it a couple of times on… I think on the Paris tour or something.

Leighton: We would much rather wake up — even though it's painful — at 6:00 in the morning to make an eight hour drive to be at the venue by 2:00pm, than like drive overnight until 4:00 in the morning, sleep until 10:00am. You know, whatever bullshit that is. Driving overnight just sucks.

DM: When you do drive overnight, though — I’ve done it before — do you guys ever hallucinate [from being tired], because I swore I saw Chupacabra one time. (collective laughs)

Matt: I always do acid before I do an an overnight drive. (collective laughs)

DM: I was driving home from Kansas City late at night one time, and I swear I saw a fucking Yeti go across the road. Those overnight hauls just…

Matt: No, it sucks. Just caffeine, lots of caffeine, willpower… music that I know. I can get through a really long drive if I listen to albums that I know because I’m really excited about a track; number 13 on this one.

Shawn: I think that the last time you and I did an overnight drive, we got into some heavy 90's pop, sing-along songs.

Matt: Yeah, Alanis Morrissette

DM: What other bands do you listen to? What’s your favorite?

Leighton: We listen to a lot of hip hop, weirdly.

Shawn: A lot of Kanye, a lot of Drake, Dr. Dre's a big influence. Maybe a lot of bands like Radiohead, Counting Crows, The 1975.

Matt: Coldplay, The Beatles.

Shawn: Coldplay and The Beatles for sure.

Leighton: Pretty much mainstream.

DM: That’s cool. I was thinking that maybe you’d drop some black metal or something. That will definitely keep someone awake.

Shawn: Nah, that's not us.

Matt: Lots of hip hop.

DM: So, you tour in a van. Does it have a nickname? A lot of people name their vehicles. (collective laughs)

Matt: No, not really, the old one did.

Leighton: Yeah, what was the last one?

Matt: Debbie.

Shawn: Nothing has really come to us with this one. This van is relatively new.

DM: So, it hasn’t earned a name yet?

I hope she does.

DM: How do you guys cope with living in such a small, cramped space? You did mention the hotel, so you do get to spread out a little bit. But in between?

It's not too bad, so we just do the drives and everyone kind of disperses into hotels or venues or whatever. So, it's really like we're spending four or five hours together just driving, and everyone kind of does their own thing.

Matt: We've been doing this for a while. We like the show part of it so much that all the other things don't really matter to us. We'll have a really long, shitty day and we'll play an awesome show, and that entire shitty day was so worth it for that. I find the people who are bothered by the conditions that we live in don't stay on the road for very long.

Leighton: You definitely have to work to not burn yourself out. You have to have your own little ways of coping with it. It's kind of brutal being on the road — especially when we've been out for a while — so you have to have your own little quirks and whatnot.

Shawn: Unfortunately for us, we all love each other as humans.

Matt: We all get along really well and we usually bring out people that we get along really well with.

Shawn: It's hard to see other bands who are like, “I fucking hate that guy.” (collective laughs)

Matt: I’m like, dude, I fucking love my boys.

DM: So, if you do have a conflict somewhere, do you guys hash it out pretty quickly?

Shawn: Yeah, it's almost like an unspoken rule, like don't be passive aggressive. If you have an issue, speak up, don't let that shit fester. It's not good for your mental health.

Leighton: I've known that killer for sixteen years when we were young together. He called me one night because we got in a really bad argument and he's like, "I can't go to sleep until we make up, man. I can't go to sleep then you die in the morning and I never said ‘sorry.’” So, if shit hits the fan, we talk about it.

Matt: We all recognize that most problems are pretty petty.

Leighton: It's just an unwritten rule: in the van and touring, just don't be an asshole. That's all you really need to do.

Matt: If you're being an asshole — and everybody is sometimes — recognize it. If someone calls you one, they're not being malicious. You're being an asshole.

DM: They’re calling you an asshole for a reason, and then maybe you need to step back and check yourself.

Matt: Yeah, exactly!

DM: What is your outlook on the music industry today?

Matt: I don't know, we're doing good, we're coming up. I feel like there are lots of people who are complaining about the way it's changing, and there are lots of people who are figuring out how to make it work for them. And I would like to count myself into the latter.

DM: I guess this question is maybe meant for the people who grew up hearing about the big name labels because everything now is indie label, do-it-yourself, a lot of people don’t even know the difference.

Matt: Yeah we didn't come up in riches, fortune and fame and stuff. None of my mom's colleagues know who my band is and that sort of thing, but we've carved out this niche that we do fine in and it's pretty cool. But we definitely don't know anything about throwing TV’s through windows and buying out the entire hotel. There's no rock star excess.

Leighton: We've always been DIY. I don't really see much change.

Shawn: At our level there hasn't been a lot of change. Maybe Taylor Swift is complaining, but it's the same for us.

Matt: I don't think she's complaining. (laughs) Hope not.

Leighton: What are people complaining about?

Matt: Just you know, people used to make a lot more money and people actually used to buy music back then.

Shawn: Now there's the whole streaming age and era.

Matt: The thing about it is, we came up seeing it happen — you know, the 90's rock explosion and labels just signed everybody and you got giant advances. We are aware that that was a thing, we've just never personally lived it.

DM: Since Lydia was a startup — just getting started with creating a band and hitting the road — what advice would you give to locals or smaller bands who are trying to get a gig or trying to get known? What did you guys do?

Matt: My advice is probably like... uhh — this is dark — my advice is give up. Because if you hear me saying “give up,” and you give up, you weren't cut out for it. Because what we did was kept on going when a whole bunch of people were telling us to give up.

Shawn: Everybody told us to give up.

Matt: I've been told to give up since I was 16 years old, and it's never really worked on me. I don't really understand those words. So, if you can hear the words “give up,” and you'll give up about it, you should get a real job. You're not cut out for this. (laughs) You have to be thick-willed about it. For the record, I don't really want people to give up.

DM: What do you have coming up? What does that band have on the agenda?

Leighton: Well, we've just finished this tour, and we have a brand new record coming out that we've been working on for two years called Liquor. That'll be followed by a headlining tour that is yet to be fully announced. There are details that we are not even aware of, but that's on the horizon. That means as a band that hasn't been radically active in the streets for about a year, year and a half, something like that.

Matt: We're usually way active in the streets.

Leighton: We go hard in the streets.

Matt: We get active. (collective laughs)

Leighton: So people can find us in the streets over the next couple of years.

DM: So basically, in your hometown somebody in the street — in the alley — can say, “Yo, that Lydia Band…” Is that your claim to fame?

Matt: Liquor is gonna drop, people are gonna go, “This record's so street, I'm glad they're back.” (collective laughs)

Leighton: Oh that's good! I wanna keep it that way.

Matt: Yeah if anybody asks how the new record is...

Leighton: It's street AF. (collective laughs)

Matt: The streets are gonna love it.

Leighton: Yeah, but that's coming up. I mean, we're going to release a couple singles, and some videos and stuff like that, and a lot of promoting.

DM: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Matt: Just appreciation. Thank you for being here. Anyone who reads this, thank you for giving a shit about what we do. It's really, really freaking cool. It's why we can do it. It's unbelievable.   DM

Find Lydia's music on iTunes or any other streaming platform.

Instagram: Lydiamusic
Facebook: Lydiamusic1
YouTube: Lydia Band Channel

Leslie Tucker is a photographer for Deitra Magazine and Wardrobe Manager for Deitra fashion shows. She is a concert connoisseur, live music photographer and a radio personality on Springfield, Missouri's rock station, Q102 FM.

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