Interview: David’s Lyre
David’s Lyre is actually not David at all, nor does he play a lyre. He is in fact Paul Dixon, a London-born but Manchester-educated musician who, under this peculiar pseudonym, generated some buzz last year around the release of his stomping single ‘Tear them Down’, which none other than The Guardian described as ‘pretty awesome.’
In May this year, David’s Lyre released his first EP, ‘In Arms’, a collection of strange and beautiful songs that once again got the music bloggers chattering. So So Gay met up with him ahead of his first headlining show at The Lexington in Islington, London, to learn more about this enigmatic chap and hopefully hear how the album’s coming.
SSG: Hi, Paul. Could you briefly explain David’s Lyre and what the name means?
David’s Lyre: Well I first thought of the idea of writing music in this way in my second year of university in Manchester. I’d started writing some songs and I just knew I needed a name. I didn’t want to work under my own name, and I was thinking of something that people would remember, really; something different, because that’s important. So I remembered about how this king – King David – played a lyre in the Old Testament, and a lyre is something that not many people these days have heard of – it’s an ancient instrument, quite like a harp, really. It’s quite an unusual word, something that people would remember, so why not? (Pauses) It wasn’t a very well thought-out decision, really. Alex (the keyboardist) and I just thought: why not? I wish I had a better answer because I get asked it all the time!
So it’s an unsual instrument but also unusual to have someone else’s name followed by an apostrophe in your name.
Yeah (laughs) that’s actually sometimes really not good. People are like, well… When we arrive at venues the sound engineer is all ‘who’s David then?’ and, well, the drummer’s called David but actually that’s not the point! I probably should have picked another name but I like it.
We like it too – considering the earlier mask motif and the fairytale video for ‘In Arms’ it’s kind of like you’re cultivating this sort of other, mythical persona.
Sure. I definitely like getting a sense of mystery and a sense of it not being about me – I know I write and perform the music but I don’t think it’s about me. I don’t like celebrity-ism. I don’t like people becoming distracted from music by a big personality; I’d rather they enjoy the music and connect with it. I don’t think you always necessarily have to connect music with a personality – sometimes it’s helpful but sometimes it can take over from the music so it’s no longer the art form it could be. But that is indeed an artform in itself, so… I guess that’s just what I think.
So speaking of the music then, where do the songs come from?
Well they’ve been written over the last year, year and a half. They come from all over. I was at uni; I am no longer. I loved uni, it had a huge effect on me, for lots of reasons like getting away from home and maturing a bit, but I guess they come from circumstances I find myself in. But also some are in the third person speaking of things that have nothing to do with me. You know, someone writes a novel about people they don’t know but… like telling a story. Some of them (the songs) are about love: it’s a big theme on most albums (laughs).
I suppose I really enjoy poetry, and that’s an influence. My lyrics aren’t very ‘get down in the club’ lyrics. They’re more – I don’t want to say they’re more considered but they’ve got more depth. Although sometimes ‘get down in the club’ is what you need.
Well I was going to say there’s sometimes an element of both of those things in your songs
But going back to what you were saying about poetry – who are the poets you admire?
E. E. Cummings. Love him. He’s genius. I’ve started to get into T.S. Eliot too. I’ve started buying poetry as audio, which is really good because you often get old recordings where the poet is reading it himself – like Cummings or Eliot, reading – it’s incredible. I never studied poetry so I’m not hugely well-read in that area, but I do enjoy it and I enjoy finding new stuff – and also writing it.
OK, so going abstract with E. E. Cummings then: if you had to attribute a colour a shape and a season to your songs, which would you choose for each?
Well ‘seasons’ is an interesting one since that’s an analogy I use a lot – nature is a big part of my songs. So I would find it hard to pin one down, as I mention quite a few. I mention summer in a couple of songs. I don’t say autumn but you get an essence of it. It’s definitely not the most upbeat set of songs, but it’s not shady and wintery so maybe spring or autumn would be good.
Colours? I don’t know, I just got into wearing different-coloured socks after wearing white my whole life so… maybe pastel-y colours? Like pastel blue or green. But then I guess there’d be streaks of fire in it like red, since there are elements of passion in some of the songs that are more upbeat. Um, when you mix that together what do you get? Probably purple, right? Everything turns to purple.
And shape… I really like geometry and the compasses you used to have in school that you’d draw around in maths class, remember those? Something like that; something complex but quite ordered. You know those circles with lots of strands within, like different triangles?
Like a spirograph?
Yeah, like that. That’s the shape I’d choose.
So, you’re playing The Lexington – any other shows coming up?
Well, we’ve done quite a few recently (Great Escape in Brighton, Liverpool) but I’m in the middle of finishing the album, which has to take precedence at the minute. So a quiet gig summer – next summer will be quite hectic but this summer we have to make sure we make the best album we can. However, saying that, I am lined up to play Leefest in Bromley, in August.
Well we’ve just finished a set of songs and I’m mixing them at the moment. But you know, it’s hard to tell at this stage if you’ve got the right album. You need to put them together and see how they work – maybe I’ll write more songs, maybe I won’t; it just depends how I feel and what feels right for the album. I’m really excited, I think it sounds really good and I’m hoping people will like it.
Any interest in maybe doing some live dj sets since you’ve done a few classy remixes?
Yeah actually, I’m thinking about it. I’m waiting for time in my schedule that allows me to practice, because if I did do it – and I want to do it – I want to do it well, not just be a token dj or anything like that. I want to properly mix and make sure people really enjoy it. I want to master it – which is difficult. I’m aware I won’t be dj-ing within the next month. Maybe I’m a perfectionist, but I’ll only do it when I’m good enough.
When is the single released, then?
July. It’s called ‘Heartbeats’ and at the moment the finished version isn’t available anywhere. It will surface when the video surfaces. Exciting.
So to wrap it up – I’ve heard you’re a food fan: what would you choose as your last meal and why?
Oooooh… I eat Mediterranean food, like, all the time. Or even Middle Eastern food like falafel. That sort of stuff. Like really good kebabs – not doner – but like, the good stuff, like Lebanese. I’m a really big fan of strong flavours. And I love how with that kind of food – like with meze – you have lots of plates you can dip in and out of. And it’s very sociable food too.
Keep up to date with David’s Lyre’s movements and join his mailing list at his official website