Returning from a four-year hiatus (minus a local Halloween appearance in 2011), ILYA is back in the studio wrapping up their third full-length album with two new members: guitarist Demetrius Antuña (ANA, KATA, the Dropscience) and keyboardist Carrie Feller (Tactical Fever, Street of Little Girls).
It’s been over a decade since the band self-released their debut Poise Is the Greater Architect LP followed by Leaving Sans-Souci (2006), during which time they’ve earned multiple accolades at the San Diego Music Awards, licensed music to several independent films, and even landed airtime on MTV’s Sorority Life.
Both albums highlight singer Blanca Fowler’s (née Rojas) lilting, after-hours serenade over a narcotic interplay of trip-hop, jazz, and post-rock instrumentation woven by Matthew Baker and Hank Morton (both on keys and guitar), guitarist Duane Pitre, bassist John Mattos, and drummer Geoff Hill.
The as-of-yet unnamed third album is due out early 2014, but for now you can preview ILYA’s new material and lineup on Friday, November 8, at Soda Bar.
Chad Deal: Where and why did ILYA leave off?
Blanca Fowler: Between the release of Leaving Sans-Souci and now, little has happened with ILYA. Much has happened outside of ILYA...two persons married, I had two daughters, Matthew designed and built a recording studio, I went back to school [MBA], and we each played music with other people. For me, it was an acidic-sweet separation. I missed the dark and heavy of ILYA and my friends Matthew, John, and Geoff. However, it was nice to be able to hear my vocals, for better or worse, for the first time in many years.
CD: What have you been up to in the meantime?
Matthew Baker: We all have been involved in different projects: Geoff playing in Manuok; John starting his own project called Stewardess; Blanca playing music with her husband Matt; and I started a band called KATA with Demetrius Antuña. We played a handful of shows and recorded an album called The Rising, which was released last year.
BF: I formed a new band with my husband, Matt, and ILYA’s bassist, John. Our songs are simple and slightly pretty. Our tentative name is Blood Honey — the title of my five-year-old’s song [on which] she sings and plays drums. Our project is on hold for now.
CD: How did the hiatus come to an end?
MB: Late last year sometime, I think we all got the itch to get ILYA active again. At that time, John and I pulled out the old recordings we had started years earlier and basically deconstructed what we had and started recording again. In a way, I’m glad that we didn’t finish recording this album when we had started it. I think the album we are working on now is going to be better than had we finished it years ago. We are all now a little bit older and have different experiences and influences to add into the mix. Back then, we had just finished a bunch of touring and maybe felt a bit pressured to put out another album.
In addition, we now have Demetrius and Carrie playing with us as full contributing members. When we originally started this band, we were a six-piece and I think having everyone contribute musically instead of having one or two people dictate is what helped create our sound early on. Each one of us has different influences and experiences that inspire us.
After having two members [Morton and Pitre] leave the band, we tried going on as a four-piece and having fill-in players (Demetrius being one of them) filling out the sound when we played live. It worked but didn’t have the same feeling as when we were a “full band.” Writing new songs was now something we were doing in the recording studio without actually being able to play the songs live to see how they felt. Now that we have Demetrius and Carrie playing with us, we can flesh out the new songs live and tweak them before recording them.
BF: I gently insisted that we play again soon. Everyone was quick in saying yes. The time was finally right.
CD: What can we expect to hear at the Soda Bar?
MB: This will be the debut show for Carrie and Demetrius. We are playing a mix of new and old songs. Our new songs are a little bit darker and bigger than our old material, perhaps more lush in some cases. With that said though, we still sound like us. After being on hiatus for so long, we have all had to relearn our songs, and in some cases, change roles. For example, older songs that I played keys on, I’m now playing guitar and vice versa. We are all excited to be playing together and beginning a new chapter in the life of ILYA.
BF: I am especially happy to play “Staring at Me.”