LYR thrive on the unexpected. Comprised of musicians Richard Walters, producer and multi-instrumentalist Patrick J Pearson and current UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, LYR is a nexus of diverse creative disciplines and one of the most thrilling musical prospects of 2020. Having signed an exclusive record deal with Mercury KX, the band’s debut album ‘Call in the Crash Team’ is out today, 26th June.
The band also share the new music video for their single ‘Adam’s Apple’. Illustrated by UK artist May Kindred-Boothby, the video was specifically animated to reflect the story behind the lyrics. As Armitage explains, “On his own, Adam seems to be getting ready for a date or an appointment, but with someone who no longer exists. I think he’s probably a contemporary incarnation of the biblical Adam, minus the apple of his eye, Eve. When he sees her in the mirror, she’s an apparition. Obviously it was a sexual adventure between the two of them that led to their exclusion from paradise, and the lump in Adam’s throat is the physicalisation of that misdemeanour. Snakes?”
‘Call in the Crash Team’ is the perfect combination of poetic spoken passages, soaring vocal melodies and instrumentation which gleams like a rough-cut jewel. It is set to convert any previous sceptics of spoken word, thanks to Armitage’s compelling lyrics, as well as Pearson’s seductive bricolage of musical styles and Walters’ evocative vocals. That philosophy of sonic exploration manifests in the album’s ambient post-rock passages, jazz flourishes, atonal experimentalism, as well as swoony strings and piano — and some more unusual instrument choices too, such as the kora (West African stringed instrument).
Boasting early support from BBC 6Music, the stunning lead single ‘Never Good With Horses’ is an indication of the album’s ambition, scale, and lyrical prowess. The song is a keenly felt description of disappointment in a relationship, with a narrator who is resigned to stomach a partner’s “sugar cube lies”. Minimal piano builds to soaring and wistful strings, with a sung refrain from Walters which recalls the heart-tugging power of Sigur Rós.
As with all 11 tracks on the album, Armitage writes from the viewpoint of a fictional character. His lyrics can bathe in the wonder of the world as well as hold up a magnifying glass to its ugliness. ‘Urban Myth #91’ builds to an onslaught of accelerated percussion and discordant piano. On ‘Adam’s Apple’, staccato guitar chords add a lurking menace to a description of the rote fastening of a necktie, while ‘33 ⅓’ draws inspiration from a truly tragic moment in musical history – the sudden and heart-breaking passing of Joy Division lead singer, Ian Curtis. The album’s stunning centrepiece ‘Great Coat’ combines Armitage’s charged poetic passages and Walters’ powerful vocal melodies with a driving electronic beat.
“A lot of the lyrics have come about from writing in a time of post-industrialisation, austerity, and the recession,” explains Armitage. “And yet, even through those years and those atmospheres, there’s still been an exuberance around, an exuberance of communication, information, language. I think a lot of the speakers in the pieces are expressing some kind of marginalisation and are doing so as if they’re almost hyperventilating.”
With this in mind, the album title ‘Call In The Crash Team’ — a standout lyric from the desperate and haunting track ‘Zodiac T-Shirt’ — easily fell into place. “It goes back to that idea of people in crisis, and us being the crash team,” says Walters. “The emotional crash team, resuscitating.”
The origins of LYR stretch back to 2009 when Walters, a big fan of Armitage’s work, approached the poet’s publisher about the possibility of collaboration. Walters wound up setting Armitage’s poetry to music in his 2011 solo song ‘Redwoods’.
“Simon and I talked about the next step”, recalls Walters. “Instead of just taking words and me singing them, we had the idea of a spoken word project that had a bit more of a life around it in terms of the musical setting”. Walters thought of Pearson, who he had met in the early 2010’s, as part of a short-lived, shoegaze inspired band called Liu Bei. Pearson loved the idea, and LYR were born.
Breaking barriers and building unexpected bridges between different worlds is embedded in the core of LYR — and is a galvanising philosophy for the band as they prepare to unveil their debut album to their world.