Sophe Lux and The Mystic: Interview with Gwynneth Haynes

Sophe Lux

Having fronted art-rock band Sophe Lux through the course of three albums,  Gwynneth Haynes has brought the moniker to a new, more experimental solo project–Sophe Lux and The Mystic. The debut album, “All Are One” was co-produced with Larry Crane and makes extensive use of vintage synthesizers and ambient influences. Haynes continues to bring a strong theatrical feel to her music, and is developing a live show that she says will be a complete audio/visual experience. In a phone interview, Haynes discussed the making of “All Are One” and her future plans.

What made you use the name Sophe Lux & The Mystic for this album?

“Part of it was an actual line-up change, moving from being a band to a solo artist again. Sophe Lux was an ensemble, a collective of musicians from Portland. I wanted to venture out. My first album was more of a solo venture, and I wanted to return to that. I was more curious about how it would be if I just took the time and worked mainly with my own ideas, with the great help of my friend and co-producer Larry Crane. We kind of crafted this other universe. Sophe Lux [the band] probably has more darkness, more cabaret undertones, and is more blatantly theatrical. Whereas The Mystic asks the questions: Could we love what could be more than hate what is? In what kind of world do we want to live? The Mystic is asking that. It isn’t totally throwing out the shadow, because you have to have the shadow and the light. You need to have that discussion. You have to look at human darkness and suffering. To make good art, you need some darkness. When The Mystic characters started to pop up, I also wanted to explore video and other things, and while I loved being in a band, it took up all my time. The Mystic let me explore more performance art and more intense costuming and meditation-type characters.”

Have you been performing as Sophe Lux & The Mystic?

“It’s in progress. My shows have been at art museums, where it is performance art/art party kinds of things. Right now I’m working with a friend to learn Ableton Live and we’re developing the show itself. From a musical standpoint, I’m the only person on the stage, using a couple of instruments and electronics. I’d like to have Ableton Live so that it’s more live and not just me karaoke-ing.

“The live show is completely audio/visual, inclusive of imagery and screens. There’s a wonderful performance company that I am particularly soft on; they’re called Cloud Eye Control, from Los Angeles. The audio/visual presentations of their work is just astounding. They are my idols in terms of what I’m interested in creating, with screens that are interactive during the performance. That’s a very ambitious vision. I think in the interim, with my own skill set, I can conceive one screen and projections.”

Do you find that you have visuals in mind as you write songs?

“Yes, definitely. For example, there’s “Love Comet,” the alien song. I’m taking on the character of this alien child in our future. When I was writing the songs, the images were pouring in on this creature that was telling the story. A child from our future looking back on Earth, and how we blew it and he wants to send a love comet back to our time to save us.”

Creatively, what is it like working on your own now?

“It feels selfishly really great, because I feel like I have more time. But it’s a mixed bag because of course I miss creative collaboration, and I know it really makes me happy to be working with other people. On the other hand, it was immensely pleasurable to have the time to explore what I wanted to do, what I wanted to write instead of just letting it organically happen as a band and making little notes. I got to be the creative control and that was really fun and interesting. Then working with Larry was really fun, and creative and vital.”

What was the state of the material when you began working on it with Larry?

“The songs were structured out in terms of the basic ideas. Lyrics were written and the basic chord structure was in place. I messed around at home with different overlays and different drum loops before taking them into the studio with Larry. I had a lot of ideas. I was working with the Nord Lead 2, a really great, powerful synthesizer so I’d be like, ‘Ooh, I really like this sound,’ and sometimes a sound would inform a musical idea. Then, we would keep adding layers. He had Moogs and all kinds of antique Casios, like the small old ones that could sample your voice. He had really crappy ones, but they sound great! He and I have similar heroes. We’re both massive Brian Eno fans, massive David Bowie fans, massive Kate Bush fans, 4AD fans. So we had a shared language and it organically came together.”

Are there any current musicians who inspire you?

“Well it’s true, you do get locked in a vacuum. I really like Purity Ring; I think her vocals are gorgeous. I’m kind of delighted by Grimes; I think she really does some fun stuff. I’m not massively tied in with current music; I think that when you’re busy making music, you can lose touch.”

Did you have firm ideas of what you wanted to accomplish with this album?

“Going into it, I definitely wanted it to have some programmed drums and electronic influences that were not in the previous Sophe Lux sound. Those were intentions, and after that, everything was surprise and exploration.”

Do you feel that this is the type of album that should be listened to from start to finish?

“Yes, it’s filled with a lot of ideas and content, maybe more than the current attention spans of the general audience. So that’s always my hope, for people to have the experience.”

What are your plans for the near future?

“I’m hoping to be touring early next year, taking the rest of this year to get the live show anchored and realized technically and practiced. I have a couple of albums to record that I’ve got to get to. From the Sophe Lux years, I have a backlog of material that hasn’t been recorded. So I’m like, ‘Wow, will this be a Sophe Lux album or a Sophe Lux and the Mystic album?’ I don’t know. Right now, I’m happy to see what happens as I record them. And at the same time, I’m mastering Ableton [Live]. So my other goal is to just get more proficient at home recording, hoping that will lead to more creative options and ideas. I think it will for me. Then, there’s another batch of songs that are more singer-songwriter and mellower, and I don’t know how those are going to turn out either. So we’ll see!”

“Yeah, I did. Maybe this wasn’t a good marketing idea, but part of me was like, ‘Oh, I just want to keep the link,’ so people who knew Sophe Lux would know that it was an evolution of that project—a new branch.”

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