Lauren Zettler has made her avant-garde, dream-pop musical project, Lightyear, as visual as it sounds. Indiana native Zettler, a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, has spent much of her time as a singer-songwriter under her given name, but has recently created a different musical concept with a new moniker. As Lightyear, Zettler released her All of the Miles EP, a preview of more music to come, last month. All of the Miles‘ first single, “It Beats,” has lately been the center of Zettler’s web presence, with an intentionally weird music-video teaser to represent her project. The full video for “It Beats” is in the process of being released; in order to create it, Zettler sought funding from EP pre-orders.
Although Zettler is up in the air about what’s next for Lightyear, she won’t wait to put out more music. In the meantime, she has been contemplating the possibility of remix releases and playing shows with the likes of the UK’s Slow Club and Toronto’s Ohbijou. We caught up with Zettler in Williamsburg at Cubana Social where we discussed the singer-songwriter circuit, her musical rebirth and the importance of being real.
NAME: Lauren Zettler (AKA Lightyear)
HOMETOWN: Carmel, Indiana
LIGHTYEAR’S AHEAD: I felt like I just really wanted a total, fresh start. The music that I wanted to make, I wanted to be very different than from what I made before. So, I felt like it deserved its own name. I also felt like, by going with a moniker, it psychologically gives you a feeling of more freedom. It is me, but it’s not me.
A GAME-CHANGING MOMENT: Not to be clichéd, but it was a rebirth kind of thing. I had been going through a really difficult breakup, and I was turning my life around in a pretty significant way. It was kind of a game-changer. It was interesting to see what I was capable of doing outside of what I had done before.
ON BEING ECONOMICAL: I don’t have anything actually planned out right now. I would love to release a full-length, because I have actually never released a full-length. At the same time, with the way that the economy is, and basically how much it costs, EPs for me in the past have made more economical sense. I’d love to record a full-length, but I don’t have anything set in place yet. This EP was kind of like a teaser. There’s more coming soon. It’s gonna be really cool.
THE ASPECT OF VISUAL STIMULATION: Well, I want it to end up in as many places as possible. I went to school for film scoring. I really love the idea of pairing music with visuals. I’ve never envisioned myself as a Billboard 100 kind of person, but even going to see Ellie Goulding and Katy Perry last night, it really took me by surprise. It was really cool. I think when you get close to things like that, they’re obviously huge goals, but they’re really not that unlikely. It’s just a matter of trying to do it. ON BEING A REAL SINGER-SONGWRITER: Before, it was more of a singer-songwriter thing. I think what happened was, I had never really thought about writing my own music until my last year of college. At that point, I had specific influences who were very in the “singer-songwriter” vein, and I tried to emulate them. I got to the point that I wasn’t really moving in the direction I wanted to move in. I felt stuck, and I was bored. The guitar is an instrument that I taught myself, so I didn’t really feel proficient on it. I felt like I was playing pretend, in a way. I got fed up with it. I wanted to try and figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted a clean slate. I had grown so much as a person, and changed; I wanted to see what the new influences I had would do to the kind of music I created. I think it’s different, but at the same time it’s still the same writer. So, there are things that link it together.
AS WEIRD AS POSSIBLE: We did a teaser video [for single “It Beats”]. We just finished the full-length version of that video, so it’s being edited. It’s really cool. It was a lot of fun. It was the first visual representation that anyone was going to see basically of the new project. I wanted it to be arresting. I wanted it to be as weird as it could be, while still being watchable and interesting. So, I brainstormed weird things that would look good on camera and would look really beautiful. I played a lot with textures. I feel like the whole EP is full of textures. I wanted to kind of represent that. We didn’t use everything that we filmed, because some things didn’t work. I had people pre-order the EP before it was released, so that I could fund it. It was basically for that.
THE INFLUENCE OF FEAR: I got really into Metric, and then from there I discovered Emily Haines’ solo project. I thought it was cool because I recognized that Emily’s songs all kind of start off the same way. They have the same base. That gave me the inspiration to write the way that I know how to write, then take it and turn it into something else. Metric and Emily were big influences, along with Feist and St. Vincent. Basically, I feel like I’ve been really scared for a long time to go there. I’m gradually getting the courage to really just put it out there. The reality is, that you have nothing to lose, or you have everything to lose if you don’t really do it. I have the attitude that if I’m going to do this for real, I need to do it for real. I’m still working on it and trying to make the live show just as cool as the EP sounds. It’s been really fun to figure out how to do that.
ON DOING IT ALL OVER AGAIN: Well, unfortunately, I had a pretty not-cool experience at Berklee. I think a lot of that was due to the fact that I might not have been ready for it. I’m from Indiana. I was painfully shy growing up, and moving to Boston was such a huge change. Everyone there was so talented, and I didn’t feel totally confident in what I could do. It was a lonely feeling there, because a lot of people were different from me. I didn’t feel like I fit in very well. I was kind of intimidated all the time. However, it was so challenging, and it forced me to learn a lot. I had a voice teacher there that was really encouraging; I probably wouldn’t have started pursuing my own stuff if it weren’t for her. The experience itself was definitely worth it. I loved Boston as a city. It’s so beautiful. As it goes, if I could do it over again, knowing what I know now, I probably would have done things differently. Berklee was the kind of place where you could do a lot if you knew what you wanted to do and really went for it. If you didn’t, it was easy to feel lost and skirt by.
ON BEING IN THE SAME BOAT: I just played a show with Slow Club and they’re from the UK. They’re awesome. They were great. And this band Ohbijou from Toronto, who was incredible. I was like, why am I playing this show with bands that are so great? I’m still pretty new to the game. I haven’t played that many shows with recognizable bands. What’s cool is that I started in the singer-songwriter circuit and was very familiar with it and very comfortable there. Now I’ve moved into where I’m playing different venues with different bands. There are just so many people trying to make music. It’s cool, and it’s overwhelming. It’s also reassuring to know that there is room for everyone.