by: Young Coconut
If you are from in or around the Ottawa area, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of one of the hardest working local bands in the land – The Lionyls. Billing themselves as a “rock & soul” band, I think it’s also fair to call them a full-on party band, since they essentially want to “get the party started!”, as it says here on their official website.
Indeed, I have seen them live and that is exactly what they’re all about – getting people moving, connecting with the crowd, and rocking it hard. They’re definitely a live band at heart. They’ve been sharpening their claws, opening for big names in music such as Serena Ryder, Sam Roberts, the Trews, and Duran Duran to name but a few. The Lionyls know a vast arsenal of crowd-pleasing get-up-and-dance cover tunes, of which they are apt to play one or another depending on the situation (wedding, bar gig, private party, etc.).
That said, they recently dropped their debut album of funky original tunes on an eponymous 8-track album. Here’s the album sleeve below.
Lionyls Album Review
Who are the Lionyls? The band is Alex Jee on bass, Anto Rizzuti on drums, guitarist Robbie Rigg, and Zach Raynor on vocals. The debut album has been a long time coming from these boys. The band has been gigging like mofos for a few years now, and they’ve been trying to get into the studio when they didn’t have shows lined up (they’re pretty busy) to get this album completed. If you have been following the band at all, you might have noticed that fans keep asking “Where is that damn album at already?”
So, yeah, here it is finally. How is it, you ask? I’d say that The Lionyls (the album) is foremost a very complimentary counterpart to their live show, which is always energetic and hard hitting. These guys are a practical bunch, and love to please their peeps. As such, the new studio album is funky, frisky, and it rocks with no apologies. That said, we’re not talking about punk rock or heavy metal here. The music leans towards soul music and so it’s not meant to be overly intense or super-headbang-y. It’s more about groove and dynamics, and there is definitely a perfectionist streak on this album. It sure ain’t sloppy.
The production is generally quite smooth, and all the instruments are well played and well recorded. There is no lack of anything with this album in terms of what you’d expect from a collection of you-want-it-you-got-it party jams. You want bass? You can’t miss it. If you feel like focusing on just the drums in detail – you can hear everything that’s going on. The guitar you certainly aren’t going to be able to ignore – all of the riffs and licks, both soft and hard, are highlighted nicely. The vocals? Again, in terms of the mix, it’s where it ought to be, and, like the other instruments, I’d say there’s a certain element of vocal acrobatics going on to make you go “Well now!”
Actually, you can hear the various band members going off at certain points on the album, and you realize that each of these guys can really fucking play / sing. It’s rather impressive, really. And that’s when you have to give some major props to Cory Bergeron at Pebble Studios in Ottawa. According to the liner notes on the album, Corey was the album’s main producer, and he did a great job here, highlighting all of the performances the band members gave. Even huge bands like the Chilli Peppers and Metallica have botched albums based on a bad mix or master, and so it’s with some relief that fans of The Lionyls can relax, knowing that all is well in that department.
Of course, a band that can play their instruments does not a great album make. There are plenty of bands who can play just fine, and it’s not my bag at all. In fact, there’s lots of bands I like that have questionable “chops” (eg. punk bands) that still write killer tunes. In the case of The Lionyls, I think that they are basically doing what comes natural to them, and, at this point, they want to party, so that’s what the songs are mostly about.
Actually, that’s not really true. Many of the songs are about being bummed out and / or downright desperate due to a broken heart (eg. Castaway) or getting over someone and trying to get back to having a good time (eg. I Feel Alright). So, while the album does appear to have a party vibe, just by virtue of the fact that many of the songs are upbeat and easy on the ears, it’s clear that there’s some trouble brewing somewhere in the narrative of the album. And of course, some are just about having fun, and being in love in the present tense. It’s a mixed bag of emotions.
I think this is where the songwriting becomes a big part of The Lionyl’s game, because while the songs are super catchy and make you want to party, the songs themselves are about a variety of things – making it big (eg. On Our Way), being shunned (eg. Blacklisted), going out and partying (eg. Fever), and addiction (eg. Cocaine Stars).
Here’s a live clip of the band playing their song Fuse (off the new album) live not too long ago at TD Place in Ottawa. (Clip courtesy of the official Lionyls Youtube channel)
If the above clip sounds like something you’d be into, the album is basically the same, but with studio polish on top. The band, I think, takes pride in the fact that whatever you hear on the album is what they do live, so, in a way, the two sounds aren’t that much different.
To be honest, the more I listen to this album, the less I hear it as a straight up party album, and more like each song is about something different. It isn’t what you’d call a concept album. I think it’s more of a musical calling card saying “this is what we do”. In any case, on the surface, it has that fun party vibe, which means that the band can whip any of these songs out during a gig, and show the crowd a good time, even though there might be some darker undercurrents going around on the lyrical level, or even on the musical level. This isn’t a one dimensional sound. As I said before, this band is dynamic, and it all comes back to that. Giving it hard when necessary, but also pulling back sometimes. Having a balance of joy and sadness in the music to make you feel alive.