INTERVIEW: Aaron 'Laszlo' Wheeler of Lydian Collective

Lydian Collective: Ida Hollis, Aaron 'Laszlo' Wheeler, Todd Baker and Sophie Alloway
Artists' publicity photo
London-based jazz fusion outfit Lydian Collective comprises Aaron 'Laszlo' Wheeler on keyboards, Todd Baker on guitar, Ida Hollis on electric bass and Sophie Alloway on drums. Sebastian asked Aaron some questions:

LondonJazz News: Where are you from originally?

Aaron Wheeler: Todd and I grew up in Worcestershire, myself in Redditch and Todd in neighbouring Evesham. We’re based in London now; it’s a great place to be for music artists, but we also value the perspective coming from smaller towns. Sophie and Ida both grew up in South West London.

LJN: And can you tell us about your (busy?) musical life away from this band?

AW: We all lead very busy creative lives outside the band.

I’ve built a successful career as a composer for media and production music, working with some of the biggest names in music publishing. In the 2010s I switched focus to my solo instrumental project: Laszlo. I also own a studio complex/co-working space in Finsbury Park (actually called ‘Lydian Workspace’) which has become a really great social and creative hub.

Todd (Baker) is a music and sound artist working mainly in the world of games and interactive, but has also worked on many media music projects. He’s created music and sound design for a number of high-profile games, most recently Monument Valley 2, which has been played by tens of millions over the world.

Ida (Hollis) has being playing and teaching bass professionally for over 10 years, working with a variety of names including Tate Britain artist-in-residence Tim Whitehead. She is also an extremely talented photographer specialising in fine art, portraits and nature.

Sophie (Alloway) is in high demand as a session drummer and live musician in London. She’s played with such acts as Roots Manuva, Clean Bandit and many more. Here’s a recent podcast with a detailed insight into her musical life!

LJN: And the idea of the band Lydian Collective is the result of a very long term friendship?

AW: Todd and I were 16 when we met at Stratford-Upon-Avon College studying Popular Music. We’ve stayed friends and have worked on many musical ventures since. With relationships like this you influence each other heavily and form a kind of musical language together.

LJN: And he's also your composition partner?

AW: Yes we’ve been writing together since our teens! We’ve also released an electronic/hybrid collaboration called Musicbox - a project that started in 2005, which was really the start of the whole journey towards to the Lydian Collective.

LJN: And the other two band members how did you get to know them?

AW: Todd met Ida met via Ida’s partner Ed Hargrave, who is one of Todd’s collaborators in the game audio/music world. The three of us started jamming on the Laszlo material in around 2012. With keys/guitar/bass covered, we turned our attention to finding a great, versatile creative drummer that would share the passion for our music.

I met Sophie at a weekday music night in my local pub - it was a small gig and I was one of the only people in the audience! She was performing with a fusion band - they played some Chick Corea Elektric Band covers, and I thought she would be perfect. After speaking to her that evening I e-mailed over some of the Laszlo sessions. She made us wait for a few weeks, but eventually joined us at rehearsal... and the Lydian Collective was born!

LJN: How long has LC existed as a quartet?

AW: That first rehearsal was in July 2013.

LJN: For those not into the modes can you explain the band’s name?

AW: Yeah, the Lydian Mode (the fourth mode of the major scale) is my favourite scale. I think it's where so much of the magic lives in music!  When I first experimented with composing as a child I would notice these certain notes and chords gave me a shiver down my spine - and I started to recognise this harmony in songs and soundtracks to films that I really liked, such as music from John Williams' ET and Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future soundtracks.

I didn’t come across these extra modal scales with my classical piano lessons, and it was only when I started to have guitar lessons that this whole new world of harmony was released into my knowledge. I finally felt like I had come across the tools to recreate the spine tingling emotion that I enjoyed so much in music I grew up with - and I have been obsessed with using the modes in music ever since.

LJN: You have mentioned Frank Zappa, Steely Dan and EST as in your collective ears? What is the common thread?

AW: The common thread is the fact that they have all have a special approach to harmony and groove/rhythm that really appeals to us. Adventurous and intelligent, but rooted in a pop-like sensibility. Another artist that has been a massive influence on myself and Todd is the beautiful harmony and rhythmical ideas of (bassist) Avishai Cohen. We also consider all of these artists to have a musical voice that doesn’t conform to genre - which is absolutely what we are trying to do with the LC.

LJN: Can you explain how all these (how many?) YouTube views (of what?) have happened?

AW: Todd and I started making YouTube live sessions back in 2011 for my first Laszlo album. Our first piano/guitar duet video of my track Lydia’s Dream really took off, attracting the interest from an instrumental music channel: Candyrat - in the USA. They shared our videos and helped us grow our audience. With a host of live sessions on our channel, we currently have over 1.2 million total views. These view are entirely organic (i.e. no marketing), and all of the music is 100% original and instrumental.

LJN: What is Monument Valley and how does that fit into the story?

AW: Earlier in the year, Todd composed the soundtrack for one of the biggest iOS games of the year: Monument Valley 2. It’s a very beautiful looking, story-based game about a mother and child. We recorded a live session of one of the tracks from the game, which then also featured on the official soundtrack release.

LJN: And you have singles and an album in the process of being released. What is the sequence of events? 


AW: We have so far released two singles. The first - Thirty One - was on 10 November (currently sitting with over 85k Spotify streams), the second - Legend Of Lumbar (below) - was released on 3 December. The third will be released on the 12 January, and the album will drop in early February!



LJN: And where can people hear the band live?

AW: We recently played an intimate gig at the Troubadour, and we’re currently in the process of organising an album launch, as well as some shows outside of London.

LINKS: Lydian Collective are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube

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