Spirit Award is the moniker for Seattle-based singer/songwriter Daniel Lyon, along with bassist and collaborator Chris Jordan (Sunny Day Real Estate). The band's vision has always been to make something with intention, love, vulnerability, raw emotion, and authenticity that captures the human spirit. The sound has morphed into a feeling and sound that is motorik, psychedelic, fuzzy, ethereal, driving, and aggressive but still maintains some pop sensibilities, citing the work of Arthur Russell, Neu!, and Suicide among their inspiration. We got the chance to catch up with Daniel Lyon and find out more about the project:
How did Spirit Award form and what does the band name mean?
I believe it was 2014? I had just moved to Seattle maybe a year prior. I had just left my previous band, tried another project but wasn’t in love with it. I had some demos I had recorded and showed them to a co-worker Chris Moore at a restaurant we both worked at. He was an audio engineer at a studio in town as well and offered to record a song. I played everything on the song, drums are hard for me though. It was through that process I realized I wanted to form something and at the time have it be more collaborative. The name is whatever you want it to mean.
What are your previous musical projects?
I’ve had a bunch. I think the first that I really felt proud to be a part of and loved the music we were doing was Pomegranates. There have been a million others since I was 13.
How'd you first get into music?
I was a tag along with my brother John who was 5 years older. He wanted to play guitar, so I decided I did. We took lessons for a while, and started a really crappy band in our garage. Had our first show in the garage and bought pizza to entice our friends and neighbors to come watch.
First concert that you ever went to?
Oof. I grew up very religious and was only allowed to listen to “Christian” music. The first band I saw was Bleach (I think they were trying to be a Christian version of Nirvana/weezer). I started going to a bar to see shows in my hometown of Bowling Green, Ohio probably when I was 14 or 15 and that really started shaping me more. Local bands Stylex, Koufax, Saturday Looks Good To Me all played fairly regularly and I loved the energy of it all.
Can you explain what your writing process is like?
The process for me at the start is writing little parts usually with some gibberish words and recording voice demos or sometimes full fledged demos on my computer if I really am in a good flow state. Then I like to drive around and just listen without playing and ask where the song should go, or if it even should be a song or if it still resonates and makes me excited. If it doesn’t it’s tossed out.
It’s always a little different. A lot of times in the beginning of the band I would bring a song to everyone and we’d jam on it, or a few songs that other members brought or a riff. Now with the last couple records and members changing it’s been me writing then having a session person or member at the time play. With ‘The Fear’ I had a strong idea of what I wanted and my drummer Andrew King and bassist Chris Jordan (member of Sunny Day Real Estate) added their feel and some embellishments on the tracks.
What other artists or songs inspire your music?
A huge influence in the sound has been the band Suicide. Their songs are so simplistic at times but seem to put you in this motorik trance. Along with that vibe I’d put CAN, Neu!, Spacemen 3, and the Fall. Arthur Russell is someone I have listened to constantly. His career and music is all over the place and I love everything from his disco-esq jams to soft folk songs about corn.
What's the live experience like and your philosophy on playing live? Do you think the music live should be identical to the recorded version or should it be its own thing?
I love playing live and the energy of a good crowd and that energy that is given and received is a beautiful thing and there isn’t anything like it. It’s a drug. I don’t think music should be identical to the recorded project if you wanted that just turn your speakers up loud and throw a party. If there is a better or more suited version for live or for the spaces you play in, do that! Some songs I’ve found also just don’t work live and should only be intended for a recorded version.
Have you toured as Spirit Award? What has the touring experience been, best shows? Worst shows?
Yeah we’ve toured a lot of the US, played in Morocco, and Europe. I think the best shows we’ve played have been overseas, I mostly say that because compared to American shows, Europeans treat you with value and respect. There is a great respect for the arts. So the hospitality is amazing there for bands.
Worst show would probably be when we were supposed to do 2 shows in Idaho for a promoter. The first show he came up and turned our amps to 1 or lower, told our drummer to play quieter. It was a loud bar, I have no idea why he was doing that. No one was upset it was too loud. The next day he cancelled the next show saying he was scared it was gonna be too loud, he at least paid us our guarantee and we went home.
What's up next for the band?
We will be doing some festivals and shows in the US this spring/summer and fall supporting the new record. Heading to UK and Europe for a tour in fall as well. Slowly working on another album and I’m working on a side project.