Hello Layla and welcome to Brutal Resonance! As always, for newcomers to the site, I like to start off with this question: what are three of your favorite albums of all time and why?
Layla: That’s a good question. I don’t know, Haha. I have always had a hard time classifying things. Perhaps because I enjoy many things for their own specific reasons. I can name three of my favorite Cure albums, picking one is difficult however the first album that comes to mind is, “Pornography". I love that album because of its lush soundscapes, the reverb laden drums and the way it seems to just envelop you. Also, because it harkens back to a time when I was just discovering the music that moved me. I could listen to every song on that album on repeat and never tire of it.
Tones on Tail is another band I love. I remember the first time I heard "Burning Skies", I was overcome with emotion. The melancholic howl of the ebow was/is immaculate. “Everything!” is great. I know the first appearance of ‘Burning Skies’ was also the name of the first EP but “Everything!“ has more songs and is a better indicator of their work. The use of dissonance as a key factor in the songwriting is brilliant.
My third selection has to be Sex Gang Children, “The Singles 1982-1984” because it was the first release I purchased by them. Much like my love for The Cure there isn’t a song I don’t love. Although, I stopped buying albums from The Cure after “Wish” with the exception of “Join the Dots: B Sides and Rarities 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years)”. I didn’t like “Mood Swings” so I stopped buying their music. I wanted to spare any disappointment because I loved so much of their earlier works. Alternately, I have never been dissatisfied with any of Sex Gang Children’s work. I enjoy his voice and the instrumentation equally. I was so into them in high school that I spray painted their band name on my wall. My parents weren’t pleased but they let it stay.
Tell me why and when you decided to form Licorice Chamber.
Layla: It began with a desire to write music again. With Strap On Halo being inactive and the pandemic running rampant, I fell into a depression. I had become accustomed to performing regularly and had spent 25-40 hours a week working on music when suddenly it came to a stop. At first it was a relief but then it turned into anger.
It took a dream to realize what was going on inside my head. In my dream two of my lifelong best friends, myself and a baby were driving when suddenly the highway ended and we drove off the edge to our deaths. The dream continued with us waking up in the afterlife, the afterlife being a train with other recently deceased traveling to an unknown destination. All four of us were there but oddly the baby had not regained consciousness. One of the passengers handed me a newspaper and as I tried to wrap my head around what was happening, I read we burned to death in a fiery blaze. Days had passed in between our death and sudden appearance on this train. I was mad with grief of the life I had yet to live and all I could think of was that I might never sing again.
Was there singing in the afterlife and would it still feel the same? When I woke, I could still taste the feeling of falling. I realized soon after that I needed to start writing music again for my own sanity. I needed to sing! It was at that point I decided to write my first solo album and where the title of my EP came from.
Where does the name Licorice Chamber stem from? Does it have more of a personal meaning to you?
Layla: The name Licorice Chamber was originally conceived when I was in design school. The project was to create a brand based solely on oneself. For me it was the juxtaposition of both words that made Licorice Chamber a good fit for me. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get the chance to use it outside of school but I guarded it for many years until its use. Licorice Chamber to me is visceral, but it’s the nostalgia that I crave and bittersweet much like the songs I write.
You are known for fronting goth / deathrock band Strap On Halo. However, the project is currently on hiatus. Is there any major reason as to why Strap On Halo has paused?
Layla: The three of us each have our own reasons but ultimately, we all related to needing time to focus on our health and family. We were going strong for a decade, touring nonstop year after year with our sole purpose being SOH. Some of us handled it differently and not long after our last tour in 2017 Sean left Washington to move back to Omaha. With him gone Marc and I decided to put things on hold for the foreseeable future. Marc, my fiancé Joe and I carried on for a bit contemplating a new project. We even wrote an EP’s worth of music but didn’t get to finish due to overwhelming circumstances in both Marc’s and my life. Fast forward to now, Marc will be joining me as a live musician and future collaborator in Licorice Chamber.
Many fans might be expecting something similar to Strap On Halo with your new release. However, I doubt that’s the case. How does Licorice Chamber differentiate in both sound and voice from Strap On Halo?
Layla: Similarly both Strap On Halo and Licorice Chamber began by not conforming to a specific genre with the hope that the music would speak for itself. The three of us all grew up in different states with similar and different influences. We co-wrote every song and the culmination of those similarities and differences are what shaped our sound. Another distinctive difference is that SOH was guitar driven whereas Licorice Chamber is driven by cinematic synths and piano. I still hold true to my love for guitar by incorporating it into my music. With Licorice Chamber I write all the songs myself adding guitars as a means to embellish key parts. My lyrics have been about the human condition, mortality and the contrast between the beauty of decay and the unseemliness of death. My voice remains unchanged however my new project allows me to sing in ways I couldn’t with SOH. I’m excited about the future and writing music on my own terms.
Your lead single from your debut EP ‘This Love is Dark’ came out in December of 2021 and caught the scene abuzz. What is ‘This Love is Dark’ about and why did you choose it to lead the charge for “The Taste of Falling”?
Layla: ‘This Love is Dark’ was the last song I wrote to include in the latest EP. The song is about loss, the ugly side of love. When you’re in love you don’t contemplate the end, you hope for more. What if you finally find that one true soul to spend your life with and then they are suddenly taken away. That is the dark side of love. The loss you feel, wanting to hold on just a little longer. During the pandemic I read so many heart-wrenching stories about loved ones dying alone, couples dying minutes apart hand in hand. This song acknowledges those heart aches.
Michel Rowland contributed guitars to ‘As the World Breathes’, ‘This Love is Dark’, and ‘Just Like the Horror Movies’ while Blair Wotton played guitars on ‘It’s an Illusion’. What did these musicians bring to those songs that you otherwise could not?
Layla: Michel Rowland has a beautiful way of embellishing key parts and lavishing the songs with elegant guitar work. He understood where the songs were coming from and gave each song additional resonance. Blair Wotton did much the same by adding a lush ebow soundscape to ‘It’s an Illusion’. They helped bring my songs to life by adding parts I didn’t know I needed. I’m extremely grateful that they both contributed and I’m happy to announce Michel has signed on to work on the next release alongside Marc Jones.
Lee Meadows, AKA DJ BatBoy Slim, did a remix for ‘Codename:Lola’. How did he change your original song and what did you think of it?
Layla: In my experience when you get into having a song remixed, the results can sometimes be completely unexpected. Lee was an absolute pleasure to work with and quite surprising. He works incredibly fast and in my opinion the remix is fantastic. It was just the foot stomping mix I needed to complete the EP. Originally it was just going to be released alongside the single as a prelude to the full EP but because it was so good, we decided to add it to the EP release as well.
Following this EP, what can we expect from you in 2022? Are you planning on releasing a full-length album? Or do you have other things in the works?
Layla: As mentioned earlier I am working on the next Licorice Chamber release that will include Marc Jones and Michel Rowland as collaborators. This is intended to be a full-length album and could include additional collaborators but that has been undecided at this time. Strap On Halo is considering a live demo release that will include unreleased songs. We are still talking about it and could very well have something later this year if and that’s if we can all agree.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time. I wish you the best of luck and leave the space below open for you to mention anything I may have missed. Cheers!
Layla: Thank you so much for having me and big thank you to everyone who took the time to read my musings. Licorice Chamber is now booking live dates. Look out for us at a venue near you and let us know if you’d like us to play. Thank you!
Upcoming Events (April):
Club Requiem Livestream: 20 April 2022
Ahead of Licorice Chamber’s live debut, Layla will also be the MC for Club Requiem’s ‘Tribute to Angels of Liberty & Christian Death’ livestream on Wednesday 20 April, along with DJs Xiola (US), Marlen Moisidoi (Germany), Slavezero (US), and Telezart (Sweden).
Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/263704485881766
Live at Seattle’s Seagaze Festival: 30 April 2022
Licorice Chamber (Layla joined by Marc Jones from Strap On Halo) make their live debut at Seattle’s Central Saloon on Saturday 30th April, on the last night of Seagaze Festival – a four-day shoegaze, post-punk and psych rock event over two weekends (22-23 and 29-30 April).
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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