Thirty years of Lycia:a very substancial talk with Mike VanPortfleet

[By David Rangel]

It’s been thirty long years since Lycia came out from the shadows with their thick and unbelievable style, and some sonic elements that have made this band a very unic project. There’s been prolific times, but also, in the begining of this century some things didin’t fit well, and the progression of the band was in conflict. Nevertheless, Lycia, under the direction of Mike VanPortfleet have found light again, and their legacy as well as their present, has taken a new hype between their long time fans, but also with the newly arrive listeners, that find in their music a shelter for the invasion of all the banal music. Lycia is alive, and having the oportunity to talk virtually with the one and only Mike for their 30th anniversary, has given me much clarity.

D.R.:In years of career, I consider that Lycia should have more credit and proyection in the alternative music scene. I think that your band is in the same level as Clan Of Xymox And Peter Murphy, for example. After all this time and with all the up and downs in the music industry, which have been the biggest challenges to keep up in this business?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):That’s a flattering observation. We’ve always functioned in our own space, always on the fringe of whatever scene we might be associated with. That separation makes it hard for us to really see or feel where it is that we are, or how we may be perceived. My biggest challenge? I don’t know. I’ve been pretty obsessed with my vision for Lycia. I tend to get lost in that. When things are not flowing smoothly I can start questioning my decisions. That’s inadvertently derailed us a time or two.

D.R.: In Mexico was very difficult to find you records, and now we have the streaming and we’re learning more of your music. what’s you main reason for uploading you catalog in the streaming platforms?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Back in 2010 we released Fifth Sun, which was digital only. It barely sold anything. At this point it’s really just about getting the music out there so we made it available for free. Then it took off. Over the last few years we had most of the albums remastered, and the only real goal was for people to hear it. So the decision was made to just put it all up on Bandcamp for free streaming and download. It’s worked for us and I plan to keep it this way.

D.R.:What’s your opinion that the people listen the music this way?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):It’s the way that I listen to music too. I like the way things are now. There’s access to so much music and so much variety. Plus I think it opened the door for the return of the physical formats. CDs, LPs and cassettes seem so much more special now. I think these two worlds work well together. Much better than it was 10 to 15 years ago in the download only world.

D.R.:Do you think this helps you to reach a bigger audience?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Definitely. Things we’re good for us in the 90s. Projekt had pretty good distribution. Then in the 2000s we just faded away. Streaming has been one of the catalysts for a second wave for Lycia. I’d say that a good portion of people that follow us now are not from the USA. Streaming has taken our music to places that were inaccessible years ago.

D.R.:Have all this been good for your music or bad in any way?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Good in so many ways. It’s inspired us to continue. It would have been so easy to just not do music anymore after the obscurity of the 2000s. Interest generated by the vinyl reissue of Cold, as well as streaming brought people back, and that in turn has led to this second Lycia life. There’d be no Quiet Moments, A Line That Connect or In Flickers without this.

D.R.:I notice that Empty Space y Fifth Sun have been released only digital. Are you planning to release this issues on cd or vinyl with better resolution?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Empty Space came out on CD back in 2004 on Silber Records. It’s still available via Silber I believe. As for Fifth Sun, it’s only been available digitally. I’d like to see a LP one day. Nothing planned at the moment but it is a possibility.

D.R.:The changes on your residence (Compilation Appearances Vol.1 y vol.2 ) have affected the sound and the topics in some of your records. I can sense a desertic trip and also cold and forest vibes, the sky or the lonely snow landscape. how important is nature as inspiration?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Perhaps the biggest influence for us. For years I referred to it as “the essence of time and place”. It’s fueled pretty much every bit of creativity for me throughout my life. I’m a bit obsessed with it actually.

D.R.:Is the environment part of the feelings?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Yes. For me one and the same.


D.R.:The formation of Lycia have changed through the years, the only established members are Mike and Tara with some contributions from David Galas and John Fair. How is the process for working with other musicians out of the band?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia): I’ve been very selective. I started back in 1981, and Lycia for the most part got going in 1988, and I’ve only collaborated with David, John, Tara and Will Welch. I’m a bit of a control freak so I’m hands on with most things Lycia related. The fact that John and David have both come and gone shows that sometimes collaborating has been difficult from both sides. But it also show that we all still choose to work together.

D.R.:What’s the best part of having different people to create with and what this brings to the table as a sound?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia): It brings out a style of writing that I never get when working alone. I work a certain way with all three. I started working with John back in 1982, and we work together now not too differently then we worked back then, and our collaborations always have a particular and unique feel. The same with David. We just finished a song that has the same vibe as some of the Bleak material we worked together on back in 1994.

D.R.:Is there any band or musicians you want to work with?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Not anymore. I’ve been at this along time now. I’m content with how thing are now in Lycia.

D.R.:Is there a band or an artist that you have been paying attention to and made and impact on your music recently?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia): There’s a number of current bands out there right now that I like. I hadn’t listened to new music for years. But then over the last few years I’ve heard a lot of very inspiring music. Chelsea Wolfe. Soft Kill. Drab Majesty. Troller. Black Mare. So many more. I firmly believe that what you like influences what you do, even if it isn’t intentional. I think that perhaps it’s flavored the new material that I’ve been working on.

D.R.:Besides Lycia, you have recorded with Bleak, Estraya and the solo projects of Tara Vanflower and Mike Vanportfleet. Is there a plan for new records on some of this projects?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Estraya and Bleak were reabsorbed back into Lycia years ago. Aspects of each have appeared in our recent work. There’s nothing imminent regarding solo releases for Tara and I.

D.R.:Which is the standard to publish something signed for the side projects?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Initially, I explored the noisier songs in Bleak and the stripped down acoustic pieces in Estraya. And I explored more ambient styles with my solo release. Now it all back in Lycia.

D.R.:Recently you have announced the release of a new record. What’s the inspiration for this new music and what can you tell us about this new record?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia): I was pretty much set on the idea that A Line That Connects was it for Lycia for a year plus after it was released. But that’s the way it’s been for me for quite some time now. An album gets completed, a break is needed, and then the desire returns. After Quiet Moments I felt the same way. Throughout the 2000s I felt like I had unfinished business with Lycia. I figured I’d never get back at it, so when I did, and I crossed off a few checkboxes, I felt satisfied, like I completed things that I thought would never be completed. After A Line That Connects it felt like things were finally complete for Lycia, and I was comfortable with the idea of maybe not doing anything for awhile, maybe forever. But after a bit of a recharge, maybe a year, the desire to create returned. I’m excited with what we are doing with In Flickers. We are definitely covering new territory, as well as visiting some long lost styles. It’s great working with John again and he’s fit in well with the flow of David, Tara and I. The songs with John are like a time capsule from 1989. It’s a unique album and it’s been satisfying assembling it. We have 9 of the 10 songs recorded and mixed. One more to go, and it’s a gem, a song David prepped for Cold back in 1996 but never submitted. I’ll add guitar and vocals so it’ll really be a tie in between now and then.

D.R.:Wich are you favorite Lycia albums and why?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia):Well, right now I feel very connected to this stage of Lycia’s career, so the last three really resonate with me. Because we’re in the final stages of recording I really feel connected to In Flickers. Even if I step back, I still am feeling that In Flickers may be my favorite. A Line That Connects and Quiet Moments also still feel connected and personal for me. As for older material, with Wake’s recent reissue, and the restoration of the original mixes, that’s something that I like. And then there’s Cold. If I had to pick something from our 90s output that’s the release that I would choose.

D.R.:And what’s the biggest legacy from your band to contemporary music?

Mike VanPortfleet (Lycia): I don’t know really. I’d like to think that something we have done has left at least a small mark, but I don’t know. I know we’ve been an influence on others bands, at least that’s what I’ve been told. Maybe our legacy is that. I guess time will tell.



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