Soyuz Spotlights // Tyler Lyle

In this Soyuz Spotlights we sat down with Tyler Lyle, lead singer of The Midnight and solo indie-folk musician. Through his work in these two distinct styles of music, his performances cover an eclectic range: His solo tracks feature a warm, golden smoothness a la Fruit Bats or The Head and the Heart, while The Midnight’s vocals can range from clean and pop-centric all the way to bit-crushed and vocoded — always ensconced in colorful waves of analog synthesizers that harken to the eighties. In this interview, Tyler tells us how he got his start in the industry, partnered up with Tim McEwan to found The Midnight, and how he uses the Soyuz 017 Tube in the studio.

Most of us know you from The Midnight, but I’ve heard you were doing some more folky-style songwriting before that. Could you tell us about that? 

My path was supposed to look different. I was an acoustic songwriter long before I ever picked up a synthesizer.  I “got my break” in 2010 when I won the Eddie’s Attic Shoot Out. I’m on a plaque with artists like Shawn Mullins, John Mayer, and Jennifer Nettles who won it years before me. I quickly signed a production deal and was writing with a couple of the Dixie Chicks in Texas. I only became interested in electronic music from a production standpoint after meeting Tim. 

So how did The Midnight come into being?

I was being courted for a publishing deal and was set up on a co-write in Los Angeles with Tim in 2012. The Los Angeles co-writing world is basically speed dating for artists, songwriters and producers (I was the songwriter/artist and Tim was the producer). The publishing deal fell through, but the co-write was a success! Tim and I come from other ends of the creative (and actual) world, but in the small sliver of commonality, we realized that we really enjoyed creating music together.

Are there any differences you’ve noticed in writing vocals for The Midnight compared to some of the folkier music? Anything you like more or less comparatively?

This sounds strange to say, but there’s a lovely discussion of the poets Ezra Pound and Walt Whitman in the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde, and around this time I was trying to break out of narrative pop/americana songwriting. I thought it might be more fun to describe scenes where these stories are happening- show rather than tell, and it just so happened to coincide with our co-write. “Sun in my eyes on the Gold Coast shining and the girl with the braids in her hair” was the first line I wrote over Tim’s track that became “WeMoveForeward.” Blending the mythic with ephemeral images rather than just telling a story, felt like a step into a new world.

One of the things I love about your guys’ music is that so many of the songs paint a vivid scene in my mind. For example, you can’t listen to a song like Nighthawks without imagining yourself staring out the window of a sky rise into a sleeping New York City. Do you come up with a theme of sorts for songs or albums or is everything just kind of winged?

I had just moved from LA into a high rise in downtown Brooklyn and the gym was on the top floor with a wall of windows on all sides. There was a building across the street where a large unclothed man was frequently just staring out his window a few floors above me with his gaze fixed toward our gym. I saw him a lot. I think I waved from my treadmill once, but he didn’t wave back, so I wrote a song imagining this scene in Nighthawks from a slightly different vantage.

Speaking of the songwriting, you and Tim have been collaborating remotely long before it was the norm. Can you walk us through your typical process for creating a song or album? 

Tim is our quality control. He spends an immense amount of time trying to get one song right. I’m the opposite. I’m process oriented- always kicking around a bunch of ideas. When he has the bones of a few tracks together, I try and use my songwriting notebook to try and get some traction. Once we get a few ideas that click, we then start to spend more time in the same room. The world of The Midnight really comes together in this second editing phase and despite our best attempts, we still prefer to be in the same physical place to make the idea become real.

Can you tell us a little about your own studio?

It’s a beautiful little loft a few blocks from my house. Initially I had my personal studio in the basement, but during the pandemic, with my wife and son at home during the workday, I learned how paper thin the walls and floors really were. I needed a real studio for the first time in my career. It is basically a concrete box with massive old windows, so I had to invest in a lot of sound treatment, but it’s a really peaceful place to make music and store all my synths and I’m very grateful for it. It is primarily suited for recording vocals, guitar and keys/synths. No room for drums sadly.

What led you to the 017 Tube? Have we heard it on any recent records? 

I first purchased the 017 FET from my Sweetwater rep Randy Poteete when we released Monsters, and it was so excellent. It had a tight crispness. It was so transparent. Then, I went to a studio owned by my friend Dan from GroupLove and he had the 017 Tube. His vocals sounded so good. I decided that the next bit of cash I could get, I’d upgrade my mic setup. I finally did right after purchasing the studio loft. Heroes and Horror Show are almost exclusively recorded on the 017 Tube. I love this mic.

Where can we keep up to date with all of your goings-on? for my folk songwriter stuff and for The Midnight. Grab your tickets for the US tour this fall!

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