On August 24th, Los Angeles-based pop/rock duo LAYNE – comprised of Layne Putnam and Alexander Rosca – took the stage for a very intimate show at Riot Room in Kansas City. They had been touring the US to promote their upcoming The Black Hills EP, and doing it their own way. It was storming outside, with lightning gracing the window panes every once in a while, illuminating the musicians on stage. The dark and ominous tones which the weather set were pretty on par for the badassery that was being performed on stage.
Seriously, these guys killed it. Make it out to a show. You will not regret it.
But backstage was another story. When I got to the venue – soaking wet, might I add – I met Layne and the band’s incredible tour manager at the bar. They escorted me back to what I can only describe as “the hang out room,” a “backstage” of sorts for the small venue in the heart of Kansas City. There, Layne and Alex sat down in a worn out sofa – while I spread out on the concrete floor – to regale me with anecdotes, humor, and then a rad rock show.
Ready to sleep in your own beds?
Layne: We actually don’t mind it now.
Alex: Yeah, it’s comfy now. Anything that’s off the ground is pretty good for us.
If you could introduce yourselves to our readers in any way, how would you do so?
Layne: That’s really hard! Maybe ride wolves in or something?
Discussion of how Layne can actually ride a unicycle and juggle quite well commenced. She wanted us to keep that off the record, so we will mention it and move on.
Alex: I was thinking about maybe riding in on a horse.
Layne: Or a badass helicopter. On a segway?
Alex: Jump out of a helicopter onto the stage. I’d just ride a skateboard though. I don’t want to be like those people in LA.
Layne: I think we should go with riding in on wolves with a pack of wolves behind us. Like we’re pack leaders. We’d probably ride in to a YG song or something like that.
Alex: I think music that just gives you a lot of anxiety should be playing in the background. Like an intro sound.
Layne: Super scary and intimidating. Anxiety noise.
What is your first musical memory?
Layne: I was very little. There was some cajun tape. But maybe The Dixie Chicks when I was five? The first record I was into was Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by Blink-182. That was probably like, fourth grade and I was like, “This is my jam!”
Alex: Mine was New Kids on The Block, actually. My sisters were obsessed, so I was. Still am. Ish.
What’s your official origin story, by the way?
Layne: We met through someone we were working with at the time. I had moved from South Dakota to LA and I needed a drummer. I told this guy we were working with, and he told me I needed to meet this drummer from Portland. We met at a coffee shop and the chemistry was immediate. We were dressed the same, same taste in music… I turned on the music in my car and he got it. I was supposed to go on tour and he was all in.
Alex: It’s really that short and sweet. To find someone who gets what you get and is listening to your music… In my head I was like, “She’s got to be a fan of The 1975 and all the bands I’m currently listening to.” She asked me if I was a fan of all of these people and I was like, “Yeah.” The story speaks for itself when it comes to how similar we both are and the environments we both grew up in. I don’t think it’s random. I think it was meant to be.
Where do you draw the most inspiration right now?
Layne: I just draw from where my head’s at. I sing to myself and there’s a lot of self talk. Sometimes it’s sarcastic even, but I talk to myself a lot. And musically, I draw from pop and rock and feelings. I love architecture and we are both into forests and environments. Music is the same thing, you’re using materials to create an environment. I get really inspired by a guitar part or a drum pattern and I’ll build off of it. Phonetically, sometimes I don’t realize what I’m saying and I’ll say it and I can build off that as well. Two weeks later, I’ll listen and work off of that.
Alex: Recently, it’s been the noise in my head. I get very expressive now, and more so than ever before. As a kid I was always shy and in my head, and now I am expressing it. Slowly, the noises in my head are coming out for sure. Ever since I was 18, I have had to kind of do everything on my own because this is a big dream for me.
Layne: He had to work logically for a very long time. We taught each other to take bits of each other and run with it. We help each other out that way. I’m really emotional and expressive, I’m not afraid of my emotions. I think I had to nudge him to allow himself to feel it all. And he taught me a lot about structure too.
How has tour been? Any fun stories?
Layne: Last night was probably the weirdest shit. We went through the McDonald’s drive thru – Dirty Ron’s – and for some reason the lady was just being a super bitch at the window. So we [us and the crew] told her there is an organization that can help her, and we told her, “It’s okay to not be okay.” And then I put thirty almonds in my mouth and got out of the car and danced for people.
Alex: Some random clerk for our hotel was like, “You guys made my night” and it was 3 am. We were dead tired, and she didn’t believe that we were in a band. I had to tell her to look it up because she didn’t believe us. But we called the service desk to try and get ahold of her in the middle of the night. She didn’t pick up, but this guy Ron did. We tried a couple of times, but then they told us they knew we were looking for Esmerelda. So she might be the most sought after person there, but she followed me on social media. I think there was a mutual kind of thing there.
You’ll have to find her! So, the video for “Good”. What inspired it, and what was production like?
Layne: I wanted to work with this guy Ryan – he’s one of our buddies who works on MTV and does some other really great stuff – and we found a slight budget to do it. We’re trying to capture an esthetic and we like to leave things open-ended, especially with our budget. So I went and had drinks with him and shot out a bunch of ideas, and then we did two days of filming. It was easy, we caught the vibe. Walking into it, I thought it was going to be one thing and it ended up completely different but we love it.
Alex: Ryan kind of just let us do what we did and he did what he did and it ended up coming together.
Layne: Our manager got frustrated with us because things like that are normally more structured, but this was just like, “Cool, let’s shoot it.” It was very sporadic and it worked out.
Your EP is coming out this week, how does that feel?
Alex: Finally. It’s a good thing. We’re kind of passed it at this point, but it’s fun to put yourself in the headspace of the people who are going to be listening to it.
Layne: We just want people to get more familiar with us, and now they can be. Some of these songs I’ve been hearing and playing for over a year, so we’re kind of passed it. But it’s a good introduction to us.
If your music were a donut, what kind would it be and why?
Layne: Actually, have you been to Donut Friend in Silverlake? It’s a pop up donut shop down the street from where we live. They have donuts named after bands. They’re super sick donuts. My favorite donut there is a glazed one with peanut butter and jelly in the middle. But I think we would be a Samoa Girl Scout Cookie donut. I also love just a good, glazed donut.
Cats or dogs?
Layne & Alex: Dogs. 100% dogs.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Layne: I would say something about motivation and not stopping, but that has been inside my head my entire life. I collect things from different people, but I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that there is a freedom in knowing that we’re all going to die. Nothing is as big as you think that it is. In the grand scheme of everything that is, it’s not a big deal. So it gives you this freedom to not be afraid of fucking up or doing something wrong.
Alex: I think there are a lot of people who don’t work really hard in this industry, as well as in others. I think everyone works to an extent, but there are people out there really trying. We’ve been working so hard and I think it’s important for people to realize it takes work and then just remember to not take it for granted.
Layne: We have worked so hard and it means a helluva lot more when you’ve worked for your success and you fight for it.
Alex: It’s like Eminem. “You only get one shot.” Don’t fuck it up.
The Black Hills is out now. Keep up with everything LAYNE here.