Music and Self Care with Thanya Iyer
By Benjamin Wexler
Photo provided by Thanya Iyer
Thanya Iyer is a Montreal multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. We met over Zoom to talk about her 2020 sophomore album KIND, a soothing and experimental blend of styles new and old.
I'm going to start by asking you something that I have been struggling with while trying to write about your music. What type of music do you make?
Ooh, that’s a hard question for me to answer. It’s a product of all of my life’s influences and everything I've ever heard, loved, and listened to on repeat. There are so many things: I studied classical violin, but I grew up playing South Asian classical music, singing, and dancing. Montreal's South Indian community had lots of get-togethers and variety shows where my friends and I performed. I really love jazz, and got into it along with my collaborators around the album and my school friends. There’s the newer music I listen to as well, of course. I’ve listened to all the styles, and I feel that's what it is — a mesh of everything. Our bass player Pompey has said something like...future folk, or twinkle rock? We’re trying to invent new words for it.
How does the title KIND play into the music of your newest album?
It was Pompey who suggested we name it KIND. And having already written all of the song titles and concepts down, I realized we should. Because it's about humankind; the relationships that we have, the dimensions of humankind, being kind to yourself. It’s multidimensional for me.
Well, it’s certainly good to have that type of music to listen to right now. On the topic of self-care, you’re currently studying Music Therapy at Concordia. How much does your schoolwork inform your art and vice versa?
I'm interested in our minds, our journeys and the struggles that we face — that’s what leads me to music therapy and psychology. Music therapy came after the album, and it’s cool, because self care is embedded in the program. We have weekly journals where we have to say what we did for self care and how we might use it in a music therapy context. It helps me to look deeper into myself, and that’s always what I'm interested in when songwriting too!
You have the album Do You Dream from 2016, then a mixtape with the same title from 2018, and finally this latest album, KIND. What has changed sonically for you and the band between projects?
Do You Dream was very acoustic, but we were just starting to discover electronic instruments. I had gotten my first violin pedal. There was an upright and grand piano, as well as a keyboard, but we also explored some synths. That album is really the start of a shift into the electronic world. Daniel, our drummer, had recorded all of our jams, and a bunch of field recordings, and he made this 70-minute collage of the whole album. While we were touring in the States, we started replicating that live, and recorded it, and had some choir friends sing on it. That turned into our 2018 mixtape, a live recording of us trying to play a 20-minute collage. It came out very electronic. Coming back to this album is swinging the balance back to our acoustic sound, with horns and strings and all.
Do you plan to tour with it once you can?
I hope so! I do feel the void of not being able to connect live with people. We’ve been so lucky to meet lots of communities across North America. We got our first booking agent recently. They told us “we’re only going to book things once it's safe,” and I told them that’s perfect, because that's all I want to do too.
Are you working on new music?
Over the quarantine, I got into a routine of songwriting everyday, so we have lots of songs for the third album. And we might do a little EP in there — something more acoustic that we record with the third album. We love changing the songs up and we can never decide which version we like best. It would be nice to share the whole scope. I'm trying to figure out how to do it in a safe way. The quarantine can make you feel like you’re walking through mud, but it’s gonna happen.