Lily: A Man, His Dog, and their Band

Written by on May 28, 2021

Nick Santos is the talented voice behind his up-and-coming project Lily, with music that’s been given as much love as the dog it shares a name with. Santos writes in to talk about his debut album Honesty Hour, the future of the scene, and what making music means to him.

RRX: Tell me a bit about your project. I understand you also play in Lemon of Choice, however, the focus of this band seems to be more focused on lyrics and a more atmospheric sound (from what I’ve heard, correct me if I’m wrong), is this an accurate interpretation?

NS: You’re definitely right about Lily being more focused on lyrics. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure my lyrics make sense and can convey certain thoughts or feelings. A lot of the lyrics are written from a pretty autobiographical standpoint and many of the songs are related to pretty strong feelings about things I tend to not discuss outside of the music. That being said, the music is pretty close to me and is a lot more serious compared to the Lemon material. Joe and Dan tend to focus more on the music then put some lyrics over them. It’s pretty interesting to hear you describe the music as atmospheric though. I certainly don’t think you’re wrong, especially looking back at how much background noise is featured on the album. I mean the first track off the album ends with like fifteen voice memos and audio pulled from videos from my phone all played at the same time. Plus, like half the songs have some sort of layered feedback tracks. When I wrote the songs though I guess it never was an intentional atmosphere created. Honestly, though, I’m still trying to figure out the sound of Lily. When I first began writing the album the songs were more based around trying to sound like Microwave. There’s also a lot of acoustic singer-songwriter influence on some songs. I’ve even heard some songs being described as twangy alt-country. I think the overall sound will figure itself out over time, and can always be subject to change. I guess the main goal of Lily for me right now is just to write genuine songs that people can relate to. If I don’t believe what I’m singing though I can’t really expect others to either.

RRX: How does it feel working in both contexts? What is the difference to you between working on a LoC song and a Lily song?

NS: Working in both contexts is a blast just because the projects are so different. There’s a lot less responsibility on my part when it comes to LoC. Dan and Joe write all the songs then bring them to Sam and me. Sometimes they write the bass part sometimes they don’t, but my whole job in that band is to just show up and play the bass. I don’t really handle any of the business or back-end of that band so as I said, definitely less responsibility. Lily on the other hand is the complete opposite. I write all the songs and bring them to the other three. I make all the artwork and handle all the back-end work and the other three get to just show up and play. I enjoy a lot of that extra stuff no one really talks about with bands. Even though I fronted groups in high school, I didn’t have a project like that until my third year of college. Having the low stakes part in LoC though made me take for granted a lot of the like social aspect. I remember driving to the first Lily show with Joe and about halfway there I was like “oh shit I have to like… talk to people and do the thing.”

RRX: Is the project name/project itself conceptual at all? I’m assuming Lily is the dog used in art and in a lot of your pictures.

NS: No, it’s not really conceptual. I wish there was more to it, but I just liked the name! Lily is the name of my dog, and she is used in the artwork and can be seen throughout a lot of our social media. I got her about three years ago and she’s just great. I wish I could get her little ear muffs so she could come chill at shows. Also, I just wanted to one-up the people that make Instagrams for their dogs… I made a whole band.

RRX: What are your plans for the future? I see you’ve been working on getting an album out which I’m excited to listen to, is there anything you’d like to share about that?

NS: Yeah! We are releasing our debut album Honesty Hour. It’s a mix of a lot of different sounds from singer-songwriter, to emo alt-rock, to almost alt-country? It was supposed to be released April 30th, but we’re having some distribution issues, and at this point, it’s anyone’s guess when it’ll be actually available on platforms. Best bet right now is to just follow along on social media (@lilybandny) and we’ll keep you updated. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to put a fun twist on the delay but haven’t come with anything yet. I’ve also been working on writing and demoing new material so be on the lookout for some of that in the coming months. Also, fingers crossed we can get back to live shows sometime in the future! I’ve got a lead on our first live audience show late this summer so stay tuned for that.

RRX: So many of the bands I’ve interviewed for this magazine have come to be through the Saint Rose music program, and yet I’ve heard the program is being shut down. Can you explain what is going on with that and what are your thoughts on this; how do you think it will impact the scene/community?

NS: So, this is a bit of a touchy subject I think but I’ll try to stay on track here. First, I’ll say the music industry program at St. Rose is not being shut down. It’s just the music ed and music performance programs. It’s incredibly unfortunate for many reasons. The first is there are incredible professors and mentors losing their jobs and having to relocate their entire families. There are several professors from those programs who made a big difference in my as well as probably every one of their students’ college careers. They gave a shit when others didn’t which is so important especially when you’re trying to learn subjects like music theory and ear training. To see them leaving is pretty upsetting but I know they’ll carry that same impact wherever they go. Also, growing up in a small town in Maine music education was not very prevalent, so watching the education program cut just makes me weary of the direction of young musicians. A lot of people, especially higher-ups in education take music ed for granted so those programs are usually the first to get cut and that sucks. It will be interesting to see how the industry program handles things being the only music program left at St. Rose. I know they have shifted theory and ear training to a more commercial approach which is kinda neat. As far as the scene and community, that’s a tough one. I think as far as the music goes, people are still going to play music. Like the industry program still exists and there’s a ton of great local bands that aren’t made up of music majors. Those two programs did show up and support a lot of the local scene though. Not having that extra group of people interested in music may somewhat affect the turnout at least for a little bit in the college DIY scene.

Check out Lily’s debut Honesty Hour when it drops and follow here:
Instagram: @lilybandny


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