From the name of their debut album, Spanish Disco, you’d be pardoned for assuming that Leyya either were producing music primarily aimed at getting club-goers on the floor or that they were from Madrid. And while the songs of duo Sophie Lindinger and Marco Kleebauer may often be infused with groove-ready beats, there’s a complexity and steely depth to the Austrian duo’s music. Their experimental, electronic pop shimmers and flares, the two musicians pushing and pulling at the subtle alchemy of their creations. Lindinger and Kleebauer grew up in the same small town, making their own music, until eventually their orbits spun close enough for them to generate the haunting beauty of Leyya. The duo continue to gain exposure across the European festival scene, and that should only continue to grow with a spot at the New York Edition of German festival Reeperbahn; after boldly emerging from the relatively unheralded music scene of their home country, the Austrian duo will surely make a splash in America with their dynamic, propulsive electropop.
So, could you give us a little peek into your background in Austria, more specifically Vienna, and how you both got into music?
In our village, we had a small music school that we both attended, but instead of joining traditional marching bands, which was common in our village, we formed a rock band together when we were around 12 and 13 years old. We continued making music together on our own until we moved to Vienna, where we started the project Leyya. I think Vienna is the only city in Austria with an actual musical infrastructure — enough people to work with and to collaborate with. It did inspire our sound over the years, as our village did when we were younger.
Do you feel you represent the sound of Vienna somewhat when you travel the world? Can you describe the local music scene there?
Vienna has a huge range of music: pop, electronic, experimental, classic, schlager, etc. However, the most popular ones at the moment are with German or Austrian lyrics, a little bit of Austrian folk music influence. We don’t really fit in there, but we never wanted to make music that is associated with a certain location anyway. It doesn’t matter where we come from and where we live as long as the music is good.
It’s easy to think that your music relies heavily on contrasts and juxtapositions. But do you see the soft pop and heavier elements as more fluid partners rather than opposites?
We never decided to play with opposites; it just happened intuitively. When we started Leyya, Marco was heavily into experimental electronic music, and I moved in the genre of singer-songwriter. After we merged these two, we found ourselves making that kind of music and we liked it. I still think that it is boring to try to make everything as smooth as possible, especially when it comes to pop music. It’s really important to develop a unique sound aesthetic by experimenting with sounds and structures.
How does your creative process benefit from your long history of working together and collaborating as such an intimate, two-person unit? How do you develop new ideas and communicate them?
What really matters and what I appreciate the most is that we can tell each other our honest opinions and are open to any idea the other one has, even when it is something one would have never thought of or wanted to try. The best songs develop through a “stupid” idea we somehow made into a sound.
Do each of you bring different things to your music, or do you come from more of a shared perspective?
When we were younger, we listened to completely different kinds of music, so when we started to make music together, we wanted to combine that. Now we have come to a point where we discover different genres and styles of music together. We always want to keep our “old” approach, which is why we try to always start a song differently to spice up the process and never make anything like we did before. The only thing that stays the same is me writing the lyrics and Marco doing the final mixing.
I know you two are both from the same relatively small town in Austria. What has it been like to grow to a point where you’re able to perform at major international festivals like Reeperbahn?
We have always worked hard on our music without really having a goal; we just wanted to make music, nothing else. It came one step at a time. We have visited many cities and played festivals we have never been to before, like Reeperbahn Festival, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Primavera in Barcelona, and Iceland Airwaves. It is an honour to be invited to so many different countries just because of our music.
You’re also playing the American showcase for the festival. Have you experienced major differences between European music scenes and the American field?
There are so many good musicians in Europe that I can only imagine how hard it is to pop out in America. Unfortunately, a lot of European people judge a band on where they come from without even hearing the music, and Austria has not had a very good reputation in that field for the last decade, until now. In America, however, people don’t really care about your origin.