Born from chaos and upheaval, Dana Why’s unapologetically intense debut album ‘The Lyre’ blends alt-rock, pop punk, and power pop influences into a cinematic, cathartic, and endlessly alluring soundtrack to our very own raw reckoning.
for fans of My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Fall Out Boy
Stream: “Jersey Devil” – Dana Why
‘The Lyre’ is as much of a breakup album about a person as it is about a place.
Dana Why’s debut album is more than an introduction: It’s an era.
And like any good era, this one is turbulent – full of drama, passion, feverish emotion, a bit of chaos, and raw fervor.
“My fiancé had broken our engagement,” the artist begins. “I had lost my job. I was utterly unmotivated regarding anything except getting high and cranking out an obscene amount of demos… It turned out to be the most artistically prolific time in my life.”
The scene is set for a cataclysmic experience, and The Lyre delivers in spades. Created over a seven year span, Dana Why’s hard-hitting debut album blends alt-rock, pop punk, and power pop together in a cinematic, churning soundtrack to turmoil and raw reckoning. Life will throw daggers at you; sometimes they’ll miss, but sometimes they’ll hit. This is music not just for navigating the highs and lows, but for persevering through them.
Help, I’m awake!
I’m alive but I’m fake
This is not my walk
Nor my sh*t-talk
I’ve got wit, I’ve got charm
I’ve got torn t-shirt arms
You used to love me
But now I’m nothing
And that’s something I can’t be
Help, I’ve had dreams
Of a repeating scene
From behind a glass wall
Hit too hard to be hoax
Felt its force stone-cold sober
One night in the kitchen
So close I could touch it
But instead I went to sleep
When I’m high, I’m fire
When I’m not, I’m f-ing toilet water
Spilt from some pissed-in pot
In a hot dive, Asbury Park
Where the hopeless make home after dark
– “Jersey Devil,” Dana Why
Released January 20, 2023 via Mint 400 Records, The Lyre is the long-awaited debut album and a resounding triumph from Dana Why, the moniker for Asbury Park, New Jersey-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Dana Yurcisin. Previously performing under the name Static Sex, through which he released four albums and two EPs over a ten-year span, Yurcisin’s new project is intentionally closer to home: A more personal artistry for more personal (but no less explosive) songs. So while this may be Dana Why’s debut, the record looks and feels like the work of a seasoned professional, because it is the work of a seasoned professional – one who poured much of his own blood, sweat, and tears into making these fifteen songs.
“It’s difficult to explain without feeling the need to ramble for forty paragraphs, but I’ll try my best,” Yurcisin says of the story behind The Lyre.
“If you really need to boil it down to its raw materials, The Lyre came about in the wake of a broken engagement, a loss of my job, and subsequent move home from Maine to New Jersey, and the start and end of the following relationship. It was just a very emotionally intense period of my life, big dramatic shifts with little time to recover between them. They compiled to the point where I was questioning everything and inspired by nothing. Luckily weed exists, and my close friend Ryan Harris and I just secured a rehearsal space at Grime Studios in Portland, Maine, and we were just hyped on this newfound ability to make noise at any hour of the day we wanted. It was the “guy gets high and plays with delay pedal/looper” joke, but with intention. We were coming up with a lot of really cool ideas in this short amount of time, and I was recording all of our jams into voice memos, so eventually I just went about organizing them into structured songs and we started recording guitars in that very 8’ by 10’ rehearsal space in February of 2016. I’ll never forget those days.”
“I think our only real goal with The Lyre was to be as creative as we could using only guitars and effects pedals. To really build a vast sonic world, without having to play a million instruments, just finding as many different sounds as we could with the one we knew. There were some sonic touch-points going in, as there always is whenever you start a record. Bruce, The Wrens, Archers of Loaf and Pile are a few I can think of off the top of my head.”
“Since this record took seven years to make, I not only changed drastically as a person over this time, but my music taste evolved as well. In around 2018 I started listening to more electronic, experimental pop and hip hop, genres I dug before but never really dug into. This time, I was actively digging. I got way more into production, too. Before, I had just kind of mixed my own material and had fun with it. But with this record, I wanted to actually learn my craft instead of just creatively getting by. Since COVID, I can’t even tell you how many YouTube tutorials on mixing I’ve watched. I also took a mixing class with Pat Noon at my local community college. Between the two, I had a much better handle on how to achieve my sonic goals with more clarity and punch. So, years after these songs were written, I’m going back and, say, adding a beat inspired by Porches to a song, or starting a mix over on another song from the ground up, so I could put my new mixing knowledge into action. The time it took to make this record had a significant effect on how it ultimately sounded. The present me and past me were in constant communication with one another.”
The Lyre succeeds in capturing and bringing to life Yurcisin’s upheaval – the revolution going on within him, and the one happening all around him.
He holds nothing back in creating seductive, soul-stirring songs rife with urgency and electric energy, all the while balancing the hotheads with cooler slow-burners and emo ballads that simmer violently as his world boils over. No one song “best” speaks to the overall, hour-plus experience we undergo in listening to The Lyre, but such is the case with all the best records.
“I honestly think I work best in album format,” Yurcisin reflects. “I still feel good about my ability to write a good single, but singles don’t typically let you build entire worlds, or utilize transitions and movements and sequencing in the way you can with albums. And those are the things I think I’m good at. The larger vision. How pieces fit and play off one another. My first love was filmmaking, but that shit’s too expensive, so I sort of treat records like movies. They have to have an emotional flow to them, with crescendos and climaxes and quiet moments that move you equally. The Lyre is the first time in my solo career that I’ve felt fully in control of my abilities to achieve these movements and present them in a sonically palatable way.”
Of the album’s title, he shares, “There’s a bird native to Australia called the Lyrebird, known for being able to mimic both natural and unnatural sounds, which I immediately thought was so cool. Couldn’t even tell you how I came across it. I initially pitched The Lyre to be the name of the network our daily satirical news show would air on, for the job I was working at the time in Portland. Thematically I thought it worked, since we were parroting the news but with our own spin on it. It was turned down, so I pocketed it. By the time we started the record, I realized the name still kind of fit what Ryan and I were doing. We were using our guitars to try to sound like as many different instruments as we could. It just worked, while also kinda sounding mysterious, which I’m all about.”
Highlights abound throughout The Lyre as Yurcisin basks in his own extremes.
The hypnotic two-minute long “Glitter” not only sets a scene with heated vocals and glistening guitars, but it also transitions fluidly into the volatile, visceral “Western Cemetery,” a raw reeling that dives deep into the psyche while yearning for emotional equilibrium: “I’m so drunk I taste my tongue,” he sings softly at the start. “Whatever, I’ll own my sins and make sure they are many.” Fierce overdrive, pounding drums, and his own escalated tone intensify the song to the point where he’s declaring, “I just wanna feel right!” and later on lamenting how “reality showed teeth.” He wears his heart unapologetically on his sleeve in this brutally honest eruption of self – and this is just track two.
To white of winter from fire of fall
And I’m found making friends with four tall walls
That beam me dreams of the sun and sea
In each night bathed black where no one sees me
So I’ll do what I do with all problems and replay a scene
From each scenario other than the one I’m living
Send you an album and expect everything to be
The way it was back in high school
But reality showed teeth
Ain’t no spite in your leaving, but it still felt like hearing
“I want to care but your problems mean f— all to me”
– “Western Cemetery,” Dana Why
“These songs are like my children, so picking clear favorites is extremely difficult,” the artist states on the topic of his own personal highlights. “Gun to my head though, I’m picking ‘Mt Misery,’ ‘Brackett Boy,’ and ‘Jersey Devil.’ I think they’re the best representations of the three different intensities I work within (since I usually skip “calm”). If I only have 15 minutes to win someone over, I feel pretty good about the ground these cover. They all reach climaxes (sorry) because I have a difficult time not doing that with my songs, but they all start in very different places, so the journeys are unique.”
Favorite songs may be a tough call, but Yurcisin has no problem – or at least, less of a problem – highlighting his favorite lyrics. “I’m typically very hard on myself with lyrics, and have to rewrite a lot to get things I think feel authentic without being clunky. I also think a lot of my lyrics depend on the ones before and after them to work best, and maybe don’t stand so strong in isolation. Some, though, just hit me very naturally, and I’m really proud of in their ability to stand on their own. I don’t know if they’re the best lyrics, but they feel good to sing.”
I stared into the abyss
But the abyss wouldn’t look up from its phone
What if I try
To build you a shrine
And it never quite
Feels like the first time
Would you let it loose
To die in the pines?
– “Mt. Misery“
If you can’t laugh at yourself
Everyone else will
Even pain can feel good
When it has some room to spread out
– “Hand Sanitizer“
The abyss is your canvas
And what’s waiting is your making, creator
– “Heaven Is A Highway: Black Coffee“
The Lyre is the unapologetically intense, unrelenting, and explosive cathartic release we’ve been waiting for.
Dana Why thrives in turbulence, and while we would never wish on anyone the experiences he endured that ultimately inspired this album, Yurcisin turned his darkest moments into stunning sonic rays of beauty, and raw passion. Each of The Lyre‘s songs aches with both musical warmth and a searing emotional scar, but whether you’re drawn to the heavier, seething post-hardcore surges of “Night, Be Kind” and “Hand Sanitizer,” the anthemic outcries of “Jersey Devil” and “Karla Sells Hexes,” or the more tender tirades of “Mt. Misery” and “Brackett Boy,” there’s no denying the absolute allure of Dana Why’s art and artistry.
“The cool thing is, the album came out today as of writing this, so I don’t have to hope [or wonder what listeners are taking away from the music],” Yurcisin says. “I know what they’re taking away, and it’s been incredibly humbling. People sharing their favorite songs, sections or lyrics, and them all being different. Having emotional reactions, crying at certain parts. Listening to it as a whole and not just disparate parts, which is how I nervously assume most people listen to music given the evolution of the industry.”
“It’s just been so gratifying, since the reason I’m doing it in the first place is because of albums that made *me* feel that way. Albums that demanded intentional listening, and rewarded you with tons of special moments and details. It’s what inspires me and what I hope to inspire in others. That, and to hopefully let others know they are not alone, in their grief, in their depression, in their confusion. Overnight fame? Sure, would love that. One day. But for now, just those close to me and in the Asbury Park scene connecting with it on such a deep level, that’s a gigantic win.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Dana Why’s The Lyre with Atwood Magazine as Yurcisin goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!
Stream: ‘The Lyre’ – Dana Why
:: Inside The Lyre ::
The scene setter. The relationships have ended. I’m leaving the place I made home and deeply wanted to remain. It’s all cracked open and it’s time again to pick up the pieces and figure out what the future looks like. Sonically, this is a hat tip to how my favorite Archers of Loaf record, All The Nation’s Airports, starts. I love how a bunch of knotty guitars come in at once and wanted to do my own version of that. They took things in a heavier and more aggressive direction, I went pretty.
Blatant Weezer worship. I could never make a full album like this because it’d be too obvious, but as one of my formative influences, the desire to just lean into it occasionally wins out.
The Western Cemetery in Portland, Maine is where me and my good friend Ryan Harris (who also played guitar on the record) would go for our nightly “weed walks.” Pretty self-explanatory, but we’d roll a blunt and walk around for an hour or so, decompressing and shooting the shit. It was our therapy at a time we couldn’t afford the real thing. It sounds hyperbolic, but these walks kept me alive.
Route 9 After 9
A song about how incredibly unremarkable the town I grew up in is, from the perspective of someone who thought they had already left for good. Moving back into my parents’ house to start over after losing my job in Maine was just the cherry on top after the dissolution of two very important relationships, back to back. So I channeled that energy into a song, which also became a meta commentary on writing songs to help process emotional trauma while also feeling like no one’s going to listen to it. Fighting fights that feel pointless. Writing because you have to, but also hurting from feeling that all that work is just floating into space the minute it’s released.
Night, Be Kind
Ryan and I went out one night for dinner in Portland. We finished around 10:30pm, and on the walk back ran into a shirtless man, bleeding profusely from his head, very visibly fucked up on something. He kept insisting “it’s cool, man” as he approached us, and we kept telling him to keep his space. He got between us, so Ryan and I started avoiding this guy in separate directions, and as I’m doing that, I notice a shadowy figure from the alleyway next to me sprinting at me. Like Tom Cruise style, full blown sprinting. Took a few seconds for my brain to adjust, but he kept getting closer, so I just bolted and ran down the street for a few blocks. I never saw either of those men again. It was beyond surreal. This song is about that, and imagining an alternate reality where that was my end, and how maybe that wouldn’t have been the worst thing.
A song about driving at night. Being too tired, on automatic, having visions. Being in your feelings so deeply that the way the outside air smells alone could send you into a crying fit. Getting home without remembering the trip. All of this mixed with the exciting, yet terrifying feeling of exploring things with someone new. The odds of repeating yourself — giving it your all only to have it crumble — feeling insurmountable, but being unable to do anything else.
Life In Between
This is about the purgatory you find yourself in after an important relationship ends. The things you love no longer bringing you any joy. Going to work and completely phoning it in. Smiling for family members and friends so you don’t have to have any upsetting conversations. Just waiting for time to pass so you can make it to the next day, ever so slightly further from the wreckage.
The winters in Maine can be beyond brutal. Compounded with that, to be indescribably lonely, actively trying to meet people while you can’t walk anywhere outside without looking down to shield from the whipping winds and everyone’s hunkered down indoors, it’s a depressing place to be. Brackett Boy is about going to the darkest extremes just to be noticed, while also containing some of the most triumphant sounding music on the record. The instrumental sounds like winning, while the lyrics are about what was sacrificed to get there.
This song was inspired by a man I used to work for. He was kind of the archetype of the religious man who uses his Christianity as a shield for all his horrible opinions & beliefs. I remember this one time walking in NYC with him, and him and his wife urged me to cross the street when they saw two Black men walking toward us. It was surreal, I felt like I was talking to someone out of the 1950s. But it’s just my whiteness that allows me to occasionally forget that this is very much our current reality.
Sonically, I went for an aggressive shoegaze blast to match the fury of the lyrics. Sort of like a mashup of Sparklehorse’s more heavy material and Deafheaven.
I wanted to make a song as simultaneously heavy and melodic as something off of Pile’s 2012 record “dripping,” and this was my best attempt. It’s about anger, mostly at feeling out of control of your own life, and how it can turn you into someone else entirely. It bulldozes directly through all of your best qualities. It’s about the urge to regain that sense of self, to not let the anger calcify permanently.
Hand Sanitizer is about trying to recognize your blessings while you have them, and not always waiting until after they’re gone. It’s also about completely failing to do so, and the regrets of not sharing what you feel with someone you care about until it’s too late. It’s very Nirvana/Pixies in composition with the quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamic.
Karla Sells Hexes
It’s a requirement of mine to fit at least one Dark Souls reference in per album. This one was written after getting fired from my third or fourth job in a row by an insufferable, self-serving boss and feeling trapped in a career loop. Like I’m just going to go through the entire application and interview process every two to three years and get fired each time for no good reason until I die, aren’t I? I’m really good at what I do (my day job is as a filmmaker/video editor), so to feel like my talent meant nothing and I’d just get discarded over and over again was a pill too tough to swallow. Karla is very much a “fuck it, let’s party!” song in the face of a Sisyphean struggle.
Heaven Is A Highway | Black Coffee
Another song about long, nighttime drives. Having driven back and forth between Maine and New Jersey probably over a hundred times in just a few years, there were plenty of these. I do my best thinking on long drives, where I don’t listen to any music at all. I get super introspective. Heaven explores that idea that, when you feel like you’ve lost everything that defined your life, if you try to look at it glass half-full, it’s like having a blank canvas to make of it whatever you want. Much time had to pass for me to even entertain this positive spin on things, but I got there eventually. Again sonically referencing All The Nation’s Airports, I love how Attack of the Killer Bees uses guitar feedback to transition into Rental Sting, so I did that into Black Coffee, which is about having something to look forward to at the end of these drives.
Speaking of doing my best thinking on long drives, Outside’s lyrics were written entirely during a drive from Jersey to Maine. I almost never write lyrics in their final form in one go. I revise my shit like crazy before I feel good about it, but this one came out naturally, fully formed. It’s about the healing power of love, of wanting to be better for both yourself and someone else. It’s also about how being temporarily happy can trick you into thinking you’re improving when you’re the same person you’ve always been.
This one is kind of self explanatory, but I don’t mind driving the point home. You really can’t move on until you put the past to rest. You need to give yourself time to heal before you jump into something new. The time to self-reflect and see things from a distance is incredibly important for growth. You can’t accurately assess something you’re still in the midst of. Time and distance is key. It’s also the metaphorical “going back outside” after the harsh, insular winter of the rest of the record that Brackett Boy alludes to. To me this is the emotional climax of the record, of fighting through the impossible to feel the warmth of the sun on your arms again.
Broke & In Love
This is the first instrumental track I’ve made since my first record in 2010. I am typically very opposed to leaving a song instrumental, but having struggled forever to figure out vocal melodies and subject matter, and realizing that Over It pretty much accomplished everything I wanted to say to wrap this record, it felt right to just let this be a sort of palette cleanser. A few minutes to reflect on all that came before it, while also providing a positive, emotional resolution to what is otherwise a very dark record.
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📸 © courtesy of the artist
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