Interview: Austin’s Ley Line Remind Us to “Slow Down” with a Dreamy, Uplifting Folk Song

Ley Line © 2020
Ley Line © 2020
A lilting kiss upon the cheek, Austin folk fusion group Ley Line invite us to find a moment for ourselves with their soothing new single “Slow Down” – a song and message we all desperately need right now.
Stream: “Slow Down” – Ley Line

At no other point in time has the entire world population needed this message as much as we need it now. Slow down: “Watch the rest of the world fall away.” Close your eyes and count to ten; take a breath, and let the air flow through you. Pause, exhale, open your eyes, and begin. A lilting kiss upon the cheek, Ley Line’s soothing new single “Slow Down” invites us to find a moment for ourselves. It’s the kind of song that can help us step outside our everyday lives, shake off whatever’s happening for us in the moment, and just be.

Slow Down - Ley Line
Slow Down – Ley Line
It’s not the poetry that
keeps me coming back for more

It’s the spaces between talking that I long for
The quiet gazing
That speaks volumes
The silent moments
We spent alone in your room
Between hotels and bus rides
Between the sunset and the moonrise
That’s where I long to stay
Watch the rest of the world
Fall away

A lilting, sweet tune with glistening harmonies, “Slow Down” arrived just last week as Ley Line’s first song release of 2020. Based in Austin, Texas, Ley Line are a world folk fusion group consisting of Kate Robberson, Emilie Basez, and twin sisters Madeleine and Lydia Froncek. Their debut album Field Notes arrived in 2016, and following various singles releases and tours over the past few years, their sophomore album We Saw Blue will release later this summer.

Though Kate Robberson wrote it some years ago, “Slow Down” resonates with an especially great weight during this present time. “It’s a reminder of how magical songwriting can be; that often the medicine we need to heal is in our own experience,” she tells Atwood Magazine.

Her bandmate Emilie Basez adds, “We hoped that the song would be an invitation to find pause, explore it, sit in it, even if it’s uncomfortable and confronting. It’s really about waking up to the offering of life in all of its madness and chaos.”

With four strong voices and a combined multitude of musical tastes and life experience, Ley Line never pen the same song twice. Every track is a unique plane, and in fact the group seldom record English-spoken songs. Compared to their 2019 releases “To the Sky” and “Oxum,” “Slow Down” sounds like (and it is) a completely new venture – and that’s exactly what makes this group so noteworthy.

“I think for all of us, music is our practice of constantly discovering and redefining our identities and our songs really reflect that,” Lydia Froncek muses. “… What does a Ley Line song feel like? Unified, rooted and honest.”

Ley Line © 2020
Ley Line © 2020

“Slow Down” is just the latest in a series of songs that promise to whisk us away. Like The Beatles’ acoustic work on 1968’s The White Album, it’s an experimental enchantment – unassuming, catchy, and a world unto itself. This new song offers a radiating burst of American-influenced folk, with beautiful vocal harmonies adding space and soulful depth atop the innocence and down-to-earth clarity of the ukulele.

Ley Line reach their emotional peak in a chorus aglow with tenderness and their charismatic sonic warmth:

And I can see the anger in your eyes
You’re mad at the world but not at life
So I’ll bate my breathe to keep your flames at bay
Watch the rest of the world fall away
And slow down, slow down
Slow down, slow down
Ah-um ba ba ba-ah…

In releasing this single, Ley Line included their own letter for those who listen: “Our world is changing so quickly. “Slow Down” is a message of positivity to the world,” They wrote. “One that encourages us to revel in the beauty of spring, to focus on loving ourselves, and to remember the natural cycles of life. “Slow down” was written as a mantra during the pursuit of love. A way to let go of expectations. A way to see things as they are instead of as you wished them to be. To allow the rhythm of spring to speed up the natural world while giving oneself time for stillness. By slowing down I allow myself to feel. Release from the past. A call to the present. All we truly have is the moment.

And maybe I’ll come back around
like the rest of it does

In the springtime
I’ll come back to where I started
like the rest of it does

In the springtime
So I’ll make you a deal.
I’ll trade you my stories for your sweet sweet rain

In the springtime
And watch them all just wash away
In the springtime
We make plans and we learn to change them
We stay still so we can move right on ahead
This may not be where
I’m supposed to stay, but hey…

It’s a nice place

We don’t need to be moving so fast, and for decades now the artists in our lives have been urging us to live our lives a little slower, more meaningfully, and in-the-moment. Whether or not you choose to stop and smell the roses is up to you, but Ley Line’s latest is without a doubt a stirring reminder that life is short, and that we should embrace every day. Dive in and “Slow Down” with Ley Line in our interview below!

It’s just got more of a southern folk sound to it, like I feel like I’m sitting in the hill country on a porch looking out at the old oak trees.

— —

:: stream/purchase Ley Line here ::
Stream: “Slow Down” – Ley Line


Atwood Magazine: What's particularly special about ''Slow Down'' the song, for you?

Kate: I think “Slow Down” has a very clear message and one that seems to be as relevant now as it was when I wrote it a few years ago. It’s a reminder of how magical songwriting can be; that often the medicine we need to heal is in our own experience.

One of the things that make Ley Line so exciting, for me, is that you are unafraid of experimentation. Your songs are all so different, distinctive, and complex in their own unique way; do you have any one vision of what a Ley Line song sounds like? How does that concept of self-identity work for you?

Lydia: I think for all of us music is our practice of constantly discovering and redefining our identities and our songs really reflect that. Every member of Ley Line brings her distinct influence and life experience to the table and when we create together we find a way to let each voice be heard. But the main thing is it has to feel good. We often hear from listeners that our songs are like mantras and to us they really are. They are messages we believe and want to share with others and I can honestly say I never get tired of playing them. Whether it’s a groove of the bass line or a driving rhythm, or a powerful harmony sung a capella, at the heart of each song is the intention behind it, the music is a vehicle to let that intention shine through. So maybe I’ll respond to your question with another question, what does a Ley Line song feel like? Unified, rooted and honest.

Why did you choose this as your first release of 2020?

Emilie: Well, with the changing times, we had to regroup and think creatively about how we would continue to release content. All of a sudden, April would no longer be the optimal time to release our sophomore album, “We Saw Blue”. As the changes and restrictions on gathering tightened, we couldn’t help but notice the relevance of “Slow Down” to the current situation we are experiencing. So, the song spoke for itself, clearly enough that Kate would find herself grinning in disbelief that she had written these lyrics some five years ago, but somehow they so perfectly spoke to this moment. We hoped that the song would be an invitation to find pause, explore it, sit in it, even if it’s uncomfortable and confronting. It’s really about waking up to the offering of life in all of its madness and chaos.

You call yourselves a ''folk fusion'' group -- what do those words mean exactly?

Emilie: Here’s a basic definition of “folk” music from Oxford: “Music that originates in traditional popular culture… typically of unknown authorship and transmitted orally from generation to generation.” We recognize what a privilege it has been to travel, to understand more about the world, see and hear it through our own eyes and ears. As a collective, we recognize music as the driving inspiration for how and why we move about the world. We are all individual songwriters and have been drawn to different folk music from around the world. We recognize how the sounds of the Appalachian range, southern soul and blues, Latin American protest songs, Brazilian ceremony, Senegalese grillos, Kenyan gospel, and so much more is infused into our spiritual experience of writing and composing music. It’s difficult to summarize, but the genre that seems to best capture all of that is what we like to call “World Folk Fusion”.

I love that! How, for you, does ''Slow Down'' differ from recent songs like ''Oxum'' and ''The Well”?

Emilie: This track kind of takes me back to the feel of Chave Do Mar, a duo that Kate and I (Emilie) started while backpacking through Brazil in 2012. It was very simple, just her and I with guitar and ukulele. But, of course, add the best bass and drums twin duo in existence and make it Ley Line. But, it has the feel of our earlier music with the experimentation and vocal proximity of Devendra Banhart and Karen Dalton or something. It’s an English song, so that’s a little unique in our repertoire. It’s just got more of a southern folk sound to it, like I feel like I’m sitting in the hill country on a porch looking out at the old oak trees.

To me, this track is particularly pop-friendly – a very lilting, sweet tune with a memorable chorus. How did this track come together for you?

Lydia: Kate wrote this song years before Ley Line formed as a reminder to slow down in moments where the world just seems to keep pushing onward. It’s very indicative of her songwriting style and influences with hints of the blues and an almost spoken word poetry woven into the melody. As we added three other voices to the song we began to play with a doo-wop feel with the harmonized chorus and the call and response of “in the springtime.” This song has always been an opportunity in our live performances to bring our the subtleties in our voices and instruments. We recorded it live in a church in order to preserve the simplicity and honesty of the song but had the chance to play with the depth of the sound in post-production. I think one of my favorite additions on this track was the Rhodes keyboard, it adds a sweetness and fullness to the final track.

This track really is quite positive. What would you say is its primary message, and what is it about that message of positivity that's important to you?

Kate: Thank you for seeing that! I believe the primary message is to trust in the process; the process of growth, of relationship, of letting go. We have a tendency to want resolution and immediate satisfaction without having the patience to be uncomfortable or present. I think by slowing down, we can begin to appreciate each step of the journey and the fullness of what life has to offer.

What's coming for the rest of 2020, and do you think there is another album in the works?

Ley Line: SO MUCH! With this current change in lifestyle, we’ve really had to get creative with how to share our content. Patreon has proven to be a really helpful way to keep gathering support and engage with fans. Before live music came to a screeching halt, we had planned to release our new album this month (in April) before taking off for our summer tours. However, with more time and quarantine on our side, we have a less rushed and stressful timeline. We’re recording new episodes for a recently launched podcast (available only on our Patreon site). We’re editing footage from our Brazilian tour in 2017 to release a Visual Album in September. We’re mixing and mastering every song on the album with tranquility and ease. And, when we begin to gather again, we will release our new album, “We Saw Blue”. Between all of that, we’re always dreaming big about our next international trip together to write our next next album!

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:: stream/purchase Ley Line here ::

— — — —

Slow Down - Ley Line

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