In November 2007, unknown and unsigned four-piece east London band, Lahayna, entered the singles charts at number 33 with their compulsive indie tune, In the City. Considering Lahayna received no airplay, their fan base was confined to Essex and East London; this was a miracle. The media started to notice Lahayna. Further singles and a debut album seemed inevitable. Despite recording an album in 2008; until now, it was never released. Lahayna split up in 2009.
Whilst the band members (Matt, Chris (Churchy), J and Rory) had, with difficulty, left their Lahayna years behind them; their fans didn’t. With the tenth anniversary of the release of In the City, fans felt nostalgic; Lahayna agreed to release their vaulted self-titled debut album produced by Luke Buttery (Noel Gallagher, Mark Ronson). Fans continued support made Lahayna melancholy. Chris expressed, “(Lahayna) always felt incomplete having put so much of ourselves in but never letting people hear it.” Chris has also raised concern over the future of the small independent music venues they used to play (which are disappearing) including Lark in the Park which was demolished in 2014.
There is a great diversity of sounds and influences across the album’s ten tracks; just like Layayna themselves; with Matt having Guyanese heritage and Churchy being…, Church of England. Lahayna pretty much said goodbye to the indie sound found on In the City and what fans remember from their live gigs; instead of striving for a funkier sound fused with blues. The opener, Save My Soul, starts off with an up-tempo catchy salsa beat which fuses with a delta blues sound. The halfway point presents, House of Cards, the new single; where Matt addresses his demons. (All profits from this song are being donated to Papyrus UK (a charity preventing and raising awareness of suicide amongst young people). Influences from Red Hot Chilli Peppers Under the Bridge fused with a more sanguine interpretation of Shed Seven’s Chasing Rainbows can be felt. Jay’s soothing vocals create perfection. Set it Off is completely different, beginning with similar acoustic chords to The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes, before ascending with Stairway to Heaven guitar riffs; perfected with Les Paul guitar. Jay’s harmonies are mixed producing a Robin Gibb masterclass effect.
The Lahayna songs which tell the best stories include Butterfly Bomb. Originally conceived as a working title which stayed in Chris’s head since childhood from the stories his grandparents told him about growing up during the Blitz; “Matt and I worked on the lyrics as a fictional story and sent them back and forth for each of us to add more lines. This was a process that really worked for us. Once we had the lyrics, Matt then worked on the chord structure and I added the bass line before we took it to the other guys to add their parts. Our inspiration for the production was the energy and sound of Rolling Stones tracks such as ‘Brown Sugar’ and “Jumping Jack Flash.’
Similarly, when recording Passenger, Lahayna realised they needed gang-style backing vocals to complete the six and half minute masterpiece. “We decided to have a gang-style chant of “won’t be a passenger on my own ride” looped and layered to sound massive.” Lahayna went gangster in their pursuit of this sound. “We rounded up people in Victoria Park, which was next to the studio and took them back to record. They were all very confused – I’m not sure all of them actually knew what they were letting themselves in for!” Following the chant the groove kicks back in a few seconds before the end of the song, it continuously builds until reaching a brief crescendo before collapsing abruptly.
Playout track, In the City, the song which made Lahayna, began one day with Chris being dazzled by “the sun setting in perfect rays” over Walthamstow, east London; whilst driving. “Matt wrote the main melody on guitar and we worked on the structure as a band. It was a quick process. We wanted the production to be big and punchy whilst retaining the sound of the individual elements – vocals, guitar, bass and drums.” Despite In the City’s instant catchiness and addictiveness; it doesn’t compare to the other masterpieces on this album. Like many great bands, Lahayna will always be commercially known for work which is not considered by musicologists as their masterpieces.