This story was originally published on Feb. 5, 2014
Musicians are intimidating. They are talented, spontaneous, often very good-looking, and sometimes a little temperamental. Whether you’re a fan, a groupie, or a journalist (like me), it’s not unusual to get a funny feeling in your stomach when you’re about to talk to a musician because you never really know what you are going to get. Talking to Lydia for the first time was no exception.
The indie rock band from Arizona got together in 2003. They’ve released four studio albums, all with a strong fan following. They’ve played at the Vans Warped tour, Bamboozle and the Zumiez Couch Tour. One could say they’ve accomplished a lot in the last decade, but Lydia has also dealt with its fair share of drama. In 2010 they went on a year long hiatus due to creative differences between the two original band members, Leighton Antelman and Steve McGraw. If you look a their Wiki page it seems like they’ve had a revolving door of band members. A search in Google images will produce photos with six band members and others with three. It’s all a little confusing and — needless to say — I didn’t know which iteration of Lydia I was about to meet. But, since the band had just come off a successful tour with the Maine and Anberlin, I was interested in finding out what they had up their sleeves next.
Justin Camacho, the band’s guitarist, met us at the entrance to the Fonda Theater. He had a big goofy grin on his face and seemed full of excitement as he led us to the backstage area. We walked through a hallway crowded with other musicians and after a few minutes arrived at the band’s dressing room. Leighton and Matt Keller (one of the newer band members) greeted us with handshakes and offered up bottled waters. Each band member pops open a beer. I realized fairly quickly that this encounter was going to be more hangout than interview.
“How has it been, touring with Anberlin and getting to tour with The Maine again?” I ask while looking for a place to set down my microphone/phone.
“Great,” Leighton says as he helps pull out a stool to put the phone on.
“Yeah, it’s been awesome,” Justin says.
Matt gives a thumbs-up and then laughs. “I put my thumb up, but the phone can’t hear me put my thumb up. It’s been a really good time. We get to play to a whole bunch of new people every night. Anberlin are super cool guys. And The Maine- we’re all good friends with The Maine, so it’s good to hang out with those guys too. It’s been a good time.”
“The tour has been over for a month maybe, and this is just a make up show, of course. But the tour was great. It’s fun to see these guys randomly,” Justin says.
“It was like a reunion, a little bit,” Leighton concludes.
“Was there a specific show on tour that you remember that was just really awesome?” I ask.
Matt stops to think for a minute. “I remember Salt Lake City being a really good time.”
“We had a great time in Salt Lake. Santa Ana …at the Observatory. I don’t know if you guys were at that one- it was probably one of the biggest shows of the tour. It was crazy how many people were there, and it was very exciting,” Justin says.
“It gets hard to answer that, because you’re out there for a month and a half… And something like, the venue you played in Idaho, in your mind is the venue you played in Seattle, and everything gets confused. You never know where you are, or what day it is,” Matt adds.
“We love them all,” Justin says, not wanting to leave any shows out.
“There hasn’t been a terrible one, let’s put it that way,” Leighton says.
After a couple of introduction questions, we start talking about the infamous hiatus. In May of 2010 the band announced that their summer tour would be their last. The tour was titled “The Lydia Finale: A Goodbye & Farewell Tour.” Leighton reported in several interviews that him and original guitarist, Steve McGraw, just didn’t get along anymore. McGraw was scheduled to play with Lydia in the farewell tour, but backed out a week before the shows started. Lydia drummer, Craig Taylor eventually convinced Leighton to find new band members and continue releasing music under the Lydia name.
“When you guys went on your hiatus, there was some drama about why you guys broke up, especially with Steve. How are you guys now, do you have any kind of relationship at all?” I ask Leighton.
“Yeah, absolutely. Um, we just played a festival in Colorado- he lives in Colorado. So he comes out to all of our shows in Denver- that’s where he lives. So there’s no beef there.”
“He got me into the band,” Matt chimes in.
“He’s a good dude, it was just kind of wrong time and the wrong place for both of us. So we kind of had to part ways. We just wanted to do two different things. It wasn’t anything personal. It was just musical, I guess, I don’t know what you want to call it,” Leighton says.
“There was a fork in the road,” Matt says.
“Yeah. That’s really all it was, it wasn’t anything like, I punched him in the face, you know,” Leighton says with a laugh.
A punch in the face would have been more exciting from a storytelling perspective, but the break up was actually pretty tame according to the group.
“That would have been an awesome story,” I say.
“Yeah, that would have been a way better story for sure,” Leighton agrees.
“You should just start telling people that,” Matt says.
“Absolutely should. But no, we still talk, for sure. He’s a good guy. He’s crazy, but he’s a good guy.”
“He is crazy…” Matt says, his voice trailing off.