Alt-rock singer-songwriter DYLYN really knows how to paint a picture — especially when it’s a self-portrait.
Now based in Vancouver, British Columbia, after spending most of her life in the Toronto area, DYLYN (born Gwendolyn Lewis, then the pop artist formerly known as Guinevere), first introduced herself to PopMatters readers in August 2020 with a raging, horror-themed music video for her song “Find Myself”. The single also landed on a couple of EPs as she joined a prestigious roster of artists with Nettwerk Records.
After experiencing firsthand the cruel effects of COVID-19, unable to visit a beloved family member until her dying days while also seeing folks among her touring team suffer during the pandemic, DYLYN took some time to get back on the musical track. Now her voice and vibrant soundscapes are better than ever. Composed of rich textures, soft shades, and a hard-as-nails attitude, those works of art are on display for everyone to appreciate.
Yet an underlying vulnerability also exists, perhaps best expressed so gorgeously on the title track of her new EP, Bring on the Blues, which will be released Friday (29 April). DYLYN not only presents an exclusive premiere of the song today at PopMatters but also shares the accompanying music video that takes a close look at herself as she adds director to one formidable list of creative credits.
Though the “blues” can be interpreted in many ways, DYLYN recently revealed in a quote through her record label that she felt “a release of unwanted pain” caused by the pandemic.
“I think there’s some truth in how the pandemic gave people a chance to slow down and look within,” DYLYN offers in an email interview for this article. “It was and is a difficult time for everyone; you really start to look at your values and what is important to you. The song came from a place of releasing pain, and that in itself is beautiful. It’s OK to have days when you’re not feeling your best, it’s all part of the magic in your story. I’ve evolved and learned from some of the hardest times in my life, and I’m grateful for those lessons.”
Check out the music video/single premiere now, then continue reading to learn more about DYLYN’s splendid six-track EP, her career progression, and how she overcame the struggles of a rough couple of years to continue producing exquisite examples of colorful, poetic pieces through artful lyrics and memorable melodies.
True “Blues” Crew
For the music video, DYLYN joined forces with first-time co-director Jessica Di Loreto and previous collaborators Boden Jett and Ryan Guldemond, the captain of Vancouver’s Mother Mother ship who shared production credits with Parker Bossley on Bring On the Blues. Guldemond also served as co-producer and co-writer on a couple of her previous EPs. All three were cinematographers for the video project, with shooting that began as early as last summer. They were “catching golden hour and playing with the light,” while also capturing DYLYN on VHS and digital cameras.
“Boden likes to always keep the camera rolling,” DYLYN notes. “He followed me on a day at the beach, in a field — intimately connected to Mother Nature.”
Working with Di Loreto was almost like a school reunion since the two have known each other after meeting through mutual friends as youngsters and “have always wanted to work together creatively,” DYLYN says. “I’m so excited for her debut as a director, she is an incredible force 🙂 We started brainstorming on the floor of my living room. Hand-drawn storyboards and a bottle of wine — we are almost always on the same page creatively, and joke about being a couple of old souls.”
Besides their musical collaborations, DYLYN and Guldemond also share a common interest in photography and other creative projects. Since “he is so deeply involved on the musical side of things,” it was a “no-brainer” to bring him aboard “in terms of understanding my vision,” she points out before heaping more praise on her triumphant triumvirate. “… The intimacy, natural connection, and overlay really came together in a magical way. Blessed to be surrounded by such creative people!”
With “Bring on the Blues” becoming the third video from the EP to be launched (“Hurt” and “Liar” were previously released singles), DYLYN hopes viewers will experience “a feeling of nostalgia and sadness that lives. … Little vignettes of darkness, intimacy, and emotion. I hope people reflect on their own worlds and a little contemplation and celebration happens.”
Coloring her ever-changing world by adopting the single, all-caps stage name in 2016 left Guinevere to vanish as a persona of the past. In the process of transforming her sound and personality with 2018’s poppier, ’80s-era rock on Sauvignon and a Kimono, DYLYN’s independent debut EP, she felt more at home with heavier, edgier “bangers” that allowed this raucous and raw metal devotee to “turn the dial to 11″.
From Horror to Horrible
Along the way, a frenetic mix of tumultuous ups and downs continued for the hands-on multi-hyphenate. The PopMatters premiere on 6 August 2020 of “Find Myself” — her take on self-discovery that she co-wrote with Guldemond — was a warm way to make outsiders feel the heat. Not only the star of that scary-good video, DYLYN also designed and built sets, created storyboards, and made monster masks that showed off the dark side of this fright fan.
Yet, most of 2020 was truly terrifying. “Not being able to tour for two years was disheartening but it did not compare to what the world was going through,” DYLYN reflects. “I lost my grandmother during the pandemic and was unable to see her at the hospital. We were fortunate enough to see her in her final days outside, but it was a powerful moment — time and health are so precious. Your perspective changes when something like this happens to the world.”
Despite getting vaccinated and being “super cautious”, DYLYN reveals that “unfortunately everyone got COVID on tour” but they were “extremely lucky to recover with no long-term side effects. Well-being should be taken very seriously — including those around you.”
At least she finally was able to get back on the road again this January and February, enjoying some “dream” dates as a special guest for Mother Mother (with Guldemond on lead vocals and guitar). “It was the first time I was able to play songs from the last EP [2021’s Make It Naked], as well as testing the waters with all the new material. The crowd was so loving and open to listening. … I am a tour warrior at heart, I absolutely love the road,” proclaims DYLYN, who hopes to perform live again before the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, as more victims around the world continue to rebound physically, the mental anguish still lingers for survivors who suffered one way or another during the coronavirus outbreak. For them, the years prior to 2020 must sometime seem like a distant memory.
Remembering those pre-pandemic times, DYLYN takes a contemplative stance. “The human connection has definitely shifted; there is a weariness that is still felt in the air,” she conveys. “Looking at people with masks and not seeing a full facial expression created a big disconnect. It is so nice to smile at a stranger. It’s wild what you take for granted.”
Pursuit of Happiness
DYLYN still managed to turn a dire situation into a projection of positivity and productivity for herself, beginning in November 2020, when “I decided to pack my car and drive to Vancouver,” she states. “Between the incredible group of collaborators and the views — it felt like the right decision. I thought it would be about six months, but I’m still here and love living here. This is the first time I really felt like I could dig into a proper vision for a large body of work.”
Content residing in Vancouver, where the EP was produced (with some recordings done at what she calls the “famous” AfterLife Studios), “there is a slower, more mindful energy” in the western Canadian city that will remain DYLYN’s home “for the time being.” But as her interests and ambition grow, the “proud Canadian”, who has played ice hockey and speaks French fluently, anticipates future visits to foreign lands like Asia and Europe and “maybe even write an album in one of these places.”
Her most recent time in the studio, which lasted “almost every day for a year,” was a completely different thrill-seeking ride — “an emotional roller coaster that exposed myself as an artist, creator, and human — I can’t wait to do it all over again.”
So on the verge of releasing the Bring On the Blues EP, DYLYN sounds pleased with her musical progression over the past two years, contending, “I believe I’m closer to my truth and sound. It will continue to evolve but I can say with certainty I want to keep making records and touring. There is so much to learn and open up, that’s the beauty in art — there is no right way with the muse. It is such a gift to be able to create little worlds and connect with new listeners along the way.”
She also believes “the process of creating the record has enhanced my experience as an artist — when it comes to vocal delivery, writing, sonics and the overall craft”. Another goal for the developing musician is to collaborate with artists as diverse as innovative Grammy winner Frank Ocean (“he has such a powerful way of pulling you into his world”) and hardcore punkers Turnstile (“they have such a raw, animalistic energy”).
While planning to stay actively involved in more music video projects (“I already have some ideas brewing — stay tuned,” she teases), DYLYN wants to “create a world with a body of work” that includes her return to painting, which “has a great calming effect on me”, and photography. “There is such a beautiful relationship to the world through a lens,” she expresses. “It has definitely slowed down my interpretation of surroundings and the beauty in objects.”
Asked what was the most important thing she learned about herself during this two-year roller-coaster ride, DYLAN declares, “I believe I was given a crossroads, I chose my pursuit of happiness and to fully commit to the craft. It has been the most evolutionary in terms of creation and following what I want most, letting go of fear that is holding me back. There is still a lot of work ahead …”
Expect a daring but focused DYLYN to get it done — while fitting comfortably into a coat of many colors.