.Son Lux Bring Mild-Altering Synth Sounds to Felton Music Hall

Son Lux, who created the score for the movie 'Everything Everywhere All at Once,' played Felton Music Hall on May 14

During the intimate and soaring performance by experimental indie band Son Lux at the Felton Music Hall on May 14, lead vocalist and synth-maestro Ryan Lott paused to give the few-dozen attendees standing in rapt attention some insight into the modern Hollywood machine.

Everything Everywhere All at Once, a movie contemplating the multiverse by directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, has been showing at the CineLux, just across the sandhills in Scotts Valley, and Lott shared about their own awe-inspiring experience of crafting its soundtrack.

“It’s a very crazy and beautiful movie and just an unbelievably rewarding project for us,” he said, explaining the material, for it had been germinating for years. “For our last song, we’re going to play the first piece of music that we sent the directors.”

They began by messaging fragments—raw bits and improvisations—trying to get the tone right.

The piece—which would become the endlessly complex and triumphant “Unbind” on their 2021 album Tomorrows was the perfect way to kick off their artistic back-and-forth with “the Daniels,” Lott recalled.

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“We just felt like there was something about it that resonated in the same way that the movie did—full of beauty and chaos,” he said, adding they loved what they heard. “It was an early sign for us of the kind of synchronicity we were going to have as a creative team.”

And while the specific song didn’t make the final cut, its bones did.

“It went on to become a foundation of one of the main themes in the film,” he said, as they brought the house down with that alternate reality of a track. “Thank you again so much for being here.”

I have vague memories of anxiously awaiting a radio announcer’s back-announcement, following a stunning over-the-air number, on some long and rambling vehicular journey years ago. That’s how I first came to seek out Son Lux. The group is comprised of Lott, Rafiq Bhatia (guitar) and Ian Chang (drums).

And when it happened again, with an equally brilliant—yet understated—track, I filed away the group in the “quality” section of my musical brain for safekeeping. When you find a wine, no one else seems to know about that always goes down smooth with an intricate finish or a surfboard from a local shaper that works well in the range of waves that tend to hit the shores of your home break.

Every time I try to look them up online, I start by mistakenly typing “Sun Lox,” as if I were searching for a tasty bagel recipe.

During the past several months, when I looked ahead to potential shows to hit across the entire Greater Bay Area region, this one kept standing out to me.

So, after pumping up my bike tire, peddling down to the San Lorenzo River, and taking in the rise and fall of bird sounds at dusk, I headed over to the Felton Music Hall.

As soon as Son Lux’s sounds hit my eardrums, I was instantly reminded of why the group first made an impression on me.

Because what I heard from the stage might as well have been the backing track to the joyous chorus I’d just witnessed outdoors.

During a break between songs, Lott said they’d just had the good fortune to take in some of nature’s bounty here, too.

The frontman emphasized he loves this size of the show just as much as their larger gigs. And lest any of the hipster-leaning attendees wondered if the group was bothered the hall wasn’t packed to the gills, he put that notion to rest. He said—maybe more.

“We’re feeling awesome—this is an amazing place to be,” he said to a crescendo of claps and cheers as the band transitioned into their next piece. “This song is like an old friend. It’s the only old song we’re playing in this set.”

They were about to treat Felton to “Easy,” with staccato drums and a mysterious guitar line.

On the YouTube version of the track, their record label explained how the song’s elements had become interwoven into the broader popular music landscape.

“Halsey sampled Son Lux for her song. And Fall Out Boy also sampled Son Lux for one of their songs,” the pinned comment read. “Regardless of how shitty or amazing you think their songs are, both were licensed samples. Meaning no one ‘stole’ anything from anyone. But Son Lux indeed wrote this shit, and Halsey’s folks certainly paid us for the privilege of using this audio. In turn, we use the money to continue to put out amazing music, which will undoubtedly continue to be sampled in the future by less talented people.

And here, Son Lux was reimagining it, once again.

“We couldn’t help ourselves but rethink it a bit,” Lott said. “This is an old song in a new way.”

Lott’s vocals sound like the emotive murmurings of Caribou. The instrumentation is orchestral but electronic, like Max Cooper.

I imagine you might end up with something similar to Son Lux if you mixed the Grateful Dead with Refused and threw in Floating Points as the icing on the cake.

Comparisons to Jamie XX, Joy Orbison and Four Tet are not unwarranted. Chang’s crisp drumming added a rolling—almost breakbeat—aspect. Bhatia provided the sound textures to wallpaper the room and filled in the cracks of the floorboards.

The way Lott cued the glissando violin sample on the angled-down synthesizer during “Plans We Made” demonstrated precision musicianship.

He kept pushing his glasses to the bridge of his nose to keep them in place—as part of the rhythm of the performance.

At times, the space felt like a chapel, thanks to the vaulted ceiling overhead. At others, like a cozy nightclub featuring underground DJs.

And when, during one of the songs, Oakland-raised opener Nappy Nina came to perform with them on stage, it was as if we were transported to a hip-hop throwdown or spoken word competition in the East Bay.

Overall, the show was a gentle reminder to trust your instincts in music and life.

Don’t forget that everything everywhere is not necessarily as grim and tedious as you initially think.

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