Welcome to AP&R, where we highlight rising artists who will soon become your new favorite.
New Jersey-native Dana Why is the alternative-and-indie-fusion artist you need to know in 2023. After performing under the moniker Static Sex for well over a decade to humble success, Dana Yurcisin is now stepping out as a full-fledged solo artist with his musically versatile debut album The Lyre, which just dropped this January. The record, which was nearly six years in the making, was birthed from a series of devastating lows and a somber retreat to his hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Upon returning home, Yurcisin painstakingly put every ounce of himself into the recording and writing process of The Lyre. As a result, the record documents Yurcisin’s journey to make peace with the past in order to find his sense of home again, set to a soundtrack of eclectic song arrangements
Read more: How rising, “gothic babe” indie-pop star Julia Wolf almost left music behind for an Italian pizza shop
The Lyre’s lead single “Jersey Devil” is a stunning example of the fusion that Yurcisin is able to insert within his music, which contains everything from auto-tuned vocals that sound like they were plucked from the hardest trap album of the year to whimsical horn sections, key changes, and dissonant guitar lines that recall early Weezer and Beck. Hell, there may even be a few subtle nods to New Jersey’s reigning king, the boss himself, Bruce Springstrein. Even through all of the diverse genre paths he finds himself on, Yurcisin’s distinct vocal style and honest lyricism is the clear throughline and represents a bold, newfound confidence that the lifelong songwriter has been searching for all of these years. We spoke to the singer-songwriter about launching his latest project as Dana Why, the making of The Lyre, and more.
You performed under the moniker Static Sex for close to 10 years, but now you are stepping out as a full-fledged solo artist as Dana Why. What led you to do this and was it daunting at first to make this change?
The big event that led to this was finally being asked to join another band [actually]. I hadn’t been in a band since college, I was always making music, but it was always on my own terms. A little before COVID, I joined my friend’s band Grasser and thought I would just be playing guitar, but then he wrote lyrics and said, “You’re going to sing them,” which was new because I wasn’t used to being the lead in someone else’s band. That whole experience of singing the record and doing the vocals made me a lot more comfortable with mixing my voice more like a pop star, as opposed to going out of my way to just bury my voice as I did in the past. It was time to retire my old name [Static Sex] that I came up with in college, take it a little more seriously, and step into the confidence I hadn’t had for so long.
“Jersey Devil” features so much genre fusion on just one song, ranging from ‘90s alternative to R&B and hip-hop. Obviously, experimentation isn’t taking a backseat in this project, so what does experimentation mean to you, and what leads you to write in this unconventional style?
It’s just the way I’ve always written. I typically don’t sit down with an acoustic guitar to work out full song ideas. The way I create is all over the place and in pieces. I’ll get a riff or vocal idea and record it on my phone and will just have these mountains of little tidbits that I store in an Evernote. To me, writing music is recording — those two are one thing to me and a lot of times, I will find the song while recording. Recording is the zone for me to have the most fun and fuck around and find out. [Laughs.]
I can imagine you probably listen to every kind of music under the sun, but what are the central artists that have shaped you and that you find yourself continuing to reference in your music today?
I’m gonna be that guy: I’m from New Jersey and live in Asbury Park, so Bruce Springstein is a big influence. I can’t get around it and can’t pretend that I want to. [Laughs.] The first time I heard Born To Run, it almost taught me how to just write epic music with movements and key changes.
Another very influential record for me was Perfect From Now On by Built To Spill, and though it’s only eight songs, they are all super long and winding with so many interesting roads to get to where they are going. I get bored very easily as a listener, so I need constant stimulation, whether it’s texturally or movement. Growing up, I did like classical music a lot — and that sense of motion, build, crescendo and release is still very important to me.
Touching on those New Jersey roots, how does your homeland play a role in your art, and what makes you hang the New Jersey flag with so much pride?
I was living in Maine when I made the first half of this record and was convinced I was done with New Jersey. [That’s] what everyone thinks at a certain point, but they eventually find themselves back there, due to this gravitational pull that we could succumb to at any moment — which I [eventually] did. At first, I wasn’t happy to move back to Jersey and that’s kind of what “Jersey Devil” is about. I was so in love with Maine and my friends up there, so having to move home felt like losing. I have since rebounded and have slowly rebuilt this sense of community. I’m back to feeling like New Jersey is my home and love creating with the community of artists here.
Lyrically, what are some themes and subjects you are touching on throughout The Lyre?
It’s a record that was created [over six years] when there was so much going on. I was engaged before I started this record and then my fiancé at the time broke that off and I was fired from my job — so it felt like an inevitability of having to move back home. It was this whirlwind of shitty, weird feelings and trying to process them. I was recording a lot of the vocals in my parent’s room at home when they were out at work — this is where I spent my time as a kindergartner and now I’m back here as a 27-year-old recording vocals for an album that I didn’t even know if anyone would even hear. It’s kind of like a breakup album, but I didn’t want it to be miserable or “poor me.” I wanted to just express these not-happy feelings, but also have a balance of positivity to map my way out of these situations.
The Lyre was released earlier this month on January 20th. What do you have planned around its release and for the future in general?
I’ve been asked to play a couple of shows and I really want to say yes, but I still do not have a [full] band together just yet. I definitely want to make it happen, because I love these songs and they are a huge piece of me. I’ve been playing out so much recently with Grasser, and I’ve become a lot more comfortable with it. I’m an anxious person on stage usually, but now that I’ve been doing it for a while, it feels like it is time to have my own band and play in front of people.
Beyond that, I have so many records in the midst of creation, with my next two LPs about 50 percent recorded already. Because The Lyre was so hard to finish, I kept starting new projects. but also knew I had to finish this record to move on to the new material. I’m also producing, mixing, and writing for people, so there’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon.
Add a Comment