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Alex Lifeson (Rush) and Maiah Wynne Talk Envy of None’s Origins, Debut LP, and More: Interview + Album Stream

Lifeson: "Rush was a part of my life ... I’m proud of the legacy. But [I'm] thinking about other things and looking at the horizon."

Envy of None interview
Envy of None, courtesy of Chipster PR
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    There is a certain segment of Rush fans who would like nothing more than for guitarist Alex Lifeson to continue in the same musical direction of the iconic Canadian band that he was a member of for nearly 50 years. But as one-fourth of the new project Envy of None, Lifeson has opted to shift gears stylistically.

    As it turns out, it’s not a bad thing at all — especially when he has joined forces with an extremely talented supporting cast, including Coney Hatch bassist Andy Curran, programmer / mixer / multi-instrumentalist Alfio Annibalini, and singer Maiah Wynne.

    Envy of None’s just-released self-titled debut covers a wide range of sonic ground (rock, psychedelia, electronic, acoustic, etc.), with all four members contributing in the songwriting department. Physical copies of the LP are available via the Envy of None merch store, where you can also pre-order a just-announced Ukraine-flag colored vinyl single containing the tracks “Enemy” and “You’ll Be Sorry,” with all proceeds benefitting the UN Refugee Agency for its Ukraine emergency response.

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    Shortly before the album’s release, both Lifeson and Wynne spoke with Heavy Consequence, and discussed how the project came together, their favorite tracks from the LP, future plans, and Lifeson’s love-hate relationship with golf. Read the interview and stream the full Envy of None album below.


    How and when did Envy of None form?

    Maiah Wynne: Alex and Andy had worked together prior to me joining. I think Andy had a few songs that he had asked Alex to add some guitars to on a more casual level. And then about five years ago, I got in contact with Andy through a song contest that I won – and I won a mentorship Zoom call with him. And in that Zoom call, we started talking about music and I offered to add some vocals to some music he had been working on. He took me up on the offer and we started working on some songs together. After we had finished a few, he sent them to Alex.

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    Alex Lifeson: I just thought that Maiah added something that was very unique and exciting about the whole project. It switched from a very casual thing to a much more serious thing from that point on. And then we all got involved in the songwriting and arrangements – and the project just kind of grew. Probably in the last year, we’ve spent the majority of our time working on the project – always sharing files, never in the room together recording.

    We’re not really a band. The band didn’t “form.” We’re basically four songwriters who got together to work on this project. And we have – I think – all the attributes and unity of what a band is, but we’re not really a band. We’re all independent working on this together. But that started really in 2016 – when Andy initiated the whole thing by sharing some little seeds and bits and pieces of songs that he’d had sitting around for some time. And when he asked me just for a reference for guitar – just to put some stuff on – it was very casual. I would do something and spend an afternoon putting some guitar tracks on a particular song or piece of music he had. And then I wouldn’t hear from him for a couple of months … until the next little bit came along.

     

    Maiah, what is your background as a singer?

    MW: Growing up, I listened to a lot of various artists and genres. I was introduced to Radiohead, Norah Jones, and No Doubt early on. And then growing up, I found inspiration from Florence + The Machine, vocally – as well as Norah Jones and Fiona Apple. I think for songwriting, I don’t necessarily have a specific influence – it’s really just developed from a place of wanting to express emotions and having a hard time expressing them in words. I think music is an easier way to express things than it is to try tell somebody about how you’re feeling.

    What are some of your favorite tracks on the album?

    AL: Uh … everything! For me, probably “Western Sunset” [which was inspired by late Rush drummer Neil Peart] is of course a very close song to me. But “Old Strings” I’m really, really proud of. I think we really created something quite beautiful and very unique. It’s an interesting arrangement. The parts worked beautifully. There’s this beautiful “dance ballet” that the vocal and the first guitar do together that’s really quite unique and was inspiring for me, personally. Just everything about that song I think is absolutely perfect. I’m very proud of that one.

    MW: I love them all for different reasons. Truly, I agree with Alex – the cool thing about this record is each song has a different sort of character and emotion, and I relate to different songs depending on the day and what I’m going through. But I think one of my favorites is “Never Said I Love You” – it has such a great energy to it. “Enemy” is also always going to be one of my favorites. But I also really love “Kabul Blues” – it has such a different character to all the other songs on the record, and I love how much depth to the layers of the mix, and how it just swirls around and things sort of fit together in such a unique way. There’s so many amazing songs. And I agree, “Western Sunset” is the perfect album closer – just a beautiful breath of fresh air at the end. I love them all for different reasons.

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    Are there any touring plans for Envy of None?

    AL: Well … none at this time. I think we need to wait until the album comes out to see what the call is. But I think Maiah could take this on the road, and we can certainly come up for a few shows. But I don’t think I’d be prepared for a major tour – those days are past me.

    MW: I would love to do a few shows together. With COVID and everything, it also poses a lot more challenges to do any sort of big tours. But I think maybe doing a few shows together, I think it would be really exciting to hear this in a live setting and getting to perform these songs together on stage would be really amazing. So I think there definitely is potential for that – depending on how things go.

     

    Maiah, were you familiar with Rush’s music before working with Alex?

    MW: Yes. My parents were really big Rush fans. I used to get to hear Rush in the car on road trips. They went to quite a few Rush concerts when I was growing up. I didn’t get to go though, unfortunately – I wasn’t part of the cool club apparently! But I did get to listen to Rush also when I was around 13 – I started to play the drums and I went through a rock phase. I was not good – I will tell you that – but it was fun to play along, or at least attempt to, and get some of that teenage angst out. It’s really exciting to work with Alex and get to hear a whole new side of him as a guitarist. There’s just so much depth to these songs and it’s been a joy to hear all the layers he’s created.

    Alex, do you think Rush fans will enjoy the varied musical styles of Envy of None?

    AL: I don’t know. I hope so. If they’re expecting Rush or something along those lines, then they might be disappointed. But personally, I don’t really care – I love this record, I love what we created together. And listen, Rush was a part of my life – it will always be a part of my life. I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the legacy. But, it ended seven years ago, and I’m still alive and thinking about other things and looking at the horizon. So, if other people are expecting something like that from me, then that’s their problem … in a nice way, of course!

    Are there future plans beyond this album with Envy of None?

    MW: No specific plans, but I think we all agree that we’d love to keep making music and sending files back and forth. We just have a lot of fun doing it, so I don’t foresee that stopping.

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    AL: I totally agree.

    Lastly, Alex, I understand you are an avid golfer. How’s your game these days?

    AL: Well, I enjoy it. I’ve been playing for a long time. It’s such a stupid game and such a waste of time, you know? [Laughs] You try so hard to get good at it, and it’s so elusive. But you keep coming back to it, and you make that one good shot that brings you back for the next time. And it’s a nice walk in the park. So, it’s got a lot of good things going for it – as well as those horrible things. And every golfer will agree!

    Our thanks to Alex Lifeson and Maiah Wynne for taking the time to speak with Heavy Consequence. Stream Envy of None’s debut album via the Apple Music or Spotify player below.

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