Interview - Layla Bina

Layla Bina is a punk-inspired, first-generation Iranian-American rock performer from Southern California. Her love of punk prompted her to teach herself guitar as a youngster, cultivating a passion for songwriting and production. Layla's songs address a variety of mental health and societal concerns by drawing on her UCLA psychology education as well as her childhood in an isolated, idyllic suburb. Layla's strong voice, inspired by her Persian ancestry, lends a distinct tone to rock. Layla is now working with Grammy Award-winning Producer Josh "igloo" Monroy on her debut album.

Hi and welcome to this interview. Tell us about your latest release Hypomania.
Hi, thanks for having me! I hope my lyrics are strong enough to convey the message on their own, but what I will say is that “Hypomania” is very meaningful to me because it was the first song that I had written after a dreadful two-year hiatus from songwriting, and writing this song set me up for the sound that I have today.

How would you describe your sound?
Oh, man––this has always been the hardest question for me to answer. It wasn’t until recently that I finally figured out what my sound was: a fan defined me as “neo-grunge” in an Instagram comment, and my entire existence began to make a little more sense to me. So there you have it, I’m a neo-grunge artist!

What do you write about?
I primarily draw from my own personal experiences with mental health, social issues and relationships; but I also like to take a step back from my own life and write about the social, cultural and political issues that I’m passionate about. I was very fortunate to study psychology at UCLA, so naturally a lot of what and how I write is drawn from my studies there.

What do you listen to when you are home?
I mostly listen to 70s/80s punk. Punk will always be very special to me; not only did it give me my first real sense of personal identity and belonging to a subculture, but it also gave me the confidence to be the songwriter and artist that I am today.

Your favourite live performance so far?
I was asked by my favorite professor to play at my school’s punk conference “Curating Resistance: Punk as Archival Method.” That night was the first time that I got onstage with a new set of songs after that two-year hiatus, which was ended by my first deep dive into the world of punk rock, so everything during that period of my life just coincided together perfectly. That show was also the first time that I had ever seen people actually MOSHING to my songs, AND it was all happening on campus—so crazy! It was exactly what I needed at that time.

Tell us a funny story that happened in studio or on stage.
I’m sorry, I can’t. It was too embarrassing.

Your favourite albums?
Hands down, my favorite album is Combat Rock by the Clash. It’s the perfect example of how you could still be a punk artist without needing to conform to whatever people think the sound of punk “should” be. To me, that album proves that being punk is more about your attitude, your ideologies, and your intention with your lyrics, rather than what you sound like.

A musician you would like to meet for a beer?
Probably Zack de la Rocha. We both grew up in Irvine, CA, and went to the same middle school and high school, so we’d probably bond over our disdain for that city. Rage Against the Machine was also one of the bands that got me into rock very early in my life. I don’t really drink, though, so we’d have to meet up for coffee.

What would you ask for backstage, if you were the most important band on earth?
If I ever went on a tour longer than 10 days, I would absolutely require someone on hand to thread my eyebrows; I like having two brows. Wait, did I forget to mention that I’m Middle Eastern? This isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity… I’m totally kidding, by the way.

What are your plans for the near future?
After months of searching, I FINALLY have a band, so the next thing on my list is getting back onstage. I can’t wait!

This is her new single, called Hypomania (I'm Awake). I love the riffs, the overall production and the vocal performance by Layla is spot on. Give it a go by clicking on the Spotify player below and don't forget to follow Layla Bina on social media as well.

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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