Today’s most successful musicians are like old friends. We get to know them through their lyrics, follow their lives on social media and make memories at their shows. But who are they, really? What happens when an artist decides to break their mold?
For melodic bass maestro Seven Lions, this reckoning came with the creation of his debut album, Beyond The Veil. It’s a big swing of a project, marked by all-star vocal collaborations (GG Magree, Lights, Vancouver Sleep Clinic) and crisp, cathartic bass drops.
Like a comforting hug, there’s a feeling of familiarity here—an epic ecstasy that fits like a puzzle piece amongst Lions’ decade-deep discography. It coexists alongside clean, grounded production and a cohesive, instrumentation-driven story.
Beyond The Veil marks a maturation of the Seven Lions we know and love. And according to him, it’s his most personal work yet.
“The album is Carpe Diem, essentially,” he told EDM.com in an interview in Los Angeles. “The lyric, ‘There’s stories left to tell til we’re beyond the veil,’ [on the album’s titular track] is the whole concept of, like, we don’t really know what’s next, so trying to be present and embrace things and be in the moment as much as possible.”
Part of the album’s impact is in its live counterpart, a massive North American run that bookends a trilogy of tours that commenced in 2016. Titled “The Journey III,” this final installation’s stage was designed to look like a stone castle, complete with arches, staircases and an altar that hid Lions’ decks. The tour’s L.A. date, which we attended at Los Angeles State Historic Park, was the largest headlining show of his storied career.
From unlocking his inner lion and experimenting beyond “crowd pleasers” to recommending we listen to the album in solitude and sharing some of his favorite bands, we caught up with Seven Lions backstage before his set to pick his brain about Beyond The Veil.
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EDM.com: So this tour represents the end of the “Journey” trilogy, right? How has your relationship changed with the concept since it kicked off seven years ago?
Seven Lions: I think three is just a good number to end the concept on. I don’t think I started out with this ending in mind. It’s like starting a novel, your first novel, and then just knowing you are going to end it at three and making the story along the way.
EDM.com: Did you know it was going to take this long?
Seven Lions: No. The pandemic totally screwed it up. We had a tour planned out in 2020 and that just went out the window. But honestly, I’m glad that that happened because I feel like I grew a lot as a person and as an artist.
I feel like this is the most me thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that with the hustle that was happening up until 2020. The pandemic allowed me to take a minute and really think about my inspirations and what I wanted to present and what I wanted to say.
EDM.com: What is it you wanted to say? What did you discover in that reflection?
Seven Lions: So many things! For me, Beyond The Veil is Carpe Diem. The lyric, ‘There’s stories left to tell til we’re beyond veil,’ is the whole concept of, we don’t really know what’s next, so really trying to be present and embrace things and be in the moment as much as possible. That’s the theme of the album and the main message, big time.
And also the art, like the New Moon Castle logo, all those things are very thought out and meaningful. I don’t think I would’ve had the time to do that without two years to just sit in my own space and get really attached to art that I like and pull that in and put something out.
EDM.com: Yeah, I read in one of your previous interviews that you felt like over the last few years, you were producing a lot of crowd pleasers, and that this album was an opportunity to be more experimental.
Seven Lions: For sure. And I’ll probably move back into more crowd pleasers now just because the album’s done. I loved it. But I also see where doing things people expect is nice, too, so it’s a mix. I know what people want to hear, what they expect of me, and it is fun making stuff that’s right on the nose. Boom, this is what you want? Bam.
But I needed something to feed my soul and say, ‘This is what I want to show.’ I feel like that ties into the idea of living presently, right? Making the most of the moment.
EDM.com: Is that mindset of living presently something the pandemic sparked, or something you’ve always strived for?
Seven Lions: I think it’s something I’ve always tried but with varying success. It’s one of those things that once you remember it, it’s like, ‘Oh, duh, of course be in the moment. This isn’t forever. Just be grateful you get to be here.’ And it’s so easy to forget.
I can already tell being on tour just today; you just want to experience everything, but this is such a big show and there have been so many little details, little problems and hurdles. It’s hard not to get caught up in all that and remember how epic of an experience this is. This is my biggest L.A. show. It’s actually my biggest ever solo headline show. I’m sure I’ll reflect after this and be able to take it all in. But it’s definitely tough.
EDM.com: What grounds you?
Seven Lions: Just being at home. When we moved into the place we live now, there was a greenhouse that we gutted and turned into a reading room. I decked it out with a bunch of Lord of the Rings stuff and it’s on a hill in the trees. It’s my space to chill and reflect, my grounding happy place. I also go on this walk every day and that, too—so yeah, just being home alone is my happy space.
I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really happy and comfortable with liking solitude. I don’t think it always was that way. And so when I talk to people who are struggling with anything, I suggest getting comfortable with just being with yourself. That’s my biggest advice.
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EDM.com: How do you think we can hear that in the music you’re making now?
Seven Lions: I don’t really feel like the album I made is meant to be experienced with other people around. It’s funny because we’re in the middle of one of my biggest shows with a bunch of people.
But music for me is a very personal thing and the albums I like and listen to are not things I share with other people. It’s very much a personal journey. So I think the way I would want people to experience the album is in solitude.
EDM.com: So if you were to think of what unexpected Seven Lions would sound like musically, just what you create when you’re being pure, what is that like?
Seven Lions: It’s a lot more influenced by metal and there are a lot of dynamics. It’s not pop vocals and not a pop structure. I think the idea of a musical journey where there’s really heavy stuff as well as really beautiful, pretty moments, that’s what I’m really into.
I think it’s hard to digest that many dynamics if you’re just casually listening to music or it’s just a pop thing or even a big show, honestly. And I think the album has really soft moments and heavier moments. It’s meant to be a really dynamic experience just like life. It’s not all one thing. It’s a journey.
EDM.com: Very dimensional.
Seven Lions: Yeah, exactly. And I know that sounds cheesy, tying it into the journey, but it really is. It’s the idea that you don’t want to be all one note, you know?
I think that’s what has really bothered me about the music scene is how people tie themselves to one sound and how it can all sound so similar. Like, ‘I only like dubstep and I’m one hundred percent heavy all the time.’ Or, ‘I only like chill house music and I’m low effort all the time.’ Life is way more complicated than that.
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EDM.com: What albums have taken you on a journey?
Seven Lions: All the old Opeth albums. Blackwater Park is still my favorite. They’re a French black metal shoegaze band, which is a really interesting combination. You should definitely check them out and then listen to the album again because there’s a lot of inspiration from them.
There’s also Tiger Army, a rockabilly band, or psychobilly, rather. I don’t think anybody from the EDM world will get these bands but if you really want to go out on a limb, check those bands out for sure.
EDM.com: Do you speak French?
Seven Lions: No, no. And I love Sigur Rós, too, and they don’t speak English. I’m more about melody than lyrics, I guess, so it doesn’t need to be English.
EDM.com: That’s super interesting because so many of your tracks are lyric-driven.
Seven Lions: For sure. With the album, I would talk to the artists and lay out the influences, the color palette or the mood of each song. And then they would write the lyrics and we would go back and forth.
EDM.com: What words were you going back to?
Seven Lions: Moonlight. Misty. Bluegreen.
EDM.com: Washington. Home.
Seven Lions: Washington. Trees. Exactly.
EDM.com: Do you feel like doing an album and getting into the mindset of sharing all this was vulnerable and out of the box for you?
Seven Lions: I’d say this is the most vulnerable I’ve ever been with music, and the show as well. It feels like I’ve had my hand in everything a lot more than with previous shows and it feels really good. And the album, too. It’s just very personal, which is different. I feel tied to it more than a lot of things in the past.
And one of the things is also not tying my sense of self-worth or success to the success of the album, even though I’m very tied to it personally. It’s just trying to be proud of what I’ve made without caring about streaming numbers and things like that.
I’ve really isolated myself from a lot of those things. I’m not on social media, really. I like Instagram because I follow a lot of tattoo artists. But I’m not on Twitter. I’ve never downloaded TikTok. I’m very much in a little bubble that I’ve created for myself that I really like.
Editor’s Note: The interview above was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.