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With Lions

By Peter Cronin

With Lions | Sound + Vision

With radio playlists shrinking, touring costs rising and fickle fans choosing to “share” music rather than buy it, the once-clear path to success has become a road to frustration for many up-and-coming artists. Even as they were finding a measure of indie celebrity with their respective east coast bands, Christian Celaya and Woody Ranere could see that the traditional route they were traveling was getting them close to nowhere.

“Woody was in a band called Lake Trout, and my band, Benzos, toured with them,” Celaya says. “We hit it off right away and realized we had a shared interest in film scoring.”

With their similar musical and educational backgrounds, the pair decided to take advantage of a touring hiatus back in 2006, teaming up for their own project. Freed from the restraints and obligations of a “professional” band, the duo began to forge a distinctive sound that was all over the place in the best possible way. Cinematic in scope and stylistically all-inclusive, the music of With Lions combines the eclectic possibilities of a film soundtrack with the kind of creative energy and freewheeling experimentation that characterize the best indie music.

“From the start we wanted With Lions to be free of any musical boundaries,” Celaya says. “When you’re in a band you get pigeonholed, so we wanted to take this opportunity to challenge ourselves. If someone wanted to write a classical song or a quirky pop tune, we’d just go with that inspriation and that motivation.”

Playing to today’s “short attention span” listeners, With Lions committed to the idea of producing four EPs per year, each serving as its own “soundtrack.” The resulting releases have found favor with fans, critics and, perhaps most importantly, with music supervisors, who have come to rely on With Lions’ adventurous compositions for television (CSI, Nikita, Shameless), advertising (Chevy, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel), fashion (Victoria’s Secret, Vogue) and film (Chasing the Swell).

“People just aren’t listening to a 12-14 track record,” Celaya says. “With Lions is a band first and foremost, but we’re merging with the TV and film world. Therefore, each EP is completely different from the one before. Each of them is like a little soundtrack to a different film. And that’s the challenge, having to turn around that much music and having it coalesce.”

With their hard-touring days largely behind them, With Lions’ onscreen success has facilitated a more settled lifestyle for the duo, with inspiration coming from some new-and-different places. Faced with the task of getting his infant daughter to go to sleep, Celaya picked up his ukulele and began playing and singing. Charmed by the simplicity and musicality of his partner’s “lullabies,” Ranere contributed a few of his own. When the folks at Chevrolet heard the results, they knew they’d found the perfect sound to support their new electric car, and With Lions landed the advertising campaign for the Chevy Volt.

“For me that’s the ultimate example of everything we dreamed about,” Celaya says. “We write something just for us and it happens to work for one of the biggest car companies. That’s so great.”

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