Ayla Tesler-Mabé: “I’m not sure I want to hear a purely improvisational solo... My favorite solos are the ones that are singable”

Ayla Tesler-Mabé
(Image credit: Raunie Mae)

Ayla Tesler-Mabé’s recent single, Give Me a Sign? marks the formal solo debut by the Vancouver-based guitarist, formerly with indie-rock outfit Calpurnia and now one third of soul-jazz trio Ludic. 

This time around, it’s all Ayla, all the way, with Tesler-Mabé self-producing the lush, effects-rippled R&B ballad, as well as shouldering all the bass, drum, synth, vocal and guitar duties. Though on the one hand Give Me a Sign? is the by-product of an artist cutting loose on her own, its glitterball guitar leads are more nuanced than noodly.

“As much as I love and appreciate a wailing guitar solo, unless it’s in a live setting, I’m not so sure I want to hear a purely improvisational solo that doesn’t have some sense of hookiness to it,” Tesler-Mabé says, connecting this to her sleek, octaver-dialing vibrato on the track. “My favorite solos are the ones that are singable.”

That earworm quality naturally extends past Tesler-Mabé’s soloing, and now transcends her usual six-string approach. Tesler-Mabé began as a bassist and admits she’s been leaning harder into her four-string these days, so the hard-popped groove on second single Keep My Mind Off the News is a return to form, of sorts. 

She boomed out the swaggering, envelope filter-heavy funk verses with a recently acquired Fender Aerodyne Precision, though switched to an aesthetically deadened Geddy Lee Jazz model for the mid-section’s Latin rhythm breakdown (“It’s a great bass – I’ve just never changed the strings”).

Back on six strings, upcoming strutter Haven’t Seen Much of U Lately! showcases rich chord inversions informed by years of studying Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder, and a waterfall-fluid backend run.

All three singles are part of a broader lead-up to an as-yet-untitled solo EP set for release later this year. And while Tesler-Mabé still loves the collaborative spirit behind her past-and-present group endeavors (Ludic are likewise working on new music), she notes that there’s a different kind of pride coursing through tunes where “every single note is something I understand and believe in”.

“I’d say I’m experiencing a very important time in my life where I am just truly becoming myself, in a way like never before,” Tesler-Mabé says. “It felt essential to be able to do something where I didn’t have to compromise. Compromising is beautiful, and I feel like I always try my best to compromise [in a group scenario], but it is also very liberating to not have to do that.”

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Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.