Ayla Tesler-Mabé

What's your favorite kind of soup?


Ayla Tesler-Mabé is a 22-year-old multi-instrumental musician based in Vancouver BC. Her indie rock band Calpurnia took the world by storm in 2017, consisting of Finn Wolfhard (vocals/ rhythm guitar), Jack Anderson (bass/ vocals), Malcolm Craig (drums), and Ayla as the lead guitarist/ vocalist. The youthful coming of age energy in their music reflected strongly on the dynamic between the close group of friends. The band produced their debut EP “Scout” in June of 2018 and released their final single “Cell” in 2019 before parting ways and continuing to form new bands and projects. 

As the lead guitarist/vocalist of a new project, Ayla was then joined by bassist/vocalist Max Cunningham and drummer Rhett Cunningham who formed the trio band Ludic in 2018, creating a unique blend of pop, soul, and funk. Together they have created music that is both deep and resonant as well as fun and energetic. The band depicts a range of emotions from hyped up funky bass lines, to honest and true lyricism. The trio has played a number of quite notable shows including opening for Snarky Puppy, Brittany Howard, and playing at the Ottawa Bluesfest. Their debut EP “Grown?” was released in April of 2022 and fans remain excitedly anticipating new releases. 

Ayla has also collaborated and performed with Willow Smith, co creating the song “Come Home” on Willow’s album “Lately I Feel Everything” released in 2021. As well, Ayla is a guitar instructor on the site Guitareo, teaching tutorials for guitar playing at beginner to more intermediate levels. 

I was lucky enough to sit down with Ayla last year prior to the release of “Grown?” and ask her some questions about Ludic, Calpurnia, and more. In the past year I have found such a strong sense of community within the local music scene here in Vancouver, and so much of that was thanks to this interview I did. What started as a school podcast project that I thought would never see the light of day, turned into so much more than I had hoped, as Ludic was the first local show I ever attended. Through that connection I continued to explore the music and arts that Vancouver has to offer and have discovered some of my favorite artists, met close friends, and unlocked passions that were waiting to be opened. None of that would have happened if it were not for my introduction to Ludic. For that reason, I am incredibly excited to finally have this interview ready to share with the world. 

Since that original conversation with Ayla, I have seen Ludic live plenty of times, the EP has been released, Max has begun releasing music with his other band Cheeya, and Ayla has started releasing her own solo music, including two singles called “Give Me A Sign?” and “Keep My Mind Off The News”. Because so much time had passed since our initial interview, Ayla graciously answered a handful of new questions to add to this article, which has now become a Frankenstein-like combination of conversations to provide a new and accurate dialogue alongside the original work.

What was the first venue that you ever played in Vancouver?

Ayla: Technically, I think it would be the Vancouver Art Gallery because I was in this Led Zeppelin cover band when I was like thirteen and they were doing a Led Zeppelin art exhibit. We got to play there a couple of times and I guess that was my first professional gig cause I did get paid, which was really fun. I have some really fun memories of that experience and it was cool to actually play for a lot of people who obviously love art.

What are your experiences like trying to get into the local art scene? 

Ayla: Yeah, I think in a weird way the local scene came later just because of the kind of weird circumstances of how my career has gone. Even with Ludic, we were opening for bands before we were playing local shows that a lot of our friends were part of as well, which I'm really glad we're doing now because again, the community is amazing. There's some incredible local bands that I'm really happy we get to collaborate with and share the stage with. Yeah, I think it sort of just started from going to more shows and thinking, hey, it would be so much fun to play for people who are our age, people who are again friends of ours as well. And it helps that now I'm roommates with Raunie, who's an incredible photographer who's so intertwined with the local scene. So, I think through her, I've met so many amazing people too and gone to really cool shows.

Do you have any favorite local artists?

Ayla: I mean, there's so many people that I think are amazing. Mikey Jose, I think he's so inspiring because he's also just in straight up medical school while he's doing music, which I think is so cool. And then he's played a lot with some really old and dear family friends of mine. Benjamin Millman and Maya Rae, who have a duo called Maya & Ben. They create incredible music together and I'm excited to see where they go. Bookclub, it's been really fun getting to know them. I got to know them through Raunie and they've become friends of mine and their music is just really fun. I've loved their shows, they're always like pushing themselves as a band and I'm really excited to see how things end up for them. There are a lot of people, but I think those are the first people that come to mind.

As an avid concert goer, I'm thrilled that shows are finally starting to happen again. It's great, especially with what you talk about with community as well. I was wondering if you had any notable or favorite memories of performances that you've done in the past? 

Ayla: I feel like every experience has been special in its own way, maybe with Ludic. It was really funny to juxtapose that situation and experience with what was going on with Calpurnia at the time, which was obviously crazy. Calpurnia immediately was selling out shows at big venues for reasons other than the music, but obviously it was pretty cool to sort of see that world of music, but then also with Ludic having to sort of do things like, the real in the way. We played at the Railway, I don't know how many times we played there, a lot, and it's a small venue. The green room is so low that I don't think you can fully stand up in some places in it and it's great to have those experiences because you have to try and win over the crowd. There are people who are not there to hear music. They just want to be at the bar with their friends and you want to see if you can try to win over those people because they probably hate the fact that you're playing music in that moment. So, it's a really fun challenge. And obviously it was frustrating at times and challenging for all the reasons I said, but overall you look back at those memories, especially with hindsight, and you're really grateful that you had those experiences and then you can see how far you've come and how much you've grown.

Just thinking about that shift it must have been from Calpurnia to Ludic. What was that like going from, I don't want to say a step backwards because it isn't, but in terms of experience, what was that like going from selling out shows to playing smaller venues and things like that? 

Ayla: Yeah, that's a fantastic question. In many ways that could be seen as a step backwards, in many ways it could be seen as a step forwards. You know, in in terms of doing things in a more real way in a more organic way, but yeah, it was really interesting and not only was it that I went from Calpurnia and then to Ludic, it was happening at the same time, which was very interesting psychologically to go through. Again, I'm not going to lie, it can be challenging to sort of think “how can I work back to what that sort of high was?” with a band that got very popular for I don't know the right and the wrong reasons as much as it was driven by sort of the fame outside of the music itself. It over time did start to become a real band to a lot of people, which is really meaningful to watch and be a part of, but I think it's inspiring to me because I am ambitious with my music and I also have faith in what I do, that I'm just going to keep putting in the work and see how far I can go. And now that I've experienced that and I sort of have an idea of what it could taste like, I'm going to try to work my way back up to it, and work back to it maybe in a more authentic way. I think that'll be really rewarding in the end so all the challenging experiences, all the good experiences, I am the person I am because of all of those experiences, so I'll take them all as they come.

I did have some questions about "Waves", a song you worked on in Calpurnia. That was one of my favorites on the EP and you really got to showcase your singing, which throughout that band you were more backup vocals. What is that experience like versus then being one of the lead singers in Ludic? How did that come to be and what was that experience of writing that song like?

Ayla: Yeah, I mean, with that song it was kind of I guess because I ended up writing a lot of it. It maybe made sense, maybe my voice suited it? I don't know. I mean, the dynamics of Calpurnia were very different obviously. We kind of knew who people were there to see and it kind of made more sense to lean into that. But also just, you know, certain people having more of an inclination to do certain roles. I don't know it's sometimes with those dynamics, especially when they weren't really talked through in the band to begin with, it's almost hard to figure out how and why they ended up a certain way. Which is a kind of non answer but with Ludic it just  made more sense, especially because I think there was a lot more dialogue at the beginning about what we wanted the band to be like. But that just made more sense, and we were like, conscious and aware of those decisions. 

You collaborated with Willow with the song "Come Home", which is such a great track. I would love to hear about how that collaboration started and what it was like working with her.

Ayla: Yeah, absolutely. It's so funny, I had a lot of people, and I understand why, assume a manager put that in place because that's usually the case. But somehow that wasn't the case here. It's really cool that it was kind of an organic thing where we connected a couple of years ago, and then during COVID we reconnected again just because I wanted to see how she was doing and we were talking and catching up. I just asked if she was working on any music because I am always inspired by what she does as an artist, she's always evolving and exploring new territory, and I really respect that. But yeah, she mentioned that she was working on something new and then she was like, hey, there's this track that I feel like maybe you could lay down a verse and a solo. And I'm like, yes, just tell me when. And then she sent it over a few weeks later, and said, you know, kind of do whatever you want. She gave a few notes, like the solo could be more staccato, and sort of keeping it pretty melodic and hooky as opposed to the classic 70s style, where it's all big and sort of screaming guitar, like little less of that little more of what I just mentioned before. But other than that, she said kind of just do whatever you want. So, I spent a few days brainstorming how I wanted to approach it, and then I just wrote my verse. I got into the studio, and I tried out a bunch of ideas until I came up with the solo idea that I liked, and I sent it over. They put it in the track, and I didn't hear the final mix until the song came out, but really happy with what they did with it, it's really cool.

Me: Definitely, yeah. And then that performance in New York was huge. What was it like doing a show like that?

Ayla: Oh, so exciting. I mean, I haven't been in front of any crowd for a while, let alone a crowd like that. It was kind of reminiscent of the Calpurnia days, for sure, where the crowd was just so into the music and it was really cool because I know that some people maybe would know who I am, but in general it was kind of like a “Who's that girl on stage? Oh, wait a second that voice sounds like the actual recording, I guess that's probably the person who's in the actual recording.” It's kind of cool to have that, I guess, reveal experience. It was just super fun getting to hang out with Willow and the crew, just really lovely, genuine people. That was super fun. Yeah, it's just a great experience all around.

What advice would you give to other writers and musicians? 

Ayla: I do think intention is maybe the most important part overall. You know, knowing why you're doing something and connecting to that I think makes everything just flow better and I almost feel like things don't flow if that intention isn't clear. And I think kind of a master in your own corner of the universe, being the best that you can be at being you, because no one else could possibly be you better than you can. Letting yourself be honest about your experiences and who you are, I know for me that's been a huge theme or some songs I just wasn't ready to fully write, cause I wasn't ready to be fully honest about an experience I had, or a way I was feeling. And then I was sort of afraid to admit what I wanted the song to really be about, but the best songs are fully honest and fully vulnerable. As an artist I'm not going to say objectively you have to or you don't have to do anything, but a lot of the time I feel like you really do have to go there. You have to commit to expressing something. You can't do it sort of halfway. You know, the intention needs to be part of every single word that you choose lyrically and every note that you choose to play and every production choice you make, because I think all the most meaningful music is that from my experience at least.

How does the solo music differ from music you've created within your bands or collaborations with other artists?

Ayla: I’ve played honestly in a lot of bands since I started playing music, too many to count. I would say the beauty of being in a band is that it's all about compromise and you’ll create something with other people that you wouldn’t create on your own cause it comes from the unique blend of whoever is part of the collaboration. But of course it requires compromise and again that’s the beauty of it, however it's also been really exciting for me as a solo artist to not have to compromise, and to listen to a song and not just hear the bits and pieces that I think represents me as an artist, but to know that the entirety of the song, every note being played and every lyric really is an expression of me as an artist. So, it's really cool to have both and to just make a lot of music, you know?

What are you looking forward to in the future in terms of your plans for your solo career or other projects? 

Ayla: I would say what I’m looking forward to in the future is the fact that I don’t really know what the future holds. All I do know is that I am becoming more and more self assured in my abilities as an artist and with that I feel like I’m more adventurous and I’m more open to trying things that I wouldn’t have before. And I’m just really excited to see where my creativity takes me in the future and what people I will encounter that I’ll wanna work with.

Is there anything new in store for Ludic in the near future? 

Ayla: I feel like we’re in a really exciting chapter where we’ve really taken the time to think about what we want Ludic to be for all of us and we’ve all agreed that we want Ludic to just be something fun where we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we just have a good time creating weird and cool music basically. And we were just in the studio, we do have quite a few song ideas that we’ve started that when we find time to reconvene we will finish, but yeah pretty excited about what we're doing because we are really following that kind of theme of not taking ourselves seriously, having fun, and I think people who have been listening to Ludic will be really surprised with some of the creative directions we are going in with the new stuff, but it's been very fun for all of us.

Ayla's social links:


Banner photo by Raunie Mae:


Headshot photo by Laura Harvey: