A few weeks ago we introduced everyone to Lightouts. For those who haven’t heard them Lightouts is the Gowanus, Brooklyn based indie rock band that has released two blazing singles – “See Clear” and “And It Comes And Goes” – as well as several great b-sides. They are currently working on their debut album Want.
(Sirens = myself, Greg Nelson and Gavin Rhodes = Lightouts.)
Sirens: The first time I read about Lightouts you were classified as a “new” 90’s band – this framed my opinion before I had even heard a track. Are the regular comparisons to bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Smashing Pumpkins something to live up to, or are you afraid of being pigeonholed?
Greg Nelson: Every band is the sum of it’s influences and we are completely open about that. We’ve been including a cover song with each of our singles in part because we think it’s good to acknowledge those influences and I think it does provide a deeper insight into the band. It’s also always been an important part of the discovery process for me as a music listener – Nirvana got me into the Pixies which got me into The Jesus and Mary Chain, etc.
That being said I’ve reached a point in making music where I’m really not worried about whether or not something I play triggers something familiar in someone else’s head. Yes, as kids we were heavily influenced by 90’s bands, however I certainly know that there are other things going on in my head during the creative process and I hear more going on while listening to the music. But hey, I’m into pretty much every band that we’ve been associated with – and it’s actually a reasonably varied list – so I’m not too troubled by it.
Sirens: If Gowanus is the muse for your debut, are there any other inspirations that have made their way or will make their way into your recordings in the future?
Greg Nelson: As far as themes go, per our album title the concept of want just naturally came about as we started putting songs together. The idea of “want” being both a positive and negative emotion and driver – bettering ourselves in some cases and debasing ourselves in others. I’m just really interested in what motivates us – some people are really into triathlons and others are really into manga porn – probably many into both. Some people want to get along with others and other people want to steal those people’s shoes. It’s not even a judgmental thing, just trying to get a better handle on what’s behind those motivations.
Sirens: “And It Comes And Goes” features a guitar solo after the initial chorus – not exactly commonplace in today’s music. Was this a conscious decision or did it occur naturally?
Gavin Rhodes: It’s funny that this has come up so much to me because when I started playing guitar, the last thing I wanted to do was…
(more after the jump!)
…be a flashy, soloing wanker. Although I’ve become more technical of a player over the years, I’ve developed my own solo style, which is visceral and seat of your pants. I’m a huge fan of solos that sound a bit sloppy and like they’re going to fall off the rails at any second. The solo in this song came about naturally – it’s a fun, fast song to play and when Greg came up with his vocals there was an obvious space that was calling out for some wailing guitar. I’m not sure why there are so few solos in the majority of indie rock these days, but I think part of it is the legacy that indie/alternative music shouldn’t be overly technical that came about as a reaction to the processed pop and hair metal of the 80’s.
Do you really talk to yourself with the radio on?
Greg Nelson: Ha. That really was one of those lyrics that just pops into your head and refuses to budge. That whole chorus – lyrics and melody – came together in a pretty instantaneous burst on a late night subway train. We had to change the key of the chorus and I didn’t even know if it was in my vocal range until I belted it out for Gavin one night at the studio. It’s not really the kind of thing you can practice in public and it even feels weird trying to hit those notes with any gusto in private.
For me that lyric evokes some sort of bleak communication dissonance – the idea of playing the radio to drown out or scramble one’s own ramblings. Do I do that myself? I do listen to a lot of NPR…
Sirens: The rhythm in several of these tracks is infectious – crunchy, driving guitars that are such a change-up from the majority of new music we post here. Was this the idea going into the project or did you intend to have a cleaner sound and it just took on a life of it’s own?
Gavin Rhodes: I’ve gone through many different changes in style over the years, from new wave to punk to electro to indie pop. With this project there was a conscious effort on my part to make songs that rocked; that I would have been nodding my head to when I was 15. I felt that I had been getting soft with some of the music I had been writing since I moved to Brooklyn in 2002, and I wanted to return to my roots of playing music with a harder edge. I’ve always loved harder stuff – from The Misfits to Soundgarden to Mastodon, so combining that edge with my eternal love for the pop of The Cure comes naturally, and I think it’s what makes our music stand out.
Sirens: Out of the large crop of bands debuting in the last few years, whom do you gravitate toward and listen to regularly?
Greg Nelson: Does LCD count as a “new” band? As far as “newer” bands it’s probably a bit surprising that I’m listening to a lot of the fuzzy-folkish bands like Phosphorescent, Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket, etc. Lyrically I keep getting pulled back to the Mountain Goats. Funny thing is that I’m really not interested in playing this type of music – for that I have the Prince, Cure, GBV back-catalogs in my pocket at all times. Gotta limit the Robert Pollard solo stuff or flash memory dissipates quickly.
Gavin Rhodes: I think there are some fantastic bands that have been coming out in the past few years. This year, it’s all about the Yuck album for me – I think it’s brilliant. It’s hugely derivative of all my early 90’s touchstones, but it’s done in such a perfect way. I also love Surfer Blood, Washed Out, Brown Shoe, Black Ryder, Tokyo Police Club, etc. And while not new bands, I think the latest work from older bands like Trail of the Dead, Superchunk, British Sea Power, The Kills, and The Cure is fantastic.
Sirens: While there are a few duos in modern rock, they are from prevalent. Do you feel like this will help or hurt your marketability?
Greg Nelson: Yes you can crown us the next Tears for Fears. All that I care about is whether the music is working and that is the case as far as I’m concerned.
Our process is somewhat unconventional in that Gavin usually puts together an instrumental demo and I find a way to superimpose vocals over the top. It might seem a bit awkward but I love the problem-solving element of it and I absolutely think it makes for more interesting music than if we sat down with a couple of guitars and jammed out songs Eagles-style. There’s a weird energy in two people coming at an idea from two different angles and then finding ways to lock the pieces together into a coherent whole.
Sirens: Your full length has been preceded by a couple of singles (awesomely) complete with b-sides. Is there another single release in the cards before Want hits the shelves?
Gavin Rhodes: We will have 2-3 more singles coming out before the album. The next one is called “The Eloise Suite” and also features a mash-up cover of a Bowie and LCD Soundsystem song that I’m really proud of. It should be out in the next couple of weeks.
So, we’re in luck. A couple more weeks and we’ll have a few more new Lightouts tracks to jam to. If you want more Lightouts in your life, you can find them, like them, follow them, and otherwise stalk them on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to purchase or download some of the previously released Lightouts singles, click the links below. I also want to thank the band for answering questions for us, and leave you with a b-side from the “And It Comes And Goes” single. Enjoy!