Boston, Massachusetts’ The Lights Out are a 4-piece pop-rock beer-drinkin’ mayhem machine. When your description includes lines like “stickier than the High Life coating their sneakers by the end of every practice,” you can only expect a ruckus, and that’s why I started going to shows in the first place (though acquiring beer during an MC Hammer show at 12 just wasn’t happening.)
With 3 full lengths and a bunch of EP’s under their belt, The Lights out are continuing to pursue their musical dream with some solid travel plans, enough energy to merit Ritalin, and plenty of Miller beer to drown any sorrow that may befall them on the road.
I just had to get in touch with these guys, and caught up with bassist Matt King to have a chat about the band, how much High Life they’ve consumed on their best day, and their upcoming trek to SXSW 2013!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
MK- Despite finding each other in Boston, where we all live, we’re actually from all over. I play bass and hail from Vermont, Rish Green sings and plays guitar, and is from Oregon. Adam Ritchie, TLO’s lead guitar player/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist is from New Jersey, and Long Island native Jesse James rounds us out on drums. All of us also sing, and tight harmonies are a big part of our sound.
G- The Lights Out has been a band since 2007, and there seems to be a funny story behind the formation… Tell us about how it all came about and when you first got started? Do you remember the moment that you really felt the group “click?”
MK- Rish and I actually started this thing in 2005 when we both found ourselves looking to start a new band. We met on Craigslist and went for a drink at notorious Boston watering hole, The Model. We ended up just getting loaded and talking about music and by the end of the night we were both stumbling out of there and I turned to Rish and slurred ‘So, you wanna get a drummer?’ and Rish just said ‘Yes.’ We hadn’t played a note together, but it just felt like we’d get along musically. Same thing happened with Jesse a while later… Same bar, same feeling… He was in before he’d played a single beat for us.
We went on as a power trio for about a year and a half after that, but kept talking about “that other guy” when we’d write more parts than we could physically play. Eventually, we decided to get that other guitarist. In 2007, we were all at this Boston rock band mixer (at that same bar) when we found ourselves talking to Adam, and the conversation went so well that we asked if he wanted to jam with us. Everyone was really excited and I recall turning to Rish and saying ‘Man, I hope that guy can play,’ because we got along so wonderfully. That first practice with Adam was the first time we realized we had something really special going. Instead of just playing to the demo we’d given him, he wrote the parts that weren’t there. He was the missing ingredient, and ever since, it’s been full steam ahead.
G- Very cool! So, The Lights Out is going to be making their way down to SXSW this year… Will this be your first time entering the war zone that is Austin in March? Where are you guys playing this year?
MK- This will indeed be our first time at the dance. We’re playing the Official Berklee SXSW Party on Friday, March 15, between noon and 6:00 p.m. at Brush Square Park (East Tent), at 409 East 5th St. (Neches and 5th) in Austin. Of course, we’ll be trying to pick up as many extra shows as we can before getting down there, but this is the main event for us.
G- Right on. So, you touched on it above, but what is your writing process like, and who in the band typically comes up new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you write music more organically through jamming during rehearsals?
MK – We are actually a little all over the place. We started out being 100% democratic in a process we’d call “cutting up the baby” that resulted in some great work. Someone would present a song and we’d all roll up our sleeves and dig into it, cutting out this chorus, replacing the vocal harmony, changing the bridge altogether until we’d have a finished song that sometimes barely resembled the original draft. It can be really tough to surrender your ego in this process, but it’s taught us to really pay attention to what the song wants, and write to that. We’ve been doing this long enough where we’ve all been in a band with “that guy” who *has* to be heard above all else, and so it’s really nice to separate your own ego from the process and just write what the song wants you to write without anybody noodling over the top of it. As time has gone on, we’ve all gotten a feel for what the others will want to hear from a song, so a lot of that editing happens as we are writing… More of them are coming in closer to finished these days.
G- Dig it. Ok… So you guys like Miller High Life, and so do I. What is the largest quantity of beer you guys have consumed in a 24 hour period as a band, and what was the outcome?
MK – We really should be sponsored by High Life. Our fridge is constantly stocked with it and we keep adding to it before it runs out, so it’s actually impossible to track! However, a few years ago, we won a ‘band of the month’ contest from Harpoon, a Boston craft brewery, where we wound up with “a year’s supply of beer” – a case a month – but we opted to take it at once! So, we loaded up the van with 12 cases of Harpoon UFO and decided to throw a party and try to get through the whole lot in one night. I would let you know how that turned out, but frankly, nobody can really remember what happened before waking up in a sea of empty bottles.
G- Hahaha that’s awesome! I’ve actually done a keg stand from one of the Harpoon tanks! Good stuff!!!
So seemingly always bringing the party, what should your fans, both old and new, expect of the performances when you guys hit the road, and what should some of the first time listeners expect to see when you take the stage?
MK – We are actually in the middle of retooling the whole TLO experience. We are not only writing a slew of new tunes, but are also experimenting with different visual effects and lighting tricks to make it as much of a show as we can, and the new music is reflecting that move. We’re a little more dancey, and a little more rocking than before. We’re also taking some of our back-catalogue, tweaking arrangements, and playing them in different styles so we can make sure our old favorites fit in with the new direction.
G- Nice. Do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard The Lights Out before, what track would you give them and why?
MK – This is an impossible one to answer objectively. I feel that all our material gets vetted so much before it comes out that they’ve all been the favorite at one point or another. We’re fortunate in the sense that we don’t have a single song we’re embarrassed of, or never want to play again. We do have our “A-game” songs for when we hit the road, though… Of the songs that we play the tightest and get the most reaction from new crowds.
If I had to narrow it down to one, it would probably be “Primetime,” the title track from our 2011 release. It’s catchy, danceable, and it’s got a call and response chorus and ending that new crowds never fail to pick up on, even if it’s their first time hearing it.
G- Awesome… Those help a lot on the road. Can you give us a few examples of any bands or artists in particular that influence your style? Who do you typically like to listen to, and are there any acts you think we should know about?
MK – We are very open when it comes to new music and musical influence. Everyone brings a little something to the table – Adam is great at finding amazing classic rock gems. Jesse introduces us to all sorts of EDM and underground dance music. I tend to bring the stoner and indie rock, and Rish will probably be miffed at me for saying this this, but he mines top 40 radio for inspiration for his amazing vocal hooks.
That being said, we listen to all of it, and one of our favorite ways of passing time in the van on tour is taking turns being iPod DJ and exposing each other to new stuff. As far as acts we’re psyched about, it would be remiss of me to not mention the amazing music scene in Boston. There are so many great acts from the roots rock of OldJack to the blistering riffs of Mellow Bravo, to the enthusiastic pop glory of The Field Effect, to name just three out of dozens of great Boston groups.
G- Shout out to Bahston… I can dig it! Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? If you could put together your own feasible 3-band dream bill, who would you want to tour with and why?
MK – If I could have any three bands on a dream bill, it would be Queens of the Stone Age, Cheap Trick and Bruce Springsteen. QOTSA because nobody rocks like they do, Cheap Trick because we feel we have the same kind of fun energy as well as equally catchy songs, and Bruce because Adam is from Jersey and would never forgive me if I left him off this list.
G- Haha NJ Loyalty runs DEEP! That’s a hefty bill you’ve got there, but until that day comes, what is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
MK – We’ve probably played close to 200 shows with this band, so there are a number of crazy ones. We headline this massive Halloween show every year where the bands all become another band for a night, and we’ve always been over-the-top pop stars. We’ve been Phil Collins, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and most recently, Queen and these are the rowdiest, funnest, drunkest shows we do – everyone has the best time.
But as far as our original gigs go, one that really sticks out is a time we were the pre-game entertainment for a New England Patriots game at Gillette Stadium in December. It was an outdoor gig and maybe fifteen degrees tops. We were playing for tens of thousands of people but, despite having heaters blowing on us, it was too cold for the instruments, so they would stay in tune for about a minute and a half if we were lucky. So, we’d get this really great response for the first half of the song before the guitars would start to go out. It was a huge honor, but a logistical nightmare.
G- Kind of best of both worlds with that one… Huge crowd, cold weather, touchy musical actualities… Sounds like a blast, though!
Lastly, as a band that is still building and making a name for yourselves, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
MK – Make music for yourself. Don’t try to make what you think will sell or what you think a record exec will want to hear, because that paradigm doesn’t exist anymore. Write songs that you as a musician and lover of music would want to hear. You should always strive to make the record that you want to buy, but can’t, because it hasn’t been made yet. It’s up to you to make it.