Shine A Light : A Conversation With Fort Wayne’s Lightlow

Feature Photo by Jen. CoPhoto(used with permission)

I think we all hope that we can be satisfied with our career path. Or at the very least, we can go to work everyday and find a couple people we have something in common with. Folks we can have similar tastes with that can make that coffee break a little more enjoyable. Am I right? Well, Fort Wayne’s newest music collective is the greatest example of that.

Lightlow is a group of work friends that just so happen make epic music together. Lightlow came out of a collaboration between Sweetwater employees that were looking to start a band in the vein of Radiohead, Deftones, Circa Survive and a few other notable names that dabble in vast, open musical spaces where the roof is removed and ambitions are aimed straight for the stars.

Lightlow consists of Miles Patterson, Casey Gerlach, Dave McCall, Paige Smith, and Nick Hammer. The band recently released their excellent debut EP called Begin Again and have begun the promoting process by lining up gigs. I recently sat down with the band to discuss how they came together, their writing process, and what the rest of 2018 holds for Lightlow.

J. Hubner: So tell me how Lightlow came together? What other bands had everyone come from prior to getting together?

Miles Patterson: Lightlow started with an internal classifieds post looking for some folks to jam with and everyone who responded was so freaking talented. We came together so quickly and just really vibed. Previously I’d played in an indie pop band called Red Blue Shift, as well as playing in heavy blues projects SmokeStack Lightning and The Worn Winter.

Dave McCall: We all work at Sweetwater in Fort Wayne. We have a pretty active employee classifieds on our intranet (SO MUCH music gear flying around that place all the time). One day I saw a post from some new employee I’d never met (Miles) saying he’d like to start a band with a Radiohead influence, but all originals. I was immediately interested. That’s when I first met Miles. The rest of us responded to Miles’s ad and we hit it off musically right away. I grew up in Warsaw and in that vibrant music scene there in the ’90s. It seems like there was always some show going on at someones’ barn, the Center Lake Pavillion, a church, or at the firemen’s building. My first notable band was a trip-hop band called Moriarty. We played all over the state. The highlight of that band was opening for Anathallo in Bloomington. I loved every minute of that. From there I was in a butt-rock band, a folksy singer-songwriter band, and most recently a very Death Cab for Cutie fashioned band called Plaxton and the Void.

Nick Hammer: Casey and i had been friends for a long while and he mentioned that somebody at work was looking for a drummer and he said we should try it out together. First practice was a blaze of talent. I had never played with such a cohesive but we’ll blended group of people. Songs and ideas came together faster than I thought possible.

Casey Gerlach: Lightlow was like flicking a switch. There was a call to form a band, from who would eventually become our frontman Miles. It started as a post on the classifieds and I think, with the exception of Paige who joined a little while after, we were all on board within a few hours. We’ve all played in other bands, but I don’t think any of us were really pursuing any bands at the current time.

Paige Smith: So I didn’t really join Lightlow till about a month into the band’s existence. I remember Miles coming home and saying “Oh hey I have some guys coming over one night, we might be starting a band” and I sat in on their practices and just listened. And I remember thinking after every practice “Man, these guys really are something else”. After about a month or so of practices, Miles finally approached me and asked about the possibility of me playing synth and helping with vocals. I’d never been in a band before, so the biggest thing I did before was busking on my college campus back in school. Being asked to be a part of Lightlow was scary, and amazing, and it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me.

photo (c) Jen.CoPhoto (used with permission)

J. Hubner: What is the inspiration behind Lightlow’s sound? Your EP has a very modern rock feel. A bit post-rock, a bit progressive, but still with very much pop-oriented. Who are some musical influences going in to help mold the feel? There’s even moments that bring Deftones to mind. 

Miles P: We take a lot of inspiration from a lot of places. Some are obvious, some aren’t. We take a lot from that modern post-rock scene; Deftones, Circa Survive, and the like. But we also draw a lot of influence from classic artists like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and more modern acts like Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie, who are some of my favorites of all time.

Casey G: Easily my favorite thing about this group is that we come from such diverse musical backgrounds. We have musicians with absolutely no musical training to classically trained, and we make that work really well. We definitely have a lot of overlapping influences, but every time we sit down to write or we’re jamming, we’re all sort of tugging at different directions and it makes for a very sexy blend of everything. Metaphorically speaking, Miles often picks the meal, while the rest of us mutually agree to flavor and season as we please. Dave brings the Beer.

J. Hubner: What’s the story behind the name “Lightlow”?

Miles P: Lightlow is originally derived from a lyric – “There’s a light, low, at the end of the tunnel” in the song “Black Hole” by O’Brother. It has a symbolism to it, light in darkness, the feeling of perpetuity in life, that we can hold out if we keep pushing.

Casey G: Lightlow. The name was actually our second band name we agreed on. Originally we considered “Before the Score” but we all eventually found that Lightlow, spoken aloud, has a great representation of the overall feel.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about your new EP ‘Begin Again’. The album sounds great, btw. Where was the album recorded? Did the band self-produce or did you have someone coming in helping with the production?

Miles P: Thank you so much! We recorded with Brook Floyd, in his magnificent home studio. He also produced, mixed, and mastered the EP. He is fantastic to work with, and we imagine we will again.

Dave M: Brook moved to Fort Wayne from Hawaii to work at Sweetwater, too. He’s had studios his whole adult life; he has built up studios in Washington, Arizona, and Maui. Luckily, his desk is right next to mine, so we talk a lot and we quickly became friends. When he moved here, he bought a house with high basement ceilings that he could build a new studio in. I helped him put up a wall or two, solder a bunch of XLR jacks, and documented the whole process on video. This guy knows what he’s doing… in designing, constructing, equipping, and operating a studio. Brook doesn’t compromise in the tools he uses or in the quality of his productions. He’s also exceptionally good at getting the best performances out of people. I think that aspect is overlooked a lot. He’s as much a psychologist and a coach as an audio engineer. Brook is a very unassuming guy, so it is fun to see people walk into this impressive studio in his basement and see the Grammy nominations hanging on the wall. The songs are ours and the arrangements didn’t really change much, but we definitely owe a lot to Brook’s expertise and amazing talents in the studio and in the mix.

Casey G: We’re so blown away at the level of production that our friend and engineer Brook was able to pull out for us. We all agreed that we didn’t want to cut corners anywhere. So we went full scale production for our material that was going to hit peoples ears for the first time. Working with Brook was a treat, he was able to take our mash of instruments and ideas and really deliver the sound we were going for. Fortunately, we’re all pretty tech-y and have a good understanding of recording and production, so that definitely helped a lot for me.

J. Hubner: What is the songwriting process like in Lightlow?

Miles P: Lightlow is a collaborative effort, we all bring ideas to the table, and songs frequently build from nearly nothing, a single note reverberated, a simple beat, we start there and shape into something beautiful. It’s equal parts love and technicality.

Dave M: We’re like 5 painters each adding our own colors to the palette, then each laying down some paint on the canvas, from our own, or even from each others’ colors. I especially love it when one of us picks up some musical concept from one of the others and creates something new with that. I think that’s where the really interesting ideas come from… like, “Oh, that’s an outstanding color! I like what it is doing here, but I wonder what it could do over in this other spot applied in a different way.”

Casey G: When we started writing material was when I realized this band was going to do well. We could take 2 or 3 chords, or a single melody that someone brought to the table and then have 80% of a song conceptualized within a few jam sessions The last 20% took a lot of scrutiny and refinement, but the rate we were able to push out content was amazing. Miles has done nearly all the heavy lifting lyrically, and a lot of the seeds that become songs are a noodle he has come up with. But all the layers and parts are spread out across everyone for sure.

photo (c) Jen.CoPhoto (used with permission)

J. Hubner: What are two records that you could point to as blueprints to what Lightlow set out to build?

Miles P: Radiohead’s OK Computer, that album is a fucking masterpiece. The songs swim up and down through each other, and the raw emotional content from Thom is enough to make your skin crawl. It’s a huge influence. Obrother’s Endless Light, another masterpiece, 10 tracks about light and dark, life and death, love and loss, told with soaring reverberated guitar and crushing orchestration. That’s what I think of when Lightlow is writing.

Casey G: Shout out to the dudes from Circa Survive, cause I’m going to list 2 from them, haha. Blue Sky Noise is an album that has the most influence on myself to date. So honestly, anything I write will subconsciously have some small tribute to that record. The other album would be Descensus, more so for the production level. Everything sonically just sounds so good, and some of the grooves are just killer.

J. Hubner: Last month Lightlow had their live debut alongside March On, Comrade at the Brass Rail. How did the show go? 

Miles P:  Playing our first show with March On was an enlightening experience. I’d like to think we tore the roof of of that place, but the whole thing happened so fast I couldn’t really say. It felt good, we didn’t fuck up, and all of the reactions were positive, so I’d say it was a success.

Dave M: After the show I went around to the musicians that I know that were there and asked each of them, “What is one thing we could do to perform a better show next time?”. “Add pyrotechnics”, was about the only answer I got. Everyone really seemed to love it. Of all the bands I’ve been in, this was definitely the most confident I’ve felt in a first show situation. We really buckled down and practiced intently for several weeks building up to the show. The hard work seems to have paid off. What put the icing on the cake for me was doing it while opening for my personal favorite Fort Wayne band, March On, Comrade.

Paige S: The show went well! At least from what I remember; time seemed to pass in a blur. The show at the Brass Rail was the first live show I’ve ever played as a part of a band, so I was especially nervous and anxious. But once we were on the stage, and I could see people nodding their head and getting into our music, it all just fell into place and felt so natural. We all meld well together and I think that really translated on the stage. The weeks of practice definitely paid off!

Casey G: I think everyone knows March On, Comrade in this area, because they’re amazing at what they do, and the level they do it at. So it was really an honor to share the stage and I was excited because I think we paired well with them. We had a great turnout, and huge thank you again to everyone who came out to see us, Stuyedeyed, and March On.

J. Hubner: For those that didn’t make the Brass Rail show, what can folks expect from a Lightlow show?

Miles P: Live performance for us seems to turn into a sort of possession. It’s so raw and ripping compared to our writing and recording, it’s the most fun part of existing as a band, and we love it.

Dave M: Possession is a pretty good way to describe it. All the conscious effort went into the preparations so that in the performance we can kind of turn off the analytical parts of our brains and just FEEL it without even thinking. The music takes over and runs over us and flows into the entire venue.

Casey G: Sweet and sweaty! We have songs in our setlist that you can grab a beer and have an easy listen to, and we have songs that are going to make you wanna headbang and dance.

J. Hubner: Does Lightlow have any other upcoming shows lined up?

Casey G: You can catch us again at the Brass Rail, June 16th. We’ll happily put a smile on your face, then melt it off for you. More to come!

J. Hubner: What’s the rest of 2018 hold for Lightlow? Is there a full-length LP in the band’s future?

Miles P: We think 2018 is going to be a huge year for us. We’re already working on that full length debut, and we’re excited to start tracking it. Again, we’ve got some awesome things coming soon, and we’re incredibly excited. Thank you so much!

Paige S: 2018 has already been a whirlwind; from putting out the EP to playing our first show, we just sort of hit the ground running and we haven’t stopped yet. Working on the full album definitely seems like the goal for the latter half of the year, as well as getting out there and playing more live shows. It’s going to be a busy year, but so worth it! Thank you so much for your time!

Make sure to check out Lightlow at the Brass Rail on June 16th, and head over to Lightlow’s Bandcamp page to grab a copy of Begin Again. Or take a listen below.

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