Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “New New” by The Lights from their third full-length album, Failed Graves, on Wantage USA.
Seattle post-punk band The Lights may have stepped out of the spotlight from time to time, but they have never left the stage. Though it’s been quite some time since their last full-length album, Diamonds & Dirt, The Lights have been busy touring and releasing music via other outlets (Craig Chambers as Love Tan with Matthew Ford, and solo as Le Sang Song; Jeff teamed up with Coconut Coolout’s Pete Zaparty for the ridiculous hip hop duo Lamborghiniz) so much so that folks around town even thought it was the end of The Lights for a while.
Bassist Jeff Albertson writes:
Failed Graves is a bit of an inside joke. As in, ‘I thought you guys broke up?’ No, we never die. We just keep digging our graves. We’ve been a band for 10+ years. We’ve released 3 albums, toured, played CMJ and South By South West, had our music in movies, played a billion local shows and several weddings. Not many bands last longer than 2 years. I think that speaks to how much we enjoy each others company and how much our music means to us.
Drummer PJ Rogalski chimes in:
Some things are just too pretty to die and this band happens to be one of them.
You can tell there’s a lot of love amongst the band which is understandable considering they’ve been playing music together since high school in Eastern Washington/Idaho.
Basements, rock quarries, and house parties are where we forged our friendships and decided to play together. Or, maybe everybody else just got smart and we were the only three left... it’s hard to remember at this point.
As you would expect, a band that has been working together that long has taken them through several transitions but one thing has remained the same, their mutual respect and camaraderie for one another.
KEXP: How has your relationship changed over the years? Do you do things now that you NEVER thought you’d do back then and vice versa?
JA: We’re more like a family now than just close friends and band mates. We sometimes bicker and argue, like a family would, but we always managed to work things out. At this point playing music together comes really naturally.
PJ: At this point, it’s a family affair and not in any way related to the “business” aspect of music. But I don’t think it was ever any different really. I’m certain that I’ll know these guys for the rest of my life.
I didn’t think I’d invite Craig and Jeff over to play with my two daughters. You’ve seen ‘em... would you let them play with your kids? It is a trip to experience all of the ups and downs of life with a core group of people that have seen you at your best and worst. A lot happens over 15 years.
What’s your songwriting process? Is there a main songwriter or is it pretty collaborative?
PJ: A lot of ideas are brought by Craig or Jeff and then fleshed out as a band. It’s always felt pretty collaborative and, as a drummer I feel lucky that neither one of them has an agenda as far as beats are concerned. Or maybe they do and they’ve learned that I take neither criticism nor suggestion very well. Thanks guys, for being gentle with my easily bruised ego.
JA: It is totally organic and collaborative. Sometimes we start with a simple idea and build on that and make up lyrics as we go, but lately we’re much better at bringing in fully realized songs. Either Craig or I will have a pretty good idea of what we want a song to be, but we always allow for each other to come up with their individual parts or add their ideas to it. We’re pretty openly honest with each other when it comes to writing new material. It’s nothing for Craig to write a bass line for me or for me to suggest a drum idea to PJ. The feeling is pretty mutual in that respect.
What is the story behind “New New?”
Craig; I just tried to tap into my primal “la”
JA: The song or the title? I’ll let the song speak for itself, but the title ...well PJ comes up with the names to virtually all Lights songs. He’s smart. He reads books. He’s funnier on paper than most people will ever know. He’s pretty funny in real life too. At one time this song was, like all others before it at some point, called “New Song.” We couldn’t leave it at that.
“New New” is a line from the movie ATL.
Rashad: [chuckling] New New.
New New: What’s so funny?
Rashad: What kind of name is New New, anyway?
New New: I’m New New cause I always rock the new, new shit. Thank you.
How did you get involved with $5 Cover Seattle? Was that through your previous experience with Lynn?
JA: We met Lynn at a show quite a few years back. She liked us and asked for a CD . She ended up using “Your Boyfriend Has A Pretty Machine” from Beautiful Bird in her film “We Go Way Back.” After that, she needed a project and offered to film a video for us pro bono. We shot “Setting Sun” in my living room with a cast and crew of about 20 awesome people including Ben Kasulke (director of photography) and Jennifer Maas (producer). Much of those same people ended up working on $5 Cover. It was her idea to use us in $5 Cover.
PJ: We’ve known Lynn for a number of years and she’s always been incredibly supportive. We all talked with her about music in Seattle as she was mapping out her plan of attack for the series and were honored to be involved. Not because of any MTV affiliation, but because of the respect we have for Lynn as well as the other bands involved in the project.
What was one of your favorite moments working on $5 Cover?
JA: Shooting the live scenes at the Wild Rose. We’ve played there a bunch and it’s one of my all-time favorite places to play in Seattle. The people there are awesome, the room is small and if you get 25 people in there it feels like a 100. While we were filming some woman came up to the window and flashed her boobs at us. That was my favorite moment.
PJ: While playing along to a recording for four hours is a reward in and of itself, getting to know the crew and seeing my daughters’ little faces being filmed was a highlight for me. Also seeing how the film community in Seattle works together and maintains pretty stellar creative integrity in the face of a media giant like MTV was pretty inspiring.
Best case scenario, how will being on MTV change your lives?
PJ: Now my mom has something she can tell her friends about without having to do too much explaining.
JA: None of us have huge expectations of it, but it seemed like a good opportunity to get our music out there to people who would otherwise never hear it. Knowing that Lynn Shelton and Ben Kasulke were leading the project made it a no brainer for us.
That and we got paid a very modest fee.
Craig: Ummm, hey look there goes a Ferrari!
Best of luck, we hope to see driving around town in those Ferraris soon.
The Lights will be part of KEXP’s live broadcast at the West Seattle Easy Street as part of our Hood to Hood event on May 21st. They will play live at 1:30pm. For more upcoming gigs, keep an eye on their MySpace page.
The Lights are also a part of director Lynn Shelton’s $5 Cover Seattle debuting next month. The second season of this MTV production features 13 Seattle bands (including KEXP faves The Moondoggies, The Maldives, Champagne Champagne, and more) in a combination music documentary and light drama that chronicles the lives of these musicians (and musicians in general) with stories drawn from their real lives.