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It started with a want ad, plastered across the board of a post-industrial space near the Gowanus Canal. The request? Quite simple: “Robert Smith/Emily Haines, where are you?” The kind of thing you’d expect from a New Mexico native who studied the Cure’s bleak but beautiful hooks at a time when riff-raking guitar heroes were all the rage.
“People would always say, ‘Why would you want to play like Robert Smith?’” explains Lightouts founder Gavin Rhodes, last heard in the one-man band Honeypower. “‘Wouldn’t you rather learn how to shred instead?”
Not quite. More like become the instrument-swapping backbone of a fuzz-flecked band like the Jesus & Mary Chain. Enter Greg Nelson, the only sane person who answered Rhodes’ call. Luckily he was exactly what Lightouts needed: a seasoned member of the NYC music scene with the war stories to prove it. (Let’s just say Lady GaGa opened up for him at a Lower East Side club in 2007.) More importantly, Nelson’s a natural at toeing the line between darkness and light, as exemplified by the sky-scraping choruses of “See Clear,” the sinewy melodies of “The Eloise Suite,” and the vapor trail verses of “Dress Shop.”
All part of a loosely-linked concept album—Want, a meditation on what it means to follow our instincts—that’ll be prefaced by a series of singles in the coming months. The idea being a brief return to an era where A and B-sides actually meant something, right down to the duo’s highly reverential deep-cut covers of the Stone Roses, Joy Division, and more.
“While we’ve been compared to everyone from the Hold Steady to Surfer Blood,” explains Rhodes, “Our retro touchstones are rock bands from the early ‘90s.”
Beyond that, Lightouts’ first proper recordings are a byproduct of the band’s home base in Brooklyn. We’re not talking about Williamsburg or any of the borough’s other painfully hip environs here, either. Try Gowanus, an area that’s full of airy art studios, pockmarked apartment buildings, and a canal that’s dirtier than your kitchen sink after a potluck presentation of Thanksgiving.
“There’s a sick pulse running through it,” says Nelson. “Some people might not find it attractive, but I love its sense of space and openness. Its desolation is beautiful.”
And so is Lightouts’ moonlit blend of steam-pressed beats, cauterized power chords and lean bass lines. Not to mention a crucial call-and-response chemistry that’s quite surprising considering the duo—yep, a duo’s responsible for every last deftly layered track—formed less than a year ago.
“I like bands who sound like Animal Collective and Yeasayer,” admits Nelson, “But we’re not part of the new primitive movement, you know? We’re going for something that’s tighter and more structured.”
“Like Smashing Pumpkins,” adds Rhodes, “When they were good.”
Bio written by Andrew Parks of Self-TitledMag.com