Exclusive Interview with The Lights Out Band: Beer, Dimensional Travel, and Rock N’ Roll

The Lights Out are a Boston based, “bank heist rock” band that was conceived in 2005. Since its conception, the band, made up of Rishava Green (lead vocals), Jesse James (drums), Adam Ritchie (guitar), and Matt King (bass), have put out three full-length albums and after some time they’re ready to put out their fourth.. T.R.I.P. isn’t an album you’ve likely seen or heard before (you can find the album and beer trailer here). Built on inter-dimensional avenues and its very own beer, T.R.I.P. (and the Lights Out themselves) asks the question: what if there was more than one version of our reality? What would that look and sound like? Is it truly out of the question to say that anything is possible?

Since they’re back from their dimensional travel and are gearing up for the album release, The Lights Out were kind enough to chat with me and answer some questions about how they came up with such a unique album concept, T.R.I.P. (the beer and the album), and the infamous Color Machine.

Now we know you’re big beer fans so, first things first: what is your go-to beer right now and have you guys had a chance to visit any new breweries this season?

Adam Ritchie, guitar: We’ve been surviving on nothing but T.R.I.P. from Aeronaut over the last month, and our band doctor just informed us our blood is turning a deliciously hazy shade of gold. This time of year, I like to pick up a six-pack of Tröegs Mad Elf and have just one before I start a big night. Just one. Those things are like 11% ABV: a perfect sipping beer when you’re getting ready to let the wolf loose. The goofy-eyed elf on the label sums up this beer perfectly. Regardless of the season, I’m always on the hunt for a good stout. When The Lights Out are on the road, we always make a point to hit a brewery in the cities we play. Some of our favorites are Empire and Middle Ages in Syracuse, Magic Hat and Long Trail in Vermont, Dieu du Ciel in Montreal and Dogfish Head in Delaware. This fall, I visited Reissdorf in Germany, Screaming Hill in New Jersey and brought my beagle to the outdoor patio at Night Shift in Massachusetts for “Paws & Pints.” The Lights Out are beer fans, not beer snobs, and believe there’s a dress for every occasion.

How did you come up with the concept of an interdimensional album? What was that creative process like?

Rishava Green, lead singer: That’s what happens when you read too much fantasy literature! It probably started in high school when I first read the word “multiverse” in Michael Moorcock’s book, “The Dragon In The Sword,” which introduced me to the concept. Later, I got interested in writers like Brian Greene and David Deutsch, who both do a good job explaining to the interested layperson how the science of parallel universes works, according to a growing contingent of thinkers who take the idea seriously. The process has been like any serious creative effort I’ve ever been involved in, which is to say frightening and exhilarating all at once. We didn’t understand what we were doing exactly, and it wasn’t easy, and the future was dark, but we kept roughly aiming at writing with the multiverse in mind and having some kind of visual aid to catch people’s attention, focused on our message and being a pretty amazing light show. One beautiful thing about this idea is that it doesn’t limit us to only writing about certain subjects. Everything happens, and everything is fair game because it can all be tagged with “multiverse.”

This is your first album in almost five years! I’m sure your fans are through the roof to hear new stuff from you guys. Would you say this album is different from your previous work or along the same vein?

Jesse James, drums: This album is a bit more eclectic than our previous efforts. While thinking about the pandimensional aspect of the band and the stories on this album, we’ve made a conscious effort to add new colors to our sonic palette. In addition to the energetic rock people expect from The Lights Out, the tracks on this record have a splash of Pink Floyd, a dash of Stevie Wonder and a sprinkle of Gary Glitter.

On TheLightsOut.com, your bio begins with these two sentences: “The Lights Out have been traveling down a long, forked road. On that road, there are branches of you splitting off with every decision you make.” Is this new album an audible map of those different branches and different worlds?

Rishava Green, lead singer: Yes, it is, and so is every song, every story, every leap of imagination about what could be, but is not, in this world you and I share, real. In the multiverse, every choice that obeys the laws of physics is a choice that exists in reality. Every time you imagine that snappy comeback an hour after you needed it? In a parallel reality, you really said it, and it was a sublime takedown! And also it fell flat. And also, you said it slightly differently, and THAT both worked and didn’t work, and everything in between. The difference between us and most other storytellers is that we are explicitly aware that we exist in this universe as only one facet of our greater being, so we stick little easter eggs into the lyrics here and there to tease the idea that you’re eavesdropping on other realities. Lines like, “History is not a vine growing in a single line / History’s a canopy exploding into blooming time / Every choice a branch, you multiply as you divide / To live down every dream and every nightmare on the side.”

Did the idea for a partnered beer come before or after the conception of T.R.I.P.?

Adam Ritchie, guitar: Having our own beer has been a band fantasy for almost 10 years. Music and beer go together so well. Because this is the first album we’re releasing in a mostly post-CD era, format choice wasn’t as obvious as it’s been in the past. It created an opportunity for us to rethink how we’d put this collection of music out into the world, and gave us a chance to do something unique. That’s part of what makes this collaboration different than other band and brewer partnerships. Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Queen all have their own beers. We think that’s awesome, and want them. Set em up! But this is the first time we’re aware of a new studio album being released on cans of craft beer brewed to pair with it. With T.R.I.P., the silver beer can is like the shining booster rocket that launches the new music satellite into orbit. It’s DIY NASA: an independent band and an independent brewery getting together, with no hindrance or hierarchy, to make exactly what they want.

I love that you guys used the physical experience of buying beer to get people back to the physical experience of buying music. Both beer and music have different flavors and textures, though one is taste and the other is hearing (and feeling for some); why was an IPA, especially the galaxy hops, chosen to represent T.R.I.P? Did you guys get to be a part of the brewing process at all?

Adam Ritchie, guitar: The idea behind T.R.I.P. is to create a full sensory experience: starting with sound, adding a visual and topping it off with flavor — with a slight altering of perception as a pleasant side-effect. We want to bring the physical experience of new music discovery from bands you might not know already back into the equation, which the digital age has been lacking. It’s the thrill of a new album catching your eye on the music store shelf that doesn’t happen as much anymore. But it happens every time you walk into a beer store and see what’s new on the shelf. You bring it home, and when you throw on some music to enjoy it with, you’re having a moment. When we brought a rough cut of T.R.I.P. to Aeronaut, they asked what beer style we were thinking. We said, “We’re beer fans, and whatever this album inspires you to brew is fine by us.” That’s the difference between bringing your album to a brewery instead of a record label. A brewery isn’t going to tell you what kind of music to write, and you’re not going to tell them what kind of beer to make. You both focus on what you do best and trust each other to get it right. Aeronaut was founded by scientists from MIT and Cornell, and approached brewing T.R.I.P. like a science project. They set out to create a beer that might serve as the only sustenance for someone traveling between dimensions. They concocted an imperial session IPA, which sounds like an impossible thing that shouldn’t exist. But that was their intent: to honor the theme of the album by brewing up a paradox. And if you believe in the infinite qualities of the multiverse, then paradoxes exist somewhere. It’s a smooth-drinking, 7.5% ABV IPA that’s packed with galaxy hops. Walking into the brewery and tasting what our music inspired was one of our most satisfying experiences as a band.

We’ve talked about the sound and the taste elements of the sensory experience. Tell me about the visual aspect of the band. What does The Color Machine do and how does it work?

Jesse James, drums: The Color Machine is the embodiment of our band realizing what the audience sees at a live show is just as important as what they hear. Over the years we’ve seen the visual aspect of live shows go neglected and have been guilty of it ourselves. After a few trips to Burning Man filled with learning and experimenting with EL Wire, LED technology and other things, we returned with a plan to reinvent our live show. I built this silver electronic box called The Color Machine from parts I scoured from random websites in China and beyond. It enables me to visually choreograph every moment of every song via over 1,000 LEDs attached to our instruments and goggles. I can reveal a sunrise to punctuate a musical swell, turn a guitar solo into a supernova and summon the fiery depths during a song about an afterlife down below.

At TalkNerdyWithUs, we encourage openly nerding out about whatever gets you excited and what you’re passionate about. What do you guys nerd out about?

Matt King, bass: I seem to have been handed this question because I’m the guy in the band with all the Star Wars figures. We all have our passions and things that we dig into. I have a tendency to have at least one major collection project going at any given time. It’s been comic books, Star Wars guys, movies and music. When I find an interest, I seem to have an innate inability for casual affinity. I have to go all in. It was definitely Star Wars that woke this beast in me. When I was a kid, I’d have to know every single detail about every single thing in these movies, and when I started getting into music in middle school, I approached it with that crazed fanboy mentality. I had to be an expert. I’d collect all the records and tapes of my favorite bands and listen to them to death. When I got to college and found out about bootleg concerts, I would track down as many shows from my favorite bands as I could, amassing a collection of thousands of bootlegs. Currently, I’m nerding out about records now that they are widely available once again. I probably pick up 5-10 a week depending on how much late night eBay’ing I do. It’s a great way to actively listen to music, almost like watching a TV show. It’s not like putting in a CD or streaming MP3s; you have to pick up the needle and put it on the song you want to hear. You have a big album cover with liner notes to read. It makes you pay attention to the music in a way that’s been lost over the last couple decades. I’m finding that this one is most conducive to being in a band, because it not only feeds my nerdy collecting bug but it gives me an education, particularly as I branch out from my rock-centric comfort zone in search of new styles of music and genres.


The new The Lights Out album T.R.I.P. is officially available on iTunes and Spotify today, February 1 st!

You can follow the band on FacebookTwitter, and  Instagram to keep up with news and announcements; you can also find an album teaser below:

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