MWN: Most of your influences come from the past, what is it about the past you draw your influences from, rather than in recent years?
The Dull Blue Lights: The only rule in this band is, “Make something you like.” Naturally, the music we like is going to influence and come through the music we make, and we all happen to like music from long-gone decades. We don’t exclusively listen to those older acts, and we do get inspired by some newer folks, but most of them are drawing from those same older influences. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
MWN: Now you guys are from Philadelphia, PA. What is the music scene like there? Did that vibe it finds its way into this record at all?
The Dull Blue Lights: The vibe of this record isn’t particularly “Philadelphia.” Philly has a lot of great music right now, but it’s mostly outside of the genres you’ll hear from us. Of course there is a ton of good Garage, Punk, and Rock & Roll happening in the city, but there’s very little glue to hold it all together. There aren’t really the “scenes” that you would find elsewhere. It’s more like a bunch of bands who sometimes like to play together without the cohesion or fan base scenes in other cities have.
MWN: Are there any Philly bands you guys recommend to our readers?
The Dull Blue Lights: Yes! There is a ton of great music around Philly. If you haven’t heard Low Cut Connie yet, that is a must. Also, check out Satellite Hearts, Matt Kelly, An Albatross, Straw Hats, The West Kensingtons. We’ll probably end up listing every band currently playing in Philly if we keep going. Sorry if we’re skipping any of our buds here.
MWN: So you guys got the chance to work with producer Andrija Tokic who has also worked with some amazing bands like Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Benjamin Booker, Clear Plastic Masks. What was it like working with him?
The Dull Blue Lights: Andrija became our sixth member that week we recorded. He worked us hard through twelve hour days, five days in a row. It helps that he’s got the strongest coffee in Nashville. That espresso machine was working as hard as any of us. His ideas really refined the personalities of our songs. They were far out, in the best way possible, and his recording style added a sonic consistency across the album that helps link tunes that otherwise wouldn’t fit very well together.
MWN: Did the process of gathering inspiration from all genres come easy to you? Or was it a rough discovery, but the genres picked you up along the way?
The Dull Blue Lights: We all started playing music when we were pretty young, so we’ve been exploring for a while now, and our tastes are all over the place. From the very beginning of playing together, the goal was always to pay homage to all our favorite music regardless of the kind of band we were trying to be. We’ve been doing it for so long now, we don’t have to try very hard to throw little genre surprises here and there. We sometimes surprise ourselves with those easter eggs.
MWN: What is it about the name, ‘The Dull Blue Lights’ that fit your new persona of your album?
The Dull Blue Lights: We’d come up with a bunch of other names, and tested them by asking ourselves, “If I was digging through a box of records and came across a 45 with that name on it, would I put it back? Or would I put it to the side and take it to the listening station?” Imagining it like that, we could see picking a Dull Blue Lights record out of a bin, throwing it on a turntable for a listen, and going, “Yeah, that sounds like a band called The Dull Blue Lights.” It feels to us a bit like an old psychedelic band’s name, like The Master’s Apprentices or The 13th Floor Elevators, but with a glaze of modernity, which is how we think of our music, a blend of modern and vintage.
MWN: How do you make all the types of music sound cohesive together? For some, it can sound like over-stimulation, but it flows with yours. How do you accomplish this?
The Dull Blue Lights: Mostly luck, just a little bit of presence of mind, and probably the expectation we’ve built that you’re gonna hear something weird. We don’t have a prescribed genre-mixing formula, but the trick seems to be as simple as making sure nothing sticks out. If you hear something and think to yourself, “What’s that doing there?” you might be doing something wrong.
MWN: You recorded the album in five consecutive long sessions. What was that experience like- it sounds like it was done rather quickly?
The Dull Blue Lights: It was definitely a whirlwind. We rolled over to the Bomb Shelter, Andrija’s studio, in the middle of a tour, and had only given ourselves five days to get the tracking done. We knew it’d be a tight fit, so we would be playing as soon as we walked in the door in the morning and wouldn’t stop until it was threatening to become the next day. Go to bed, rinse and repeat. We couldn’t tell you what happened on what day, but five twelve-hour sessions later, we had a spiffy new record to share with everyone.
MWN: During the process of recording this record did you guys discover something new about the band itself?
The Dull Blue Lights: The record is essentially a map of this band rediscovering itself. We’d started to feel a little trapped and worn down by what we were doing before and took a little break from playing together after we’d written a few of these tunes. We came back together with a new idea of what kind of band we wanted to be, and writing and recording from there was our process of becoming that band.
MWN: Did you feel as if you needed to pay homage to all of your inspirations as you chose to record the album all-analog?
The Dull Blue Lights: Doing the record analog was just about getting the sound we like. We’ve got a resident tape machine in our own studio, as well as a digital setup, and we just like the sound of tape more. That’s part of the reason why we went to the Bomb Shelter. It’s an all analog studio run by a fantastically creative guy who’s got rooms full of gear older than our parents. It was the perfect place for the record we wanted to make.
MWN: Your sound and image are visually cohesive. Was it as important to you to match your sound to your image?
The Dull Blue Lights: Absolutely, that kind of cohesion is essential, though it took us some time to figure that out. Like all young bands, we weren’t particularly concerned with image until we started touring and playing for larger crowds. We eventually realized, if we’re gonna call ourselves a Soul band, we should probably look like a soul band. Enter matching suits, and then we suddenly had a color palette to base all our visual media on. It’s probably the best decision we’ve ever made, no joke.
MWN: A few fire round questions! If you had to play in a symphony what instrument would you play?
The Dull Blue Lights
Todd: I’d rock and roll a marimba.
Ben: If I had to play an instrument I’d like to play cello, but singing in a choir in symphonic pieces are some of the most powerful musical experiences I’ve had.
Matt: I would play bassoon in the Mos Eisley Cantina Symphony.
Tim: I would play the timpani because I wish that was my name.
Josh: My first instrument was a violin, but I think viola is cooler, so viola.
MWN: Who was the first person you ever played an actual song to?
Todd: I was writing with my friend Devon, who played bass in our band Blue Rhino.
Ben: I wrote a song on my acoustic bass when I was 13 that I played for our original keyboard player Kyle. His feedback was, “The singing was out of key”.
Matt: My childhood piano teacher, Jim Henson. Unfortunately, he was not the Muppets guy. However, he did have a skullet.
Tim: I don’t really remember, but my first meaningful performance was to my childhood cat, Lexi.
Josh: As a tyke, I’d “written” a song called “Green Means Go” on the family’s upright piano and played it for my grandfather.
MWN: What is your favorite love song?
Todd: “Leather and Lace” by Lee Hazlewood
Ben: “Here There and Everywhere”, no contest
Matt: “Ain’t That Loving You” by Johnnie Taylor
Tim: “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates
Josh: “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” by The Shangri-Las
MWN: If your music could be feature in a movie what movie would you choose?
Todd: Pulp Fiction, of course. (It’s his favorite movie.)
Ben: The kind of movie that also has a David Bowie song on the soundtrack
Matt: A documentary about adults living with Attention Deficit Disorder
Tim: I would love our song “All the Way Back Home” to be featured in the remake of Homeward Bound.
Josh: I think we kind of maybe got an offer to play The Animals in a movie or something like that, and part of the deal was we would contribute some tunes to the soundtrack. I’m a little bummed that that’s probably never gonna happen, so I’ll say that movie.
Interview By: Maria Limon and Allison Wyrsch. Exclusively for @Music, Why Not! -All Rights Reserved-