GFP meets… | Black Light Dinner Party
Words & interview by Lee Adcock
I was very late to the Black Light Dinner Party. These four dudes have been astonishing fans and critics with their intuitive production skill(z) since 2010, but I hadn’t heard of ‘em at all until last January, when ‘Leave It All‘ blasted onto my airwaves and sent me in a fit of ecstasy. Within the week, I downloaded the BLDP EP – and haven’t stopped dancing to it since.
Tidbits have been trickling from the band’s headquarters for several months now – a colorful video for ‘We Are Golden‘, paired with a complementary arcade game, a trailer for the next LP and some tantalizing singles on Soundcloud. But, at long last, Sons and Lovers is due to be released on Sept. 24th. The band have just put out an enchanting video for the title track and they’ve chosen to sit down with us to chat about what’s to come. Read on, then, to hear the origins of those brilliant videos, future plans, and some of the band’s philosophies on performing, distributing, and having one hell of a good time.
First – you sent out a notice on your Facebook that the tour with Wildcat! Wildcat! had been cancelled. What happened there?
Joel: We were hoping to extend the tour that they were on, and it just fell through. We wanted to do it, but…yeah. It wasn’t from our end.
Dan: All the other bands on that tour had to cancel their own tours.
Zach: But we’re working on our own stuff. There’ll be a lot of touring soon.
So your next LP comes out next week, and you released the video for the title track not too long ago. And it’s…pretty incredible. It plays out like a full-length film in five minutes. Plus, it’s gorgeous. Do tell. Where did the story come from – of life, and love, and death, and rock and roll?
Dan: Well, let’s see…first, we found the animator. Zach found the animator. Do you remember where you found the animator, Zach?
Zach: Well, we work with this company for most of our videos – actually, ALL of our videos, called Dreambear. They’re old friends of mine – of the band’s, really – and they’re awesome, awesome guys. And they have an eye for really creative directors, and they just know how to put together a great thing. So we found the director, and Dreambear set it up. And he pulled it out of us.
Dan: It was loosely based on Jack’s story…
Joel: Yeah, it’s loosely based on how the band came to be, but he made it something…
Dan: More cinematic.
Joel: Yeah, more cinematic. Something that could fit into five minutes. There’s definitely a lot in there.
Dreambear were the same folks that did your “We Are Golden” video, too, was that their idea, or were some of those video game elements yours as well? I really enjoyed the flying Tetroids!
Zach: The “We Are Golden” video was largely conceptualized by the animator – Jonathan Seligson. He listened to the tune and decided to run with a number of ideas, and when he presented them to us, we were like, “That’s amazing. You just run with it.” So he ended up making this dreamy art based around the tune as he saw fit.
Was the arcade game that followed that also someone else’s idea as well?
Zach: That was our idea. We just thought, this would be a lot of fun. This would be really cool. And Joel had this dopey German synthesizer that makes everything sound like Nintendo! So he independently made “Older Together” into an 8-bit song, a Super Mario Bros. version…and we were having so much fun with it, so were like, what can we do with it?
Joel: So we decided to make a video game, for something a bit more interactive for the fans that wanted to check it out, and have a free download when you beat the game.
Zach: Yeah, for a limited time, you could get a free download of the 8-bit songs.
Joel: Maybe we’ll do an 8-bit EP, or something.
Were you guys old Nintendo fans growing up?
Dan: You know, I wasn’t allowed to have anything plugged into my TV growing up, but I was waaaaay into the Game Boy.
Zach: I used to have an old Nintendo, back in the day.
Dan: We still have Zach’s Nintendo in the rehearsal room. Doesn’t have any controllers, but it’s about time we broke that out!
Zach: Yeah, I have Duck Hunt somewhere, with the old gun.
Pertaining to the rest of the LP…is it a completely original production, or will there be some old favorites from the EP? How’d you put the setlist together?
Zach: It’s a combination. We’ll have all of the older songs, plus a lot of newer stuff that hasn’t been released yet.
Joel: Yeah, we just wanted to put our best foot forward. We have a LOT of songs just sitting around, so it’s been a process of [garble]
Zach: Yeah, we wanted to select our “best” work, but…”best” is with the idea of, putting an album together, what is the best for a specific, cohesive body of work, so…yeah. Some old songs, some new songs, but the best of the bunch.
Do you anticipate there being some curveballs that will throw some people off, or, once again, do think this will delight everyone?
Zach: I don’t know if there will be any curveballs. I think there’s going to be some sonic elements and different qualities of emotion and feeling that come across that may be a little different than songs we’ve released so far. Might be showcasing the direction we’re moving in, as opposed to where we’ve been. But it’s intended to all be cohesive and along a common theme.
Dan: All the songs sound like they belong together.
New direction, hmm? That’s interesting, because when you released “I Was Right” about two months ago, it was glorious, but it was mostly electronic, and lacked all the intriguing guitar parts. Is this part of the new direction, per say?
Joel: Not necessarily. We’ve been going in and out of…a little more electronic, a little more acoustic…I don’t really know! I think that we’re headed in a – we’re listening to a lot of 80s music right now, but we’re not trying to recreate the 80s, by any stretch. It wasn’t a conscious decision, to say, “Oh, we’re going to be more electronic now.”
Dan: I think it depends on the song, to a certain level. We try to cater to whatever we’re trying to get across, from one song to the next, so sometimes that’ll entail it being largely electronic, sometimes more acoustic, or sometimes an equal combination of both. We try to stay open about it.
When you guys first came out, people were amazed that you were new to producing, because your production sounded so amazing. But I wonder – since your sound is so nuanced, it seems like that’d be difficult to reproduce live…
Dan: Yeah, obviously the record came first.
Joel: It’s an entirely different discipline. It’s a whole other ballgame. We have much more fun with it live, it’s much less precise, as you allude to it. It’s very controlled, the way we approach production, so when we play live, we definitely have to let go, and experience it, and feel it, and be part of that, creating an experience that’s not so controlled. It is different, and the biggest element is, when we get into it, we have fun. It’s not three or four people in a studio, it’s an entire room of people, so everything changes. And we love it. It’s nice. Different, but equally awesome.
You said about a year ago to Interview [ ] that you considered yourself “definitely a rock band”. A year later, do you see yourself as a “rock band”?
Zach: That’s a good question. I think there’s still rock and roll elements in what we do…
Dan: I think, in the live sense, when we perform, there’s always more of a rock band approach.
Zach: Maybe an abundance!
Dan: Yeah. High energy, performing [with] actual instruments, everything manually as much as we can. So, in that aspect, I’d consider us more of a band than just an electronic group.
Zach: I think, in the songwriting domain, we’re a little bit more electronic, because we tend to use electronic tools to make the sounds we compose with, so it’s a happy medium between the two.
Hmm. So you guys would be opposed to using laptops, then? Because that’s been a bit of a debate lately using samples from laptops instead of sticking with just instruments…
Joel: Well, what do YOU think, Lee?
Well, when I go to see a band, I go to see a performance I don’t go to see people pulling things off of their computer.
Zach: Well, I think it’s underwhelming for the performers, as well.
Dan: I think it’s very important for us to present something where people can really feel like they’re seeing what’s happening and they’re part of the process of experiencing as it happens, as opposed to us just doing the DJ thing and hitting spacebar on a laptop, or any number of things. It’s important for us to present an aesthetic that’s fun and interactive for all our fans to really see what we’re doing.
Joel: I would just add that it’s fine that people do [that] – we have nothing against DJs performing, or any electronic musicians doing fully cued-up sets, but for us –
Dan: We can’t have fun if we don’t play.
Zach: Yeah, we just wanna have fun!
Joel: We made the point early on just to rock and play real instruments and say, “You know what? That’s not what this is, we’re not DJs, we’re performers.”
I mentioned earlier that I could not stop dancing to your earlier work – do you get that kind of reaction from people who come to your shows? I’m just curious to see if I’m the only one that does this.
Zach: We’ve definitely had that happen. We always see people get really into it, and sing along, and dance…so, yeah. I think our shows are pretty dancey.
Dan: We encourage it.
Good. OK – so when Sons & Lovers is released, do you plan on putting out a physical release, or will it just be digital, as the EP was?
Joel: Yeah, we’ll have a CD.
And are you planning on vinyl, or just stopping at the CD?
Dan: It’s just the CD for now, right?
Joel: We MAY do vinyl, at some point. But, right off the bat…yeah, digital and CD.
OK. I do wonder sometimes if bands that release vinyl wind-up turning fans away that can’t afford it. So I’m glad you’re turning to CD first.
Zach: I think vinyl matters for people who find vinyl more special, and so there is some work in making vinyl for some people…but more people just want to listen to the music, and digital is absolutely fine for distributing content. And other people want to buy a CD, but that tends to be at the show, or – I don’t know the last time I’ve gone to a store and bought a CD myself, so I think there’s different ways of getting music out to different kinds of people.
Joel: We made vinyls for our EP last fall and gave them out at shows and just to people who we cared about. And it almost feels like that was the best thing to do, because it’s intimate, and a little more personal.
What do you guys have lined up for the future?
Joel: We’re gonna go hiking through the woods, and discover ourselves. No, actually, we’re working really hard to produce music for a new album -[the audio cuts off RIGHT HERE, which was the most frustrating feeling EVER, but I ask them to repeat…]
Joel: Yeah, there’s a new album on the way.
Zach: …we haven’t told anyone that yet.
Joel: Oh, yeah…so you’re the first to hear that, actually!
Well, it’s on tape now! So – have you found compiling an LP difficult, or is it just an extension of what you’ve done thus far?
Dan: It’s a fun time, it’s exciting, it’s different, to start working on performing our songs, and keep it interesting for us, changing up the set…I wouldn’t say it’s a difficulty, I’d say it keeps it fresh and exciting for us.
Zach: I think the only difference for me is…more songs to write. But making an EP is just as hard as making an LP, I think.
Sons & Lovers is released on September 24th.