By Caleb Hsu
The future looks bright for Boston rock quartet The Lights Out, comprised of Berklee graduate Rishava Green, Matt King, Jesse James, and Adam Ritchie. Since 2005, the band has showcased at music conferences from CMJ Music Marathon to MidPoint, released three albums and three EPs, placed songs on MTV, and filled the Carrier Dome. We love when Berklee alumni share their post-college experiences with us and offer advice to current students, so we’re excited to share our Q&A with Rishava Green, who gives us a real-world overview of how his musical career has adapted from Berklee.
Berklee Groove: Could you give us advice for students looking to start their careers/establish their bands?
Rishava Green: Throw yourself into it as hard as you dare, then push yourself a little further the next time. Go out to shows and just have a good time. The best parts in music feel like they are discovered rather than composed, so listen and find parts instead of working to write them. Thinking isn’t everything; if you’re working with good people, you’re bound to butt heads once in a while. When you do, fight fair but insist on your way if you feel that passionately about it. Keep learning how to do your own thing better — it never stops.
BG: What’s changing in the music business from your perspective and how does it affect your work?
RG: I think platforms are always secondary to content. That being said, Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp certainly make it a lot easier to reach many people quickly. It is important to have a presence through these platforms, but of course everyone else is shouting in the same space, so it’s still up to you to be as sticky as possible in every communication in order to separate yourself from the pack.
BG: The Lights Out has been quite active with music conferences, releasing multiple albums, TV work, sessions, etc. Do you feel that any one of these take precedence over others in terms of what’s most beneficial for the band?
RG: They all kind of feed off one another so if, for example, you’re active on the festival circuit, it makes it easier to book shows in town and raises your profile beyond your own city as well. At a certain point, if you can raise your profile high enough, you might also start seeing placements in ads and such because of your name. Even before you get to that point, you can still place your music if you understand where it can fit well. It can be weird listening to a year of your hard work pouring your heart into a record having it reduced to 15 seconds of reality TV underscores, while they do the big reveal whether he was cheating on her or not. However, six months after, a check comes in equal to what you might have made in seven or eight live shows, and you get over it. That capital furthers the dream and affords you studio time to do it again, you know.
BG: What’s the best part of performing a live show?
RG: Losing myself in the moment. There is a point usually right around the middle of the second or third song of the set when I can feel the band sinking into the zone, and then it’s on! Sometimes I’ll see someone singing along and that is always gratifying, knowing we got something across. I still enjoy the element of surprise when we’re in a new place – that moment when the bartender kind of just wanders over to the end of his station, absentmindedly drying a glass while his face slowly lights up and he starts slowly nodding his head to our music. Those guys have seen everything. If you can manage to impress the sound guy or the bouncer or the server, congratulate yourself on having arrived at professional level!
BG: Could you talk about connecting with your fanbase – what’s most important in maintaining a relationship with your devoted fans?
RG: There is still no substitute for a band email list that you touch base with your fans every two or three weeks, or when you have something decent to share. Either they know you and love you and signed the list, or they saw you and loved you enough to sign the list. In both cases, it is a higher level of commitment than clicking “like” before moving onto the next item in your newsfeed. Also, if reality TV has taught us nothing else, by now we should all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we all want to live vicariously through one another. Let your fans into your world and build your own mythology. Take a picture of yourself in shades floating in the pool on the inflatable zebra with your spare backup guitar and post it while you’re on tour. Most people do not have these experiences, and they want you to have them and share them. Who doesn’t love a good story? We maintain a blog, and every so often I’ll opine about this or that and just try to impart something of the experience.
BG: Having been featured on Jersey Shore, the CMJ Showcase, and headline commercial features, what’s next?
RG: More of the same but better, because it will be the next draft. We are hip deep in writing new material as well as evolving our live experience to a new place. We will continue to expand our catalog for television and online placements. And, uh, we’re doing this show down in Austin in March.
The Lights Out will be performing Friday, March 15, at Berklee’s eighth SXSW Party in Austin, TX.
Also be sure to check out Berklee’s upcoming SXSW Party Sampler with streaming and free downloads at bandcamp.com.
Berklee’s SXSW Day Party will be at Brush Square Park and is open to SXSW badge holders. The public can email firstname.lastname@example.org to attend free of charge.