by Lily Lyons
“We want people to be dazzled,” Rishava Green tells me over the phone. Such a statement might feel extreme coming from most musicians, but in the case of Rishava’s band, The Lights Out, it’s actually pretty literal. The Lights Out play what Rishava calls “catchy, hooky, arena rock,” but they do it in the dark while bedecked in a wearable light show, their eyes rimmed with glow-stick-like goggles. It is indeed dazzling, and very carefully designed by Jesse James, the bands’ drummer, “to make people be like ‘stop right now I gotta take your picture man,’” as Rishava puts it. By creating a live show that is so viscerally visual, The Lights Out hope to catch a media-numbed audience off guard: “hopefully while you’re looking up from your phone and paying attention the sound gets in and you’re like ‘oh I like that.”
Being dazzling is hardly the only creative way that The Lights Out have been reimagining how to connect with their audience. Their latest album was released via a decidedly fresh format: the beer can. They made the songs and Aeronaut Brewing made Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P, a beer inspired by the rock, sci-fi vibe of the band. The only way to access the music is to make a run to the liquor store and follow the instructions that the Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P can gives. When I ask Rishava what sparked the idea for such an unconventional distribution format, he says that his bandmate Adam Ritchie pointed out that “people don’t really rifle through record stores anymore…but people do rifle through the beer can shelf.”
In an age where most music is found haphazardly through youtube and streaming services, distributing an album via beer cans also gives The Lights Out more control over the listener’s experience. And listening to the album while sipping cold beer fits with how Rishava wants the band to be branded: “There are beer bands, and pot bands, and heroin bands, and speed bands, and Christian bands…We’re a beer band. High spirit, high energy, rocking hard.” The beer just enhances the multimedia experience that The Lights Out is slowly piecing together: “we’ve added a taste to the sound and the sight.” You don’t just hear the rock—you feel it, see it, and get it flowing through your veins until you’re buzzed.
As a matter of practicality and principle, The Lights Out—unlike many bands—doesn’t tour just to tour: “we’re not really working towards life on the road. We’re working more towards putting together unique live experiences,” Rishava says. Incorporating the light show into their tight, energetic live set has taken quite a bit of effort: “we had to learn to play the music to it and get used to playing in the dark. It’s taken a little time to grow into it but now it really feels natural to just get out there and do it.” With the lights mastered, their album release show at the climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders took on a surreal, thrilling quality. Rishava describes the space: “it’s big and cavernous so the sound was ringing out really nicely…There were actually night climbers in headlamps going up behind us on the walls while we were playing.” The electrifying and spooky scene charmed their fans.
Amidst all the beer and crazy show locations, The Lights Out still manages to have a strong musical work ethic. Their unorthodox marketing tactics are really just a means to get people to fall in love with the songs the band has poured their time into writing. “Discipline is absolutely a thing. Instead of just letting the muse strike, we try to court it a little bit,” Rishava says, “Being prolific helps. The more songs you write, the more shots you have. It’s just like throwing darts: eventually one might hit.” The success of The Lights Out has been due to this hard work as much as it has been due to their imaginative business practices. When I ask Rishava if he has any advice for Berklee students who are heading out into the world and starting their own bands, he replies: “if you’ve got a vision it probably will take awhile…sometimes it’s not easy, but ultimately the truest act of subversion is setting your own dials in the way you want them and living your life that way artistically and otherwise. Just getting to exactly what it is you wanna do. Like do that and forget about everything else. That’s what I would say.”
IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE LIGHTS OUT LIVE, CATCH THEIR JANUARY 20th SHOW AT ARTSEMERSON!