Interview: Spotlights

Each song carries its own subject matter but all are tied into a main theme.  Life and death, creation and destruction, love and pain etc... It’s a collection of existential, love stories. Weaving through different aspects of life, love, loss and death.

Spotlights are a trio who describe the sublime music they make as dreamsludge, an apt description that takes in shimmering and dreamlike soundscapes and combines it with the heaviness of sludge to create an ethereal noise. Their new album Love & Decay is out now and is a record that needs to be listened to. We caught up with guitarist, vocalist and synth player Mario Quintero to hear all about the new album, it’s theme and how it came together as well as life on Ipecac Records, touring with Deftones and others, favourite albums and gigs, their Brooklyn home and creating their own Spotlights beer! 

(((o))): Your stunning new album Love & Decay is out very soon. How did the recording of the album go?

It went really well! We recorded it ourselves, partly in our practice space and partly in our apartment. We were lucky to share a small rehearsal space with our good friend Michael Pereira, who had and nice little recording set up in the space. We did drums and most of the guitar there and bass and vocals we did in our living room. I mixed the album at home as well and our good friend Jason Finkel mastered it.

(((o))): Who did you work with on the album and what did they bring to the Spotlights sound?

Just ourselves, and our dogs. We brought all kinds of snacks and whiskey! Jason brought a whole other dimension to the final mixes with his mastering work.

(((o))): How do you get into the state of mind when it comes to create the music that Spotlights make?

I don’t have any particular process. Usually it’s a combination of a million voice memo recordings and long showers, haha. I try to take advantage when the moment strikes too like if I’m hearing something in my head I try to get it down somehow as soon as possible before it starts to disintegrate in my mind. Usually if I sit down and TRY to write, it’s not very productive. I definitely need space when I’m demoing songs too. I get really self conscious and if anyone is around, even in another room it will affect my thinking, which isn’t always a bad thing, I suppose.

(((o))): Do the songs on the new album follow a similar lyrical theme at all, one that links both love and decay or life and death?

Definitely! Each song carries its own subject matter but all are tied into a main theme. Life and death, creation and destruction, love and pain, etc… It’s a collection of existential, love stories. Weaving through different aspects of life, love, loss and death.

 

(((o))): Is the new album in a similar musical vein as your previous albums album Tidals and Seismic?

In many ways, I suppose it is. Not on purpose, but I think we have fully developed the sound we’ve been working towards throughout the previous albums, on this one. There are differences, for sure, but it still shows us trying to push the heavy side of our music as well as the melodic side.

(((o))): My favourite song from the album has to be the majestic closing track ‘The Beauty Of Forgetting’. Did you always plan to end the album in such an epic fashion?

Thank you! Not always but later on as things were coming together I had the idea to end the album with a song that encapsulated the album as a whole. To me that song is almost like footnotes to the album, if not us as a band. I’ve always liked the idea of albums ending with an epic. We also added a bonus track to the physical release which actually works well as a follow up to TBOF.

(((o))): Do you have a favourite from the album yet at all?

We all have our own favorites, but ‘Far From Falling’ is definitely up there. I know Chris likes ‘The Particle Noise’ the most and Sarah likes ‘Until the Bleeding Stops’. We’ve only just started rehearsing these songs so I’m sure we’ll find our favorites to play live as we go.

(((o))): Who created the striking artwork for Love & Decay?

His name is Tomoya Matsuura. I found these incredible photos while looking around on line at different artists and his pictures blew me away. I kept going back and going through his collection and I finally asked him if he would work with us on the cover. The image’s pictures are actually a few millimeters wide! I believe it’s some sort of macro photography magic. I put it all together and tried to not mess it up as much as possible.

(((o))): How do you think that the band have grown as musicians with each release?

I think we’ve all grown in many ways. Just being on tour develops so many different aspects of being a person and musician. We’ve all gotten better at playing together and working together. I think we’re also pushing our abilities a bit with this new album.

(((o))): What led you to signing with Ipecac Records in the first place?

We were looking for a label to release Seismic before we started recording it. We had already decided to work with Aaron Harris on it, and he suggested sending it to Ipecac. We never thought they would go for it! We couldn’t believe both Greg and Mike we’re willing to take a chance on us. Grateful everyday that they did. It’s been the best experience and home for us. We’ll be there until they kick us out.

(((o))): Were you big fans of the label in the first place?

Definitely! Huge fans of their bands and their ethics as a business.

(((o))): Who are some of your favourite Ipecac bands and albums?

Sarah is by far the biggest Ipecac fanatic but all of us are fans of pretty much anything Mike Patton, mainly Tomahawk, Faith No More and Fantomas. We all love the Melvins in so many ways, especially Bullhead, Eggnog and Stag. Isis, Zu, Dälek and so many others.

(((o))): What album has had the most profound effect on you in your life and why?

That’s a really tough question to answer. I don’t think there is one particular album but if I had to chose one that had a profound effect on me and still does, it’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me by The Cure. There is so much incredible music on that album. From the darkest, depressed moments to the poppiest love songs. This record is incredible too cause it highlights Robert Smith’s ability to work off of one motif for an entire song and make it the most interesting thing ever. There are many choruses on this or any cure record for that matter. It’s a combination of interweaving melodies, each one it’s own hook, that work together to keep you engaged. The guitar tones and playing are incredible as well.

(((o))): For Record Store Day, Spotlights brought out an IPA named after ‘The Beauty Of Forgetting’ with Cosmic Eye Brewing. How did that collaboration come about?

We met Sam the owner of Cosmic Eye through a mutual friend and bandmate (Justin Jay) who passed away some years back.  We started throwing around the idea of doing a beer together and things finally fell into place! The song ‘The Beauty Of Forgetting’ is about Justin, so it seemed a fitting title for the beer as well. The beer is soooo damn good!

(((o))): Are the band big beer drinkers and if so, what are your favourites?

Not huge beer drinkers, but we do drink. Chris however doesn’t drink anymore. He’s been sober for about 6 months now and is killing it! Sarah and I like beer but are by no means beer snobs. We drink A LOT of coors light. But our favorite beer is The Beauty of Forgetting 😉

(((o))): What’s your favourite bar and why?

Hmmm… like in the whole world? Probably The Turf Club in San Diego.

(((o))): What are your touring plans for the rest of the year? Hopefully you will make it over to the UK and Europe.

We hope so too!! We are in a tough spot in our career as a band. Not known enough to get the numbers we need overseas but known enough to have fans who want us to play there. Hopefully we can find the right agent for Europe soon and get out there ASAP. As far as the US, we’re doing a full North American tour this summer. It’s our first full headline tour so it’s a bit nerve wracking but hopefully people join us at the shows and make it a success so we can continue to do what we do. We’re taking a great band with us called Vampyre from Austin too.

(((o))): Will you be playing any festivals at any point?

The first show of the tour is part of Clairvoyance Festival in Lexington, KY. We are playing the pre-party on July 12th. We also have some plans for fall but nothing I can announce here.

(((o))): Will you be playing a lot of material from Love & Decay?

We will definitely be playing a good amount from the new album. But fans can expect some songs from Tidals and Seismic too.

 

(((o))): You toured with Deftones back on 2016. How did that tour go and what were some of the highlights?

That was our first tour as Spotlights!! So crazy. And Refused was on 9 of the shows too. It was incredible. Everyone in the bands and crew were great to us and made us feel like we belonged. Highlights were probably Chino getting on stage with us and singing the end of To The End with us. And just being there was a highlight.

(((o))): With Deftones being such an established band with an avid fanbase, was there any trepidation as to how Spotlights would be received?

Definitely. We were worried. We were very surprised to get the response we did from such diehard fans. Some of our biggest fans have come from that tour and have stuck with us from that moment on.

(((o))): You’ve also played with the likes of Melvins, Pallbearer, Quicksand, Pelican and Glassjaw. Who have you loved touring with the most throughout your career?

All those tours were so great in so many ways. I’d have to say the Melvins tour was a stand out. It was 3 months 62 shows, 30 or so that we joined them on stage for. We learned so much from them about what not to do as a band. They’re the model for the sustainable touring rock band these days.

(((o))): Do you find being onstage a cathartic experiment?

Incredibly cathartic. There’s nothing like it for me in life. And calling it an experiment is a perfect way to put it. There are so many variables that are unique to every show. From the acoustics of the room to the staff to the crowd to your own equipment and mindset. It’s an experiment in managing all that in a different city every day while being able to check out and truly connect with the people who are there with you.

(((o))): Who would you love to tour with in the future?

Good people making good music. There are so many bands who we would like to share the stage with. TOOL would be a fun experiment. Talk about being worried about how you’ll be received!

(((o))): What’s been the craziest experience that you have ever had on tour?

Pretty much all of our last European tour was crazy!

(((o))): How did Spotlights get together in the first place?

It was a very vague idea Sarah and I have had since we met over 10 years ago. We wrote one song back in 2009 and then didn’t pick it back up until 2013 when we moved to New York. We started out as a 2 piece with me on drums and Sarah on bass. Things slowly evolved and here we are!

(((o))): The band used to reside in Brooklyn. Was it difficult to survive with the rising rents in the city?

Yes. That’s why we left! We moved to Pittsburgh, PA at the beginning of this year. Brooklyn has some great aspects to it and we will always consider it home for Spotlights since the band was formed there but we can now afford to keep being Spotlights cause we left that money drain. Chris still lives there and acts as our ambassador.

(((o))): Did that struggle fuel the bands music at all?

I think it did it some ways. Definitely when we first moved there. Being around so much all the time was a catalyst for the beginning of the band. After sometime it began to kill the inspiration due to the stress of living there.

(((o))): Is there a tight knit scene in Brooklyn at the moment?

I think there’s a tight Heavy music scene there for sure. People are there for each other and willing to help. Saint Vitus Bar has played a huge part in nurturing that scene.

(((o))): What are some of your favourite places in Brooklyn and New York to play?

We really like Mercury Lounge in Manhattan, and Vitus is great too.

(((o))): What is the best gig you’ve seen recently?

FAILURE. Holy Christ those guys are sounding incredible right now. First show in a long time that has completely entranced me.

(((o))): What is the best gig you have ever seen and what made it so special?

One show that will always stick with me is seeing …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead at the Casbah in San Diego in 2009. It was when Sarah and I first started dating and we were with Justin Jay. We were losing our minds and just having the best time ever. That’s rare and it’s not only attributed to the band playing. It was everything that night. Another one is seeing the band Barbaro in Boston in 1998. They don’t exist anymore but they were one of the best bands ever to exist.

(((o))): What bands are you digging at the moment that you could recommend to us?

I’m mixing a couple records right now that are both fantastic. The band Underhand is our friend Mike Hayden from Sleep Lady’s new band. And the band Pants Exploder from Brooklyn. Worth checking out both records when they’re out! There’s a lot of good music out there but I haven’t had anything really grab me since hearing the first Sumac album.

(((o))): What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Touring as much as possible and promoting the new album.

(((o))): What have been some of the highlights of your career with Spotlights so far?

This very thorough interview! And all the tours all the people we’ve met and all the places we’ve seen.

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