INTERVIEW: The Lighthouse

I type this whilst nursing sunburn from a Summer’s eve spent frolicking with friends, listening to “Headlights” on repeat. It’s the new single from acclaimed Belgian indie-pop band The Lighthouse, taken from their 2017 EP “Joyride” and funky enough to make you forget to apply your SPF 50. I defy you to prove me wrong…

The five-piece was formed eight years ago, identifying their sound as “songs that feel like Fridays”. By that logic, listening to The Lighthouse on a Friday would feel like Friday on steroids, right? What’s not to love!

We speak to the band on their music below, so before you read, settle in with a Tom Collins, put The Lighthouse on shuffle and immerse yourself in the melodic cocktail of polyphonic vocals, beachy guitars and an all-around good vibe.

// “Headlights” definitely has a feelgood vibe to it, but it differs slightly from previous hits such as “Hollywood” in that it harbours a slightly more mysterious mood to it. What’s “Headlights” about, and what inspired the sound?

The song is mainly about how closely love and fiction are interconnected somehow, and regards nightlife romances as if they were a bit unreal because they are experienced in a haze or a foggy state of mind.

It’s hard to say where we picked up inspiration, most of the time we start off from a musical idea. In this case the song sort of developed around the almost choral repetition of that main sentence: “shut off all the headlights”.  When working on the arrangement this song really took off in a totally different direction in comparison to what we’ve been doing up to that moment. But we all instantly liked it.

It’s a little more synth-based than our previous work and also a bit less cheerful and more ambivalent. That’s definitely a side of our sound that we want to explore more in our new work.

// Last year you won the Studio Brussels “De Nieuwe Lichting” competition. Congratulations! How have your lives as musicians changed since then?

Winning this competition really gave us the opportunity to present ourselves and our music to an exponentially larger audience. Radio is still really big in Belgium, so it’s a welcome boost in any young artist’s career to be picked up by national radio.

As a result, we got to play about 60 shows and some of the biggest festivals in Belgium last summer, so that was awesome! And although it’s still very difficult to built a sustainable future as a musician, it does give us a serious head-start. Now it’s up to us to consolidate and prove we’re in it for the long run.

// Thinking back to when the band first formed, how do your musical influences in the early days compare to your musical influences now?

We started out as a typical five-piece listening to late 2000’s indie-rock like Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend and the likes and that’s also where we got the first inspiration for our sound: mostly guitar-based with a single piano or synth line.

Along the way, we incorporated other influences, mostly by adding more electronic or synth-based sounds to our guitar-based framework. We also took a slightly different approach to writing. Whereas we used to write while jamming, we now take to the DAW in a much earlier stage. This allows us to experiment with different sounds and layers early on in the writing process and this resulted in more intricate, less straightforward songs. But it’s an ongoing process.

We’ve succeeded in creating a pretty recognisable and coherent sound with our last EP, but as we’re working on new material, we’re still discovering new sounds. So our sound keeps evolving and our songwriting skills are still maturing.

// There’s five of you in the band – do you each have different music tastes? How does this affect the writing and recording process?

Although there are quite a few common denominators like Phoenix, The 1975 or The Wombats, we do each have our own preferences. The mix consists of some mainstream pop acts (JT, Bruno Mars, Coldplay…), Hip Hop like Anderson .Paak, Chance The Rapper, Mac Miller, but some of us also have a background in punk rock and our drummer still listens to (and plays in) prog/math-rock bands (check out Atmospheres if you’re into that), so it’s really all over the place.

In writing and recording, this somehow manages to fall into place without too much discussion. By now, we have a pretty good idea how The Lighthouse should sound. Although there’s a lot of room left for experimentation, we got pretty good at distilling that sound out of our various influences. The red thread is also our shared love for a good (pop)song, we’re not averse of catchiness and traditional pop structures, although we do always really want to colour it with our own sound.

// If you could play any venue or festival in the entire world, which would it be?

That’s a question that pops up regularly and there’s a couple that always return:

1. Rock Werchter, because it’s the biggest Belgian festival and it’s only a couple of yards from our rehearsal space and about the only big festival in Belgium we haven’t played yet, so that’s definitely on the list.

2. Sziget Festival (Hungary): we played there in 2015 on one of the smaller stages and saw some really good shows at the Mainstage and the main tent. There’s such an amazing atmosphere on the island and you can really party for a week non stop if you’re up for it. Would be great to return there top of the bill.

3. Coachella: The line-up, the location, the weather. It’s Coachella, who wouldn’t want to play there?

But we won’t refuse Glastonbury either of course!

// You’ve played a few festivals in your time – are you attending any festivals as fans this year?

Because it’s in our hometown, it’s a tradition to go to the Werchter festival every year. We are missing Saturday this year because we’re playing a show in The Netherlands, but the other days you can find us grooving to Gorillaz, The Killers and Arctic Monkeys for sure. We do try to squeeze in some other festivals, but since we’re playing or recording ourselves most of the weekends in summer, it isn’t always easy. We do try to hang around before or after we’ve played ourselves to check the other bands.

// What’s the plan for the rest of 2018? I’m sure there are Turtle Tempo readers globally that are itching to see you live! 

There are a couple of festival shows planned for summer, mainly in Belgium, but also some in The Netherlands and a little venture to Spain. Everything appears on our Facebook page and on Spotify/Songkick if you want to keep tabs.

No UK dates for now, but hopefully we’ll get to cross the pond in the near future!  The main focus for the remainder of 2018 is on writing and recording some new material. We’re working on writing a full album, but it remains to be seen whether it will be released as an album or rather in some other form.

We do feel our debut album should be a sticker. We want to leave our mark with this one, so everything has to feel right about it. We’re aiming for the first half of 2019, but we really can’t make any promises there.

Find The Lighthouse on social media:

Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

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