POZ Flashback Session: ”Skinny Jeans” // The Bigger Lights
The Bigger Lights have been quiet since they released Battle Hymn in mid-2011. Frontman Topher Talley has now written up a long update on the band and has explained that they are more or less on a hiatus. You can check out the update below by clicking “Read More”.
It’s been an absolute pleasure working so closely with The Bigger Lights for their new release, Battle Hymn. The band put all they had into the record and it clearly shows. John Kendall from the band was kind enough to record a Track-By-Track video for PropertyOfZack to let fans in on the meaning behind each song on Battle Hymn. Check it out by clicking “Read More” below!
The band Stars put it best in the creepy intonation that opens their seminal track “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”: “When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” Virginia’s The Bigger Lights have been taking that advice to heart. Dissatisfied with the music they were making and the scene they were making it in, the one-time power-pop quintet have spent the last year burning bridges: with former label Doghouse Records, with scene bands extending tour offers, with their management. But with the release of their newest full length, it’s clear they saved the hottest flames for themselves. The self-released Battle Hymn scorches from beginning to end with 28 minutes of pop-metal mastery, a series of hair-hangover arena anthems twist-tied with gutbucket Los Angeles street punk, one foot firmly planted in each end of the 80’s. It’s a daring move that might leave their fans feeling burned, but no matter; like a phoenix from the ashes, The Bigger Lights 2.0 is sleeker, hotter and completely transformed.
It’s a change that reveals itself in the first seconds of “Terrible World, Give Me More,” a classic opening track that rips and roars like early, hungry Motley Crue, with a barbed-wire guitar lead that gives way to vocalist Topher Talley’s newfound snarl, “welcome to the show // it’s a goddamn masquerade,” bile practically dripping off each syllable. The anger that doesn’t let up, sprayed alternately at music industry execs and fair weather friends (the roiling hard-charger “Never Mistake A Suit For A Friend”), anonymous haters (the denim-jacket-meets-skinny-tie funk of “Living Martyrdom”), even the angel on Talley’s shoulder (“Halo, I’m Not Coming Home”). He’s a surprisingly strong lyricist, and if he occasionally turns into a fount for conventional rock dogma, he does so with the raging heart of a true believer.
Elsewhere, “Salt” trusses propulsive verses to an epically rafter-ready refrain. “Send Me A Miracle” makes gold out of late 80’s Def Leppard verses and early 90’s Poison choruses; alchemy! Best of all is “Bullet Believers (Rah Rah Rah)”, a too-fast-for-love barnburner that siphons the art punk of newer My Chemical Romance and takes it to the wall before breaking into a stunningly unpredictable midsection. This is the stuff of genius, folks. Behind it all, the secret weapon is the exceptional drumming of Ryan Seaman—whho sadly left The Bigger Lights post-recording to pound the skins in ex-Escape The Fate vocalist Ronnie Radke’s new project, Falling In Reverse. His powerful backbeat anchors the album, and his brilliant series of fills on “Suit” are a master class in how to show off your chops while always serving the song.
We were incredibly excited to stream The Bigger Lights’s brand new record, Battle Hymn, last week, but we’ve also been anxiously waiting to post our new interview with the band as well. The process behind Battle Hymn is one that the band wants all of their fans to know about, and we’re proud at PropertyOfZack to be able to share that with you. Topher, John, and I did a fantastic interview to discuss what the exact circumstances behind the creation of this album were and the possibilities for the band in the future. It’s absolutely worth the read whether you’re a big fan of the band or not, so enjoy!
For the record, could you state your names and roles in The Bigger Lights?
Topher: My name is Topher and I sing in The Bigger Lights.
John: Hi, I’m John and play guitar and keyboards.
The band released its self-titled album through Doghouse Records last year in late-March and continued to tour in support of it until the early-fall. Was the album received to the level you guys wanted it to be, in terms of being able to support it on the road?
John: I definitely don’t think so, to be honest. I think for what the record was that it was really good. It was a really good record as far as pop-rock music goes. We certainly put a lot of effort into writing the best catchiest songs we could for that record and I think there were some compositions on that record that certainly could have been a whole lot bigger and more widely received then they ended up being. There are a lot of other factors that go into it though like the music industry. I think that there are parts of that record that we look back on and wish we had done differently. But we are really, really proud of the record. In terms of going out and supporting it on the road, the kids who came out got into it and we had an amazing die-hard contingency of kids that really helped us stay alive during that period of time. It’s hard to tell though. I think we hoped it was going to grow a little bit more than it did, but we’re still really happy that it did what it did do.
Doghouse Records is a label that’s known more for its past than it’s present in terms of their roster. We’ll get into more of what happened with Doghouse in a bit, but was the band happy with how they handled the self-titled release? Do you think there was enough press and support on it from the label?
Topher: I think it was everybody that was involved with the band, and we take some of the blame too. I think we got a little bit sidetracked with the way that we wrote that record and the way that it was produced. When we did the earlier stuff we weren’t a straight pop band, but we sort of got lumped into touring with those bands. We’re not going to say no to tours as a young band with other bands that bring out kids. I think after a while we lost sight of ourselves. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but I think we may have dumbed ourselves down a little bit with some of the content that we put on that record. Sometimes you take the backseat to other bands that are being managed too by your company, and you just miss the target that you’re aiming for. If things aren’t firing at all cylinders all time, it just doesn’t work for a pop band like that. For what that record was we needed everybody doing everything all the time, and that just wasn’t the case.
John: I think you definitely need to fire at all cylinders if you’re going to be a pop band. I would say in the grand scheme of things that we did manage to get farther than a lot get. We got to sign a record deal and did some legitimate touring. You learn in that process that there’s nothing that can replace luck and timing. People talk about working hard, and we’ve worked tirelessly with no other goals in life for five years straight. We’ve accomplished a lot, but timing and luck were not really on our side in the pop world so we never really got that big break that a lot of bands get. All that stuff is so unpredictable and you can’t control how it works. I think if some of those things came together in the past that we’d be telling a different story right now, but they didn’t [Laughs].
The album definitely seemed to be doing well with fans over the summer, but The Bigger Lights had expressed desires to dig into your next full-length even then. Was there a certain reason behind wanting to hop back into making new music again, or was there just that much creative feeling going on within the band?
Topher: I think it was a little bit of us being on the road for so long and having things fall through the cracks. I think we realized that we made a great record, but we didn’t make a Bigger Lights record. We developed so much more of a personality too when Chris joined the band, and we wanted to write with him. We got offered the biggest tour we had ever been offered and we turned it down that December because we wanted to give our fans something as quick as possible. We had evolved so fast. I tell people I feel like I live a week every day when I’m on tour. Sometimes it just feels good to get in a room and write some songs.
John: The self-titled record was also already written by the time Chris joined the band. A lot of that stuff was written even as far as eight or months prior to making that record. We wrote a lot of that stuff and then we were on the road for six months and went straight into the studio to make that album about three weeks after Chris joined the band. Chris joined and we all started feeling like it was okay to be weird and different even if rock n’ roll wasn’t popular. We didn’t have to do the pop thing because we had pop managers and labels. We were tired of playing the game the wrong way and it felt like we’d be happier being small and ourselves over continuing to fight for luck and timing.
At what point did it seem apparent that The Bigger Lights could not work with Doghouse Records anymore? Can you just discuss in detail the reasons for leaving Doghouse?
John: It’s a complicated situation. There’s no real one point that any of us can say. There were a lot of entities; they do a lot of things really well, and they have a lot of talent on their staff. They also have things that they don’t do so well. What it came down to was that they’re running two companies at the same time as a management company and a record label. I think that their timing and luck just happened to hit on the management side around the same time we were joining the record label side. A lot of their resources and talent got directed towards management because that’s where the big things were happening. That’s totally understandable, but it sort of left us in a position where we didn’t feel like we were accomplishing things that we hoped we could accomplish by signing to them. It could’ve ended us taking a year and a half to get the record out. It was hard to tell what was going to happen. We just wanted to put out the record and give back to kids. It’s going to be better for them. We’re a really independent band in terms of business. We’ve always done 95% of everything by ourselves. If we wanted to keep making music happily then we had to do it.
The Bigger Lights’s brand new record, Battle Hymn, does not officially come out until July 12th, but we at PropertyOfZack could not be more stoked to be exclusively streaming the album in full five days in advance! Check out the our right menu bar under the “Artist Of The Week” box to find Battle Hymn and to click play! The Bigger Lights put a ton of effort into the record, to make sure to give it your undivided attention and to pick the record up next week. You can also stream the full album below by clicking “Read More”.
We are glad to announce alongside The Bigger Lights that they will be releasing a brand new album on July 12th titled Battle Hymn. We are also stoked to announce that we will be exclusively streaming the entire record beginning on July 7th to give fans a full preview of the record! This is a huge deal for the site and we are so glad to support The Bigger Lights as they approach the release of Battle Hymn in a completely DIY initiative. Be sure to check out the album artwork and track listing for Battle Hymn below by clicking “Read More”!
It’s no secret that The Bigger Lights have already recorded their new album, but details on when the record would actually be released have been scarce. The band is now teasing fans of a July release date, and even though a specific date has not been set, it looks like the entire album will be available next month. Check out a tweet from the band below by clicking “Read More”.
PropertyOfZack reached out to Ryan Seaman not too long ago, and we could not have been more happy to see that he was more than willing to do a fantastic interview with us. Ryan of course was a member of The Bigger Lights, but recently left the band to join Falling In Reverse. Ryan and I discussed his departure from The Bigger Lights, The Bigger Lights’s current label/album situation, his joining Falling In Reverse, and more. Read up and enjoy, it’s a great one!
You joined The Bigger Lights in 2009 and stayed with them right up until you recently announced your departure. Are you happy with everything that you accomplished in the band in terms of the record and touring?
I actually am really thrilled with everything we tried to accomplish on that record cycle, we did pretty much everything on our own to the best of our abilities along with our day to day manager. It felt very DIY, and we did the best that we could with the circumstances we were given.
How did talks between you and Ronnie first begin?
Ronnie and I had been actually talking for a long time, years in fact. We shared a bus like, 4 years ago and we hit it off. But when I was in TBL we were both in different places in our lives, He would call me from prison and he told me how much he wanted me to be his drummer
At what point did joining the band become a reality?
I would say, when I was having to fly to Los Angeles at the end of April twice in one week and we had to do photo shoots, and when I went to the Epitaph office and said hello to the staff.
Did you initially struggle with the decision to leave The Bigger Lights for Falling In Reverse?
I really had to think hard about it, there’s so much I want to say, but I feel like if I did, it would waste your reader’s time.
How did the remaining members in The Bigger Lights treat your departure?
The only one I still talk to regularly is Topher, because he’s one of my best friends. The other remaining members do support my decision, but I think it will be a while again before we start talking, but there’s no hate. It’s like a clean break up with a girlfriend: you wish them well, but you need time to heal wounds. But just so everyone knows, I wouldn’t ignore a text or a call…I’m sure they wouldn’t either, it’ll just take some time.
The Bigger Lights have obviously been working on new music for quite some time now. Did you record the new tracks with them, or did somebody else?
I did record on it, it took me about a total of 14 hours to do 13 songs. We did drums at the studio where we made the first LP. Paul Barber recorded it; (My Favorite Highway, Friday Night Boys) I love that man so fucking much. Then the rest of the record was recorded at J.K.’s house. I didn’t really feel involved with the writing, I’m not going to lie. J.K. pretty much did everything, wrote guitar solos, wrote a lot of drum parts, wrote and tracked entire songs in demo form on his own, J.K. is super talented. I only came back to the house where they were recording because we had a couple shows coming up that we had to do. But I seriously didn’t have much input, maybe a guitar riff on a song, or a concept for a song when I broke up with a girl. We all jammed in a room in September for about a week and half after our headlining tour that ended in early September, got most the material down, and then we met up only a handful of times, after that since JK and Dan were producing and recording and creating the record after drums were done being tracked/recorded.
PropertyOfZack had the chance to sit down with The Bigger Lights to film an acoustic session just last week during their run on the Reach For The Sun Tour with The Dangerous Summer. The guys performed “Get Lost” and “Skinny Jeans”, which you can see below. Don’t miss out, they were beyond fun dudes to talk with and they’re just as fun with guitars in their hands!
(For Tumblr Users: Click the direct link to view the videos)
*This review was footage was filmed and edited by Zack Zarrillo