Light Beam Rider

When we heard Light Beam Rider’s A Place to Sleep Among the Creeps (out now), we knew we had to catch up with someone in the band pretty quickly to get their story. The album, as I go over my notes to parse it down to a few sentences, is a risk-taking range of 70s power rock, post rock, a little bit of pop and gritty blues, and even a hint of some dancehall. To call the noise levels “big” might not accurately do the album justice, but the temperance on display to keep everything from exploding out of control is equally as admirable. You can tell these guys went for broke and came out even better on the other side.

Band frontman Thomas Sweat took the time to humor us. What we got in return was a great range of what it’s like to break out of the negative stereotypes growing up in the South comes with, how Light Beam Rider approach making their music, life adjusting to the Nashville scene, and the backstories to a few tracks. Before you get started though, make yourself familiar with Light Beam Rider’s bandcamp page to get their album now.

Let’s start from the beginning – how did you guys get together in Mississippi? Also, what’s the scene like down there for an indie outfit?

I was in a screamo band in high school, and when it broke up I just started pulling together random musicians to jam in my basement until something stuck. Jesse and I picked up Brad and Avery once we moved to Nashville. We are very happy to have kept the band all Mississippi boys since its origin.

The scene is amazing in Mississippi. It’s produced greats such as Colour Revolt, The Weeks, Dent May, Young Buffalo, and a lot of newer bands are killing it, such as Water Spaniel, Dream Cult, Fides, and Holy Ghost Electric Show.

I grew up in West Virginia, so I understand the negative stereotypes of the world too well. What’s it like fighting those in the music world, and do you use some of the negative energy as a positive in what you create?

Yes, I definitely want to show the world we’re not a bunch of illiterate, racist rednecks. So many amazing writers and musicians have come from Mississippi. It’s sad that our less educated population gets exploited on a national scale the way they do. I know we as Mississippians are far from perfect. We have a lot of people with a lot of terrible views and things to say. But we also have a lot of great minds who are doing really great stuff.

With the latest album, there are some hints of influences and comparisons we picked up – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Manchester Orchestra, Bob Mould. But it also sounds like a lot of experience went into the lyrics. So where does the inspiration come from for Light Beam Rider?

We definitely grew up loving the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Manchester Orchestra. Foals, Brand New, and Modest Mouse have also been large influences. The lyrics typically come from reflecting on something I’ve been going through and trying to put it in a story.

You’ve mentioned you’re now in Nashville, which we can see being more… dense, let’s say. How’s it been for you guys finding your footing there?

It took some time to get noticed here because there is so much going on. We definitely had to get better. We started practicing more than we ever had before, and we had to figure out what we could do to make us different or stand out. We’re still trying to figure that out but I guess we’re doing something right because our crowds are getting bigger and people are getting way more into it. We also have some great buds in some bigger bands around town who have helped get the word out about us.

In terms of your sound, for four people, your sound is huge (in a great way). Has that always been the case, or has the band grown into the sound?

I’ve heard people say that for a while, so I guess it’s something we have always done. We’ve always liked thick tones, and we’re loud as hell, which I guess helps people make that assumption (laughs).

On the album, there’s a track called “Malaga” and one called “Motown,” two very different environments. Any stories behind those songs?

We named the song “Malaga” after the road that my cabin in Pickwick is on. We’ve written the majority of our material out there. Also the cabin has always been a safe haven for me, which helps inspire the lyrics that consist mainly of a commentary on “The Sound and the Fury.”

We gave “Motown” its name because of the groovy bass line that kinda gets stuck in your head. The lyrics are about how people, myself included, think their view of life is always perfect and never flawed, and then realizing that you’re wrong and kind of an asshole.

The lyrics of the songs seem to come with an unabashed truthfulness. Do the words usually come from experience, or how does the band tend to create their narratives?

Writing lyrics is just cheap therapy. I’ve turned some into narratives just so I don’t sound like a crazy person. “Crawling in my Brain” is totally about a serial killer killing someone. But hey if you’ve never wanted to kill someone you’ve probably never felt very deeply about anything.

One thing that we love about the album is how, without rushing or feeling hurried, Thomas Sweat’s vocals seem to make their point and then allow for the music to have its say. Is that in the general spirit of the band? The creation process seems quite communal anyway.

I’ve always felt that we put more emphasis on the music, and then I just try to fit the vocals in where they should be. A lot of songs come from extended jams we do where I just try to mumble and find a melody. Everyone has free range on their parts.

Finally, the album was released recently, so what’s the plan for 2016 now?

We’re touring extensively and getting a lot of national PR together for the album. We’ve already recorded six brand new songs that we will probably release as singles towards the end of the year, so we’re super pumped about that as well. We just want to play as many shows as possible and release as many song as possible until we write one that you can’t live without.