Interview: Light Pollution’s James Cicero and Matthew Evert

Light Pollution outside The Rock and Roll Hotel 10/18

After a few false starts and a change of location, I had Light Pollution singer/guitarist/keyboardist James Cicero and drummer Matthew Evert interview ready. Standing next to their van outside of Washington D.C.’s The Rock and Roll Hotel before their October 18th show, we discussed (amidst the sounds of city buses and drunk patrons), the evolution of Light Pollution’s sound, the recording process of Apparitions, and the benefits and downfalls of warehouse living.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Light Pollution originally formed when you, James, were in college at Northern Illinois University and after a few lineup changes and a move to Chicago, the Light Pollution we hear today was formed. What differences do you see between the way the band is now versus then? Has the sound shifted into something different or is the basic underlying style still present?

James: Well, with the whole line up [pause] it use to be a kind of a big folk rock thing, like strings and horns and stuff, and I just got tired doing that kinda music. Just didn’t seem like there was much I could go anywhere with it, anywhere new, doing just that.

Matthew: A lot of it had to do with a lot of members were changed up, we got our own space together like in a warehouse, started playing music in there. Getting different instruments too I think changed, like you [James] got that keyboard, that changed.

James: Yeah, I use to just really play acoustic guitar.

Matt: Discovering new instruments and working with those. Changing the sound a bit I guess. Uh, adding different members, adding Nick Sherman on guitar, all his magic, changed the sound a lot. He has a lot to do with what is going on musically these days. It just kind of evolved to what it is now, it was a long process.

James: Yeah, this record [Apparitions] we just put out, we started making it, it was kind of like the band was disintegrated. I was just kinda headed into this time, in this warehouse, alone to do whatever, write.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Was the warehouse in Chicago?

James: It was in DeKalb.

Matt: West of Chicago.

James: Rural, college town, cornfields.

SICK OF THE RADIO: You guys have a lot of great, different sounds, you’ve been compared to shoegaze, 60′s psych. I think you have this great dream-like quality to your music. Such as in “Good Feelings”. I hate comparing you to bands, but kind of remind me of Animal Collective, Sigur Rós, but with more pop accessibility which I enjoyed. What is the creative process? Do you go off on your own and come back and collaborate? Or do you work together and things just appear throughout the session?

James: With this record and the stuff before, its always just been I’ll write a song, bring it in finished.

Matt: Yeah, a lot of it is he writes the tune and song. We get together, I play the drums, we like to get together and other members add different things to it and make it what it is and complete it.

James: Well, with this record [Apparitions], there was a lot of laid out stuff, parts I had written out before. Stuff we are working on now is more kind of free to do what we want.

Matt: Yeah, the album was being made, we got [Nick] Sherman in the middle of making the album, a lot of his ideas were thrown on after having the structures of the songs down.

James: And after having finished recording.

Matt: Yeah, we just redid a lot of stuff, scratched songs. There are a couple songs on the album too that were put together…with writing it and making it, before actually playing it in the band, kind of like working on it.

James: Recording, before playing it live.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Would you say this record is anymore personal than other records? You mention being alone in a warehouse, that sounds a bit personal….

James: Yeah it sucked living there. It was great for music, but horrible for living. There wasn’t a shower.

Matt: It was cold, then hot, then cold.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Were you guys squatting there?

James: No, we rented it with our friend who does all our engineering shit.

Matt: Yeah, Daniel Good, he does our stuff. He used it as his studio and as a practice space, when we work with him. Also having to live there at the same time, which wasn’t fun. I ended up sleeping on a lot of couches instead.

James: Yeah, you moved after a period.

Matt: Yeah I didn’t live there.

James: Yeah, I was there alone. Working on stuff.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Is the warehouse now behind you?

Matt and James: Yeah, yeah.

James: We are going to get a similar space this winter to record in. Rent something for a couple of months. The whole way the recording process worked out with that place was great. Finally discovering your own little tricks…having to do with like the structure of the building. Miking vents, doing weird shit.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Well, I have to say the creativity is defiantly displayed in the music. There are a lot of bands at the moment that are also really great like Deerhunter, Ducktails. This whole wave of shoegaze, 60s psych. I have to say listening to your music I saw similarities, but defiantly originality in it, which I enjoyed. You are defiantly distinct in this whole clump of indie resurgence that’s happening.

Matt: Cool, that’s good. Thank you.

James: Yeah our stuff isn’t, I don’t know. I think…I like a lot of those bands, but I think a lot of that stuff like is pretty laid back kinda feel to it. Our shit, is, I don’t know, rougher. Like, more aggressive or something.

By: Stephanie Glass

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