Brooklyn blearpoke quintet Quiet Lights expertly blend ’90s shoegaze with contemporary Krankiness. It’s washed-out, restrained, sensitive, oozing with textures, confrontationally slow to the point of tension; four of the 11 press quotes on their site abuse the word “ethereal.” Their first EP, The Big Fear, was just released via Old Flame Records and housed in some naturally baroque packaging, a “super-limited special edition,” in just 100 copies of one-sided white vinyl. The EP’s highlight “Simple Mechanics” is like JAMC drifting to sleep in their own honey.
Download: Quiet Lights, “Simple Mechanics”
What is “Simple Mechanics” about?
Yseult Tyler: A couple years ago, my friend Adam Cimino asked if I wanted to make a song for a visual and music compilation project this friend and Bay Area artist, Nathalie Roland, was doing, about an octopus falling in love with a swimmer. So I wrote “Simple Mechanics.” I was thinking about impossible love and how you have these visceral situations that can’t work, but you feel them anyway; and they can be good actually–it’s not just like, ‘Well that thing is doomed, be practical and don’t get involved.’ You get involved and you get hurt and it ends up worth it. And I wrote it from the perspective of the swimmer, because I was, in that case, just somehow more interested in like, what does the “love object” think and what if she’s in love back with the octopus, let’s give her a voice. But then I couldn’t get the song right, so nothing happened to it. It sat in a drawer and I contributed another song to the compilation. Years later, we were starting to build the music to “Simple Mechanics” and I thought, “Oh! Here is this song, it finally came out.” The thing is, I had written it in 3 and it needs to be in 4. In 3 it’s cheesy, but in that 3 over 4 of the end it swings and it works.
What inspired it musically?
Tyler: Musically I feel it was that idea of dynamics. You can have a simple quiet thing that suddenly roars into this triumphant roar. We are really fascinated with that dynamic transition, how you craft the change, how you make the parts relate to each other.
Marcus Smith: Exactly, that and something about pushing through increasingly dense layers of resistance. A battle hymn for some personal war.
So how did you make the loud part of this song?
Smith: It really wasn’t planned at first. It was just going to be this sort of fragile, meandering line. It felt at the time though that and there was nowhere else to take it, a little incomplete. Then we just sorta shrugged and hit a distortion pedal and the song revealed itself right then and there. A lot of songs seem to derive out of a series of small accidents, some invisible hand at work.
Tyler: We spent a lot of time trying to put a little bit of challenge in it or of conflict. It’s easy to just smash it into the ground, the actual notes are so major-key stadium single, kind of. So the challenge there was like, how do we give this that little twinge of Quiet Lights beauty or sadness. As Marcus says, it’s always winter in the Quiet Lights studio.
What’s the hardest part about playing slow songs?
Tyler: To me, keeping the swing of a slow song. A fast song has its own propulsion somehow, you can just get on its back and ride it around, but a slow song needs you to get the timing just right. Too much and it’s forced, too little and it’s boring. Also that pacing requires you to calm the fuck down and breathe together, which, on stage at least, is not always an easy thing.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York City?
Smith: Probably the first time we played Knitting Factory. We’d either performed the songs in our practice space or at smaller clubs and this was the first time we got a real soundcheck and could hear everything we all were doing onstage. I just wanted to bask in the glow of that sound forever.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Tyler: Gen in Crown Heights which is the most amazing Japanese place ever.
Smith: Anella in Greenpoint is pretty special.
Quiet Lights play tonight at Death By Audio with Dive, Spanish Prisoners and Caged Animals.