If smart, shifty, half-electro indie rock is your game (think Death Cab For Cutie), than this debut album, Ocean’s Daughter, from Milwaukee band Light Music should be on your back to school To Do list. It’s a deeply layered delight that gets a bit punchy right when it should.
Though they’ve been a band in various states for a few years, it took until now to get an album together, maybe because of the load of mixing it must’ve involved, plus it aims to be a kind of concept album. We’ll let leader Brendan Benham explain as you check out the premiere of the album stream below.
Ocean’s Daughter officially arrives August 21 via The Record Machine.
So the members of Light Music have played together in different forms for nearly a decade? Why so long to get this debut album together?
First, it took a while to find ourselves and our new identity as Light Music. We started a band called The Four Hundred when we were teenagers, and that was where we cut our teeth writing songs, recording and playing shows together constantly. That lasted the better half of a decade, and was really what built the foundation of our chemistry. In our early 20s, we all were working on different things in different places for a little while. Shae [Lappen, guitar, vocals] was in Madison at that point, Ed [Zuehlke, drums] was back in our hometown of Manitowoc, and [the original bassist] and I were in Milwaukee. It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that I was able to convince them to move back to Milwaukee and start writing songs for what would become Light Music.
When we got back together as a band, we wanted to be a deliberately different band than The Four Hundred. It probably took so long to get the record finished because we always wanted to do it the “right way” so to speak. We had a definite vision of a grandiose sounding record. We wanted to come out swinging. It took a little time to develop our identity, but once we did, we had enough ideas for a strong full length. We knew we had to do the songs justice, we had to work with professionals. So that took a little more time, working with everyone’s schedules, but again, it was important to us to have our opening salvo be exquisitely crafted, and we didn’t compromise. Months later, once we had the record finished, we could have just thrown it on Bandcamp (which I contemplated many, many times), but putting it on wax was always the dream. We reached out to dozens of labels to see if they would like to put it out on vinyl, and The Record Machine believed in our vision and our band. Even though the record was actually finished in August, 2014, we’re glad we waited it out. It was a true test in patience, but it’s absolutely paying off.
You worked with producer Beau Sorenson (Superchunk, Bob Mould, Death Cab For Cutie). Did he have any stories about some of the other notable bands he worked with?
Beau is our MVP. He helped us sort through our dense ideas, inspire great performances and overall just brought the best vibe to the room. He’s a wizard in the studio and it’s no wonder why he works with some heavy hitters. We were really honored to have him work on our record. During tracking, it was mostly business. We spent 16-hour days in the studio, and he was focused pretty solely on us and what we were doing. He did share some anecdotes about working with Death Cab For Cutie and working at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio while we were out in Portland mixing the record. Mostly nerdy audio stuff. I do remember our tracking dates were initially delayed a couple months because he had to get back in the studio with Bob Mould. We were not mad about it at all, that record rules! That was a moment where I really sat back and realized that we were working with a serious professional, and it was an honor.
It says in the press release that Ocean’s Daughter is a kind of concept album. Can you preview the album’s story a bit?
I say it’s loosely conceptual. When we were writing the record, we didn’t necessarily go in with one concept in mind. But as we were writing the songs, we kept seeing these same themes coming up and ideas mirroring each other. We started to see a story form, and probably 75% of the way through we understood where it was going and how to arrange it. To paraphrase Waking Life, it was like reading a story while you’re writing it. I was driving around listening to the record with my little brother, and he heard the lyric “I’ll side with the ocean’s daughter,” and instantly I made the Aphrodite connection. From then on, we knew what the album title would be, and Aphrodite became the heroine of the record, the character whose story is followed from Nessun Dorma to You Run Me. It’s definitively a record about love, but not so much mushy, idealized love. It explores both the positive and negative ramifications of loving.
Any trepidation calling your band Light Music? You might be taken lightly.
As with any band name, there was a lot of doubt early on. But we liked the way it looked, liked the way it was two simple words that are easy to remember. We also liked that it could have multiple connotations. People are always asking us what it means. If people are asking us that, it means they’re thinking about it.