INTERVIEW: Atlanta Indie/Power-Pop Act The Wirelight

Hi Lewis, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey, thanks for asking – I’ve been great, all things considered! I’m one of the lucky ones who is able to do my job fully remotely, so 2020 was relatively boring but not “hard” in the way that I know it was for so many people, and I’m thankful for that. The silver lining, of course, was that all the home-time gave me the bandwidth to finally wrap up this new album “Megaturquoise,” which was a long time coming.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Everything’s Cool”?

Sure I can. Everything’s Cool is a song that started out its life as a setlist centerpiece for my now-defunct four-piece power-pop/rock outfit “Zero Beach”. After Zero Beach disbanded, I reclaimed the song and slightly tweaked its direction to move away from the more straightforward pop-rock sound into something a little more interesting, although as you’ll notice, I did opt to leave in the biggest Marshall-stack distorted guitar chords imaginable. I’ve always had a soft spot for songs that start out a little spooky and then shift gears into a major-key, triumphant chorus, and those were the building blocks I started with here. I have a similar affection for unsubtle synths, and those are also featured fairly prominently. There’s an accordion track tucked way in the back of one section for the more eagle-eared listeners out there. Probably won’t be able to pull that one off live.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

No, unless you count the moment where I realized that I could transition out of that verse into huge power chords as an “event”. I tend to write instrumental parts and vocal melodies long before I get around to figuring out lyrics, and that was definitely true for Everything’s Cool. I did try to intentionally evoke a certain rain-at-night atmosphere with the imagery, though; the narrator is aimlessly driving around, turning things over in his head, no real destination.

The single comes off your new album Megaturqouise – what’s the story behind the title?

Frankly, it sounds cool. I think it does a good job of encapsulating the way I see the sounds and vibe of the album, too: the songs are big, vibrant, crackling with electricity. Anything “mega” is bound to be awesome.

How was the recording and writing process?

It was long. Too long. I do all my own recording and mixing in my home studio (a quasi-converted guest room), and I probably got going on this album back in 2018. Everything’s Cool is one of the first few songs I set to work on, but I’d have to guess it went through at least three or four revisions between 2018 and 2021, if only because I was continuing to refine my recording and mixing skills, and I kept finding ways to go back and apply those skills to songs I’d already supposedly “finished”. The song itself was an easy one to write, but the recording process was considerably more brutal. Deke Spears, a local producer and multi-instrumentalist who tracked bass and some guitars on the album, gave me a fuzz-bass track that really helped to chart an interesting course forward.

What role does the city of Atlanta play in your music?

That’s hard to say. I’ve lived in Atlanta for most of my life, so it probably plays a bigger role than I’d ever give it credit for. Like I mentioned, the lyrics of this song are all about aimless night-driving, and when I wrote them, I can tell you that I was definitely picturing Atlanta’s rainy skyline, even if that was only by default. I’ve set up home recording studios in so many different houses and apartments in this city – and I’ve played so many shows at so many venues with so many different bands – that Atlanta is pretty inseparable from my music, although I’d like to think that I could pack up, move somewhere else, and make music just as good, if not better.

What is it about the ’90s that you find so fascinating?

Hmm…that’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure I’d even necessarily agree that I find the 90s “fascinating” per se. That said, I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that the music scene wasn’t massively important in shaping my own tastes and, later on, my musical output. I was 15 at the turn of the century, which gave me plenty of time to ingest an extremely wide range of music; I went through phases where I listened to everything from Motown to country to Metallica to emo, and when the dust all settled, what I took away from the decade (and the things that I listened to in the decade) was an appreciation for “melody” and hooks above all else. I’ve learned to avoid trying to pigeonhole my genre as anything too overtly 90s-related, as that tends to give people the wrong idea, and it’s not exactly accurate in the first place; still, I do love a distorted guitar, and I’m not above some tasteful palm-muting.

What aspects of regret and wistfulness did you get to explore on this record?

For whatever reason, regret and wistfulness do tend to characterize a lot of my lyrics, although I don’t know that I’d consider those to particularly domineering aspects of my personality. It’s more likely that those themes show up in my songs because they’re the themes that I look for and most enjoy in the music I listen to and the movies I watch. A good example is Paris Again, the lead-off track, which I actually wrote (a long time ago) as a response to the movie “Midnight in Paris”. Now, Woody Allen has obviously became quite a problematic figure since that movie came out, and I certainly don’t want to boost him or his work here, but I did respond to that movie pretty strongly, likely due to its exploration and accurate (to me) depiction of those exact themes you mentioned.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I tend to approach songwriting as a series of short fiction exercises, which I don’t think is particularly uncommon; in fact, Ben Folds describes that approach at length in his recent autobiography. I’ll use my own life experiences as a conduit to channel the emotions I want to convey, but in large part my lyrics tend to be purely fictional, at least from a “did this thing actually happen/who is he talking about?” standpoint. I’m not trying to hide Taylor Swift-style easter eggs in my lyrics, by any means. I tend to let the music dictate what the song is about. 

What else is happening next in The Wirelight’s world?

Well, I’m already hard at work on the follow-up album. I have two songs wrapped up and about a million demos that I’d love to flesh out into full studio productions, but there’s only so much time in the day, and I’m still a bit slower at cranking out finished songs than I’d like to be. So my current goals are to get Megaturquoise released, to wait and see if and when live music becomes commonplace again, and then to get some shows booked, whether solo-acoustic or with some supporting musicians. I’m proud of this record and excited to share it, and I’m already equally excited about getting out there and playing these songs live. I have to say, the new stuff I have in the chamber for Wirelight LP #2 is pretty epic, too. But that’s a story for next year.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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