How Enlightening: A new band in the Seattle music scene; NOT your run-of-the-mill grunge
A band that defies description
Actually, it's "How and Lightning," but the tricky play on words is lost on most people.
Watching How and Lightning play at the Queen Anne Silver Platters was like watching an intense P.T. session with a hard-ass drill instructor--only each band member is their own sergeant, urging themselves on to incredible and complicated heights, combining those individual internal drives into one culminating artistry. There wasn't an unpleasant note, there wasn't a hesitation or misstep or mistake--just pure, unadulterated music.
Sitting in their living room after the concert, we talked about Paul's paintings and his trip to Guatemala, Cambodia, and Thailand, where he wrote a large portion of the lyrics for their debut album Numinous; we talked about how the West Coast was terrible because there were too many bands, about how art and people and situations inspire lyrics, about Sixties Pop and Rock Operas and Marilyn Manson, and being sore after concerts because they play so damn hard.
The thing that struck me most about the band was the thought that these were real, multi-faceted people. Over the course of the evening, the conversation ranged from Wii bowling (which we played because it's cheaper than real bowling, and at which my sister beat Rick, the lead guitarist, Paul, the lead vocalist, and me, the lead nothing), to nuclear energy, to Mid-West accents, to the cheesy goodness of quesadillas, to the Fan of Death (a.k.a. a big, black metal fan that you could chop your hand off in due to its lack of a protective covering; my sister and I suggested it would a good alternate band title).
The inanity of the evening was something I recognized and appreciated. Upon hearing that Wii had a shuffleboard game, Rick exclaimed, "They got shuffleboard? Paul! They got shuffleboard!" Which led to a conversation about obscure sports, like curling. "Curling? Like, hair?" As Aaron said earlier at Silver Platters, "Every night is interesting."
The band formed three years ago when Rick and Ezra (lead bass) moved west from Maryland to pursue music, and ran into Paul and Aaron, who had met their freshman year of high school. Though this is Paul's first band, Rick has been performing in bands since he was sixteen, playing gigs in bars back east. When asked to describe themselves, they looked at each other and said:
"Well, Ezra and Rick are kind of the roots, the East Coast. And Paul and Aaron are kind of the rock, West Coast."
"Yeah, we're kinda rock--"
"A little bit blues--"
"Sorta ‘jam band'--"
The final, most distinctive description I got was "psychedelic progressive." Although I'm still not quite certain what that is, The Doors were apparently an influence. "You have to go to the unconscious dark side," Paul explained. "You have to get in touch with your creative side and have an outlet," Aaron added, "otherwise people start bombing people." A distinctive tone of the group is the feeling that these guys are playing because they want to play. My sister jokingly asked how much money it would take for them to "sell out"; to change their music for the sake of commerciality to the point that they didn't even like playing anymore. Aaron immediately said there was no point. Music is music. One got the impression that this was almost some sort of higher calling.
I have liked many bands over the years, but hardly enough to remember their names, let alone specific album and song titles. How and Lightning is a band I am going to remember. If you appreciate professionalism--and by professionalism, I mean musical proficiency and dedication--then check out How and Lightning's debut album Numinous. I've listened to the CD several times now, and each time I hear it, there's something there that I hadn't heard before.
HAL goes on tour this summer, from Seattle, across the Midwest, all around the East Coast, and on up to Philadelphia. They'll be back in five or six months, so in the meantime, listen to their music on http://www.howandlightning.com/, or at http://www.myspace.com/howandlightning.
"The life we live, the way we choose to love. Tomorrow brings the demons from above. The memories seem to slowly fade, helping me believe that I've been saved." - Numinous: Falling Ashes
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