Two years ago, local indie rockers the Lighthouse and the Whaler received a big boost when their studio release, Mont Royal
, received national attention. The band headed north of the border to Montreal to record the album with Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire). They worked at his studio in Montreal for five weeks in the dead of winter when it was “freezing.”
Songs such as “Glory” feature bellowing vocals as it sounds like a veritable choir backs singer Michael LoPresti on the tune. “Senses” features a slew of synthesizers, making it sound like an homage to the synth-pop of the ’80s, and “We Aren’t Who We Thought We Are” includes soaring strings as LoPresti nearly adopts a falsetto to sing about “our last chance.”
In the wake of that album's release, the band toured with indie acts such as Ra Ra Riot, Run River North and Surfer Blood.
“We got to play some really great shows and do our own headlining tour right after Mont Royal
came out,” says LoPresti in a recent phone interview. The band performs at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Grog Shop
, where it begins a four-week tour in support of its terrific new EP, Paths
. “They were some of the biggest shows we ever played. It’s been fun to see people from other cities grasping it and that’s encouraging. That was a highlight for sure. We toured with Surfer Blood, and it was great to get know them. That was a really great tour. We toured on the Run River North release tour. That was really fun too. Those were some great shows. We have a great connection with those guys."
The band also had songs on the CW show Frequency
and on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine
. The album’s first single, "I Want to Feel Alive," received some serious traction thanks to an appearance by Holland Roden of MTV's Teen Wolf
“Holland talked about us on social media, and we met her in L.A.," says LoPresti when asked about the music video. "She was stoked on the idea. We had an idea, and we laid it out, and the director tweaked it. She did a fantastic job. I was very impressed with the way she commanded the camera. I’m not an actor of any kind, so it was cool to see that in real life. That was awesome to see someone who has the talent to do that.”
About a year ago, LoPresti began to put some songs together for Paths
. The title track was one of the first tunes he penned.
“There’s a rhythm to the song, which is a combination of drums and claps,” he explains. “I came up with that rhythm, and it’s the foundation for the whole song. We wanted to return to a rhythmic songwriting style. Royal
is more vibe-y. We wanted to return to a more intense style of songwriting. I demoed it and brought it to the guys and we worked on the songs for the next month or two before we went into the studio here in Cleveland and finalized everything. The guys came in and solidified it. They made the songs into Lighthouse songs. It was really collaborative.”
The songs explore a theme of “battling for relevancy,” as LoPresti puts it.
“I think on a personal level, there’s that,” says LoPresti. “I feel like it’s a struggle to be in a band and people don’t fully see that. They look at it from the outside. There’s a lot of struggle, especially now, and it’s hard to be relevant in any way. It’s hard to rise above that noise as a band. Basically, it is just difficult to matter. There’s a song called ‘We Can Make It.’ It’s about how we can keep pushing forward. Outside of that, I think of the EP as a way to connect with your own journey or path or wherever you’re at.”
The title track is incredibly up-beat as the echoing vocals, jangly guitars and rattling drums combine to create an exuberant energy. LoPresti effectively adopts a falsetto for most of the tune.
“When we were in the studio and recording the vocals and [producer] Jim [Stewart] had put this microphone in the main lobby area,” says LoPresti. “It’s this huge echoey room. We just sang the chorus over and over again until we got this massive resonating, shouting. We sang it and shouted it and varied our voices in different takes. We got this complex yet large sounding moment in those choruses. There’s times when we’re so frustrated with what we’re doing that we just want to scream or pull our hair out. That’s sort of what we were going for. There’s frustration, but in that frustration there’s growth and beauty inside of that. The chorus is supposed to capture that emotion that people have when they’re pursuing something that’s difficult.”
It might be harder than ever to keep a band together now that record sales and slumped and streaming doesn't provide much in terms of revenue, yet the Lighthouse and the Whaler, despite several lineup changers over the years, has been going strong for close to a decade now.
That significance isn't lost on LoPresti.
“I think we have one more year before it’s ten years,” he says. “Depending on where we’re at the end of next year, we will mark that. We want to do something to acknowledge that. It’s difficult to be in the music industry, and we’ve been blessed that people continue to support our music through all these years.”
The Lighthouse and the Whaler, Polars, Young Folk, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588. Tickets: $10 ADV, $12 DOS, grogshop.gs.