Friday, October 9, 2009

The Lights Out

On the wall of The Lights Out’s practice space in Allston, there’s a half-naked picture of Tara Reid hanging on the wall, next to an Iron Maiden poster and just above a trash can overflowing with Miller High Life bottles. “There’s a lot of music in those bottles, man,” guitarist Adam Ritchie says.

The band members themselves are scattered around the cramped room. Aside from Ritchie, they are dressed in the standard rock band uniform: leather jackets, dark T-shirts and tattoos. Ritchie is wearing black rimmed glasses and a dressy button-down shirt. He doesn’t normally dress so nicely, he just had no other clean laundry today. Ah, the hassles of being a musician.

The Boston-based alternative rock quartet’s room is cluttered, but that’s the only disorganized piece of these musicians’ careers. For a group that formed before ever hearing each other play a single note, The Lights Out is far more successful than expected. In the past four years, they’ve put out two EPs, played (and rocked) venues all over Boston, and this summer, will release their first full-length CD. Not bad for a group of guys who, when asked their ages, will only say they are “old enough to know better.” They look like they are somewhere in the mid to late twenties and early thirties.

One main reason for the band’s success, surprisingly, is that all of their day jobs overlap with tasks the band would need to take care of anyway. Ritchie, a publicist and self-proclaimed, “Marketing maestro by day, guitar hero by night,” uses his marketing and public relations company, Adam Ritchie Brand Direction, to promote the band and takes this job just as seriously as his guitar solos. He organizes gigs, communicates with the press, and keeps the group on task at band practice, despite his lack of seniority. Bassist Matt King works in the sales department of the Boston Phoenix newspaper, allowing him to keep an eye on nightlife in the city. He’s also in charge of the booking. Drummer Jesse James does graphic design work and has created logos and artwork for the band. Lead singer and guitarist Rishava Green is a house painter, and at night, his painting van doubles as the band’s tour van.

“This is like everybody’s fourth marriage,” Green says. “Sometimes you just go until you make it work. There’s a remarkable lack of drama.”

“Well when the money comes, we’ll start in with the drama,” James says. “That’s when I get my 30 percent.”

The band may be like a marriage now, but it started out more like a blind date. Back in 2005, Green and King met through mutual musician friends, arranged a meeting at a bar and agreed to be in a band together without hearing each other play. Both had played in bands since high school and according to Green, the two just got along.

“We stumbled outta there and I was like ‘So, you wanna find a drummer?” King says. They put an ad for a drummer on Craigslist, and after sifting through dozens of responses, they invited James to join the band, simply because they liked his answer better than the others. Luckily, he turned out to be likeable both in personality and in skills.

After James became a member, all that remained was to find another guitarist. The group played for a year as a three-piece but was always on the look out for a fourth member. It was at a “rock ‘n roll social,” a monthly networking event for musicians at the Model Café in Allston that The Lights Out found Ritchie when a mutual friend introduced them. “We had a great conversation, and we walked out of there being like ‘Man, I hope that guy can play,’” Green says. “And it turned out he could.”

Ritchie’s audition impressed the rest of the band. “When we gave him the songs to learn, he was the only one who wrote new parts for parts that weren’t there,” King says. “He let us know what we were missing.”

At the end of the audition, Ritchie and James discovered they had both gone to Syracuse University from 1999 to 2003, had seen each other’s bands play and even shared a band member at one point. “That was kind of the nail in the coffin right there,” Green says. “That was what told us something was happening beyond random chance.”

By now, Ritchie and the band have adjusted to their lineup. “I have never taken any band as seriously as this one,” Ritchie says, and the rest of the band agrees it is the best work any of them have done.

But the biggest perk of being in The Lights Out has nothing to do with playing music. In fact, it’s what the band calls “parking karma.” “Every time we pull up in front of a venue, a parking spot right in front of is open,” James says. It even worked when they visited bustling Brooklyn right in the middle of the lunch hour. There just happened to be a space big enough for a van directly in front of the store. At first, the guys worried about jinxing themselves, but no more.
“Nah, now we laugh in its face,” King says.

Ritchie adds, “We’ll all just look at each other and say, ‘Yup, the Lights Out have arrived.’”

Written in April, 2009
Note: Since this was written, The Lights Out released their full-length, Color Machine. Check out the band's Myspace for music and more info.


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