It's been quite awhile since Hit The Lights has been on the road, but dammit are they back and stronger than ever! There's not much to say other than the band is back with a brand new album, Invicta, that arguably their best album to date. I was able to sit down with guitarist Kevin Mahoney in Portland, OR at the Hawthorne Theatre and talk about the new record, among other amusing subjects.
First off, welcome back to Portland -- how are you?
I'm great, a little cold -- it's cold here?
How's the tour with D.R.U.G.S. been?
It's been going good, it's fun. I really like the fact that we've been in warm weather for the most part. We get along with everyone on the tour really well, we've known the guys in D.R.U.G.S. for awhile, so it's always a show with a hangout session in the middle.
Any interesting stories from this tour so far?
Oh man, that's always the hardest question for me, because we always forget these stories after they happen. We had a vegas birthday, and that got a little bit crazy, and we've had some trailer problems.
You guys just chatted with us on Absolutepunk a few weeks ago -- what does the website mean to your band?
It's an awesome way to get news out, and to get news from other bands, we find out alot of stuff about our friends. It's a great way to get feedback; you know with Facebook and Twitter, those people generally are your fans, whereas on AP.net, there's people that aren't your fans that give good feedback -- especially as of late too, that's been a really awesome way to push us and keep us in a positive state of mind.
You just released a new album, Invicta, on Razor & Tie. Going into the studio, what goals did you guys have as a band?
Well, our first goal as a band was to actually make a record, we had a really hard just getting to that point. We were on Universal Republic, and they kept pushing our album back, and it was really thing to be able to get into the studio. When we signed to Razor & Tie and they let us go in, just trying to agree what songs we wanted on the album and what album we wanted to make. Being able to make this album was pretty cool, and we hoped that people just like it and like the change in sound.
How many songs didn't make the album?
Oh man, maybe around 30? We all wrote alot for the album. Some stuff just didn't fit what we were going for, and some stuff was just some co-write stuff we learned alot from, but knew we didn't want to be on the record. We went all over the map a little bit, and picked the stuff we could all agree on.
Do you see yourselves releasing a b-side from the album anytime soon?
I don't think so. I think on the vinyl and the Japanese versions there's a b-side. The reason there's no b-sides was that we decided on these specific songs for the record, and if we added a b-side, it wouldn't be what we were going for on this record. So no b-sides on this record, maybe next time.
What is your favorite song to play off this record live?
Right now my favorite song off the record to play is called "Float Through Me", and it's just alot of fast delay stuff going on, and it's really heavy, alot of drums and a bouncy chorus. Nobody really knows the song right now, and it's really fun to showcase something nobody's expecting yet, and gauge a reaction based on that.
Is there an overall theme or message to the album?
I don't know if there's an overall theme or message, because we had four different people with different points of view writing on this one. There's some songs about love, some in a positive record, some in a negative light. But there's some songs that try to be really inspirational, stuff like "Invincible" and "Earthquake" that try and keep a positive mindset, because with some of the music out there right now, somebody needs to be positive.
Speaking of positivity, what was with the middle finger in the "Earthquake" video?
Was that YOU in the chat? I thought "I don't know what to say to this guy, because either this guy is fucking with me, or he's completely retarded". We're having fun, we're crazy retarded punk dudes; we flip the camera off, and we flip each other off while we're playing sometimes. I know some of the kids come up and ask if Nate and I are mad at each other, because they see us flip each other off 10 times or so in a show. It's what we do, it's funny -- we try and see how many times we can flip each other off, spit on stuff, break things, etc. It's punk rock, it's fun.
With that being said, are there other things that are inside jokes in your band?
Oh I don't know man, I feel like everyday it's a new thing. We're a bunch of jokesters, we can't be serious for 10 minutes, nothing but joking around.
Hit The Lights was a part of Valencia's farewell show. What did that show mean to you and what the experience was like?
It meant alot. There's always those bands you tour with where like you don't know them, and then you tour with them once, and you're boys right away; we were fortunate to tour with Valencia like 20 million times, and every time was so much fun...we had a bond. When we heard that they were breaking up, it was sad; we felt like we were losing brothers of the road, there was no more Valencia to offer every tour with. It was a very sad show, we drank alot, we got teary eyed; it was a hard goodbye, but hopefully we all meet up in the future, we're just trying to stay positive about it.
You guys are big fans of hardcore music. That being said, what three hardcore bands would you love to tour with?
The longest list ever man, you're asking the wrong person! My all time favorite band ever is Refused, so i'm going to put them as number one obviously. I know i'm super gay for it, but I don't think i'm even going to see them live, because I might peel my skin off and wave it around my head. I dunno about the other two...maybe Turmoil? Carrion? Hope Conspiracy? Burial? Longest fucking list man.
What led to the decision to sign with Razor & Tie?
Razor and Tie's been awesome man. Before this band, I only knew about that band because they put out that Twisted Sister album, and they do Monster Ballads, and I LOVE that album, that shits awesome! I know they put out Slow Jams...
No, there's Jock Jams, but there's a newer one, maybe Slow Grind, where there's all the best 90's R&B you've ever heard. So we didn't know what to really expect when they wanted to sign us; then we found out they had signed bands like Saves The Day, Such Gold, P.O.D., it was the complete opposite of what we found at Universal Republic, and that was really attractive to us. They're not looking at having everyone selling a million records, but just 100,000 records, and if every band sells 100,000 records, their business is killing it; and we said "Hey, we want to be that band that giving 100,000 records for you every time...", and they said "we just want you to make the record you want to make". It was all positives.
So is it safe to say you'll be on this label for multiple albums in the future?
Yeah, it looks like there's no plans to leave, we just put out our first record on the label. They've treated us really well, so we really like where we're at.
Coming back to the compilation albums, what is your favorite "Slow Jam" and favorite "Power Ballad"?
Oh wow, my favorite slow jam, that's a tough one. I know i'll answer this, and then i'll hear something on the radio and be like "augh, dude I totally should've answered with that one! That Keith Sweat song is ridiculous!". I think I might say Keith Sweat's "Making It Hard For Me", and then for power ballad, it's a tie between "Hysteria" and "Love Bites" by Def Leppard.
Speaking of Def Leppard, you've heard of Steel Panther right? They went from playing the Viper Room and House of Blues weekly in Los Angeles to supporting Def Leppard on an arena tour in the U.K. How crazy is that? How do you feel about that?
It's super super crazy, i'm sure it's the biggest dream come true for them. You see, how the fucked up is that they're now playing the Luxor in Vegas every week on Thursday. We just stayed there the other day, and we tried to get in to a show recently and it was completely sold out. It's insane! It's all about "Weenie Ride", that's the jam right there.
What's one book and one band that you'd recommend to anyone that listens to Hit The Lights and why?
Book? You're really asking the wrong person; I've only read a couple of books, but I love "The Outsiders", I fucking love that book! Oh, and "Lord of The Flies", that too. As for a band, Jimmy Eat World's "Clarity" -- if you don't own that record, you're severely messing up.
I remember hearing Hit The Lights on a Madden soundtrack back in the day, and have been following since then. Do you think we'll see one of your songs on a future Razor & Tie compilation album? Maybe Jock Jams? "JOCK JAMS 15! Featuring: Trapt, Disturbed, and Hit The Lights!".
I would love that, I would find that awesome and hilarious. I don't care how stupid the venue, how weird the tour is, or situation is, however many people hear our music, that's great.
Are you comfortable with people necessarily defining Hit The Lights with only "Bodybag"? Have you considered hanging that song up in the setlist?
I mean, i'm comfortable with that...but I wasn't in the band at that time, I was in Polar Bear Club -- I was just friends with the guys. I loved that song, and I love playing it every night. It's a hard time because we're trying to change our sound and mature, and to be defined by a song that was out 3 albums ago that doesn't even completely sound like us anymore is a little rough; but as long as people. But as long as people like us, then I don't care how people define us; people have said all sorts of dumb stuff comparing what the new album sounds like, and I don't agree with any of it, but as long they buy it and they like it...then that's what it's there for.
I don't think people would let us stop playing Bodybag. A few people that have seen a bunch of times that want us to stop playing it, but every other person wants us to continue playing it. As a fan of Hit The Lights before I joined the band, I want to continue playing it.
What's next for Hit The Lights in 2012? I know you're hopping on tour with Set Your Goals and Cartel, but after that tour, what are you guys up to?
We're doing that tour, and then we're doing some overseas stuff that I can't really go into too much detail about.
Anything else you'd like to add before we wrap things up here?
Nope, other than thanks to those who have bought the new record, and be sure to check us out when we come to your city.
since invicta came out, i've been unable to stop jamming skip school, start fights.
i like the majority of the new album. really do. it just doesn't have that "edgy-because-we're-reckless-when-we-have-fun" feel to it. that's the only way i can describe it. invicta sounds tame in comparison... between burying the guitars in the mix in favor of studio effects and the lack of fast, upbeat drumming. i just can't LOVE it. it's alright.
cool interview. wish these guys nothing but the best of luck out there.
Good interview, but definitely be more careful editing. There are a handful of words missing in sentences, and it's best not to dictate everything the interviewee says, because reading the way someone says something aloud word for word is not pleasant. No one speaks in full coherent thoughts or full sentences.