Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych. The featured track this week is “Before My Own” by The Mystery Lights, a garage/blues/psych band based in Brooklyn. Earlier this month they released a self-titled EP and now they’re working on a full-length they hope to release in May or June. I recently corresponded with Mike Brandon, guitarist/vocalist for the Mystery Lights.
Mike Brandon: Just got back to NYC from Texas, in recovery mode.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Were you at SXSW?
Mike Brandon: Yup, just got back! It was absolute insanity. So much fun, my liver didn’t have as much fun as I did.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Tell me about SXSW. Was it difficult getting on the program? Had you been there before? How did your show go?
Mike Brandon: It was our first time at SXSW. I don’t know why we’d never been before, but yes this was the first. All the shows we played at SXSW were just unofficial side shows. We didn’t plan on going so we didn’t apply or anything, then last minute we decided to go and got as many shows as we could in the week time frame that we had. We called up our 72 year old friend Patrick who just so happens to own a 94 Towncar stretch limo, and he agreed to take us! It was quite a trip. Lots of parties, lots of fun. We played the #MEAL social club event, seaport music festival showcase and GAG pop scene showcase. Good times.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Tell me a little about your influences. Also, how did the band come together and how long have you been at it?
Mike Brandon: The band started off in small town called Salinas, Ca when we were in high school. At first it was myself, Mike Brandon, on guitar and vocals, Joe Della Mora on bass, Luis “L.A.” Solano on guitar and Steve Miller on drums. We played a lot of shows in our high school years, and never took things too seriously. Since then, we have taken breaks and changed lineups about 4 different times, due to members going to school or job-related issues. In 2012 L.A. and I moved out to New York City and recently recruited two new members, Alex Amini on bass and Nick Pillot on drums. It is a new band, essentially, but we have kept the name. We have been playing all over New York City and even ventured to China for a couple festivals over the last year.
Our influences are probably quite apparent. We all grew up listening to 1977 punk rock and 1960s raw hard hitting garage rock and psych, anything from the nuggets comps we absolutely ate up of course. Love the fuzz. Heavy influences in blues and jazz as well. Anything genuine and raw we usually dug a lot, no matter what the genre was.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: China? What festivals did you attend and were they what you expected?
Mike Brandon: Playing the festivals in China absolutely blew our minds! We played the Strawberry music festival, Tianyu festival, and zebra music festival and they all had about 50,000 – 100,000 + people in the crowd going nuts! Wild experience. Way crazier than expected – a whole lot of fun. You sort of get lost and just go with it.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: I’m struck by how much territory you’ve covered in a short time. Have you been able to travel so much because you already have a strong network of people willing to help out? If so, how did you get to know these people? Or I suppose you could be independently wealthy…
Mike Brandon: Independently wealthy? We wish, ha! We have gotten a lot of help from our manager and good friend Michael Lojudice. He books most of the China festivals and is the one who booked the China shows for us. We also have built a network of people who really dig what we do and want to help out, so that always helps a lot.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: I really like the cover art for your EP. Who did the artwork? Were you making reference to anything in particular in the artwork?
Mike Brandon: The EP artwork wasn’t even official at all – It was something our guitar player LA came up with as a temporary image for Bandcamp, but hey if you like it and other people react to it positively as well, we may just make that the cover! I don’t think there was a reference at all honestly, just quickly thrown together as a buffer. At the moment We have our friend KEVIN HARRIS doing a lot of our artwork and drawing out some album art for the release. Watch out for him, he’s insanely good, and the coolest guy ever.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: I also have to ask about your name. How did you decide on that? Does it have anything to do with UFOs or did you just like the sound of it?
Mike Brandon: The name came suddenly to our guitar player LA Solano. He came over one night while joe and I were hanging out and he had drawn up the name in a really cool looking font which it looked REALLY appealing and the name seemed to fit perfectly with our style. It has nothing to do with UFOs at all, ha. Though people do seem to think that. LA said he had a dream and the name came up in it somehow, so maybe it was just meant to be. THE MYSTERY LIGHTS.
And nobody had it, so we claimed it and have been the Mystery Lights for quite a while now.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: What do you have in the works?
Mike Brandon: We just recorded 7 new songs in the studio with Bryce Goggin at Trout Recording in Brooklyn, New York. Looking to release that really soon, hopefully May or June 2014. Still looking for the right label to put it out with, I’m sure we’ll find the right match soon.
Turn Me On, Dead Man: Well, best of luck to you. And just so you know, I can’t get that song [“Before My Own”] out of my head!
Mike Brandon: Glad You dig it man!
A Mystery Lights documentary in the works?