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17 September 2013

Interview: John Rungger and Cory Osborne of Lightfoils.

When The Sun Hits interviews
John Rungger and Cory Osborne of Lightfoils
interview conducted by amber.

Lightfoils /`laɪt•fɔɪlz/ n :
a: Devices that generate lift by bending light.
b: One of Chicago’s brightest new bands, pushing the Shoegaze genre into new territory. Formed in 2010 and recently signed to Saint Marie Records, the band is already generating heat, having played at SXSW in 2012 and opened for other interstellar bands like Ringo Deathstarr, Telescopes, Nightmare Air and Ume. Tone-bending guitarists Zeeshan Abbasi and Neil Yodnane stir up a mesmerizing haze, a wintry blizzard punctuated by occasional bright blasts of slashing chords. Things are firmly grounded by the propulsive and tight rhythm section of Cory Osborne on hypermagnetic bass and John Rungger on shimmering, bruising drums. Hovering above and shining through the fog is the angelic voice of Jane Zabeth. As a whole, the band’s music somehow occupies a place between storm and calm, with corridors of sound in-between. If reverie has a sound, this is it. Should you wake up or keep dreaming? They dangle either option in front of you, both just out of reach. Lightfoils have one eponymous EP, and their debut LP will be out in 2013. Amazing on record, stunning live, Lightfoils is a band to watch out for. 

How and when was the band formed?
John: A few years back, Cory and I were in Airiel. After exiting stage left, we split up to do other projects of a non-shoegaze variety. Well, like a crook who just couldn't keep his nose clean, Cory decided to get back into the shoegaze racket. I signed up immediately, and we got some likeminded individuals on the job. Just like Oceans 11, but with more reverb. Now we're working on our biggest heist yet- that of the hearts and minds of the nation's shoegazers.

Cory:  We had also worked with Zeeshan in Airiel - we knew his sound would be key in keeping everything hazy.  Neil was a mutual friend and former bandmate of John's, I really feel that as a guy whose background isn't quite as gaze-centric as ours he adds a cool "outsider perspective" and sounds that help kind of set us apart from a more cookie cutter, "niche" sound.  After our first vocalist Nicole left the group, we were terribly fortunate to get reunited with Jane (she had done some vocal work on Airiel's "The Battle of Sealand").  Jane is a massive part of our music now, I hope that people will be pleasantly surprised when they hear the new stuff.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
Cory: The new record really has become our focus.  It seems like we've been working on it forever- we're really looking forward to just getting it out and promoting it.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
John: We're ok with the shoegaze tag. We started the band with the express purpose of being shoegaze, and fitting into that genre. That said, I think that we at least try to push the boundaries of the genre a bit. We have some songs that are more psych influenced, a genre that is still closely related to shoegaze, so I guess we aren't pushing that hard haha. Also, I believe shoegaze is a genre that provides a lot of room to move around in. I mean, think of the disparate music that is all lumped under that banner. If some musicians chafe under the constraints of a genre label, at least shoegaze is more of a loose-fitting straightjacket. Plus, we all love that particular sound that shoegaze is about- gauzy, ephemeral guitars and vocals. But, somehow, distorted as hell at the same time.

Cory: I feel that the shoegaze moniker has been sort of a catch-all, honestly.  There are some common themes, but when you compare the cacophony of Ride rocking out to the dizzying beauty of the Cocteau Twins it's clear that there is a ton of difference in what they're producing sonically. To me, Shoegaze is much more of a scene than a genre, a tightly knit group of musicians and fans whose musical and aesthetic tastes overlap under the shoegaze banner.  I like to think the scene is still evolving...I mean look at Bloody Knives, it's beautiful and wall-of-soundy, but also visceral and violent.  So yeah - there's a lot of room for expression and different feels.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
John: I'm partial to some of the new keyboard-based shoegaze, like I Break Horses, Io Echo, and (older) M83. Also, bands like Tamaryn and Ringo Deathstarr, who are doing a more "classic" gaze sound.  There's also a lot of great bands using shoegaze elements, like Besnard Lakes, Melody's Echo Chamber, Beach House and Blouse. 

Cory:  Man - the shoegaze scene today is as strong as I've ever seen it (and I've been around since the early '90s).  I love what Airiel is doing right now- you've got bands like Ringo, Bloody Knives, Dead Lea f- and I guess the coolest thing about it is we get to share the stage with these cats.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer? 
John: Drummers don't have huge pedal boards, so probably my ride cymbal. And my limbs.

Cory: I still like to bust out my beat to shit TSR-12...I've been using it to boom out huge reverb swells for years.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
John: We're old school, and still believe in going into actual studios to record. There's just something about the whole band setting up in a room and capturing that energy and vibe that is not as achievable if you are recording in your bedroom. Plus, with a live drummer, you need good mics and some room noise to record it adequately. I guess if we had a drum machine it wouldn't be as important.

Cory: Another nice thing about studio recording is that you get some outside influence/contribution on the recording.  Sanford Parker has been doing an amazing job of mixing the new record.  His skill and expertise make us sound about 500 times better than we actually are.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
John: It hardly matters to us - we've never made a dime off of music. If anything, we've spent a lot of money over the years to be a musician. Even in the 90s and 2000s, when record companies were still viable, we were never getting paid by them. Neither were the people that were actually signed to those labels. 90% of bands never recoup, so they end up owing the record company money, on paper, at least. The only difference is that that illusion of getting the brass ring, getting signed and making millions of dollars, is gone now. So now bands have to do it for themselves, and not for the money, which is how we've operated all along, anyways.

Cory: Obviously the industry is finding itself going through a metamorphosis as the old brick and mortar/radio airplay models seem to be dying.  I agree with John- while it's nice to get paid, in our case it costs us a lot out of pocket to release songs and get out there to play for people.  We all have "real" jobs- but we're willing to sacrifice time and money to do this, because we love it so much.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
John: I think a label is there mainly to provide financial support and promotion in return for a share of the profits. If you can do it yourself, you should, although some bands don't want to do all the legwork themselves, which is understandable.

Cory:  It is definitely nice to have a supportive label, especially if they help out with promoting and doing all the other stuff you gotta do to make records.  That said- I know a lot of folks who are going D.I.Y. and having great success that way.  I think it's just up to the individual artist- what approach works the best for you and your needs?

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them? 
John: I prefer vinyl, but it's not very portable. I just got a Google Play subscription, and it's pretty amazing to be able to listen to obscure 90s bands in seconds. Although I believe Spotify/Google Play is probably bad for musicians, overall, because the payout rates are so low. The convenience factor is incredible, though. I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite.

Cory: Yeah- I suppose most of the time I'm listening to stuff digitally.  I've probably killed 60% of my hearing for playing without ear protection for two decades- my aural sense really can't tell the difference between analog and digital these days.  I think vinyl is super cool format though!

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
John: All the 1st wave shoegaze bands. My favorite drummers are Laurence Colbert from Ride, Benjamin Weikel from Helio Sequence, William Goldsmith from Sunny Day Real Estate, and Stephen Morris from New Order.

Cory: Yeah- the 1st wavers for sure.  I feel that I draw a lot of inspiration from odd corners of everywhere- soundtracks, sometimes the sounds of the city, and I get a lot of inspiration from my bandmates.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
Cory: I'm a total dork:  I'm pretty into video games.  I'm also loving the shit out of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy.  And I live with the irrational (perhaps not) fear that GRRM is gonna keel over before he finishes Ice and Fire.

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why? 
John: I really like Hideaway, off our new album. Wait for it!

Cory: For some reason I still get amped whenever we play Into Deep Sea.  The song is different live- Jane is singing different lyrics and there's a different vocal melody.  

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
John: Normally, someone, usually Cory, comes in with an idea for a part, we flesh it out together. Everyone makes their own parts. It's democratic, but I would say Cory is the main architect of the sound and arrangements, so we usually defer to him on final decisions. 

Cory:  Haha that sounds so despotic!  We do a lot of writing together, on the fly.  I like to think that I'm pretty good at isolating parts and suggesting ways to weave them together to make a song.  While the e.p. was mostly kind of fully fleshed ideas I had from the start, the new record was written way more organically.  I really feel that everybody leaves their signatures on these tracks. 

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by? 
John: Make good art, have fun!
Cory: Live and let live, I reckon.

Please add whatever additional comments you would like here:
John: Thanks to Amber for supporting the scene!
Cory: For sure - it is a real honor.  When The Sun Hits is the best - y'all exemplify the best things about our scene - sharing and supporting music from so many great artists.  We love WTSH!!!