Interview: Lightning Bolt – Leave The Lantern Lit

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 11:02 AM (PST)

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Noise champs Lightning Bolt have defied the odds for almost twenty years, creating their own quite real “Fantasy Empire” of unshackled by tepid mortal limitations manic rock music in the process. The newest record Fantasy Empire is their best sounding album fidelity wise, the Rhode Island band tracking in a whole new and more traditional way but yielding psychotic, spastically rhythmic and trippy, brilliant results on songs like “Dream Genie” (not Bowie cover) or “King of My World”. The two Brians (Chippendale and Gibson) of the duo  are back after six years between albums but haven’t lost any of their chutzpah on this sixth album in a critically acclaimed + pioneering career featuring many careening flights of fancy.

Fantasy Empire will be released March 24th, 2015 via Thrill Jockey. In addition to standard formats, Thrill Jockey is offering a limited pressing of 300 deluxe double LP versions on black-and-white swirl vinyl. Preorder packages are available at THIS LOCATION.

For an interview with Brian Chippendale see BELOW.

Did you guys do SXSW?

BC: We’ve never ever gone to SXSW. I don’t know. We like the idea of Winter for us being this time where we kind of go into our cave and in April we come back out. Most people’d love to fly down to Austin to get the hell out’ve the North East but me and Brian like to get in our little igloos and stay in there.

 A lot of people think SXSW is kind of a blow job (in a bad way, haha) festival now anyway. Mew played this year, so that’s cool. 

I know. There’s an awesome Austin psych fest down that way soon we’re gonna go play.

Oh yeah, I think The Golden Grass played that last year, if I remember. The only time I saw you guys was in Texas in Dallas. I flew to see my cousins stoner band Hawk Vs Dove and while I was in town we saw you guys play. I remember it was a really physical experience, like 5 years back or 6. And I was talking to my friends doom band pals Bezoar from Brooklyn, this doom trio, and they were chasing you on that tour but never caught up. 

Every once in awhile I get tweets from bands like “we’re two days behind you” or wanting to hop on a show and I always get a little bit of guilt. Houston or Dallas?

Dallas. It was Trees, I think.

We played once in a veterans hall in Texas on the second floor. I forget if it was Houston or Dallas. But it turned out to be the room where they filmed the police station scenes in Robocop, the original.

Oh, that’s awesome!

I was looking at stills in the film and I was like “Yes, that’s it!”.

That’s even cooler than Fugazi playing a jail! Not everyone can say they played Robocop police HQ. I thought it was in Detroit. How do you still push yourselves with each release? Your shows are so rhythmic and bring release. It makes people dance and you destroyed the barier between audience and band by setting up basically in the middle of the crowd. It is cooler than dub club shows or whatever these days. But how’d you know this was the right time for this certain group of songs?

We’re almost kinda dumb about the situation. It took us a long time. These are the songs that rose to the top of the crop. New and interesting for us or stuck around in the live set. It can be a challenge at times. We’re an old band with a limited pallete, so to make new stuff …some people think Lightning Bolt albums sound like “Lightning Bolt” albums. I feel like there’s new discoveries in there. We’re just trying to amuse ourselves. Stuff’s so funny when you’re touring and building sets. You have new and old songs or write new songs to fill the gap for energy. You kind of cycle in circles… but write songs to fulfill that same energy purpose in a new set after the old were cycled out! There’s some spinning of wheels. But there’s stuff we try to have represented on records. We always say the next one will be super experimental and no one will recognize it, but this one took so long we wanted to make a song based record. Hopefully next one we’ll get really weird and experimental. Pretty far out there. We’ll see what happens.

Jazz musicians in the heyday put out so many more records than maybe rock artists do. Half of it could be improv. Your band feels really live and jammed out but there’s actually a lot of work that goes into your stuff. Oh, I was wondering if it gets annoying if people associate you most with Wonderful Rainbow? Pavement kind of got that with Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Megadeth with the classic Rust In Piece, haha. But “we have all these records.”

Yeah. People do that. It’s funny though reading reviews for this album and people naming other records as our definitive record.

Well, that’s good!

Yeah, which is cool. Someone said Ride The Skies. I was like “Really, that one?” Others say Hyper Magic Mountain. Some people have other ideas. Brian and I love this new one but we also can see the path before us still. New ground is still in reach.


I give you a lot of credit. Not to start shit, but another band like DFA 1979 are great and everyone blows them like they are the bomb of all music, but they’ve hardly made ANY records. Their stuff rules, but…you guys have been working and revising your core sound constantly and releasing stuff.

Like you were saying with jazz…there are some horn players blowing off their best takes and not thinking about it much. Our records we can do ten takes almost identical with areas in it jammed or stretched out , not the same fill every time…but the takes can be pretty identical. Songwriting is almost a mathematical or conceptual problem. You take a kernel and build around it. It’s endless if you want it to be. You can always do more. You just kind of go.

I think King Buzzo of Melvins said recently that they keep writing because musicians work. You don’t stop. It’s what you do. Though we all have bands we wish stopped also, haha. Not them or you, of course.

Yeah. The audience, half the people want the same record every time. Others want the new. As a musician you want both, in a way. To be consistent but push boundaries. For us we wanted more fidelity into it this time. I’m psyched.

“Mythmaster” is amazing. That stomp and texture then almost this Butthole Surfers/dub-core.

Yeah, Right! “Mythmaster” gets really weird. That was the last song. We wrote it this past summer. We wrote that song after the rest of the album was done and it was the final thing to go on there.


Even some of the bands that maybe pre-dated you, Godheadsilo or maybe Dub Narcotic Sound System, who had at least a similar anarchic vibe, or some of the arrythmic Kill Rock Stars stuff…I feel like that or your band’s whole material still feels edgy becasue it is a far cry from the normal shit you hear in “society”. Ariana Grande and shit. 

I was inspired by bands in the day and feel like we’ve inspired bands too. I saw Godheadsilo and Ruins.

Oh yeah, Ruins! I forgot about them.

Yeah. Right when we were starting out Godheadsilo was huge to me before Lightning Bolt, but other than us those bands and I suppose Death From Above…I’ve never listened to them too much, but not many bands are committed to this type of music. I mean, there are other duos out there.

Yeah most of them are doomier though, like The Body. Check out Dead Unicorn. They remind me the most of what you guys are going and sing all about the apocalypse. You’d like them. Kind of stoner blast art nerds. Killer shit.

Really? Cool. I mean, there’s been other ones for sure. They’re out there. But we’re doing our thing. People ask if we’re worried a fresh drum and bass band will take our spot. I don’t know. There’s plenty of spots around us for everyone to sit comfortably in. Me and Brian do our own thing. When you’re doing your own thing it’s hard for someone to come along and “best” you at it. Can someone play these songs better? They could probably play them more commercially (laughing).

Totally (haha). Like, Laura from Kylesa has said to me that Kylesa are a slow burn/growth band. You create your niche. Or Jonathan from Mercury Rev told my guitarist friend Chris Heitzman that Rev get asked to play these festivals because the fill a unique experience. There aren’t many space rock, weird experimental bands that sound quite like Mercury Rev. SO maybe it’s hader at times but stick to your guns and maybe you’ll end up with a really cool thing cuz you stuck to your integrity.

Wolf Eyes! They’d be playing some really big festivals to a shit ton of people and are a really crazy band, weird stuff. There’s disciples of Wolf Eyesand sort of like that but they could take this weird noise and like Ministry vile metal sounds or something and make it awesome. There’s so many people competing for mainstream space but there’s lots of underground space for different things. Maybe every once in awhile someone gets pulled up to the next tier of awareness in the “public” eye. Or being celebrated by some web sites.


Seeing you live…have you ever lost a lot of weight from being on tour? After seeing you live I had to ask.

(laughing) I actually lost literally like ten to fiteen pounds per tour. I lose weight. Right now I’m coming out of Winter and it’s harder to move. It’s been crazy and so snowy. Not having a kitchen or snacks around a corner is also a good weight loss aspect of tour. We try and eat well and hit Whole

Foods, which are prevalent now and pretty popular. But you still get the occassional Denny’s or Waffle House or whatever.

Yeah, I’ve had their shitty jalapeno shredded potatoes with my lovely friend Jess (laughing).

Obviously, you’ve toured. Sometimes you’re eating weird stuff, but it’s just an awesome feeling to be out there and be so focused on this one thing. I love tour. I mean, I also hate it (laughing). Some clubs are weird and sterile and not cool. It can be rough. Or you spend half a day asleep in a van. But it’s so cool to focus on that one goal.

Ride that line, er…Lighting… between freedom and masochism.

Yeah, that’s touring.




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