Female-fronted Chicago shoegaze outfit Lightfoils recently put out their first self-titled EP, an excellent release that sets them as one of the more interesting acts to watch in the current shoegaze revival scene. Their blend of lush overdriven dreamrunner guitars and singer Nicole Baksinskas' acrobatic pop vocals makes for atmospheric and very catchy music; you'll most likely find yourself humming these melodies in the shower. The instrumentation here is also consummately professional; on "Take Care Tonight" and "Sympathy Lies", the band sound like lifelong shoegazers who have honed their pedals well. This should come expected as the band includes veterans Cory Osborne and John Rungger, formerly of Airiel.
I spoke with Cory to get the drop on the band's history and future, the question of modern shoegaze, and other valuable trinkets of info.
How did Lightfoils come together? I understand that the band includes alumni of at least one other well-known shoegaze act.
Right around the fall of 2010, I was looking to get back into a shoegaze/dreampop project. It just so happened that everyone else was kind of in between bands as well. I had worked with John and Zeeshan in Airiel, and had played briefly with Neil and John in another project. We were all pretty good friends and really enjoyed working together, so it all came together without much effort. John had been doing a side project with Nicole and she was really interested in what we were doing, so she came on board after just a few auditions and brought the crucial vocal component to the mix.
Read the full interview and more after the jump.
The music press has always been somewhat saturated with coverage of New York and California's music culture. As a band out of Chicago's underground, is it a thriving scene for experimental and interesting types of music?
I would say so. Of course we have mad love for bands on both coasts, but I've been in the Chicago music scene for the last 20 years. There has always been a great underground/indie scene here. It seems like there's always someone "breaking out" nationally, but at the same time we've always had badass bands that have prospered and killed it locally without getting tons of attention from the national press. The thing I love about the Chicago scene is that most people involved have that "Midwestern sensibility". I think that is why you'll find a ton of really cool Chicago bands who lack pretension and airs, and focus more on putting out quality music. People here are very supportive and enthusiastic, and there are tons of fantastic venues to play.
This EP has a very strong melodic sensibility thanks to Nicole Baksinskas' vocals. While it's tempting to make easy comparisons between Lightfoils and old female-fronted dreampop/shoegaze bands like Cocteau Twins or Lush, what kind of sound did you all set out to create when you began to record, and what musical influences encouraged you?
Obviously when you set out to start a shoegaze band, you're going to touch upon the "classic" influences. Slowdive, MBV, Ride, etc...But we all listen to genres beyond ours as well. I think that's what has made our writing sessions so interesting and fun. John and I are old hands at shoegaze - we've been playing it since the early '90s. But Nicole and Neil are a bit newer to the scene and less…corrupted by it. haha. So they bring different styles and influences in the mix-the result hopefully being a bit more unique and fresh. Not to say that we don't enjoy comparisons to the "classic" gaze bands, we just aim to use our wide range of influences to bring more diversity into the mix.
How did you guys hook up with Saint Marie Records?
Some friends of ours had gotten involved with a startup label called XD Records. They were picking up a lot of really cool acts and were pretty eager to get us onboard. Unfortunately, the label folded right about the time we put out our first EP. Around that time XD, Tom Lugo's Patetico Recordings and Saint Marie Records were talking about joining forces to form a collective of labels that would focus on collaborating to support shoegaze artists and the like. Wyatt Parkins (the head of SMR) spoke to some of the folks at XD, and asked them if it would be cool to talk to us about joining the SMR family. We had a few apprehensions at first, having recently survived the death of XD…but Wyatt is a suave, persuasive dude. haha. It wasn't actually a hard sell- we really admired the SMR roster and had a lot of respect for Wyatt's vision and drive. We've been totally happy ever since!
Genres, as we've seen more and more lately, can be troublesome as bands sometimes can be marginalized or pigeonholed into niches. You guys claimed once that "shoegaze is not dead". Do you see yourselves as being part of the current shoegaze revivalist movement?
Well, John and I have been shoegazers forever, so we think it's funny when people talk about reviving a form of music we never really stopped playing. It seems like every five years or so a "gaze" influenced band will appear on the radar of the mainstream music press, and all of a sudden people start saying that shoegaze is back and a revival movement is on its way. I guess that's one of things that I've always enjoyed about playing "niche" forms of music. The shoegaze community has a lot of dedicated loyal fans who seek each other out and share both new and old bands with one another. And because it never really made it big, the genre still has a freshness and appeal to new listeners who discover it as they explore their own musical paths.
The other great thing about the genre is that there is such a wide spectrum of sounds that end up falling under the shoegaze moniker. Slowdive is drastically different from Swervedriver, and the same can be said for MBV vs. Ride and so many other bands within the genre. On top of that, psych bands and other such acts have shared so many comparable shoegazer traits that I feel there is a lot of freedom within the confines of the niche, creatively speaking.
Name some of your favorite contemporaries in the genre lately?
Oh my God- there are almost too many! Hell- the SMR roster has a ton of stuff we love...Drowner, Bloody Knives, and Panda Riot, to name a few. We’ve played with awesome bands like Dead Leaf Echo, Ringo Deathstarr and Music for Headphones. Her Vanished Grace is another. And Chatham Rise from Minneapolis are almost singlehandedly responsible for hooking us up with some of the giants in today's scene. We've been ridiculously lucky to play with more killer bands than you probably have space to list!
Any new music from Lightfoils on the horizon?
Absolutely! We'll be putting out a full length later this year on Saint Marie Records. Look for us in late summer/fall!
Stream: Lightfoils - Lightfoils
Lightfoils' self-titled EP is available now via Saint Marie Records.