There comes a time in every band’s life when abandoning commercial expectations in favor of heartfelt musical expressions and relatable lyrics takes center stage. For the Tulsa-based pop/rock foursome Capital Lights, that realization came remarkably early in its already impressive career, following a name change and stylistic shift from members’ days in locally acclaimed screamo act afterEIGHT.
“We had a couple people leave the other band’s line-up, I stepped up from bass to singing, rewrote our material and we changed styles completely,” says front man Bryson Phillips of Capital Lights’ debut disc This Is An Outrage. “The main thing we’ve learned personally is to really focus the writing on what you like rather than trying to be like all the other bands around. When we were doing the screamo thing, we were seeing other bands and trying to be just like them. But in Capital Lights, I started writing on an acoustic guitar without trying to plug into any particular formula, just being ourselves and playing 100 percent exactly what we wanted.”
By breaking down the walls of familiar formulas and shooting straight from each player’s personal artistic compasses, the results not only resonated with a steadily expanding audience, but yielded an intense bidding war from Nashville to Seattle (with just about every city in between). Linking up with manager Jason Fowler (Red, Pillar) and joining the roster of Third Coast Artist Agency brought about additional prominence, eventually resulting in a deal with Tooth & Nail (a long time dream for the band after youthful obsessions with MXPX).
“Before we got signed, we would constantly send out new songs to A&R reps at various labels and managers, so often that we got to know the FedEX lady by name,” he offers, laughing at the sentiment of always rushing to make the day’s last drop off deadline. “We were sending songs to Aaron Sprinkle and he always responded saying he liked what he heard, but to keep him updated on any new songs. About a year ago, we wrote ‘Worth As Much As A Counterfeit Dollar’ and he responded back saying how much he loved it. Six or seven labels stared sending interest our way as well, but Tooth & Nail wound up flying us to their offices for an acoustic set in front of the staff. Two weeks later, they sent us a contract and that was without even seeing us play an official live show!”
Outside of being drawn in by the band’s vibrant blend of Relient K and Jimmy Eat World, there was an underlying originality to Capital Light’s peppy surge of power chords and relevant writing subjects. Those ideas were soon fleshed out in a Seattle studio stationed within the illustrious Capitol Hill neighborhood (hence its slightly tweaked moniker) alongside producer extraordinaire Aaron Sprinkle (Pedro the Lion, Anberlin, The Almost).
“Going into the studio was different than we expected, mostly because we’d never worked with a producer before,” admits Bryson. “We were expecting it to be a really stressful thing with him on top of us all the time, but we went in really prepared and he was seriously the most laid back and coolest guy. He made a lot of notes on our bridges and choruses and helped cut them down in length, but he was much more a friend who made it very comfortable to talk and hang out with.”
The resulting dozen tracks throughout This Is An Outrage range from pure bred alternative pop to assertive modern rock, wrapped around a topical plane that spans the palette of meaningful, whimsical and satirical. The scalding “Kick It Off” is sure to be a fierce concert classic and the aforementioned “Worth As Much As a Counterfeit Dollar” possesses one of the most contagious choruses in recent memory. “Night of Your Life Is When You Die” is an anthem for anyone who embraces the straight-edge scene, suggesting the party hearty mentality isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The energy escalating “Return” is amongst the disc’s most inspirational, while the historically slanted “Frank Morris” provides a fictional account of the famed Alcatraz prison escape.
“We’re really big proponents of writing about the experiences we deal with on a day to day basis,” Bryson verifies of that varied songwriting swath. “My vocals are very fast paced in the way they present what we have to say and we’re hoping people take away something positive from this project because there’s already enough negativity out there.”
Thus far fans old and new alike have been flocking to the material, thanks to extensive touring, including headlining dates and time supporting Hawk Nelson and Run Kid Run. No matter with the format, Capital Lights’ fan base continues to expand like lightening, as evidenced by feverish MySpace activity, downloads and CD sales at shows.
“Even though we’re a brand new band on our debut album, we’ve had the chance to meet so many amazing new listeners all across America and we’re hoping the word keeps on spreading,” sums up Bryson. “We’ve always dreamt of going out on the road and we absolutely love it so far. From here on out, the goal is just to stay steady on the road, get these songs in front of people and hopefully continue to write songs that mean something to us and those who check them out. This is something we want to turn into a long term career for as long as we possibly can, and of course, we’re here to have fun and bring as many people as we can along for the ride.”