In a vast sea of pop punk bands, Lighters emerges as a stand-out from the crowd. On their latest EP, Fear of Missing Out, they pay homage to the nostalgic aspects of the genre, while at the same time redefining the boundaries.
To learn more about what went into the making of Fear of Missing Out, I met up with the members of Lighters: Matthias Galley (lead vocals/guitar) Will Westveer (lead guitar), Jake McDermott (drums), and Alan Pelton (bass) at New Roots Coffeehouse in their hometown of Rochester. We talked about recording at home versus the studio, the stories behind the songs, and the best places to go in Rochester for a garbage plate.
Paula Cummings: So why Lighters?
Will Westveer: Plural nouns were the thing two years ago. Every band was a one word name with an “s” at the end and without the “The,” and we thought Lighters would be good. Part of the reason we changed our name (from Cult Classic) was because there was already a band called Cult Classic. But now there’s another band called Lighters. So it’s really unavoidable.
PC: How would you describe your sound?
WW: It’s very old school. There’s a lot of old school pop punk, old school emo.
Matthias Galley: Early 2000’s – The Get Up Kids, Blink
Jake McDermott: My girlfriend said last night, “You guys sound like newfound glory.”
Alan Pelton: We’ve also got that newer emo going. Modern Baseball is a huge influence.
MG: We’re not a straight up punk band, but that’s definitely where a lot of my roots came from – just like that pure aggression and energy and maybe not being technically the best but having heart behind it. I think that’s a lot of our philosophy.
JM: But we also want to get out of that and be more modern, like alternative emo.
MG: It’s really hard to put your music in a genre because you just have so many influences and you put them in the box and you don’t know what’s going to come out.
PC: The new EP, Fear of Missing Out, where did you record and who helped you put that together?
JM: First we tried recording at my house.
WW: It didn’t sound too bad, but it was too much work.
JM: My parents were out of town for Halloween weekend last year. We set up my drums in the living room. We put pillows next to the fireplace so no one would hear outside. And we just recorded drums for the entire day. Then we recorded their vocals and stuff for the next two days. We finally were almost done and we were on the last song when someone rang the doorbell. I forgot it was Halloween. So my dog starts barking, and we’re like “Okay, we’re just going to get someone to do it.”
WW: It was the last straw.
PC: Yeah, DIY is great, but it takes a lot of work.
WW: We recorded it with one of our friends in a band called REPS. They’re a hardcore band, they’re really good. They have a rehearsal space over off Park Ave and they’re turning it into a studio too. We’re one of the first bands that used it. The guitar player Jordan Foehner helped us. We were really happy with it. HQ Audio – they were deciding the name as we recorded.
MG: It’s cool to be at the beginning of something like that.
PC: And then the album art – that’s a throwback.
MG: That’s my roommate Billy Lyons. He’s a local artist. He had a show at the Bug Jar a while back and he just had a show at Ugly Duck Coffee. I was like, “Hey can you draw something that looks like 1990’s cartoons, like Rocko’s Modern Life style?” We had him base it off our friend Bobby Heath, who is the guy on the album artwork for the other EP. Bobby comes to a lot of our shows. We’ve known him forever.
AP: We kind of made him look like he’s not really fitting in, like everyone’s having a good time and he’s hanging around.
PC: And that fits the title of the album, Fear of Missing Out. So let’s talk about the tracks. Tell me about “It’s Cold, I’m Sorry.”
MG: That song I wrote after my 21st birthday. I went to a show at the Bug Jar. And it was my 21st birthday, so I left the bar and I forgot my coat inside. And my girlfriend was like, “What are you doing, you have to go in and get it.” So she went and got it for me. It was such an insignificant thing, but I thought it was kind of cute.
PC: The cold seems to be a theme, because there’s mention of the cold in the next song.
MG: You have to write about what you know, right?
AP: It’s something that happens in Rochester.
WW: It’s a reoccurring theme – you can’t get away from it.
PC: But then your EP came out right at the beginning of a heat wave, which was ironic. Tell me about the second song, “Cult Classic.”
WW: That’s one of my favorite songs, I think. That’s a song that we wrote in our old band Cult Classic. That’s why we named it. Back then it was only a verse and a chorus, like verse-chorus-verse-chorus. We only played it once or twice, but I always thought that the chorus was super catchy. We had this other song that we wanted to put on the EP, but we were on the fence about it. And I was like, “Let’s go back to that, let’s revamp it, let’s add a few more parts.” I think it turned out really good. That song’s about Rochester.
PC: But then there’s “Cranberry Lake,” which does not sound like a Rochester reference.
MG: Cranberry Lake is a campground up in the Adirondacks. It’s more of a return to a natural setting. We talk about Rochester, then we shift settings.
PC: I think punk pop bands have like three prerequisite songs, and one of them is always about getting out of town.
MG: We try to avoid those tropes because it’s really tough being a punk pop band.
WW: But you can’t really avoid the pop punk clichés.
JM: We love pizza and buffalo chicken.
PC: And then “Mary Jo,” that one’s a little different than the other ones.
AP: The title is my grandma’s name. One of the first times we played was at the Vineyard Community Space. She came and a ton of my family came and they took up half the room. She had like a folding chair – she got a chair from somewhere, I don’t know where – and she put it right in the front, like right in front of our mics. She put some ear plugs in and she just sat there for the whole thing. That song didn’t have a name, so we just slapped her name on it and it stuck. I kinda like it.
MG: I really like that venue. It’s cool. It’s all ages, which is amazing around here. You know it’s tough. I don’t know how you can encourage people to keep moving into the scene if you have venues that you can only go in if you’re 21. I just wish there were more all-ages venues around.
PC: The last song is “No Pictures Please.”
MG: The song itself I wrote two summers ago. Cold is kind of a theme for the whole album, but this swings to the opposite end of the spectrum. This is about summertime. We had put out our first EP and we were trying to write new songs, to generate new material and come together as a band. At the same time this was in between classes and I was living at home, because you can’t live on campus during the summer break. And you feel anxious and you just want to move on to the next phase. And I think that’s what the song is about – trying to advance as a band and a person.
PC: How was the experience recording this one different than your first EP?
WW: The EP we did at RIT at WITR studio. We recorded the whole thing live so we played it all live in this tiny room. We did vocals afterwards. This time we had a lot more control. It took way longer. Last time took only a day. This time took a few weeks and we tracked everything separately, so we got to mess around with some tones. We did a little editing. It was a lot more professional this time around, and a lot more fun, really.
MG: Yeah, it was cool. We really did enjoy recording at HQ Audio. It was a really nice, relaxed environment. I didn’t mind coming in multiple sittings because it’s enjoyable recording with them and doing what we do.
AP: Jordan knows what he’s doing. In “No Pictures Please,” at the end, he jumped in too and that was super fun.
WW: Yeah, it was me and Alan and he’s got a booth with all of his board. Me and Alan were standing outside the booth with headphones and a microphone. And he’d hit go and run out with headphones on.
MG: He was really involved.
JM: It was fun doing vocals with Jordan.
WW: He helped out a lot too. A lot of harmonies and input.
AP: He pushed you to make it sound better – “No, you can do better than that” and “do it again, do it again.”
MG: Yeah, it definitely would have sounded different if we went with someone else. He had a lot of good constructive criticism.
PC: In your band interests you mention garbage plates. What’s your favorite place to go for garbage plates in Rochester?
WW and AP: Henrietta Hots
JM: I like Steve T’s the best – on Lyell. It used to be Nick Tahoes. It looks really trashy, but it’s good.
WW: I love a greasy spoon.
AP: But I like Henrietta Hots, they’re consistent. They’re open late, too.
PC: Anything else you’d like to add?
MG: We had a lot of outside help, between Jordan and Billy who did the album artwork. And Bobby, too. He comes to shows whenever he can. And Tim Avery. He’s the reason we play shows. The majority of shows come through him and he’s the one who gave me my first shows when I was 16 or 17 years old. The way he goes about his business is very commendable and I really appreciate what he does for the scene.