Strange Lights

Fuzzy electric and strummed acoustic guitars swirl together with bass and drums in a spacey, spooky mix. Weird electronic blips pulse and percolate amid the haze. Ghostly male and female vocals materialize, harmonically converge, and then disappear back into the infinite mist. You feel warm. Dizzy. Disoriented. This is very much a mysterious, alien place. But somehow you’re at peace. You feel safe. Protected. Even healed.

You’ve found the music of Strange Lights. And you’ll never, ever be the same.

Based in the tiny (population: 80) spiritual-leaning community of Crestone, Colorado, Strange Lights started as the core duo of Lonny and Deb, recording and playing live over the years with a changeable lineup of guest musicians; permanent drummer Robert Edsel joined the fold after the making of Light Bright. While Lonny grew up in the Denver/Boulder area, Deb hails from New York, where she studied classical flute as a child and played in punk bands in her twenties. The two met when Lonny was looking for a bassist to jam with and right away bonded deeply on both personal and musical levels. Strange Lights has shared the bill with the likes of Michelle Shocked, Leon Russell, Tony Furtado, John Lee Hooker Jr., Dave Mason, Beau Soleil, Edgar Winter Band, Papa Grows Funk, and many more.

Already a formidable success online, the band is currently gearing up for touring in support of Light Bright and planning the release of a new six-song EP in 2010.

How do you describe your music to people, guys?

Lonny: We have really struggled with that one. I have played a lot of folk and shamanic music mixed with rock and blues. Indie pop has much appeal but we never sounded exactly like it. It would seem that an element of pop music is extremely important to connect the dots of music into something a large group of people can have fun with so now we are semi pinning ourselves to the genres of melodic rock, indie, pop, and psycho folk and sometimes we are going with "short bus pop" because we have always been somewhat different.

Deb: "different"! We truly have an original style, which as an artist originally from classical music which doesn't allow too much "coloring outside the lines", is where I feel my creative action is.  So, it's really a melding of rock, pop, psychedelic, punk, country, & folk into our own sound.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
Lonny: Many years ago I was sitting quietly when I found myself supernaturally transported into Jimi Hendrix's body during a show. At that time I committed to being a musician if I ever had the chance. A few years later I found myself in an occupation that left me with a lot of free time working at home waiting for customers to arrive. I picked up a guitar at the local music store and as they say, "the rest is history".

Deb: From the age of 8 I played classical flute in the bands and orchestras in school, but as a senior in high school, I discovered rock and roll and consequently felt like I'd wasted 8 years of musical training.
Feeling pretty upset about this, I called a rock and roll expert friend of mine for advice. Robbie Fradin was a guitar player that had left school at the age of 13 to roadie for the New York Dolls, (they rehearsed in his neighborhood and couldn't get rid of him anyway), and he advised me to pick up playing bass guitar as, "it's not that hard, and chick bass players are cool". I am forever grateful for that advice!

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Lonny: I like the earth. I can be found at times in old mines looking for gems and crystals but my favorite thing is when a connection is made between this world and other places/dimensions/worlds. I think it is what we are here for and too many people are not in touch with it.

Deb: My thing is not having "one thing"...which has caused friction in my life...being informed that I "should really focus" on one thing, which I could only fake for awhile. So, in medical school there I was, in Microbiology class at 8 AM, kinda spaced out from playing CBGB's 'till 4 AM. If I really could only have ONE thing to do, then it would be playing music professionally...but very few get enough financial return on their music to pay for their kid's college.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Lonny: Location is our nemisis I would say because we are two hundred miles from any large city. Getting an audience at a show is sometimes difficult as we cannot get out for postering and connecting with people personally. Driving to shows is a challenge as well. We would really love to develop a tool set to connect with people and get this party up to the speed of fun and sound that we see in our minds and hearts.

Deb: Definitely "time" is the biggest challenge of music as a business. We don't have "assistants", so every aspect of getting the music out into the world is up to us. The continuous prioritization is like a meditation that reinforces how important the music is to us.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
Lonny: A scientist/inventor. I loved the idea. I still have the urge on some levels but art is very sophisticated and creative as well as inventive. Art is also very intimate which was not as clearly found for me in sciences.

Deb: I "wanted to be" few different things, but had no clue how my life would play out. I was "good at" graphic arts, music, and science, considered classical music as a career path, was talked out of it by my disenchanted flute teacher, got into medical school at 16, and off I went. I grew up in the Bronx and was motivated to get out, alive and able to make enough money so I didn't have to be exposed to the same scary scene as an adult.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Lonny: Our community had not initially been supportive of our sound. We were so different. Our town is generally progressive, but being heavily oriented towards the baby boomer generation music was widely accepted only if it was a cover band focused on music of the 60's and 70's. In truth we also weren't that great musically for a few years, although the actual ideas of the band were very innovative. We do live in a spiritually diverse town and that has impacted the style and lyrics in what is hopefully a very positive way although we do love the tinges of darkness as well.

Deb:  My first group of close girlfriends when I was about 8 years old (who were almost all black) were into the likes of Diane Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, etc...in my house, mom was into ONLY Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, and my dad loved classical music and opera, and once I was interested in rock as a teenager growing up in NYC, I definitely was influenced to have that type of "musical education", which began with the likes of The New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith and branched out from there. I was privileged to get exposed to a lot of excellent "club shows", which was a great education as well as great fun. I also saw how harsh the arts are as a career...a lot of performers "don't make it there", to misphrase the song "NY,NY", and it helped prepare me for the crushing/tempering process that trying to make it as a musician is, wherever you are.

What other artists out there do you love?
Lonny: I love Indie pop, Jam bands, Indie rock, especially bands that have mastered contrasts of ruff and smooth and then added a bit of pop flavor. I like Cloud Cult, The Flaming Lips, The Grateful Dead, The Shins, Jimi Hendrix, The Dandy Warhols, Pink Floyd and many more.

Deb: My ipod favorites are the Flaming Lips & The Shins. I couldn't have done without Pink Floyd and the Beatles growing up. Live, Ian Moore is a performer that is pure inspiration. Of course this leaves out the other few hundred musicians that I love, including Beethoven, the original rock and roller...have you heard the Ninth Symphony?!

What does your future hold?
Lonny: It would be great to become clearly good enough at an art to win the hearts and minds of people. It would be the ultimate reward to be involved like Bono and have the resources to take action in a world that sorely needs it. Every step that I move forward will be with that type of intention but how far can that go? I have no idea.

Deb: For sure?- songwriting and performance that is continually refined to be a genuine expression of the group experience of life. That is what I see as "success".