The NYC band The Mystery Lights took China by storm a couple months ago, joining Hedgehog on a short tour and playing Beijing’s Strawberry Festival. We saw them at Yuyintang and were impressed. Afterwards, they hooked us with their EP and it was on. Their music is a bit bluesy, with a garage rock edge to it. The parts fit together well and singer Mike’s voice is really great.
We decided we needed to find out some more about the band in order to pass it onto you, the reader, so we hit up Mike (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Johny (drums, production) over email and they politely responded to our hounding. Here we go.
LAYABOZI: From older videos I see a very different band lineup with a strange drummer plus a mystery bassist. Can you please tell us how The Mystery Lights came upon their current lineup and locale and then tell us a bit about each current member – instrument, influences, all the normal first interview question stuff.
MIKE: Originally, The Mystery Lights were just a four-piece garage rock band in California. We played around with that lineup for a bit, not really taking it too seriously, and barely playing gigs. After the band slowly began to fall apart and become stagnant, I moved to NYC to work on a new project with Johny. L.A. eventually came along with me, but the other two members stayed in California, tied down with work and school. Now the band consists of me on vocals/rhythm guitar, L.A. on lead guitar, and Johny on drums. So we started playing out as a three-piece, tried for a few months to come up with a name, and decided to stick with the name The Mystery Lights, out of laziness. But we are playing new material and there is definitely a new dynamic as a three-piece.
LYBZ: What drew you guys together? Was it a common love of the blues?
JOHNY: Mike and LA knew each other for years, playing in bands together back in California. I worked with Mike on a few projects, producing, and I always loved his music. We vibe very well in the studio, so to play together just came natural. And, yeah, we all have very similar taste in music…so that helps.
LYBZ: Your sound is very familiar, like an old shoe, but also seems a bit fresh. Do you enjoy mixing genres or do you think what you are doing is a continuation of a long line of bluesy, rocking musicians?
M: We are influenced by so many different types of music. Obviously our love for raw, hard-hitting 1960’s garage rock/old blues/and punk rock, especially punk from the 1970’s, definitely shines through our music heavily, but I think with time, we have seemed to form our own sound and style. I mean, we love rock ‘n roll, blues, jazz, classic music, hip hop, electronic, you name it. We are extremely open-minded to anything genuine. That’s all that matters to me: if I can feel it, and believe it, and if it hits hard.
LYBZ: I have to say that The Mystery Lights EP has been played many times in my stereos. Many people have been subjected to my ramblings about its virtues. The song “Letting Go of Something You Don’t Want to Let Go Of” is very meaningful to me. So thanks for giving me that copy on the steps of Yuyintang after your show. Can you tell us a little something about each song, something we don’t know but might be interested or surprised to find out?
M: Well, the first song “BE HERE NOW” was written in the presence of the girl that the second song “Letting Go Of Something You Don’t Want To Let Go Of” was written about. And the third song “I Miss The Days” is written about the “Joe” mentioned in “Letting Go Of Something You Don’t Want To Let Go Of”. Each song has a connection, and that happened completely by accident. We didn’t plan for that at all.
LYBZ: We hear there is a new album in the works. We are very curious. When is it coming out? What is it called? What is it like? Give us the highlights.
J: We plan on releasing it soon. Hopefully it will be done in the next few months. Not sure of the name yet. We recorded it ourselves at my studio in NYC, on mostly vintage outboard gear, tape machines, and old microphones. It has a very raw sound, but still big and powerful.
M: About 12-13 tracks, some ballads, some hard punk rock tracks, and bluesy jams. It’s gonna be great.
LYBZ: You guys live in New York now, but I think two members are from Cali. So what are the main differences in the scenes and are you glad you moved?
M: Cali has a cool underground garage scene, fun shows, people dancing. New York is a little more serious, but we’re changing all that.
LYBZ: Tell us about your experience in China. How did the festival appearances go and what did you take from the whole trip in general?
M: China was wild! Every show was packed – the scene in China is amazing. The crowd goes crazy for rock ‘n roll music. We toured numerous places with Hedgehog. We traveled through Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Beijing, and were even in Hong Kong and Macau. Much of it is a blur. To close the tour, we played the Strawberry Festival in Beijing, and that was surreal. So many bands, so many stages, so many people! It was great! We had a lot of fun playing that festival. The crowd seemed to respond very well to our set. We definitely will be back in China.
LYBZ: What bands are you digging on right now? Any from China (besides Hedgehog, of course, who rule)?
J: I’m a big fan of the classics, but Hedgehog is amazing. Love Queen Sea Big Shark, Carsick Cars, and The Retros. Also, some cool underground US bands right now, as well.
M: I personally have been listening to a lot of The Black Lips, Strange Boys, and The Hives. Also, 1960’s garage rock, such as Thee Headcoats, Standells, Chocolate Watchband, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, Nuggets, etc, and old 1970’s punk rock like The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, and so on.
LYBZ: What’s going on right now and in the future for The Mystery Lights? What can we expect in the next year or two?
J: Well, the new record and some videos. Also, we will be touring. Hopefully we’ll be back in China in the fall. We miss it.
You can find out more about The Mystery Lights on their Facebook page.