Spotlights: The Epic, Dreamy Doom-Gaze Act Touring With Metal’s Biggest Bands
That a band as heavy and romantic as Spotlights have become a fixture in the rock scene is impressive; that they’ve done so in such a short period of time is tremendous. The Brooklyn-based trio’s music feels esoteric in both its brooding darkness and its raw emotionality, a combination that might put off fans of one side of the heavy music spectrum or the other. And yet this shadowy sweet spot has earned the band slots opening for Deftones, Mr. Bungle, and most recently Korn and Faith No More on their upcoming North American trek.
“It’s definitely been fun, though it’s been kind of mind-boggling,” admits Mario Quintero, the band’s guitarist, vocalist, synth player, and chief songwriter. “We still don’t understand it — we sit back every once in a while and count the bands who are our favorite bands who we’ve gotten to tour with, and it’s kind of wild. It’s been insane and intense — over the last three and a half years, since the Deftones tour, things just kind of slowly kept coming at us. Kind of unintentionally — not that we weren’t working hard, because especially when we started, we were trying really hard to get the word out, meet the right people. Then that Deftones tour came up, and it put us on the map, as they say — though we are still a tiny band. We still have to do our own work. Support’s great, it’s fun, you have these bucket list moments, but at the end of the day you still have to go out and do the work yourself.”
That hard work is immediately audible on Spotlights’ new EP, We Are All Atomic. Though still very much in the vein of the band’s previous recordings, the four-track album shows Mario and his wife Sarah (bass, guitar, and vocals) reaching far in the different directions that make up the band’s whole. There’s plenty of shoulders-hunched doom fury on the record, but also eerie echoes of highway goth and aching flashes of noise rock. The result is an epic in four parts that shows off the unique character of this band — whatever it is.
“I feel like we’ve touched on a lot of different things,” says Mario. “We have blastbeats, we have real doom metal parts…We try to hit all those pieces without being that band. I think every record should be different, and I think there’s nothing wrong with doing different genres of music every time. None of our records have had such a specific direction. It might be what’s tough for a lot of people to find us and become fans — it’s tough for people to hold us down to one genre.”
When you formed Spotlights, was there a specific vision of how you wanted to sound, or did this progress naturally?
Spotlights started differently than most bands do. The idea came from Sarah and I back in 2009 writing a song out of nowhere in San Diego. It was whatever came out — she played some bass, I played some drums, and we thought, ‘This is cool, we should do stuff that’s just us again,’ because we were playing in a band at the time. But we were also busy with that band, so nothing really happened until we moved to New York. I was messing around on my laptop with some electronic sounds, trying to move away from the typical jam-in-a-room rock band kind of thing. It started differently in that I just started demoing these ideas and putting down programming beats and programming drums, and then I’d put some guitar over it, Sarah would put some bass over it — build it las a project at home.
Those songs were just put together in our house, and it seemed to really work for us. Even after we got a drummer, it was like, why change it? So instead of the three of us getting together in a room with parts, or just fighting about things, I basically put it all together and show it to them, because I write with the intention of them playing what they like, or knowing what they like. Especially having Chris [Enriquez, drums] now, I can write parts or ideas with his playing in mind. If I’m making a demo, I’ll program a beat of something I couldn’t play, and once he gets his hands on it, he can take it to a whole new level.
Is there ever a moment where you’re working on a part and it just isn’t for Spotlights? Are there hard lines of what can and can’t be Spotlights?
Not yet — so far, it’s all worked out. We all have very similar influences; Sarah and I specifically are sort of like the same person. At the very least, we know what the other one like to certain extremes. But there’s never really that moment where we think something’s not going to work, because everything I write, I write specifically for this project. If I write something and it’s not landing in that space, I might show it to them as a song, but not like, ‘Hey, here’s the next song we’re doing.’ We really don’t start with any influence in mind — what comes out is what comes out. It’s the combination of everything Sarah and I love in music. We make songs that we would want to listen to in the end.
How has your sound changed or grown on We Are All Atomic?
This one’s kind of weird — we basically tried to make it one long piece, but broken up into four sections. That’s why it’s Part I through IV. Parts I and IV are ideas I’ve had around since before our first album came out. I just started digging through stuff. We’d had an idea of doing this EP for a long time, and when the dudes from Blues Funeral hit us up to do it, we thought it was the perfect opportunity. It’s not like a full record, it’s a piece. I tried to get out of the way and not think about it too much, and I just improvised a lot of what was on there. I took a step back, we listened to it, Sarah added her bass, and that was it.
Is that something you can do organically — return to old material and ways of thinking, change up your sound — or does it require effort?
I can feel it — especially with our last record, Love & Decay, I remember thinking, ‘Will people like this? Will they like that?” I had to be like, ‘I don’t give a fuck what other people like. If I like it, we all like it. That’s all that matters first and foremost. Of course I’m not trying to write something that makes no sense to the fans who have invested their time in our music. I think it’s important to keep the fans in mind, of course, but you can’t let it dictate what comes out. I really try to stay away from that. Even though our records have an overall sound, if you go back and listen to everything, it’s all very different. It’s allowed us to be heavy, to be pretty, to be more on the indie side, to be a metal band, or be a doom band. We have a lot of room to play in right now, which is nice — to not be stuck as a band where every song is this long and sounds the same.
As of now, Spotlights will be touring North America this summer with Faith No More and Korn, so make sure to catch them live at one of the following dates:
07 - Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
09 - Salt Lake City, UT - USANA Amphitheatre
11 - Auburn, WA - White River Amphitheatre
13 - Wheatland, CA - Toyota Amphitheatre
14 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre
16 - Irvine, CA - FivePoint Amphitheatre
17 - Phoenix, AZ - Ak-Chin Pavilion
19 - Albuquerque, NM - Isleta Amphitheater
21 - Dallas, TX - Dos Equis Pavilion
22 - Del Valle, TX - Germania Insurance Amphitheater
23 - The Woodlands, TX – The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
25 - Alpharetta, GA - Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
27 - Scranton, PA - The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
EXCLUSIVE: Watch the new video from Spotlights, the band who’s been endorsed by everyone from Melvins to ISIS.
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