INTERVIEW PEAKING LIGHTS

Thursday 01 December 2011 at 03:49 am

Words by Johanna Valdés. Photos by Christopher Schreck

Peaking Lights build luscious layers of synths over a super bass to create a dispersed, polyphonic experience. But Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis don’t just make beautiful experimental electro. They’ve made a pretty baby called Mikko too! Indra and Aaron are a family and a self-made business. We met them at Co-op 87, a tiny record store in Brooklyn run by their new label, Mexican Summer. While Aaron loaded the van with their equipment, drove to the venue and set up for the evening’s show, Indra took care of the baby and talked to us about their sonic evolution, recording in New York and how their new family works. A day in the life—away from the bustle of the blogosphere.

Johanna: And what prompted your clan to pass through New York?
Indra: We’re in town to record our new album. We were lucky enough to get a record deal with Mexican Summer and Domino so we’re subletting an apartment and recording up to the end of November.`

Did you find the place on Craigslist?
That may be a little sketchy... Through a friend in another band who’s on tour. So we’re at their place. It worked out really well for us, definitely.

Describe the setup of your Brooklyn digs. What does it look like? How does it compare to home?
It’s a studio in Greenpoint, right above a Polish deli. It’s TINY. There’s enough room for our suitcases, the stroller and the three of us, but that’s it! It’s a cosy place for crashing at night and the neighbourhood is great. We eat pierogi every day.

You, Aaron, baby Mikko and nanny Claire drove across the country to get to Brooklyn. Tell us about your journey. Can you describe your tour van, inside and out? How long have you guys had it?
We got it right before we left Wisconsin, it’s a Dodge Ram Van 1500. The back seat is chopped out for extra comfy zones and baby chilling. We drove from Madison, Wisconsin where we were living until the end of October. We are en route to LA now—just making a couple stops first! But with our baby, everything has to slow down and be more mellow, so we took three-and-a-half days to do the 16-hour drive. Aaron was driving. At one point, the van broke down so we were four country bumpkins lost in a country town in Pennsylvania. The van got fixed so, disaster averted. There were killer thrift stores with tons of killer new digs so everyone left happy. And the van seems to be running solid.

How are Peaking Lights doing with the bloggers? Do you follow yourselves in the blogosphere?
Well, it’s been totally great. When we released 936, I was pregnant with Mikko and I wasn’t paying attention to the release all that much. I was about a month away from giving birth so, you know. I was more focused on that. It was cool to get emails from people in the blogosphere, though. A lot of them were like ‘oh, I really like your record! Check out what I wrote about you.’ And I was like ‘awesome! Oh, this blog likes it! Or that one does.’

Your music has ripened into a clearer, more controlled sound, like a fruit ready for the dance floor. Tell us about your sonic beginnings and what has led to your evolution.
We’ve been a band since 2008. We started with two amps, one for each of us. It was all we could really afford anyway. We kind of got too used to the music sounding very muddy. As soon as we got the chance to buy some more gear, we were like, ‘Ok. Now, this is what we’re trying to sound like.’ We’d always heard something different than what the audience could hear.

Aaron just keeps loading more equipment into the van than I believe a duo can find things to do with. It looks like you’ve got enough equipment for an eight-piece.
It’s just the two of us trying to sound like a whole band. That’s why we prerecord our back-track: the drums, bass, maybe some of the keys —anything that repeats. We run the track through these two giant speakers, here. And we have a lot of amps. Having all the instruments run through the same amp makes everything sound really muddy. We’ve tried it. It doesn’t really work very well.

New baby, new label, new city—do you think the newest album will reflect all of these shifts? Do you think your homegrown sound will be challenged at all under these conditions?
The beats and the bass lines, the foundations for the new album were recorded in our home. Only now it’ll be our job for the next month instead of trying to squeeze work in here and there or when the baby is sleeping. We’re here and we have the studio, we have our nanny Claire with us, who can watch our baby while we focus on recording. If anything, we’re going to be able to do more than we usually have time to.

And how do you feel about the way music is distributed today? Is the internet killing the video star? In a way, the question is why should you necessarily have to pay for music?
The only reason is to sort of support the industry and support the musician. It’s great to spread the word about art and music through the underground, which I kind of consider blogs to be. Anybody can set up a blog and start talking about what they like and share things. It’s revolutionary. You don’t have to read about something in a magazine or maybe by chance see it at your friend’s house. You can just go online and look at your favourite blogs. Or anyone’s blog.

And Peaking Lights are on a mini-tour now to promote 936 and to hit Europe with a new psychedelic lo-fi kaleidoscope of sounds?
Yeah, we’ll be playing a show in Amsterdam, that’s gonna be in early December. Then we play Paris, Belgium and maybe three shows in England. So it’s a pretty short tour.

Are you excited about it? We sure are.
Definitely. It’ll be really fun to go over there. And it will be Mikko’s first time overseas. He’s got a little passport and his picture is really cute.

I wish they made baby-sized passports.
I know, I’d been half-expecting that. But it’s just a regular-sized passport with a little baby face on it.

Peaking Lights play on 04 December in DOK in Ghent. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members.