Profile: Light Club

Light Club
All Photos: Ashton McKenzie

With a little inspiration from his grandfather, Gabe Mouer picked up a guitar in his early teens which helped pave the way to joining the moderately successful band The Welcome Home founded in Olympia, WA.

His first band now broken up, Mouer combined those experiences with the added maturity that comes with age and started Light Club. The style of music and the song writing is much less controversial than where the name came from – the coffee shop in Huntington Beach, CA where 70’s cult leader David Berg and his followers often met. Mouer said the name stuck after reading a book about Berg.

Light Club is a one-man band with Mouer at the helm for the vocals and all the instrumentation except for some help on the drums. He recently released the first single, “What We Found,” 0ff his forthcoming EP Youth is Fading out October 14th.

Self-described as Indie-pop, Light Club’s music is well-produced, comes across fresh and relatively mainstream. Incorporating some very hip drum beats, bright melodies with well-placed synths, and defining vocals it’s not too far a stretch to believe in an illuminating future for Light Club but as Mouer admits, the album is out, now the hard work is just beginning.

Founders: Gabe Mouer

Year Founded: 2014

Hometown: Portland, OR

Influences: Peter Gabriel, The Cure, The 1975, Hellogoodbye

Current line-up: Gabe Mouer

Discography: Youth is Fading EP

Website: www.soundcloud.com/lightclub

Light Club Youth is Fading

  1. What’s your background in making music and what made you decide to record an album?

I’ve been interested in playing music since I can remember, I sang in the city choir as a kid and always daydreamed of being in a band. In middle school I discovered Saves the Day’s Stay What You Are and decided that I wanted to be a songwriter. Thanks to some advice from my grandfather as he quipped, “You’re just gonna stand on stage and sing? You’re gonna look like a jackass up there with nothing else to do.”

I picked up the guitar and started learning every song I could. That summer I joined my first band. At one point, as cliche as it may be, writing songs stopped being something I did for fun and became more akin to a compulsion, and it only seemed logical to record them and try to make a living doing so. I guess that pretty much brings us up to date.

  1. Why did The Welcome Home break up?

Without getting too much into it, things had run their course. Being in a band is like being in a terribly involved relationship and, like any relationship, when things stop progressing sometimes it’s time to call it a day. We started in our late-teens when responsibilities were relatively low and as we grew into ourselves interests changed and priorities reoriented themselves.

Once I decided it would be best to disband, I found myself with so many possibilities of reinventing myself as an artist, all of that uncertainty led to a couple of years worth of writing and discarding dozens of songs before I arrived at the Light Club sound early last spring.

  1. Is the Light Club’s music going to be different then your previous band or similar indie pop style?

In some regards it’s the logical extension of the work I did for The Welcome Home, but certainly more current and thoughtful. For this project, I really began to examine contemporary artists and thought about my place in the industry. What makes a good pop song? What’s the best way to implement hooks without becoming incessant? Most importantly I’m constantly learning how to edit myself – do people really want to listen to a two minute musical intro? Does this song overstay its welcome? This sort of self-reflection has, at least I hope, resulted in tracks that are more accessible and modern sounding than my previous efforts, while maintaining a certain sense of spontaneity and authenticity.

  1. Though the album format is widely believed to be dead or dying, start-ups like Light Club seem to be embracing the traditional route to making music – what do you see as a benefit in making a full album?

The paradigm shift from the album back to the single format of early recorded music has its pros and cons that I struggle with. On the one hand, dealing in singles challenges you to be consistent in delivering your highest quality work and only most accessible work. On the other, the listener gets a fairly narrow perspective of what a particular artist has to say or contribute. The album as a cohesive body of work showcases the peaks and valleys of an artist’s particular voice. It gives you the opportunity to explore themes and tones that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the single format.

That’s what I find so troubling about the trend exemplified by megastars like Katy Perry or bands like Imagine Dragons, where their records are really just a compilation of attempted singles. Every track is a desperate attempt at latching onto radio stardom, nothing has room to breathe. That being said, I treated this EP as an opportunity to showcase my ability to write a decent pop song, I haven’t yet begun to really stretch my legs, so to speak.

Light Club bw

  1. How does a band with little track record like Light Club book a show? Is it as simple as calling a venue, asking for an open date, booking it, paying the fees and showing up?

Since the project is nearly brand new, just announced at the very end of September, I’ve only just begun to think about booking shows. I’ve recently been approached to open for a band I very much respect, so some opportunities come to you. Otherwise, I will contact promoters who work with touring bands in a similar vain to the project and showcase my work for them, slowly wearing them down until they put me on the bill. It really just depends.

  1. Is there a theme to your forthcoming album and can you tell us a bit about what to expect musically?

Lyrically, I strive to make the songs relatable only in as much as they reflect my experiences and viewpoint. I’m not 19 anymore and am no longer dealing with struggling relationships and girl troubles, I don’t really go to dance clubs – a typical pop-song staple – those things don’t speak to anything that feels meaningful to my life.

I’m in a place where the future feels wildly uncertain, and I want the songs to capture that precariousness. Musically, I wanted to make the most interesting and engaging pop songs I could. I set out to write songs that maintain a sense of depth and complexity in arrangement but would be just as strong when played barebones.

  1. Portland feels like a hub for small indie bands like Light Club, is there a family aspect where you all sort of look out for each other or is it a pretty competitive atmosphere?

When I first moved to Portland six years ago, I felt at the time like I had found a fairly sound community of like-minded artists that would support one another. Over the years those groups have mostly dissipated and I haven’t experienced anything that feels like a cohesive scene. As far as I can tell, bands in Portland mainly function wholly independent from one another, but as something of a hermit that doesn’t really bother me anymore.

  1. What’s your process to writing lyrics and creating music?

Oh gosh, it really depends. Sometimes I will sit down and decide “Today, I will write a song,” and I’ll play either guitar or piano until I arrive at something that piques my interest. I might start with a drum part cycling through my head that I’ll run and bang out in Logic, or I’ll hear something spontaneously and I’ll sing it into my Voice Notes app. I have dozens and dozens of voice notes at any given time. Lyrics always take the longest, to match a specific notion to a melody, and in my mind melody always takes precedence, is almost always initially a challenge.

I try to write about things I would relate to hearing. If you’ve seen the movie “Frank” (with Michael Fassbender), the opening scene where the lead character is trying to compose a song is probably the most accurate depiction of songwriting I’ve seen portrayed on film. It’s brilliant!

  1. OK, then how do you remember all the chords, rhythms and riffs? Is it just an exercise in repetition or is there a “musician’s brain” so to speak where the recall comes effortlessly?

I’m arguably the most forgetful individual I know so I’ve learned over the years not to leave anything to chance. If I have an idea it’s always a rush to record it before it’s gone. Once you play an idea through enough times to where it begins to take on a life of its own it becomes much easier to imprint on your memory. By the time you’re playing the songs live, after recording and/or practicing, it’s pretty much muscle memory.

10.  Once the album is released is the hard-work done or is it just beginning?

There is always a sense of accomplishment when a project like a record is done. In the month or so leading to entering the studio most of my life revolved around finalizing arrangements, lyrics, etc. For a moment after the record was finished I got to take a breath and revel in my achievement, but that feeling is fleeting – the work has only just begun! I think the most difficult part of being an independent artist is amassing a fan base and maintaining an audience, that’s where the majority of the work lies.

Light Club alt

11. Creating music has never been easier in the digital age but I’d imagine with so many other acts out there getting recognized is harder than ever. What’s the key to Light Club’s success?

As the project is still in its infancy, I haven’t experienced anything that resembles success with Light Club quite yet. There are a million great artists out there but success often seems to come as a result of an amalgam of dumb luck, hard work, and a delusional level of ego-driven determination. I’m not going to be, and don’t really want to be, a savant that stumbles accidentally into it. The hope is to work for it, be smart about it, and we’ll see what happens.

12. You’re currently a one-man band, more or less, with some help on the drums – is that your intention going forward or do you want a full-fledged band?

I’m invigorated by the freedom involved in not having to answer to anyone except myself, so until I feel like I can’t go any further with my abilities I plan to keep it that way. I love playing with a band and giving taciturn input when it comes to someone else’s ideas, but I’ve become too much of a control freak to hand these songs over to group input. However, I do plan to have a full band back me up for live shows.

13. Do you see this band utilizing fill-in musicians as needed or do you want to find and retain a “classic” lineup for Light Club?

I’m lucky to know some really great musicians, all who have their own projects, that are gracious enough to lend a hand when it comes to crafting a live show. It would be nice to have a dedicated live band simply for the fact that having to teach new players the parts on a regular basis will become tiresome, but at this point I’m flexible. Once touring becomes more of a necessity I may have to adapt my view a little, I’ll let future-Gabe worry about that.

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: The Pink Party with Switchfoot

Switchfoot took a side trip on their current tour schedule and delivered an inspired performance in front of about 500 people who attended the second annual Pink Party in Portland, OR on Friday at the Left Bank Annex in support of Breast Friends, a non-profit cancer support organization.

Jon Foreman in crowd

Jon Foreman surrounded by fans

The band’s last visit to Portland came in April on Easter Sunday to a sold-out Crystal Ballroom for the first leg of their Fading West tour. That show featured a stepped-up stage production and fans received perhaps the band’s most dominant concert of their career. Friday’s fund-raising show for breast cancer, as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, scaled back the theatrics but the playing was characteristically Switchfoot.

Fans looking for a full-set were probably disappointed as the band only played eight songs which took just under an hour. The evening showcased a silent auction, a hula-hoop act and started with Portland’s The Hit Machine, a talented cover band that plays hits from Michael Jackson and Prince to Aerosmith and Journey.

Switchfoot opened their set with “Dare You to Move” probably the only song main event sponsor 105.1 The Buzz actually plays from the band on air. Singer Jon Foreman told the crowd his grandmother battled cancer before the band rolled into “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” the first tract off their Fading West album. Then most appropriately, Switchfoot played “I Won’t Back Down” a classic by Tom Petty who is also one of Foreman’s favorite singers.

Andrew Shirley

Switchfoot guitarist Drew Shirley

Foreman grabbed a guitar and harmonica for an emotional yet slightly bluesy take on “You’re Love Is a Song” which guitarist Andrew Shirley blistered out a solo for and then the band got everybody jumping with the rocking “Let It Out.” A small abbreviated show doesn’t keep Foreman from getting into the crown either, as he hopped off the stage, and quickly got smothered with anything pink the crowd could wrap around him. “When We Come Alive” was next and the Switchfoot songs ended with perhaps the evening’s theme “Meant to Love,” done really well acoustically. Foreman invited The Hit Machine, sponsors and breast cancer survivors on stage to sing the closer “Lean on Me.”

Considering Switchfoot flew in the night before after a concert in New York, they played sharp and Foreman’s vocals held up nicely. Tom Foreman cranked out some serious bass lines and drummer Chad Butler pounded away. Grabbing a headlining act like Switchfoot helps get the ball rolling for future fund-raisers though tickets, at just $25 (and no fees!), were still available Friday morning probably because only one radio station could advertise the event. At any rate, many hardcore fans of Switchfoot, like those who show up after Easter dinner, missed out seeing the band in a small venue at an affordable price.

Jon Foreman rocks a harmonica

Jon Foreman rocks a harmonica

The evening was not without some stagnation but organizers did well in keeping the crowd busy between sets. The Hit Machine started at 7 p.m. which if you’ve never had the chance to see is worth your time. They’ve opened for acts like REO Speedwagon at the Sleep Country Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA and played small-town fairs like the Tualatin Crawfish Festival. The Hit Machine played for an hour and Switchfoot didn’t get on stage until 9 p.m.

Breast Friends was founded by two breast cancer survivors and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for female cancer patients. They help friends and family of those fighting cancer understand how to help and what the patient is enduring. Click here to donate.

The Switchfoot Setlist at Portland’s Pink Party:

1. Dare You to Move
2. Love Aline Is Worth the Fight
3. I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty cover)4. Your Love is a Song
5. Let It Out
6. We Come Alive
7. Meant to Live
8. Lean on Me (Bill Withers cover)

Written By: AndrewT