March 20, 2015


Lanterns are part of the new era of bands in Brooklyn right now, constantly evolving, working day jobs to pay the bills and making music using whatever technology they can get their hands on.

When I first shot Lanterns in their Bushwick studio last fall, the lineup included Kaitlyn Mills on vocals and keyboards, Victor Kao on bass and synths and Bill Grant on guitar. Since then, a lot has changed. They’ve added and lost their drummer, Alex, and backup singer/saxophone/flute player, Steph. They’ve also started recording their debut EP with Producer Robert Lux at Engine Room Audio, launched a Pledge Music campaign to fund the EP and added another bandmate to mix.

Check out Lanterns’ Plege Music campaign, as well as the promo video I shot in their Bushwick studio to promote their upcoming EP. Donations support the production of their debut EP, as well as the charity Education Through Music to provide music education in New York schools.

This month marks the band’s one year anniversary. To celebrate, I sat down with them at Kaitlyn’s Bushwick apartment and got the inside scoop on the band’s fluctuating lineup, embarrassing musical pasts and upcoming EP.

So why don’t you guys tell me a little bit about how you guys met and started playing together?
Victor: Bill and I have been playing since about ’07 or ’08 in various bands or incarnations of different bands.

What bands were they?
Victor: Well Bill was originally playing with other people. Hello+, was that the name of it? They needed a new bass player so I started playing with Bill. And then Hello+ eventually became Wet Ten and we were playing in Wet Ten for a while and then Wet Ten eventually just ran its course. It was just generally going different directions as far as the kind of music we wanted to do and eventually it just became me and Bill trying to write other songs together seeing what we could do on our own with whatever technology we could get our hands on. Then [Bill] put the ad up on Craigslist, right?
Bill: Yeah, we found Kaitlyn and Steph both on Craigslist.

What’s it like scouting out future bandmates on Craigslist?
Kaitlyn: Daunting. Bringing in people you haven’t met before and asking them to just start jamming with you is intimidating and we don’t necessarily hear their best work because of it. Luckily, Amanda [Casale] is a very good friend of mine so it was more of a seamless transition into the group. She recently joined after Steph decided to leave Lanterns to pursue a different project.

How has the changing lineup affected the band as a whole?
Kaitlyn: Each fourth member we’ve had has had a different skill set so it’s totally changed how we look to present the music. Having a drummer vests not having a drummer, having a multi-instrumentalist who plays instruments that aren’t in our [original] recordings…we’ve had to switch things up each time.

How did you all get into music? What is your musical background?
Kaitlyn: I have been singing since I could talk and I was a total performing arts geek growing up. I was in all the choirs, I was in all the theater productions, I was in acapela groups in college and all of that has always been at the forefront for me.
Bill: I didn’t start playing until maybe seven years ago.
Kaitlyn: Really? I didn’t know that!
Bill: I took lessons and I got laid off at one point and I had nothing to do but learn how to play guitar. At first it was just playing cover songs and then tried to do more with it and I really liked the writing aspect of it, mainly because I’m not a good guitar player so it was easier to write something that I could play instead of trying to play something else that someone better than me wrote [laughs].
Victor: I was pretty much forced to learn piano when I was a kid [laughs].
Bill: He’s in the band because his Mom’s making him [laughs].
Victor: I mean I did always like music, but eventually I did start to get to play bass in high school and that was kind of my own thing. I always wanted to be in bands and that started in college and then I kept that up for a while. And it’s good that I started hanging out with Bill because, otherwise, after I started working, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not sure I’ll ever get to do this again.’

Tell me about your writing process.
Generally, Victor comes up with a beat and a bass line and brings it to the group and we jam on it for a while and it evolves from there.

What’s your inspiration for the lyrics?
I base what I write about on the tone of the song so whatever idea we’re jamming on, whatever that sound makes me think of is where I run with the lyrics.

What are the influences for your sound? Do you all have similar taste in music? Do you come from different backgrounds? How does that come together?
I feel like we all listen to very different kinds of music. The “overlapture” is kind of random, but actually really cool. Bill, Kaitlyn and I, one of the overlaps we found was Kanye’s “Yeezus.” I think we all like it for slightly different reasons and [our] influences are different, but it eventually converges in random spots.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, like Bill listens to a lot of noisy guitar/rock kinda stuff that I’ve never even heard of. Victor always surprises me and comes in listening to hip hop music. We’re all over the place.

As far as your sound as a band, do you take what you listen as inspiration or is it more organic? What made you get to the sound that you have right now?
Everybody bringing their own angle in. I mean, when Victor and I had our sound demos we didn’t have anything specifically in mind. We figured that the vocalist would kind of push the director and where it’s at is not where I thought it was going to go, but it’s good. It’s a good surprise.

I know you guys are working on an EP right now. How has the recording process been?
Pretty great [laughs]. I feel like sometimes we hit a wall in the writing process so having a producer to work with really helps us refocus and forces us to stop talking in circles and actually make decisions and move forward. I also just love being in the vocal both!

Can you tell us any details about the EP? The name or when it’s set to release?
The album is self-titled and the release date has just been set for June 9, 2015.

So since working the producer do you think you’ve evolved since your original recordings?
I think, from where the demos were when we initially bring them into the studio to where the final songs are is eons apart. And not that the sound is different, it’s more like it’s far more polished and the ideas went from being just an idea to being fully developed and so songs that previously we felt were kind of disjointed and not necessarily and cohesive piece now sound like they are a full compilation together like they belong on an EP.

You guys recently launched a Pledge Music campaign. What are looking to do with the proceeds?
We’ll be using the funds we raise to finish up recording, get the songs mixed and mastered, and have the record distributed. A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to Education Through Music, a non-profit organization that strives to keep music education in New York’s public schools.

So what’s next for Lanterns? Any upcoming shows?
We’ll be having an EP pre-release party at Coco 66 on May 2 and we’ll also be playing at Piano’s Upstage Lounge on May 27.

Do you guys have a music recommendation for our readers? Anything new you’re listening to?
I don’t know necessarily who will enjoy this, but recently I’ve had this weird resurgence of post hardcore music from 2006. There’s this band called VersaEmerge that, if you listen to them and then listen to my vocal style, you can definitely tell where that influence came in and I’ve been listening to them a lot.
Bill: I’ve been listening to The Knife a lot lately. I’d never heard them before so shame on me.
Victor: I’ve been listening to a lot of Can. It’s not incredibly new, it’s actually the polar opposite, but it’s German artsy rock and worth listening to.

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