Headlights | Fight For Respect

“We got into a huge bar brawl with a punk band in Akron,” Wraight said. “It was a really obnoxious punk band and they were as bad at their instruments as they were at being human beings."



Moderation? What the fuck is moderation? It’s the answer you’d get from Champaign, Ill., band Headlights, a trio so invested in keeping itself on the road—a minor form of self-mutilation—that it’s even talked itself into thinking that there’s no place like it. This belief would make the decorative pillows and cross-stitchery of all the pat adages about home skewed to the Willie Nelson sort of thinking. This is a group that bleeds for the tour van, cries when it’s idle, and still seems to put more into it than it needs to. In fact, it hasn’t even released a full-length album yet.

Lead singers Tristan Wraight and Erin Fein and drummer Brett Sanderson have been running their tires bald since November, playing behind the Polyvinyl Records release of The Enemies EP—an album that barely gives a hint of the record that they’ve readied for August—and a recently dropped seven-inch split with Most Serene Republic. The three old friends played 150 shows behind the EP, including a 72-show, two-and-a-half month, and one-bar-fight tour that tested everything they had in them.

“There were moments where we were terrified of being completely exhausted,” Wraight said, not surprisingly from the road. He and Fein were driving to New York for his cousin’s wedding. Driving was the last thing he wanted to do at the time, but it’s something he’s come to accept. “We were worrying about coming home, not having any shows to play and working at our jobs. They aren’t bad jobs…but— wait, fuck it; they’re bad. No one likes working at a grocery store or working for a landlord. [Sanderson] and I are handymen and paint rollers. We’re duct tape handymen for a landlord.

“We were out for a really long time and we just wanted to come home so we could recuperate and write some new songs. We’re not going to do much for the next couple of months, so when the full-length comes out, we can be out as long as our bodies hold up. To be honest, the whole time we were out, it was all pretty much awesome.”

All except for the brouhaha that erupted in an Akron, Ohio, bar following a set. Just the thought of Wraight, Fein, and Sanderson being capable of throwing down and getting into the faces of an incorrigible bunch of punks seems abnormal. Their music—best heard on the forthcoming Kill Them With Kindness (also the name of the last Jealous Sound album)—is graceful and stunning, calling to mind the best traits of Rainer Maria in a way that makes them more like a pleasing abomination of Beulah and former Polyvinyl underdogs/now Sundance Film Festival young guns Volcano I’m Still Excited!! They’re more rabbits and lap cats than bears and badgers. They’d lick you to death, but shouting matches and confrontation would not flatter them.

“We got into a huge bar brawl with a punk band in Akron,” Wraight said. “It was a really obnoxious punk band and they were as bad at their instruments as they were at being human beings. They were on stage talking shit about us and telling us to go fuck ourselves. In hindsight, it was pretty hilarious, but I got really mad and I called them out. All’s well that ends well. We still got paid. The club owner told us, ‘Sorry we put you on a bill with them.’ It was a pretty ugly situation. When we came out to our van after the show, we had beer bottle dings all over our van.”

All of the touring taught the two-year-old band—a conglomerate of former members of Absinthe Blind and Maserati—that having a soft indie rock pedigree and the combination to the vault of sweet harmony don’t necessarily mean you’re winning over the paying club customers.

“Every show brings a new set of challenges. When you play every night, you really get to concentrate and focus on all your bits and pieces. The more perspective you have on your songs, the better. Often, when you’re not playing shows, you write songs that are mellower or convoluted,” Wraight said. “I’ve lear  ned that I like songs that are fun to play live. When you’re a band that no one knows, it’s easier to sell a show that’s upbeat. If you play a really morose set, it can be really boring. You don’t want to play a set where you can hear people yelling at the bartender over it. We write all kinds of music, and we hope to play all kinds of music soon.”

The new album should make that easier. It’s already garnering some positive reviews from all of those faceless bloggers out there, loving it for its impeccable pop sensibilities and its dozen tracks—“Owl Eyes” and “Lions” will be two of the best songs you’ll hear all year—that sound like mini-fireworks.

“There are so many different moments in there,” Wraight said. “Most of what I hear is a real excitement for what we’re doing. I think we’re all very much in love with this record.”

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