Formed in 2010, Lightfoils is currently made up of Neil Yodnane, Zeeshan Abbasi, Jane Zabeth, Cory Osborne, and John Rungger. Part of the new wave of shoegaze bands, Lightfoils have done nothing but impress with their releases. Their debut full-length, Hierarchy, is an acclaimed album in the genre and was released in 2014. Waiting for new material, with a new track being released on the Alternative Facts compilation, put together by Osborne and Rungger, fans of the band eagerly await a new release. Osborne and Rungger, bass and drums respectively, were kind enough to answer my questions about the band’s formation, how they go about writing music as Lightfoils, what’s next for the band, and other tidbits.
Hello Cory and John. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Let’s start by having you both introduce yourselves and telling the readers what you do in the band.
Cory Osborne – I’m the bassist.
John Rungger – Drums.
So, how did you get started making music?
Cory – I was born into a musical family. There were always instruments lying around for us to break. I think I started playing in bands to be cool hahaha.
I think environment can influence how people make music. How does Chicago influence your sound and what is the scene like in your city, particularly for shoegaze music?
Cory – I don’t know how skilled I am at verbalizing how the real world penetrates my consciousness and becomes art. I guess I’d say that Chicago is this beautiful city in the summer that becomes desolate and snow-ridden for a good part of the year. So you spend a lot of time filing past frozen scenes, post-apocalyptic-esque abandoned parks and such waiting for it all to thaw. It’s melancholy- and a part of that “Midwest sensibility” many of us possess.
John – The nice thing about shoegaze is that it exists in a kind of dream world, outside of environment and (often) the popular sounds of the times. However, there must be something about Chicago that lends itself to creating shoegaze bands, cause there’s so gosh darn many of them!
How did Lightfoils form?
Cory – After leaving Airiel, I took a brief sabbatical from shoegaze to play some experimental post-metal-ish stuff. That project was fun, albeit ill-fated, and I missed the scene a lot. John, Zee, and Neil were all available – and I had worked with them all before (Zee and John were both former Airiel members as well). We also brought in another guy, Adam Thompson on guitar and Nicole our first vocalist. Today we’re down to two guitars and Jane handles our vox.
John – Cory wanted to do shoegaze again. It wasn’t a hard sell for me to join up. We’ve been in around 5 bands together, so I knew it would work out ok.
So, how does Lightfoils go about writing songs together? Is there a principle songwriter in the group or is this a democracy?
Cory – We’re kind of like a democracy with a shadowy, behind the scenes dictator who can override decisions he doesn’t like. I won’t name names. (John) But everyone ends up contributing their own thing, in the end.
John – I am certainly not the dictator Cory makes me out to be. I would say we are mostly democratic. Cory’s the President, Neil and Z are the Congress and Senate, and I’m the Supreme Court. So, in practice, Cory picks the direction we’re going in, Neil and Z figure out how to get there, and I decide if we’ve maybe gone too far.
Your first release was the self-titled EP in 2012 and then you released your full length, Hierarchy, in 2014. Can you talk about writing and recording your self-titled and then a bit about how that contrasted with recording and writing your full-length?
Cory – So I think I had the ep written by the time we first got everyone together. I had a couple of GarageBand demos and some stuff I’d written on my phone. I mean we had the basic structures and stuff, but everyone started throwing in their own touches and it gradually became this really cool thing, I think. There’s a few copies of that out there with like 8 remixes by some of our friends- kids like Preston Maddox, and New Canyons. It was really cool hearing them take those initial ideas in so many different directions!
So for with Hierarchy, we knew we would be putting out a full length for Saint Marie. Which is super cool, but also kind of put us under some pressure to put out something worthy of the imprint. We’ve known Sanford for a while – the man is a titan in recording – and I, for one, was intrigued with the idea of working with someone who was affiliated with these really dark, powerful records. We’d been writing a lot after the ep, working on our live game – and also experiencing some member turnover. I think that’s why Hierarchy goes so many different places – not that it’s a bad thing, per se – but I agree with some folks who said that the album might have been better portioned in smaller bites – in order to have a bit more consistency thematically. Still it’s cool that a lot of people liked the record!
John – The EP was recorded a lot quicker than the album. But I like the way the album sounds, as we really took our time with it. My drums will probably never sound better than they did on that album. Thanks, Sanford!
Now that you have some distance from Hierarchy, what do you think of the album looking back and how have the songs changed or remained the same in live settings?
Cory – So I’m that guy who doesn’t really go back too often to prior releases. I just keep hearing all the little flaws and hiccups that I wish I’d fixed – or other things I wish had been more emphasized. I like to revisit stuff every decade or so.
John – I listen to the album every once in a while, I think it holds up. I’m proud of it. Live, we basically recreate the songs verbatim. Although we are maybe going to rework one of the songs (“alovetodestroy”) into a much different version, just for fun.
Do you all have favorite songs from the album to play live? If so, which ones and why?
Cory – Addict is always fun to play. It’s one of our more upbeat tunes.
John – Diastolic, Mock Sun.
I usually like to ask the band about a few of the tracks I find stand out on their latest release. Can you talk about writing and recording both “Diastolic” and “alovetodestroy”
Cory – Diastolic started with the bassline, I think. John and I were kind of messing with a dancey-type thing and Zee and Neil eventually fell in with their trancey loops and it just kind of fell into place. alovetodestroy is an interesting song- I’m not sure if anyone knows how it was written, out of all of our stuff it might be one of the least played live songs. That said we’re playing around with a slowed down version of it that we might bust out at a show or two. In terms of recording those songs – I think we were trying to capture the intensity of how we played them live.
John – Both came together rather quickly. I had Sanford distort the drums on “alovetodestroy” to make them match the vibe of the guitars.
I guess this question is mostly for the guitar and bass players, how do you go about choosing the tones and textures you like to use in your compositions?
Cory – I feel like I usually disappoint when I get asked more technical questions. So much of my tone just comes from my bass, just a workhorse Fender I’ve had since the late 90’s. I used to change my strings before every show, because I liked a more clear, ringing tone. But that can get expensive – not to mention the headache of constantly going out of tune. I used to be a lot more prone to using super wet effects as well. But Zee and Neil have really carved out their frequencies and I find that nowadays my lines are best served slightly more broken in and holding down the low end.
John – Hey, I have tones and textures too!
What draws you to particular tones as you put them over against or blend them with others in a piece?
Cory – It just depends on the part – are we trying to create a wash? Do we need separation- whose part am I playing off of?
John – When they play quiet, I play quiet. When they play loud, I play loud. It’s not rocket science.
What artists influences your music? It can be visual artists, writers, or musicians/bands.
Cory – Influences are always legion. I tend to go through periods of radio silence – maybe the only music I hear for a week is background shit, Muzak, stuff blaring out of car windows. Then I’ll get all intensely into a band like Ice Choir, or just start hitting up old soul songs and dusties.
John – OG shoegaze, post-rock, even pop music. Super into Grouper and Todd Rundgren right now.
For all the gearheads among our reading audience, what do you all use for gear live and in the studio (if different)?
Cory – I rock a Fender American STD Deluxe, running through an ampeg SVT7 pro and an old school digitech TSR12 reverb unit running thru the loop. Speakerwise it’s an ampeg 15″ and a Hartke 4×10.
John – 1964 Ludwig drum set, champagne finish. Alesis Samplepad Pro. Combination of Paiste & Zildian cymbals.
So, what’s next for Lightfoils?
Cory – Just getting out of our Chicago Winter hibernation phase. We’re recording material for another SMR release – I think we’re talking fall this year. Gearing up to play out again, and hopefully some bloody touring soon!
John – An EP, more shows, etc.
Thanks so much for doing this. Do you have any other comments?
John – Please purchase a compilation album that Cory put together, Alternative Facts. You can purchase it through Bandcamp, and all proceeds go to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. (see link below)