From the chattering hubbub of industry elites and melodic connoisseurs alike, the buzz on the streets is definitely a Softlightes shaped one. With his heart-on-sleeve adage still in tact, singer Ron Fountenberry’s Californian lilt is tinged with a cheerful and somewhat sleepy haze. Despite having other interviews and a show in LA that evening, he is keen to talk about the production and evolution of the new record.
“We actually recorded it in the bass player’s garage. I also had a little loft bed, so there, and in my closet, it was pretty unromantic actually.” And yet to many, this homely DIY approach is as wildly romantic as the bands moniker suggests they are. “When I named the band and stuff, I realised that I’m not good at jamming, or playing the same chords for like, ten hours. I’m not really good at the hard songs and heavy riffs kinda thing so yeah just ‘soft-lightes’.” He muses for a moment, before admitting: “Yeah, I do really like recording, almost as much as playing live. Even more I think!”
Perhaps this is the point to backtrack a little. The Softlightes fable begins somewhere in the vastness of 2003, when a mutual admiration began between The Incredible Moses Leroy (Fountenberry and bassist Kristian Dunn’s old band) and singer/songwriter Cody Chesnutt. They joined Chesnutts’ sold out club tour, and were spotted by Modular Records’ Steve Pavlovic.
“Yeah, I do really like recording, almost as much as playing live. Even more I think!”
After recruiting drummer Tim Fogarty and pianist Andre Val Baal in 2005, their current form found its final shape. Building upon their mélange of influences, ranging from Duran Duran to New Edition, their debut album ‘Say No To Being Cool, Say Yes To Being Happy’ had reached its sonic realization. This insurgency against style over substance culture is also massively echoed by their music. “When you focus too much on the look, it takes away the honesty of things. I don’t understand why people are so into one genre, most people I know are into all kinds of things so it makes sense that that’s what it’s like. I wanted to make an honest record.”
The simple melodic pleasures of ‘The Microwave Song’ evoke summer days of scampish innocence, before the existential quandaries of impending adolescence got in the way. Allied to the impenetrable ‘Girlkillsbear’, which gleams with fuzzy electronic ardour, it’s no surprise that they’ve built such a rabid following here. Their appreciation for all things British is confirmed when Fountenberry confesses his ardent love for the Super Furry Animals.
As the conversation turns to the band’s Welsh language album ‘Mwng’, Fountenberry confesses: “I don’t know what they’re saying, but I have that record. It’s kinda funny because I always sing along, but I have no idea what they’re saying. He’s [Gruff Rhys] left handed too, so I’m hoping that one day we can bond over that.”
What they also have in common is an endearing elixir of melody and sincerity. And a sound that is unmistakably their own.
Words by Anita Bhagwandas