A FEW MONTHS AGO, Native Lights recorded their self-titled debut in a freezing, abandoned cattle auction in rural Oklahoma, some 40 miles outside the band's home base of Tulsa. The Novembers there are unforgivingly cold, and this year was no exception. In addition to having no heat whatsoever, the dilapidated structure was missing other important features.
"We had to rig up the electricity, and the ceiling was caving in," says bassist Johnathon Ford, who, along with vocalist/guitarist Bryce Chambers, makes up the core of Native Lights. "I definitely think it affected the record. It's got this cavernous, cold sound. I felt it was important to have this released when it was cold outside, when it would match what we felt when we were recording."
Ford and Chambers are no strangers to the expanses of atmospheric rock. Ford's résumé includes stints in influential Seattle-based bands Pedro the Lion and Roadside Monument, as well as founding instrumental group Unwed Sailor. Chambers has held down guitar and vocal duties for Tulsa's Ester Drang for two decades. The two have played in each other's bands for the better part of 17 years, so it only made sense to channel their muses together into a different sort of broadcast.
"We knew we could create something that we liked, because we've always liked what we've created together," Ford says. "But we wanted to do something heavier than those bands, too."
Reanimating the swirly guitar meditations of bands like My Bloody Valentine and the grumpy, distorted bass of post-hardcore heavyweights like the Jesus Lizard, Native Lights exist in a chasm between transcendent shoegaze and the raucous aggression of the heavy guitar bands of the '90s. Their first single "Blue Star" contains perhaps a softening of the angular squall Ford and Chambers were interested in harnessing, but in doing so, they've lassoed a prettier, if not grittier, side of the dreamy rock milieu.
"Things are constantly moving forward in different ways," says Ford. "Last night we were at a dance club and [Nine Inch Nails'] Pretty Hate Machine came on, and we were already thinking, 'We should totally try something like this!'"