16 Apr

We can’t help but accent the wrong syllable whenever we say the words Peaking Lights aloud. It’s seldom a source of public embarrassment, mostly because the music of Peaking Lights more often than not leaves us in a state of wordless, cosmic bliss (and partly because no one ever knows what we’re talking about, anyway).

The more we listen to Peaking Lights, the more appropriate this mispronunciation seems. Our interest in the band’s music seemed to chart a course that mirrors our interest in the myth-theme known as “orientation” – essentially, the Western world’s old habit of assigning the source of sacred power and wisdom to an access point developed long, long ago and far, far away … which often means “in the East,” and always means “somewhere else.”

Mispronunciations aside, the music of Peaking Lights certainly take us somewhere else, carried by the bass-heavy, uncluttered synth shamanism of Aaron Coyes and the cosmic communion offered by the distinctive, divine vocal incantations of Coyes’ Peaking-partner (and wife), Indra Dunis. Thus it’s with great anticipation appreciation that we look forward to experiencing the ritual rites of Peaking Lights as the final vision of the first day of Austin Psych Fest 2012 – after the lights have long gone down, perhaps right at the time when some peaking will occur.

We couldn’t feel more fortunate to share this interview with Aaron and Indra of Peaking Lights on our site. Enjoy.

How would you describe your relationship with music as a whole at this point in your life, and how do you think that relationship has evolved since your adolescent years?

A: I think mainly just being more open to different types of music has been one of the biggest – playing what I wanted to hear and getting more in tune with what I wanted to be doing … at the end of the day, it’s about vibing on what we do, making people stoked and feel good, and to do that,  it’s like I have to have that understanding in myself.

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Did either you or your spouse come from musical families and how do you think that defined your early relationship with music?

A: My dad plays a bunch of instruments, but kind of focuses on guitar. He plays in some cover bands, blues stuff … My moms side has a bunch of musicians as well. She was an aerobics and jazzercise instructor for most of my childhood, so there was a lot of groovy and funky stuff gettin’ dumped on mix tapes growing up. My great grandfather was a clarinet/sax player in Paul Whiteman’s big band (same time as Benny Goodman).

I: My grandparents were singers in a Latvian choir, and valued music quite a bit. I studied classical piano as a kid and was expected to perform for them on holidays … My mom and step-dad play in an eastern-inspired chanting and Kiirtan group, and my mom would play piano and sing songs with me a lot as a child. From a young age I always had a lot of feeling for music.

Is it important to you even in a minor way that your own family be directly involved in music? In art in general?

A: Yeah, in music and art. It’s an important piece to the development of inner well being.

What were your earliest flirtations with creating music yourself?

A: After having a kid, the realization that it kind of starts at conception seems super relevant, like music starts with the first beat of the heart … I remember making up songs when I was really little, so I guess it goes as far back as I can remember. I can see it in Mikko, too – he’s always been fascinated with sound.

I: I always wanted to write my own music as a kid, but felt very intimidated by it. Coming from a classical training, I thought you had to be a composer and expert theorist. But when I was about 19, I taught myself to play drums and felt like a whole part of my brain opened up. It was liberating to write punk music and realize I could make up whatever I wanted! My first band was a punk two-piece with my friend Corrina, called Tractorman. I remember I had a hard time hitting the bass drum, so i would come up with these complicated tom parts to overcompensate. It actually sounded kind of cool!

How would you characterize that music today? Can you think of anything from those earliest experiences that you still reflect on today, that you perhaps think of as a well-learned lesson?

A: I definitely think that the earliest experiments are the best in a way. It’s part knowing and realizing I don’t know shit, so being open and free enough to experiment with anything, and keeping in touch with that inner child.

I: Both my early piano training and my years as a drummer have influenced where I’m at today. I came back to the keyboard as my main instrument in Peaking Lights, and feel like my time as a drummer showed me that music comes from the heart – you just have to tune into it.

We were absolutely floored by “936” upon hearing it this past year, not only for the notable songs and tempo of the album altogether, but just as much for the atmosphere and tenor of the album – it does, in our experience, create a very peaceful or mindful feeling for the listener. Was this something that gave much – if any – forethought to when developing the album?

A: We want to make music that makes people feel really good. When we write a record, we write to an LP’s time length (vinyl, 18-21 min.) usually, and like to write records more than songs (although the song is very important). But, yeah, flow – I think we’ve been working on getting into our flow. We didn’t and still don’t have any expectations with what we do – that would kind of ruin the fun.

I: It’s amazing to know people feel that way when listening to our record. It really is the best feedback!

Was there ever a point during the creation of the album that you yourself were surprised by the sounds that were evolving?

A: I think that it was when we recorded it that we could hear everything so clearly! Our earlier experiments were with such primitive gear and a really primitive way of approaching it, we just would blow out the tapes with all these rich sounds, so it was nice to actually share what was going into the tapes.

I: You know, the music just comes out. Some songs we had been working on for awhile, some of it was improvised. We had an idea of how we wanted it, but at the same time, you never know how it will sound until its finished. We felt good about it after it was done, but the real surprise was that other people liked it!

“All the Sun That Shines” is a particular favorite of ours – what can you tell us about the origin of this song?

A: We just decided to start approaching song writing with a real stripped-down sensibility. It was at a point where we were like, “What can we take away?” more than, “What can we add?” We have been trying to get more minimal.

“All the sun that shines/shines for you” can easily be digested as a positive, almost mantra-like affirmation. Was there a particular person in your mind when delivered those vocals and/or constructing the song?

A: We wrote that song together. It was kind of a lovers tune for all those lovers out there. 🙂

Are there unexpected challenges that come from creating music with your spouse? Unexpected benefits?

A: It’s awesome. We get to be with each other so much, we still have to make an effort to spend time on our own outside of music. It’s really intense in a very different way than I’ve ever experienced. We push each other in the right way, kind of make each other better people.

I: Being married and creating together makes the whole experience really intimate. It’s a great feeling to connect on multiple levels. But if we don’t agree on something in the band it can carry over into our personal lives, so that can be challenging. It just forces us to be really honest and open with each other. I think it’s good to challenge each other and yourself – it takes you to a deeper place. And the benefits are huge – being a family that works and tours together, we never have to leave each other behind!

Do you find that your communication when working on music together differs from how you communicate on matters more mundane, like housework or grocery shopping? Are there other husband/wife artists that you look to for inspiration, either consciously or unconsciously?

I: You would think the communication would be different regarding art or mundane stuff, but it’s pretty much all the same! We’re always working on Peaking Lights stuff, and taking care of our son no matter where we are. There’s really no separation between our creative and mundane worlds! I’ve always admired the years Yoko Ono and John Lennon spent together, as well as Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Both couples pushed the limits and were creative powerhouses.

Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that your next release will recorded entirely in China, released under the name “Peking Lights”?

We ate at a Chinese restaurant called Peking Lights on tour and are working side-by-side on a cook book. Can’t give anymore details.

What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what one dub reggae album best exemplifies the genre for you, and why?

A: This question is impossible to answer. There’s so much rich history and so many different styles: roots, digi, steppers, lovers, etc. … I don’t really roll with the push and shove thing, because I don’t have to. There were and are a shit load of great engineers, minds and souls and will continue to be.

How did you come to hear about Austin Psych Fest?

A: Not sure. I just remember when it started awhile back. It’s a small world – all us weirdos are pretty connected in a weirdo kind of way.

Are there any other bands appearing over the weekend that you are particular excited to try and watch yourself?

I: I’d love to see Moon Duo, Quilt, The Black Angels, Woods, Wooden Shjips, Sun Araw and lots more. Seems like a good fest to check out bands I haven’t heard yet, too. But we’ll only be there for one night so I’ll check out what I can!

Marcus Garvey was quoted as having said the following:

“History teaches us no race, no people, no nation has ever been freed through cowardice, through cringing, through bowing and scraping, but all that has been achieved to the glory of mankind, to the glory and honor of races and nations was through the determination and effort of those who lead and those who are led. “

Your thoughts?

A: Every man a king, every woman a queen, every living thing is a star.

Are there specific things that you aim to free yourself from?

A: It’s a lifetime worth of work.

What’s next for Peaking Lights?

A: Hangin’ with our son, a new record called “Lucifer” out on Mexican Summer and Weird World (Domino) in June, touring, building synths and continuing to write music.

Peaking Lights


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