We had the chance to talk with Nick Thompson, frontman of Hit the Lights, ahead of veteran pop-punkers taking part in our Punk Out Snack Drive in Philadelphia this evening. We're really excited about partnering with Hit the Lights and we're extremely grateful for Thompson taking some time out of his day to chat about issues that effect our music community and the LGBT+ community.
Punk Out: You guys have been grinding away in different capacities as Hit The Lights 2003. From the time you formed to today, the industry has shifted and changed its algorithm many times over. How does a band morph and adjust to an ever-changing industry in a way that successfully yields a 13-year career at a time when that is not the norm?
Nick Thompson: I guess the main factor for us is that we love to do this. I think a lot of bands in our shoes or our position usually call it quits by now, but the fact is that we love music, we love playing music, and we're a group of people that genuinely enjoy being out on the road with each other. If that wasn't the case in even one of these aspects, I don't think we would be here. We realize getting to do what we do is a gift and a privilege, and even though things can get hard and the road has it's shitty aspects, the main thing is that it brings us happiness, and if something brings you happiness, there's a good chance you should try to do it for as long as possible.
PO: Just To Get Through To You takes Hit The Lights down an acoustic path. For a band known for overflowing with energy and possessing a vigorous, arena-ready live show, how does the band channel the big and bold signature sound they're known for into the beautifully dialed back and reworked sound that showed up on "Blasphemy Myself and I" and "Lighthouse"?
NT: I mean, to be honest, it isn't a huge departure to convert these songs to acoustic songs. Many of those songs were written on acoustic guitars to begin with, the main challenge, and something we've always tried to do, is make the acoustic rendition it's own thing and not necessarily record the same song twice. That, and just make it pretty. People love pretty!
PO: When you go back and revisit old songs, that were staples in the previous chapters of your band's career, what type of a place does that take you to emotionally? Knowing that songs are snapshots of memories you've had in your life, both warm and sometimes troubling, does reopening the recording process respark the emotions you originally felt when you put the song in the mix the first time?
NT: For me, personally, maybe for the first year or two of playing the song out, there is still that fresh emotion that you can pull out of yourself - but those emotions fade and are usually replaced with the emotion you get from people's reactions to the songs and singing it back to you. After a while, it's not "our" song anymore, it takes on a life of it's own and any emotion I associate with it is usually one of a connection between myself and the people that scream it back to me.
PO: As a veteran band, who've spent as much time on the road and in the studio as a person spends going through kindergarten through their senior year, what have been the most important pieces of "your education" that have helped you grow as a band? What advice would you give other young, struggling bands to help them stay tough.
NTL: I'm learning every day, and I have so much to learn, still. I think the main lesson I've learned through this journey is that you have to listen to your inner voice. You're going to have a lot of people telling you what you want to hear, telling you how to sound, telling you how to look, and that just doesn't register with me anymore. I don't care what people say - the reason we got to this point was because we played music that we wanted to play, we sounded how we wanted to sound, and changing that for the purpose of trying to access a larger fanbase kind of perverts what we set out to do with music. That's just my perspective on things though, there are many layers and sides to take on this subject, of course. Create, and create for the sole purpose of doing it because YOU want to.
PO: While I have no confirmed knowledge that you have personally suffered from mental illness in any manner, what advice would you give our readers who might be struggling with depression or loneliness, to remind them that they should keep going and find the sun beyond the rain they've stumbled into?
NT: Just the fact that you need to know that you're not alone, that almost everybody deals with these emotions in some scale would help anybody dealing with these issues. We live in this new, technologically social society, where lifestyles and products are constantly bombarding are psyches, both subliminally AND consciously - telling us that we need more shit, that THIS is how we should live, that we can't be happy unless we have a life like this, and it's honestly poison. We're not taught that happiness isn't something you require through money, products or significant others. It comes from inside. And that glow you get inside can only be uncovered and shine when you're doing something you love. Many people are doing what they love, they're working shitty jobs that they hate for menial pay checks, or they're stuck paying student loans for the rest of their lives - most don't even know WHAT makes them happy. Our society is sick, plain and simple, and it's no coincidence that we're suffering from a severe lack of connection with each and a focus on what's important - living a life the fulfills you as a person. There's no easy answer, but as I've dealt with depression before, with just being tired of doing this daily, mundane grind, my savior came in the form of music. A lot of people don't have that outlet - that savior, to remind them that the ideas we're being force fed about life are NOT right. So, I think people get tired of feeling so alone, so empty, so lifeless, and they want to give up. I'm honestly one of the people who thinks that it should be a right of everyone to decide when we want to go, but realizing that sometimes these feelings are temporary- that things CAN get better, is the most important idea that need to be conveyed. It's just a matter of what happens after that initial response that is really important. It's one of those answers that honestly isn't an easy one, because it can be incredibly hard work for someone who is already set on giving up. It takes time and friends and a realization that this life, it's emotions- good and bad- we're all part of this universe experiencing itself. There is no wrong or right way to feel, but recognizing how amazing all of this really is - what we truly are - is reason enough to try to stay in this game as long as possible and find a way to win for ourselves.
PO: You guys are set to give back to the world, partnering with Punk Out for a charity drive on Monday. As a touring band, probably lacking a significant amount of "free time", what makes you passionate enough to donate your time to a cause like this?
NT: I mean, honestly, this is something that was very easy for us to do. Basically, we said yes, because it can help people. You guys are doing more by involving us - so THANKS!
PO: When you look around the country right now, the war on sexuality is one of the most hotbed topics on the tongues of the media. If you could Hit The Lights family, what would you want them to know?
It's going to take time, like any of these other basic human rights issues. We're at a weird and amazing time where a new consciousness is sweeping over the world. Right now I feel like a lot of the poisons that infiltrated our society ala organized religions, the war on drugs are things and ideas that will die out. A lot of these archaic principles just won't have a place in the new world because we know, deep down, it doesn't make sense. People should be free to do what they want with their bodies and minds, and anyone trying to deny that is not out for the well being of others - they're out to CONTROL. That's the name of the game. Control. And it's not going to work. This world is getting smaller, the internet has already changed so much, it's getting better and it will continue to get better. But it's going to take time, patience, and love from everyone involved in the change.
PO: Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know that we haven't included.
I think I've talked enough! Check out the new acoustic EP and our latest record, Summer Bones. See you tonight!
If you're attending this evening's show with Hit the Lights, Seaway, and Can't Swim at Underground Arts in Philadelphia, please bring in an unopened snack to be donated to our friends at The Attic Youth Center. For more details, head here.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at email@example.com.