Today (October 22), lush Cleveland, Ohio-born rock band The Lighthouse and the Whaler released its newest LP, Talk. The record, which is bright and rich as well as thoughtful and curious, offers a window into a partnership bonded by music, hard work, and introspection.
The standout track (meaning, the one I’ve listened to probably 10,007 times) is “Let It All Go,” which is a beautiful composition about de-stressing and prioritizing mental health. It comes highly recommended by us, especially when you think your heart might pump out of your chest cavity!
We caught up with the band’s frontman, Michael LoPresti, to ask him about the album, his band, and how he first fell in love with music.
American Songwriter: When did you first find music and what made you invest in it?
Michael LoPresti: The earliest memory I have of music is my mom singing in Church. Growing up my mom wanted to make sure we learned an instrument so my brothers and I took piano lessons. We practiced on this old Korg piano and I remember it had all these patches for different instruments and synthesizer sounds. It also had a record function. So one day after being supremely bored with practicing piano scales I thought I’d mess around with all these different sounds and so I started layering sound after sound with the record function and then played a piano melody over it. When I finished I remember sitting back and thinking this is it, this is what I want to do.
AS: How did Cleveland influence you as a young person—a city with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a population as diverse as any in the U.S.?
ML: Cleveland is a small town. Growing up here, I think you get this idea that when someone from Cleveland succeeds then people in the city get behind it, almost like if they succeed then we all do. There’s this strong loyalty to being from here. I remember in the early days of the band we personally knew so many of the local bands playing in Cleveland and I think there was that mentality that if one of us made it work it would help all of us, people might pay more attention to what we were doing here. It gave us the freedom to just do our thing, we were under the radar, working hard, no competition like you find sometimes in bigger cities, we were just making it happen and learning from each other. It made for a really cool environment to make music.
AS: How did the band get together, how did you know there would be chemistry amongst you three?
ML: Well, I started the project in 2008 right after college and it wasn’t until a few years later that Mark joined up and then, a few years after that, Ryan ended up coming on board too. Mark and Ryan went to college together and met in the jazz band there so they knew each other before all this but I didn’t really know any of them until they each joined the band. I honestly don’t think there really was a ton of chemistry at first, it was hard, we had to work at it but we relied on each other and we all genuinely cared about what we were doing. Over time I think we just sort of fell into stride with one another and things got a lot easier.
AS: I love what you say about your music, how it’s the result of introspection. Can you talk about your individual introspective processes or qualities, artistically or otherwise?
ML: I think when I’m starting to make a song I tend to just sing whatever comes into my head as I’m working on a melody and a lot of times what I sing is this raw unfiltered version of what I’m feeling and so many times lyrics from those early ideas make it to the final song, in fact, a lot of times they are the basis for what the entire song ends up being about. I write lyrics after most of the song is finished because I like to know what the song is before giving it a lyrical direction, feel the emotion of it, its energy, all that but I usually end up coming back to these snippets of lyrical content from the original melodic exploration. They have an honesty like I’m discovering something about myself I didn’t even realize was there and then it comes out and takes on its own life in our songs.
AS: What was the genesis of the new record, how did it come together?
ML: We started working on the album early in 2018 but the melody for the title track, “Talk,” has actually been on my phone since 2015. When we started working on the album I had a ton of voice memos and melodies I’d been working on for years and I was going back through a bunch of them and when found the idea for “Talk,” it had these great lyrics, great melody and I thought to myself this is gonna be on our next record. We ended up writing and demoing a ton of songs and then trimming down our list of songs that could make the record as we went but the concept behind the song Talk influenced which tracks we ended up settling on.
AS: There’s an exuberance to the music, but it’s also relief. It’s not blinded to the world, it’s happy despite difficulties. Is that accurate, and if so, how do you think about it?
ML: Yeah that’s accurate. I think it’s OK to be honest with how things are but we also want people to find hope in our music too like there’s a way through the pain. I think acknowledging that and knowing you’re not alone in it is really cathartic, almost like we’re connected together by these songs and we can release what we need to together.
AS: Is there a favorite song, or story behind a song on the new album?
ML: It’s hard to pick a favorite, I really like so many songs on this record but “Talk” is really a song that has so much impact on this record. It’s a song about caring for one another and not changing who you are based on what other people want you to be. The song carries this idea about talking to one another and how we don’t really do that all that well anymore. We’re good at telling each other the ways in which were wrong but not as good at trying to understand why a person chooses to believe what they do. I believe if we treat each other with respect and spend the time to talk and listen we can find a way to care for one another and embrace the differences we have without losing who we are as individuals. That’s the story the song “Talk” is trying to tell and why it became the title of the record too.
AS: Success is good, attention is good (mostly). But what are you in it for, what about making music and sharing it gets you out of bed on the mornings when you’d otherwise not want to?
ML: I think we hope that our music helps those that engage with it. That they find whatever it is they need in it. That it gives people hope.
AS: What might the future hold for you, the band?
ML: Touring, we miss touring. We can’t wait to get out and play these songs live.
AS: What do you love most about music?
ML: I think one of the things we love most about music is how it unites people and yet still speaks to each of us individually in different ways.