Local Indie Rockers the Lighthouse and the Whaler Return with Their Most Ambitious Album Yet

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click to enlarge Local Indie Rockers the Lighthouse and the Whaler Return with Their Most Ambitious Album Yet
Courtesy of Roll Call Records
Last summer, the Lighthouse and the Whaler singer Michael LoPresti was vacationing in Maine with his family when he started writing the lyrics for the songs on the band’s forthcoming album, Mont Royal. While hanging out at a big house in Maine that overlooked lake, he wrote a handful of songs on an acoustic guitar on the porch at sunset. According to the press release that accompanies the release, the “songs are all about coming face-to-face with uncertainty, dealing with moments that threaten to upend lives: the emergence of adulthood, the possibility of success, the potential for failure or personal loss, and past emotional scars.”

“I decided to bring an acoustic guitar because I thought it would be an idyllic place to write some songs,” he says. “We were at this lake house and every night I would go by the lake for a few hours and craft the songs. They were mainly skeletons of the songs that would become Mont Royal. There were probably four or five that made the album. That was the main starting point for the bulk of the record. It continued from there.”

And what about the introspective nature of the songs?

“It’s been a while since we put out our last record,” he says. “We wanted to spend some time working on this and put this one out in the right way. Over that time period, a lot changed in the lives of the four of us in the band, especially for me. I had a kid. That was a major change in my life. That threw things into perspective. I realized it’s not all about me anymore. The band was also trying to figure out what was next and if we could make a career out of this or not. That uncertainty finds its way into the record too. This record is about understanding the changes I’ve gone through. It’s my way of dealing with all that that transpired in those three years between records.”

As the story goes, after attending college in Florida, where he studied literature and theology at Southeastern University LoPresti returned to Cleveland in the winter of 2008. Inspired by Herman Melville's classic man-vs.-sea novel Moby Dick, he called his new band the Lighthouse and the Whaler, and headed into the studio and started recording songs with violinist Aaron Smith. Later that spring, the two got together in a field near Chardon for what they thought was their first photo shoot. They started playing music and people stopped to check them out, making LoPresti think the band was onto something that had potential.

The band’s 2008 EP A Whisper, A Clamor, which caught the attention of an editor at the hipster-approved music magazine Paste. A track from that record eventually showed up on a sampler CD that the magazine released in 2009. The band followed the EP a year later with their self-titled debut album, which generated even more buzz, but also led to some lineup changes.

“We’ve had quite a few changes because of the demand,” says LoPresti, adding that his brother and multi-instrumentalist Mark Porostosky, Jr. joined at about the same time. “It’s a demanding lifestyle. It’s difficult to keep focused on it but the lineup we have not is great..

In addition to LoPresti, the current line-up now includes drummer Matthew LoPresti, Porostosky, Jr. and bassist Ryan Walker.

For their 2013 album, This Is an Adventure, the quartet raised $10,000 from a Kickstarter campaign and rented out Bear Creek Studios, a recording facility just outside of Seattle. They holed up there for a month with producer Ryan Hadlock (the Lumineers, the Gossip, and Ra Ra Riot), pooling their money from "other resources" to pay for the studio time that the Kickstarter funds didn't cover. Hadlock guided the band, leading the other guys away from their folksy roots and into something more textured and pop-influenced. You can hear the band's varied influences throughout the album, which features vibrant pop melodies that complement LoPresti’s falsetto. Modern indie-rock bands like the National and Sigur Rós are definite influences, but the guys are also Beatles fans.

For Mont Royal, the band headed north of the border to Montreal to record with Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire). They worked at his studio in Montreal for five weeks in the dead of winter when it was “freezing.”

“There were four or five names of people who would be good fits,” he says. “Marcus wasn’t high on our list. He had worked Arcade Fire and did some great records. He wasn’t high on our radar at all. I talked to him on the phone before we were making the record. I was blown away. We just clicked. Everything he said about music was exactly how I thought. When we got there, his personality was amazing. There was no stress. That was the motto of making this record. We just enjoyed it and focused on making the best album we could.”

Songs such as “Glory” feature bellowing vocals as it sounds like a veritable choir backs LoPresti on the tune.

“All the guys actually sang,” says LoPresti when asked about the “choir” that appears on the tune. “We pulled some people in and Marcus got in there too and sang some. We wanted to get this massive effect. We wanted to have an other worldly feeling to the song.”

The song “Senses” features a slew of synthesizers, making it sound like an homage to the synth-pop of the ’80s.

“We’re definitely paying homage to the ’80s,” says LoPresti. “We wanted the record to feel like a journey. We wanted it to have a depth and breadth to it that was wide. There were different feelings and emotions and sounds. I think we used one synth sound twice but the rest are unique to the songs. They’re their own animals that fit inside the context of the record. We want each song to be what it needs to be instead of trying to mesh them to make the album coherent.”

“We Aren’t Who We Thought We Are” includes soaring strings as LoPresti nearly adopts a falsetto to sing about “our last chance.”

“We toned the strings down for this album more than we had in the past,” says LoPresti.” We wanted them to be something that really enhanced the song rather than a gimmick to make our sound diffrent. It was intentional to use them in moments when they would make the song into something dynamic.”

After playing a CD release show at the Beachland Ballroom, the band plans to spend two months on the road before taking December off.

“I’m sure we’ll be touring the record a ton,” he says. “One of the things that our label has pushed is that they are opening up opportunities. We have to be perfect live. I’m excited to take that mindset to people, especially in Cleveland. I want to take that mindset to people so they can see the dedication live. These songs are so much fun to play live. Even when we practice, it’s hard not to have fun playing them even when we’re focusing on certain things. I’m super excited to get out and play shows again because we haven’t in a little while. I hope people dig it.”

The Lighthouse and the Whaler, Nonaphoenix, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $14, beachlandballroom.com
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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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