The System Lights
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The System Lights

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Alternative Indie




"The System Lights make the jump from the studio to the stage"

By Matt Mueller RSS Feed Twitter Feed Reporter

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Published May 24, 2014 at 11:36 a.m. 0
When The System Lights takes the stage at the Y-Not III Sunday night alongside special guests Alex Vucelich and Penny Mouth, it'll be a debut of sorts for the five-piece Milwaukee-based rock band. The only odd thing: The band's been around for years already. In fact, they've even released a five-song EP, "Bright Water and Backroad Trips."

"Up until now, The System Lights has been a studio project," said David Rangel, the frontman, lead vocalist and writer for the band. "It really didn't start out as a group. It was really started off as two people just wanting to get together some music and put it out there for the enjoyment of putting out art."

That was 2010. At the beginning, it was just Rangel and an old high school guitarist friend, playing and recording some songs Rangel wasn't able to use in his previous bands. At first, Rangel – now a father and a bit tired of the touring side of the music business – had no interest in starting up a proper band. However, as they regularly kept playing together, the passion began to grow yet again.

"If that's what's in you – in your blood and soul – it's hard to stay away from it," Rangel said.

From that point on, Rangel started searching out members for a full five-piece rock outfit. However, it wasn't an easy search. Some had personal matters that kept them from committing to The System Lights; others weren't the right fit for where the band was hoping to go. It took a while, but eventually Rangel unexpectedly found his second band member in Jim "Slim" Jacobs at a 2012 Pablove Concert at Turner Hall.

"I met him a years previously when he was originally looking for band members," Jacobs recalled. "It just didn't work out timing wise; I was busy with a project at the time, a little too busy too really step in and help with songwriting. At this stage, though, I was actively looking for bands. So when I bumped into David, I made it a point to shake his hand. It took that nice little twist: David and Wendy (Sobczyk, the band's business manager) were networking and looking for lead guitarists. The concert's over, they're kind of heading out for the night and I just happened to say hello."

The two ended up hitting it off, becoming the core members of The System Lights.

While hunting down three more members, Rangel and Jacobs have worked on perfecting the songs off "Bright Water and Backroad Trips" – which despite finishing recording back in 2013, was only released this past January – as well as further developing their sound, a mix of American and British atmospheric rock with lyrical references ranging from Los Angeles to Jack Kerouac, in various acoustic shows around town.

They've even managed to record some material for a new album. Six tunes are already recorded with four more, according to Jacobs, hopefully recorded soon.

"Both Slim and I have a vision of putting out music that is timeless, that can be listened to now or ten years from now, and it won't sound dated," Rangel said. "We really try to stay clear of gimmickry or fads. Ultimately, I would like people to listen to what we're doing now in ten years and still think, 'Wow, this is pretty cool.'"

Nobody can say what'll be the case in a decade, but right now, The System Lights's brand of rock has already gathered some fans. Thanks to their use of iTunes, Reverb Nation and other music-focused social networking sites, "Bright Water and Backroad Trips" has received some radio play on stations nationally and internationally – even as far as Ecuador, Indonesia and beyond.

Even so, their current mission hits a bit closer to home. In recent months, Rangel and Jacobs have finally found their final three members: second guitarist Russ Spice, bassist John Schneider and drummer Erik Byhardt. With the band all together, rehearsed and ready to go, and five shows set up throughout the city during the summer, The System Lights are finally ready to take the home stage and say hello.

"We're kind of introducing ourselves to Milwaukee," Jacobs said.

Tags: the system lights, music, concerts, david rangel, slim jacobs, rock, y-not iii -

"Bright Water and Backraod Trips Review"

The System Lights' 'Bright Water and Backroad Trips' is a wonderfully produced EP where Britain's Union Jack is cojoined with America's Indie Rock.

The 5 song EP begins with 'Dreams Never Leave' which opens with the haunting vocals of David Rangel and set the mood for the rest of the album...

Track 2 is the disc's single, The Colourful Facade, which deserves to be heard on any and all station that fancy themselves worthy of an indie rock format...

'Ether' is the EP's middle track and is indie at it's finest which is followed by 'Unfulfilled' which is a mix of chiming guitars and mood setting melodies and my personal favorite...

'Died Pretty' brings it to a close and is a song that quickly envelopes you like your favorite blanket on a cool spring night...

Throw Death Cab For Cutie, The Gallagher Brothers, and Nick Drake in a musical cocktail shaker, mix well and what pours out is The System Lights...and I'll gladly have another round! - Kent Waush, President - The Great Unknown Radio

"Something Unique About The System Lights"

There is something incredibly unique about The System Lights. Singer, David Rangel’s vocal and writing style definitely stands out, especially locally (I am from Milwaukee and so are they). Both (vocal and writing styles of Mr. Rangel) are reminiscent of british indie pioneers of the 80s and early 90s, specifically former Smiths front man Morrissey and Noel Gallagher (british solo artist, formerly of Oasis). TSL songs are emotionally driven, melodic, vulnerable, beautiful & deep lyrical and instrumental art. You can feel the influence british music had on the band and their style. Yes, I said feel, not hear. Anyone who can hear can hear a song, feeling it is different. Morrissey and Noel smashed together, that’s how I would describe David. The style of writing is similar but does not mirror the aforementioned artists, as well as Stone Roses front man Ian Brown, former Blur vocalist Damon Albarn and Noel’s brother, former Oasis and current Beady Eye front man Liam Gallagher.

System Lights songs, however, are totally original. They have created something all their own. Which is something I love about them, their originality. “The Colourful Façade” (co-written by a cool dude named JT Lawton) is my favorite song by the band. I recommend every song on Bright Water and Backroad Trips, however! They are all great! I will reword this and say it again – vocalist David Rangel is an extremely talented, brilliant creative force. I hope this band gets the recognition they deserve. I have been bragging up David, but do not count out guitarist, Slim, he is really, really good! Music needs more people like them. There isn’t much more I can say, aside from, you really should check them out, the songs speak for themselves.

You can feel my sincerity can’t you? Good! Find them on FACEBOOK (WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/THESYSTEMLIGHTS), THEIR WEBSITE (WWW.THESYSTEMLIGHTS.COM), CD BABY ( or, I don’t know, Google search them! Because there are a few more places you can find ‘em. Be sure to support them by purchasing a copy of their debut album if you like what you hear (you’d have to be insane not to if you like the same music as me, really).

The System Lights are a perfect example of why I fell in love with music to begin with. It is rawest form, it is beautiful ever evolving art. It, much like love, holds the power to change lives.

Lyricist, music lover, System Lights fan,

Joey Clancy - Joey Clancy, Independent Music Reviewer


The Bright Water and Backroad Trips (January 2014) Independent label, five song debut EP recorded in Minneapolis at Flowers Studio. Produced by Kris Johnson.
1. Dreams Never Leave
2. The Colourful Facade
3. Ether
4. Unfulfilled
5. Died Pretty

Album Notes:
Bright Water and Backroad Trips 
is a record that explores the human condition. The songs delve into hopes for the future and disappointments of the past. Some of them are fictitious while others are loosely based around some of the writer's own  experiences. It is a record of regret, yet also focuses on coming back from those regrets in a much bigger and better way. The common theme of Los Angeles that appears in many of the songs is a reflection of all that life gives us to dream about. It also symbolizes some of the let-downs that life throws our way.

First full length album - title in process 
(Fall, 2014) Independent label, full 14 song album recorded in Minneapolis at Flowers Studio.  Produced by Kris Johnson.
1. A Disturbing Occurrence (Portage, Wisconsin 2007)
2. About Sleep
3. My Cherry Valance
4. A Prison Guard's Lament
5. We Are Nomadic
6. The Last Subway
7. Bleed Out an Ocean
8. Like James Dean
9. Jet Setting
10. Where the World Just Ends
11.In Her Orbit
12. The Country Place
13. Under Foreign Suns
14. Summer Hi
15. Ellora

Album Notes:
The underlying theme in this record is traveling...this may be physical traveling to bigger and better horizons or traveling within the mind to change your way of thinking to give a better outlook to anything in life that may need readjusting or a new beginning. 



There's no beards, banjos or fads here. Just timeless, soul bearing, poetic music with meaning. The System Lights' debut EP Bright Water and Backroad Trips released in early 2014. Through shared links, word of mouth and regular on air rotation by US internet radio stations such as Gashouse Radio, The Great Unknown, and I Love Indie and Ecuador's El Vagon Alternativo, the band has gained over 26,000 social media followers. They will release their first full length album in in early 2015. As fans grow around the globe, The System Lights will continue to play live, create world class music and seek shared visions.

Band Member Bios:
  • David Rangel (lead vocalist/writer) is an American singer/songwriter who brings a love for timeless, British rock into his songs. His penchant for less is more shows in his writing, which contain very few instrumental solos. You'll hear soaring, passionate vocals (U2, Oasis, The Verve) and frequent use of falsetto (Radiohead, Jeff Buckley). David's history with proper, touring bands include years in L.A., Mpls and Milwaukee opening for many international acts (Goo Goo Dolls, Alter Bridge, Train, Counting Crows and many others). Lyrically, he likes to get people to think by incorporating pop culture and human existence. Fact: he is a sucker for bubble gum songs.
  • Slim Jacobs (lead guitarist/background vocals/writer) is a lifelong music lover and player. His early act opened for Green Day, Agent Orange and The Dickies and others. After college, Slim formed the band Old Mil playing more than 300 shows in Wisconsin alone, including many shows at Summerfest. His influences include Johnny Marr, Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie), Jimmy Page and others. He prefers to keep the music simplistic while adding melody-based layers and textures that enhance the melodies and song. Slim wants to connect with audiences locally and globally both on record and through live shows. He believes in dreaming big.
  • Russ Spice (guitarist/bassist) has a vision. He went pro with guitar at 15. After a degree in music and teaching, he hit the recording studio. He has worked recording projects (Smashing Pumpkins). His music in the past decade has been played on the Today show and have opened for Collective Soul & Better Than Ezra. Through his influences (Adrian Belew, The Edge, Brian Eno, Flood) - he can take you to the fringes of outer space with textural guitar work and keep it in the pocket with chunky, hooky rhythms of the universe.
  • Erik Byhardt (drums, percussion) has been a drum disciple since he was five, mastering the skins into adulthood. Discovering guitar at 16. he went on to earn an Music Performance and also became a singer/songwriter. In 2001, Erik continued his studies in Performance and Recording Technology. Music has been an critical part of his life. Erik views music as his religion-he finds it incredibly therapeutic. 
  • Bella Dae (piano, keys)  is an accomplished musician well beyond her years. She is mostly self-taught and has won state competitions in both piano (after only four years of playing) and marimba. Additionally, she plays guitar, ukulele and percussion. Now a college student, Bella has a natural ear and eye for picking up subtleties often overlooked by other artists. 

Recording Information:  Recorded, mixed and mastered by Kris Johnson at Flowers Studio - Minneapolis, MN.

Guest musicians include:  Kris Johnson (Two Harbors) guitars | JT Lawton - guitars | Ed Ackerson (BNLX)  - bass | Peter Anderson (The Ocean Blue and Peter Anderson Drums) - drums and percussion

For press contact and booking:

  • Wendy Sobczyk, General Manager
  • (262) 271-0440

Band Members