The Lightyears
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The Lightyears

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The Lightyears, a rising indie pop-rock trio from Britain, play several shows throughout the region this week, including one Saturday night at MilkBoy Coffee in Ardmore

The Lightyears, a nimble British pop-rock trio that's gained a loyal following at home across the pond, are making an appearance at Ardmore's MilkBoy Coffee on Saturday at 10 p.m. It'll be one of a few shows around the Philadelphia region during the band's first time in the United States.

Inspired by vocals-based '50s American rock, the band is led by deft pianist and founding member Chris Russell.

"We're all about three-part harmonies, high-energy performances and solid songwriting," said Russell, speaking from his home in England. "People in the U.K. have been telling us for years that we'd go down well in the States, and I think that's possibly because we grew up on a diet of American bands."

Some of the more modern influences on Russell and band mates George Owens (guitarist and co-founder) and Tony Lyons (drummer and sound engineer) have included Ben Folds Five, Counting Crows and Michael Jackson.

"They're very straightforward, and they've just got some really good pop songs," said Bruce Warren, program director for WXPN-FM, the public radio station of the University of Pennsylvania. "For an indie pop band, they've got a very mature body of work."

The Lightyears were scheduled to play two gigs last evening, at World Cafe Live in West Philadelphia followed by a show at Grape Street Philadelphia (formerly The Grape Street Pub) in Manayunk.

Warren said the band's music is being considered for airtime on 'XPN, and the trio is scheduled to make a live, on-air appearance at 3 p.m. on Saturday, in advance of the MilkBoy show. Warren called the group "Coldplay-esque."

To a certain extent, Russell said being compared with British mega-band Coldplay is "inevitable," especially with his emphasis on piano and a range of vocals.

"There are definite similarities ... but ultimately we play a very different style of music - more energized, more upbeat. The balladic end of our music is undoubtedly Coldplay-esque, but the upbeat rock 'n' roll end has more in common with bands like Jellyfish and Ben Folds Five."

Evidence of the group's dichotomy of sound can be heard on two tracks offered as free downloads on the band's Web site. The light, melodic "Emily" (about Owens' sister) is a short pop track, laden with Russell's keyboards, with a simple chorus and a tidy instrumental mid-section. The song might have charted in any of the past four decades. The other tune, "Miles Away," is decidedly more modern - a ballad carried along by basic, singer-songwriter guitar chords and heartrending lyrics, with a U2-like crescendo and coda.

In talking with the 20-something Russell, though, you get the feeling he'd rather be compared with Buddy Holly or Jerry Lee Lewis than with any of the current stadium-fillers. The Lightyears' best cover songs, he says, are "Great Balls of Fire" and "Twist and Shout."

"Most young bands don't cover songs from that era, but the truth is that a classic tune like that will always sound great if you play it with conviction," he said. "We fill the songs with vocals and attack them like they were written yesterday. For me, a piano is like a guitar. It's there to be bashed around as much as possible."
The Lightyears' appearance in the area, after an appearance in New York City, is part of a tour taking them throughout Europe and parts of Asia, but the band is unsigned by a major record label.

"We've had a number of offers over the last couple of years, but we've turned them down as we're waiting for the right deal," said Russell, who started writing songs with Owens at the tender age of 13, more than a decade ago.

Their determination is apparently legitimate, enduring various comings and goings of band members (and band names) over the years.

"So many bands sign the wrong thing too early, and we're very serious about getting this right."

The Lightyears.
MilkBoy Coffee, 2 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore.
Saturday at 10 p.m.
$8 in advance, $10 at the door.
610-645-5269. - Main Line Times, Ardmore USA


Chris Russell of local band The Lightyears tells The Green about life in the area.

When and how did you form?
George (Lead Vocals, Guitar) and I met at school when we were 13 and immediately began writing songs. We’ve been playing music together in various bands since then and have released 4 albums and 3 EPs together. Tony (Vocals, Drums) produced some of our early work and eventually joined the band in 2003, so I guess The Lightyears in their current form have been together for 4 years.

How would you describe your sound?
We play catchy, vocal harmony-led indie pop. People often compare us to bands like The Beach Boys, Queen and Ben Folds Five, which I think is because we place emphasis on melodies, vocals and solid songwriting.

Does the local area inspire you?
Chiswick was our first home when we moved from Oxfordshire to London in 2005. It’s a fantastic place. We were in a house on Riverview Grove, right near the river, which meant great views up towards Kew Bridge, Richmond Bridge and so on. However, the house burnt down last year and this has pretty much dominated our songwriting since it happened – there’s something really eery about walking past the old house and seeing the charred shell of what used to be our home.

Locally, where do you go to relax?
The Bull’s Head on Strand-On-The-Green is the greatest pub in the world. Straight up. In fact, it’s so good that my family consider it to be their local even though they live 50 miles away. We bumped into Hugh Grant in there once. And the barbeque relish is mind-blowing.

Oh, and bizarrely, it turns out that our drummer’s grandmother used to be the landlady there. The first time we went for a pint in The Bull’s Head with Tony he said “Hang on a minute…. My gran used to run this place!”. Which was unexpected, as his family are from Redhill…

Any plans for local gigs?
West and South London are our main stamping grounds, and we play fairly frequently in Earl’s Court, Clapham, Putney and so on. London has a thriving festival circuit and so hopefully we’ll be appearing at some local festivals in the summertime.

Which venues in the area would your recommend for live music?
Unfortunately Chiswick itself is a bit short of decent live music venues. Most bands like us venture further into the centre for gigs, as Chiswick tends to cater more for jazz and blues bands – there’s not much of an indie scene in the area. We did play Grovestock last summer though, which is held in Grove Park. That’s a great little festival.

Who inspired you to pursue music?
At the risk of sounding trite, it’s the other guys in the band who inspire me the most. We’ve known each other for a long time but they never fail to challenge me as a musician. As a keyboard player my biggest influences are early rock ‘n’ roll icons like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, as well as contemporary pianists like Ben Folds.

Can you tell us your favourite lyric?
I think Guns ‘N’ Roses have some cracking lyrics but I don’t think you can print the ones that I like in this magazine… So I’d have to go for “I’ve just found out there’s no such thing as the real world – just a lie you’ve got to rise above” which is from John Mayer’s No Such Thing.

As for our own material, the opening lyric to Miles Away goes “All that you know, you no longer own”. A few weeks after we wrote the song, we lost all that we owned in the fire, and the lyric suddenly took on a prophetic resonance. That stuck in my head for a while…! - The Green, Chiswick, West London


READING band The Lightyears, who have had an incredible year with gigs in Belgium, New York, Philadelphia, Seoul, the French Alps and an appearance on ITV drama Strictly Confidential, are returning to the town of their origin to headline a Christmas gig at the 3Bs on December 30.

After success overseas and appearances at venues all over the UK, the band endured setbacks in September when a house fire destroyed all their possessions and instruments, and a car crash wrote off their primary means of transport.

However, they have recently signed a management deal and are in talks with some of the UK's top producers in preparation for recording new songs in January. They will be showcasing this material at their Reading gig.

The Lightyears will appear at the 3Bs, Blagrave Street, Reading, on Saturday, December 30. Support comes from Jamie Russell, Ben Scriven and Trinity. Doors open 7.30pm, The Lightyears are on stage at 9.30pm, admission is free. For further information, visit www.thelightyears.com. - Reading Chronicle


CATRIONA REEVES reviews The Lightyears’ debut album, Mission Creep.

Possibly the hardest working band in the Goring Gap, The Lightyears had a busy 2005 with sets at iconic venues such as The Cavern Club, The Marquee and Glastonbury Festival as well as dates in the USA. With forthcoming plans including a UK and possible US tour, the band rounded off last year with a headline set at London’s 1,500-capacity Clapham Grand and the release of their album, Mission Creep.

Featuring artwork of a cityscape very unlike the West Berkshire/Oxfordshire countryside from which the three band members hail, Mission Creep is a full 12-track epic produced by drummer Tony Lyons. A piano-led band, The Lightyears remember that rock ‘n’ Roll began on the piano and “aren’t afraid the kick the s**t out of ours,” according to pianist Chris Russell. Keen to distance themselves from bands such as Keane and Coldplay, who “treat their pianos with too much respect,” The Lightyears live to rock out, maybe something that comes across more in the live arena of dirty rock than on this cleanly-produced album.

Surprisingly, the resulting sound is more A-ha than Little Richard – but I’ve always been very fond of A-ha, so that’s no bad thing by any means. Like the strong song-writing outfit that they are (the album is virtually entirely self-penned, with each member credited as a writer on at least six songs), the trio have ensured that the CD is crammed full of irresistibly catchy tunes, with the stand-out track being the band’s possible signature song, We Keep The Beat Alive.

The Lightyears’ other stand-out element is vocals. There’s no frontman in this band; all three members are singers, resulting in unusual lush harmonies, like The Beach Boys meeting The Housemartins and spawning little McFlys. Again, the latter connection is no bad thing (Whatever you think of the McFly boys, you’ve got respect their harmonious singing-while-playing skills), and probably brought on in my mind by the somewhat Beatles-esque vibe that runs through this album, aptly for a band that went down a storm at The Cavern Club.

The band certainly have a talent for the right kind of self-publicity, and using tools such as their award-winning website (including news, reviews, downloads, photo galleries and The Lightyears comic strip) at www.TheLightyears.com, they are sure to continue to drum up ever-increasing audience numbers for their forthcoming string of live dates, starting off at the 12 Bar Club in Soho next Thursday with The Savoy and nu-folk pairing Megson.

The Lightyears currently have two new entries in the Top 10 chart on unsigned music and graduate jobs website Ragtime. Make the boys number one by visiting www.Ragtime.co.uk, locating the LYs songs, clicking on ‘Play Track’ and giving the band a fat 10 out of 10 (you don’t need to register with the site to vote).

Photos of The Lightyears’ December album launch show at The Clapham Grand, taken by Alex Cooke, are now available to view on the website. Mission Creep can also be bought from the website shop for £10, plus postage. - Newbury Weekly News, Berkshire UK


Discography

EMILY (2007)
Three as yet unreleased tracks produced by Hugh Padgham (The Police, Genesis, Paul MacCartney). Title track "Emily" has received national airplay in the US on WXPN Philadelphia.

PHOENIX (2006)
Self-released 5-track EP

MISSION CREEP (2005)
Self-released 11-track album

RUMOUR GOING ROUND (2004)
Self-released 4-track EP

THE LAST MEN ON EARTH (2003)
Self-released 3-track EP

FLYING BLIND (2002)
Self-released 11-track album

BITTERSWEETCALM (2001)
Self-released 13-track album

MILLDOWN (1997)
Self-released 10-track album

Photos

Bio

The Lightyears play intense and catchy pop-rock, characterised by driving keyboard riffs, punchy guitars, solid grooves and soaring vocal harmonies.

Live highlights in the UK include Liverpool’s Cavern Club, Glastonbury Festival and The Marquee. Since 2006 the band have been touring internationally, playing the French Alps, Belgium, Ireland, South Korea and the East Coast of America. In the USA the band appeared on national radio and played two sell-out shows in Philadelphia on two consecutive nights.

Last May The Lightyears won BEST POP/ROCK ACT at the UK INDY Awards. More recently the band have begun recording with top producer Hugh Padgham (Sting & The Police, Genesis, Paul McCartney, David Bowie) and toured to Phuket in Thailand.

The new year began with a sell-out show at London's famous Water Rats venue and a nomination for the 2008 INDY Awards. Tour dates across the UK, along with a return to East Asia, are planned for later this year.

For more information visit www.TheLightyears.com.

''The Lightyears are the hottest unsigned band in London"
ROB WRIGHT, THE LONDON TIMES

“The Lightyears are definitely one of the best unsigned bands that I have ever seen or heard…”
HUGH PADGHAM, PRODUCER

"For an indie-pop band they've got a very mature body of work. If the La's and Wham! had a bastard pop-child they'd sound like this..."
BRUCE WARREN, PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, WXPN PHILADELPHIA USA

"Their signature track "Emily" could have charted in any of the past four decades..."
MAIN LINE TIMES, ARDMORE USA

"The Lightyears are being widely touted as Next Big Things"
LONDON METRO

“The Lightyears - back by popular demand”
THE SEOUL TIMES, SOUTH KOREA

“Gorgeous, harmony-filled melodies - proof that intelligent pop still exists”
HOT PRESS, IRELAND

“One of the hottest bands in the UK”
IMAGE ASIA EVENTS, THAILAND