Band bio: Strange Lights

April 2010 / Band bio

Fuzzy electric and strummed acoustic guitars swirl together with bass and drums in a spacey, spooky mix. Weird electronic blips pulse and percolate amid the haze. Ghostly male and female vocals materialize, harmonically converge, and then disappear back into the infinite mist. You feel warm. Dizzy. Disoriented. This is very much a mysterious, alien place. But somehow you’re at peace. You feel safe. Protected. Even healed. You’ve found the music of Strange Lights. And you’ll never, ever be the same.

“Music for us is a way to put dreaming on another level,” says singer-guitarist Lonny Roth, who with bassist-vocalist Deb Zazzo began Strange Lights in 2000. “It’s a way to tune into what all of us, as humans, are experiencing now; to find a common thread that takes listeners to a more evolved place. Somewhere closer to where we can unlock the incredible capacity for understanding we hardly know we have.”

And perhaps the most direct door this higher plane is Light Bright, the band’s third self-released album, which features engineering by musician Jono Manson (Pete Seeger, John Popper, Joey Miserable and the Worms). Another mind-melting dose of the group’s patented modern psychedelic folk, the revelatory 65-minute disc brims with evocative and trippy tracks—the cascading, sweetly mournful “Fly Home”; “Poe,” the appropriately hushed and haunting ode to a true literary visionary; and the soaring, searching “Wander.” “We try to make each song have at least three meanings,” says Lonny. “So that we can reach more people.” It all falls under the multi-colored pinwheel-umbrella that Deb and Lonny call “short bus pop.”

“When you’re a kid in school, the students who ride the ‘short bus’ are the freaky, ‘different’ people,” explains Deb, who holds a degree in plastic surgery and initially took up bass as a way to maintain her dexterity upon being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Lonny has his own rock-as-medicine story: After being briefly institutionalized as a teenager for “hearing voices,” he eschewed the state-imposed pharmaceuticals for music, learning guitar and finding solace in Strange Lights’ shared influences of Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead. “As health-challenged outsiders ourselves, we really relate to those ‘weird’ people,” continues Deb. “And some of them go on to change the world.”

Based in the tiny (population: 80) spiritual-leaning community of Crestone, Colorado, Strange Lights started as the core duo of Lonny and Deb, recording and playing live over the years with a changeable lineup of guest musicians; permanent drummer Robert Edsel joined the fold after the making of Light Bright. While Lonny grew up in the Denver/Boulder area, Deb hails from New York, where she studied classical flute as a child and played in punk bands in her twenties. The two met when Lonny was looking for a bassist to jam with and right away bonded deeply on both personal and musical levels. Already a formidable success online—with over 15,000 songs downloaded so far—the band is currently gearing up for touring in support of Light Bright and planning the release of a new six-song EP in 2010.

“We really feel like there’s no ceiling with our music,” says Lonny. “It’ just infinite, all the possibilities that can be reached for.” A beacon illuminating the path to new realms of musical enlightenment—for Strange Lights the future looks bright, indeed.