Seth Pitman, Wild Light’s keyboardist and backup vocalist, tells me the story of the highly noticeable Star of David dangling around his neck. “An Israeli soldier gave me the necklace, and I’ve worn it pretty much every day since then.” The accessory means a great deal to Pitman, he explains, because it was acquired in 2007, when he escaped the United States and fled to Israel to seek catharsis. At the time, he and his bandmates were at the end of their collective rope, struggling as both musicians and as human beings.
“There was a long period of time when things felt pretty desperate,” Pitman reminisces. “We lived in this house in Quincy about 15 minutes south of Boston in a pretty shitty neighborhood, working these day jobs. And we were trying to write songs together.” The New Hampshire transplants, including drummer Seth Kaspar and cofrontmen Timothy Kyle and Jordan Alexander, have known each other for years, and display a kinship that can only be forged through a series of trying lows.
Despite their dull, uninspiring surroundings, Wild Light managed to craft a collection of earnest pop songs that reference a range of timeless influences, such as Bread, Fleetwood Mac, the Zombies and R.E.M. And while the lyrics unsurprisingly still bear a bitter bite (one particular stand-out chorus suggests having resentful intercourse with the whole state of California), the sunshiny multi-part harmonies on Adult Nights (StarTime International) are ever-present with sweeping sing-along choruses, particularly illustrated on the rousing “Canyon City” or the piano-driven nostalgia of “Call Home.”
“When people tell us that our record isn’t trendy, that’s a great compliment,” Kyle says. “I think it’s more important for us to figure out first what is a good melody and what isn’t.” Everyone nods in agreement.
But if a band writes golden AM radio anthems in a proverbial forest, will anyone hear them? After two years of perfecting the starving artist routine, the band received a phone call out of the blue (or Canada?) asking them to open for Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem (Kyle roomed with Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler at Phillips Exeter Academy and the two have kept in touch since). “I think we started packing up the house the second we hung up the phone,” Kyle says. The hopeful foursome then embarked on a journey that would find them on opening night rocking at the 20,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl.
This is not the sort of venue an unsigned band without a record gets to play, but, according to Kyle, Wild Light held their own against the two revered acts. “We saw James Murphy [of LCD Soundsystem] backstage one night,” he says glowingly, “And he told us we sounded great. Like it was a record playing.”
And Murphy isn’t the only one taking notice. Perhaps as long-due praise for all those years sticking it out in frigid New England, the Boston Music Awards recognized the musicians as the Outstanding Rock Act of 2008. But belated acknowledgment aside, the band isn’t completely done with roughing it. “We haven’t had time to upgrade our van radio yet,” Alexander says, “So all we have now is a cassette player and a radio.” As far as tough times ahead are concerned, sub-par radio programming seems to be the worst of them.