Hit The Lights are invincible. In the past four years, the Lima, Ohio-based collective overcame catastrophic turmoil -- including a line-up shuffle, adjusting to a new frontman and a bitter major label break-up with Universal Republic Records -- that would leave most bands crippled. Though wounded, the battle-tested pop-punk outfit came out stronger and share the saga on their third studio album “Invicta,” slated to drop January 31st.
Perhaps the biggest lesson the five-piece learned was about the political nature of the corporate beast. “One of my self-realizations is that no one knows what the fuck they’re talking about, especially in the music industry. No one knows what’s gonna happen [and] no one knows what’s gonna be the next big thing, but everyone will tell you that they do,” the band’s singer and former guitarist Nick Thompson explains.
“We were just taking all this information and all this advice from all these different branches of people who, in reality, don’t know anymore than anyone else -- like what bands are big right now. No one knows what’s gonna happen and it can go any way. Kids pick up on the weirdest stuff sometimes. People love music for such weird reasons, so I think we just came back to the point of we have to do this because we want to do it. We have to write the songs that we want because we’re the ones who are gonna be playing it.”
Hit The Lights - Earthquake
Now signed to indie juggernaut Razor & Tie, Hit The Lights stays true to their feelings on “Invicta.” Recorded in separate sessions with two different producers, Mike Sapone and Machine, the group expands from the commercial-tinged pop-punk resonance that embodied their previous two full-lengths by incorporating more of an atmospheric flair into the new 11-track offering.
Although the leadoff single “Gravity” and “All The Weight” still show flashes from the past, other songs like “Invincible,” “Earthquake” and “So Guilty” take on an ambient vibe while maintaining their signature core. The band also shies away from their directly blunt lyricism (“Body Bag,” anyone?) for a more mature outlook. While the songs hold multi-purpose messages, the Lima warriors reflect on the major label trauma they recently encountered as inspiration.
“With the whole Universal experience, going through the grind like that really takes away your self-confidence and kinda makes you question who you are. I think a lot of the record is about that in terms of finding yourself and knowing who you are, which isn’t always an easy thing to do. It requires a lot of honesty. You have to be honest with yourself and I think that’s another thing that isn’t easy for people to do,” Thompson admits.
“Also,” the 25-year-old continues, “we all knew we didn’t want to make the same record again. Especially in a genre that we’re in, I feel a lot of bands sound similar and have the same kinda feel to them. We really wanted to carve a niche out for ourselves that set us a part.”
Formed in 2003, Hit The Lights aggressively came out of Lima, Ohio with a style bassist Dave Bermosk described as “kick ass pop-punk.” During that time, Thompson was merely a guitarist and Colin Ross was the lead singer. The group signed with Triple Crown Records and unleashed their debut album “This Is A Stick Up … Don’t Make It A Murder” three years later.
Although the troupe garnered success and supported like-minded acts such as All Time Low, New Found Glory and Paramore, Ross unexpectedly called it quits in 2008. Hit The Lights auditioned other vocalists to fill the vacant slot, but preferred Thompson over the prospective candidates. They believed in him, despite how self-conscious he was in his singing ability.
The adjustment was made and, with the addition of new guitarist Kevin Mahoney, the Lima bunch released their sophomore set “Skip School, Start Fights” in 2008. Throughout the touring cycle, Thompson became more and more comfortable at the mic. It also helped that “Skip School, Start Fights” outsold its predecessor and even debuted at #97, thanks in part to records like “Drop The Girl” and “Stay Out.”
"I’m learning to use my voice more now and learning more about its capabilities.”
“Without that support from my band and the fans, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Thompson explains. “It allowed me to let me build up my confidence and now, it’s a space in the band where I’m comfortable being. I’m learning to use my voice more now and learning more about its capabilities.”
Hit The Lights flirted other record companies once their contract with Triple Crown was through and, in 2010, wound up with a new girlfriend in Universal Republic Records. While it looked appealing from the outside, the band was absolutely miserable behind closed doors. Simply put, the major label led them on.
“What ended up happening [was] we [were] just kinda stuck on the label,” Thompson recalls. “They wouldn’t really tell us if we could record an album or not. They wouldn’t answer us when we sent demos and stuff. It was a very frustrating period.” A year and a half later, they were scheduled to get back into the studio. Two days before that happened, however, they were dropped from the label.
Regardless, it worked out for the best. Hit The Lights found a better girlfriend, one in Razor & Tie and one whom treats them right. “They were awesome enough to pick us up and let us make a fucking record,” Thompson says with a chuckle. “They were super supportive and everyone there was on board to take this band in a better direction than we have been going. The past two years were a fucking clusterfuck, but finally, thankfully, there’s a record coming out, we’re touring again and we’re a band again.”
Nothing can stop Hit The Lights now. They are invincible.
- Nick Thompson – Vocalist
- Omar Zehery – Guitarist
- Kevin Mahoney – Guitarist
- Dave Bermosk – Bassist
- Nate Van Damme - Drummer
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