Think fireworks, apple pie, the Fourth of July, our verdant state parks, any Lana Del Rey music video. The word "Americana" invokes the stereotypical positive images of America; when we throw the term around to describe a style of music, usually one thinks of jangly guitar played on a porch in the middle of the forest somewhere. When it comes to Front Porch Lights of Cleveland, Ohio, this could not be further from the truth.
The refined indie rock that this five-piece group––comprised of Sean Keating, John Doyle, Conor Standish, Dillon Devito, and Joey David––brings to mind the classic American dive bar, and the very American experience of a rock show. In the current political climate, any tributes to America are met with a kind of apprehension (for very good reason), but this band is here to remind us that––even amidst the darkness, the fake news, and the impending bombings––there's still an America to be proud of.
We spoke to frontman Conor Standish about getting the band together, their vision of America, the Ohio rock scene, and their new EP Go On Ahead.
I'm good! Just got out band practice with a couple of my guys. We're practicing for a big show that we do every year at the big beer garden in Lakewood, where we play a three hour set. Lots of dance covers and all that.
We're doing "Song of a Bitch," "Walking on Sunshine..." old school kind of shit.
It started with me going to California. I wrote some songs, had a buddy that lived in Oakland. We went out there and recorded the first EP, which is kind of how Front Porch Lights got started. When I got back from California, I had hired guns and needed a band to play with, kind of got some guys I knew around the town to play together and we developed these songs all together and got a local producer, Jim Stewart, who had a brand new studio. It was a fresh start for Front Porch Lights. We went in there, the very first band to play there, and we recorded like eight songs, narrowed it down to five, and the whole EP is the Front Porch Lights mantra: you're playing together, having a good time, not doing things by yourself you always got somebody. That's the general gyst.
Yeah, absolutely! It just all developed that way. Some of the songs were written while the band was still forming, and it came together that way. The whole way it cam together was us coming up with that theme afterwards, when we were going through that whole process: in my mind, I was asking myself "what is the general theme?" it was like you know we came up with that scene afterwards novels and songs and I I knew I was going through the whole process in my mind by what happened what is the general theme. It's not like we planned it or anything, but I do think it kind of all came together as one. That's kind of what we're writing with, and that's how it feels. It just feels real genuine.
I did the first EP back in 2015, and then in November we did this party a little over a year and a half ago. Our guitar player and our bass player had played in a band before, and our manager and drummer are brothers, so we've all been friend or acquaintances at some point, which really helped with the chemistry because when we started playing together, it felt natural. We've been playing together for a year and a half, but it certainly feels like much longer.
Definitely! I write the songs for the band, and when we're in the studio they write their parts as well. In my mind, it doesn't sound how it would when they hear it and they put their own parts and pieces to it. Even the first EP compared to the second is a base evolution; it has a kind of upbeat, summertime feeling in a way, and that's the sound that we're going for. It's mainly evolved because of these guys coming into the band and bringing their own influences and everything.
The first EP, I went with my buddy Chris Rush, who was the first bass player in the band. We went and hired some people, The drummer was also a guitar player, and he was playing for another band. Then I moved to Seattle, and Dylan was actually in New York with a band called Hollis Brown. They were touring with Counting Crows, but decided to move on, and we got him probably last year; July was his first show with us. The chemistry between him and our guitar player is everything. We've been writing together for about two years since then in the current lineup.
Yeah Cleveland, Ohio.
Absolutely! You hear more about New York and L.A. and Austin, but Cleveland in general has a bad rap. It's gotten better over the past couple of years; it's definitely on the rise. We all feel it here. It is a tight-knit community. I kind of did my own thing, and when I broke up with some of the projects that I'd been doing, I started going out and meeting a lot of amazing people at the music scene, and we don't have like a ton of them. I think it is a big problem: there's a lot of venues popping up, but they're all on the East side, and they're kind of far away and hard to get to. Cleveland being the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame city, you'd think you'd be be bumping and always moving, but it's it's just it's kind of been a slow process. I do still feel like it's coming up, and it's and it's cool to see everybody blowing up; there was this one band called Welshley Arms, and they signed a record deal overseas, and they were on the iTunes charts above Ed Sheeran. The song was called "Legendary," and it's good to a local Cleveland band kind of going out and doing their thing. They're very proud of being from Cleveland, and that's one thing too that I would go on to tell you: more bands pop up and do well and still represent, and when they come home it's a big deal.
What are your thoughts of Cleveland? Like where are you when you think of Cleveland? What do you think when hear about Cleveland?
Well, you definitely come on by.
Definitely. Since the band started, most of us have. We just we want to get the sound recorded so people have something to listen to. Every time I record something, it's it's a lot of repetition of the song: we'll play it over and over and over again, listening to it over and over again. By the time it comes out , you're a little like sick of it, which is funny because you just made this awesome thing and want to show it to the world. At the same time, we have probably four or five songs that we play live. We definitely have new material and are going in the right direction, and it has you know has another theme to it.
E.R. Pulgar is a music writer, poet, image-maker, and once cried reading Virginia Woolf. Follow him on Twitter.
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