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Interview: Skylight Motion Picture
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
As early as I can remember, I've always been highly impacted by sound. Whether it was music that soothed me to sleep or being engrossed in the films whose music added emotional weight to the story. If I didn't spend my time creating music, I would most likely be expending that energy into writing screenplays, launching various wine brands, building out an online network channel, and/or something with an entrepreneurial bent to it.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I have a few musical projects that are always in some phase of development so when I tire of one, I've got another outlet to be inspired by. I am always finding ways to be inspired while multi-tasking the less fun aspects of adulthood. I often listen to retrospective podcasts that reflect on the things I found inspirational in my young years. I enjoy running, football, retro gaming, reading, and indulgent dinners with good wine and good friends.
How long has your band been around?
Skylight Motion Picture first started in 2015 at the Napa winery that I work at along with a former colleague and close friend in Napa, CA.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
I live and work in the Napa Valley, so it's hard not to be influenced by the hospitality and tourism industry. While the genres I work in aren't necessarily championed locally, the vibe is always chill and several venues and businesses support local artists with opportunities to play. I grew up nearby in Vacaville, CA, where playing in local bands in the once-thriving music scene forever left its DIY sensibilities in me.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Skylight Motion Picture is a reference to our imagination and the dreams that formulate in the movies we create for ourselves in our minds. I've always wanted to write and perform music that felt emotional and beautiful within a cinematic framework. Cinema is the grandest form of storytelling because you can have hundreds to thousands of artists and skilled workers in various mediums collaborating to tell a story. Skylight Motion Picture is a name that suggests where much of its influence lies.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
One of my favorite shows was our very first one, where we debuted at the winery where we were started. Fortunately, I work for a generous and supportive company that gave us the outlet to perform (as well as where we recorded our debut EP and rehearsed regularly) for a staff and local industry party. Our resident chef was on board to create some eccentrically delicious snacks and seeing so many friends arrive to dance their butts off and show support felt wonderful. It truly felt like the start of a colorful musical journey.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Despite it not being available as a music venue anymore, the Three Oaks Community Center in Vacaville, CA will always hold such a special place for me. Brick by Brick in San Diego, Hawthorne Theater in Portland, and Pop Ups (RIP) in Vancouver, WA are some of my favorite venues I've been fortunate to play. I'd love to perform at the local music festival here in Napa, Bottle Rock. This would be a real stretch, but ever since watching a DVD of U2 playing live at the Slane Castle in Ireland, I would consider that the most grandiose stage I could dream of playing.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
The terrible rapcore band I played in when I was in high school used to regularly perform with what I consider to be one of the best live bands I've ever witnessed. That band is called Dredg, and to share the stage with those artistic geniuses again would be such a thrill. If I could create a lineup that included The Appleseed Cast, Jimmy Eat World, and Sunny Day Real Estate with more modern acts such as The Midnight, M83, and even Coldplay...I would die happy.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would advise those to ask themselves what they want out of starting a band. Some are content with making a passion their hobby and playing local gigs on occasion. If the desire is stubborn and insistent on a path of continuous growth then I would ask what they are willing to sacrifice to pursue it. Are you willing to give up your social life? Your romantic relationship? Starting a family? A more financially lucrative career path? Not everyone has to sacrifice all of these to achieve success and even if you do make those kinds of sacrifices, there's no guarantee that you will have received much in return. Figure out what you want and what you're willing to sacrifice to get it, regardless of the result.
The advice I would tell my younger self is to behave like someone serious about their craft. Don't get distracted by my social life...as the wise Mr. Miyagi once declared to Daniel-san in the under-appreciated "Karate Kid III" when all seemed lost, "You stay focused! Your best karate is still inside." We can substitute karate here for music. There are millions of songwriters more naturally talented than me, so how much work am I willing to take on in regards to the non-musical aspects of the business to get where I want to be?
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
At first thought in regards to Skylight Motion Picture, I would have relinquished some aspects of the DIY nature of writing and recording our music. However, those early blunders were huge learning experiences that have given us stronger confidence and a stronger production skill set when we create new songs. I would also advise us to spend our money on quality production partners before we start spending money on merch and CDs.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Two songs from the newest release, "Music From The Film," that mean the most are "Errant Son" and "Undressed." "Errant Son" is a dialogue I have with God that acknowledges the change of lens through which I view him. It's less assured and concrete than what I was raised to believe, but I ultimately still acknowledge his divine authorship.
"Undressed" is the first song I wrote after breaking up with my first love. I thought my ability to view the breakup reasonably and practically could buffer my brokenheartedness, so I realized in an instant that I was a fool. Someone I loved deeply seemingly had no problem excusing me from her life permanently once she found an upgrade. Only in writing this response do I realize my sense of grief from this situation is probably connected to the part of me that is so nostalgic and attracted to the melancholy aspects of dreams and memories. These are moments that cannot be recaptured or experienced in real-time ever again. Its permanence is a constant reminder of the loss. Usually, I do not have much interest in writing about love, heartache, or relationships because they feel cliched and redundant. But I needed to have one cathartic moment in working through it, my "emo" moment. I hope I never feel similarly inspired to write this kind of song again.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
"Spy Blown Mind" (from our previous album released in 2020) is probably at the top of the list because it is so damn fun. It's infectious, funky, spicy, and features a great call and response in the chorus. Some are often surprised that the musical and lyrical influences for this song are a combination of the musical score to "Blood Sport," the storyline of "The Warriors," and musical groups from the 1980's such as Hall & Oates, Russ Taff, and DeGarmo & Key. We also made a fun music video (on a $0 budget) to the delight of our friends and fans in our community.
From the new album, I enjoy playing both "Undressed" and "Cards on the Table," because we usually play them slightly different than they sound on the recording, which makes it seem fresher.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I will usually come up with some chord phrases on a keyboard and then instantly hear the vocal melody and drums in my head. It doesn't take too long to flesh out the rest of the parts.
Music is my conduit to connect with people and communicate who I am. I strive to present something beautiful and meaningful to others. I hope that others are similarly inspired by it, but I know my need to create is not determined by any collective acceptance or rejection. I enjoy it when other artists can challenge me musically and lyrically, so I would like to do the same for others.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I just want to be as authentic and honest as I can be. I'm not an authority on many subjects (who wants to listen to songs about the history of the professional wrestling business from the 1980's/90's or the golden era of the Nickelodeon network?!), so I usually write on broader subjects such as spiritual connectedness and identity, but they can often be interpreted by the listener to mean something unique to them. The songs can be written as satire, allegories, or just straightforward. If I were to write vapid and ego-centric songs that are so widely saturated in much of commercial music, I think anyone who knows me would just laugh at the disconnect and call me out as a phony.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
While disagreements are unavoidable, they can be navigated through a vessel of respect, gentleness, diplomacy, and a calm, practical demeanor. Part of the sacrifice one makes when committing to a band is allowing everyone involved to weave their giftedness into something that results in being greater than the sum of its parts. Staying focused on the collective vision can help in not sweating the small stuff.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
My plan for the rest of 2022 is to shift the focus from production to performance. Members of the band can sometimes be a revolving door depending on who's available at any given time, but I hope to establish a bit more firmness to build out a more consistent live performance schedule. Since the release of "Music From The Film," I've released music and lyric videos for all of the full-length tracks. The last one from the album is a song called, "Doors in Dreams," and it is not only the youngest song on the album, but it is probably the least commercially viable song and possibly my favorite. This will be released on our YouTube channel on Friday, May 6th at 9 AM PSD. For anyone interested, our new album is available on all digital platforms and they can stay up to date with us and keep in touch through Instagram: @skylightmotionpicture