The Lighthouse and the Whaler On: How A Navy Seal Is Like A Musician

Posted November 5

Welcome to another edition of Music Meter Monday, in which we profile bands who are climbing the MTV Music Meter. This week, we caught up with Ohio indie pop band The Lighthouse and the Whaler, who were spotted on the charts lately following the release of their sophomore album, This Is An Adventure. [Ed Note: The band is no longer charting very highly. We did this interview before Hurricane Sandy and had to hold it until now. They are still interesting dudes, though. Keep reading.]

We chatted with the band’s Michael LoPresti while they were tooling around on tour to talk literature, the craziest venue they’ve ever performed in, and LoPresti’s childhood ardor for 007 and the Navy Seals. Check out our convo below:

So you’re on tour right now, right? Any crazy moments yet?

Yeah, one day we were getting an oil change and we pulled into the oil change place and our water pump broke and started pouring water all over the parking lot. It was on Sunday and they were closing at like 4pm and we had pulled in at around 3:20pm, because we thought we’d get a quick oil change and keep going. We had to convince one of the mechanics there to fix it, because it was like a two and a half hour fix to get a new water pump. If they hadn’t fixed it, we would have had to cancel like three shows. So that was pretty crazy. But it worked out.

So I usually like to start off by asking what a band’s earliest musical memory is. Care to share?

I guess I always knew that music would be [important] when I learned to play the piano when I was a lot younger. I remember hating it at first — never wanting to practice or do anything like that. My teacher suggested I find a music book that I thought would be cool and learn that music, so I found a James Bond — like 007 — soundtrack book and I was like, ‘I want to learn how to play this.’ It was really complicated, but I ended up learning how to play the whole thing. I guess that’s one of my earliest experiences with music. I found this book in a music store when I was, like, seven and was like, ‘I think this is sweet.’

Were you a really big James Bond fan?

Not really. I don’t think I had any real idea. I just thought the cover looked cool. Probably because I was a 7-year-old boy and there were guns and people jumping around on it, so I was like, ‘I want to learn to play whatever is in this book.’

Can you still play all that stuff?

Yeah! I can actually. I think I have the book, still. If I dug it out I could probably bust out a couple 007 tunes.

Well, you know Adele is doing the new James Bond theme song. Maybe you all could do the next one.

Yeah, yeah, yeah definitely. Going back to the roots there with that one.

So, like a lot of bands these days, you’re in a band with a sibling — your brother. But I hear that you didn’t really start off playing with him. So how did you finally get together?

When we first started playing I was just doing a solo project. I was writing music on my own. Then I realized I wanted some more people to help me create this music. I wanted it to be bigger and not just me and an acoustic guitar. So I got a couple of friends together. We were actually going to do a photo shoot in a field. So we went out in this field and we started playing a song called ‘The Field Song.’ It was the first song we were ever wrote, but it turned out to be really cool. People stopped on the road and came down and watched. That’s when we realized we should start performing in front of people and do this for real. That’s how we started.

So is that the weirdest venue you’ve played? In a field?

No, the craziest venue we ever played at was in an attic of an apartment building in Toledo. It was just like this really old decrepit attic that these people had transformed into this little performance space. The wood was rotting, but they had screwed lights into the ceiling and stuff. When you hit the drum, the lights would react to the sound and change the lights. It was so crappy that when we were playing the tom drum leg fell through the floor and almost fell over. It was really, really funny. The guys had to adjust really quickly. It was actually pretty cool.

So I heard you guys had a pretty interesting location for working on your most recent album.

Bear Creek Studios, yeah. So we went to Seattle, Washington, to Bear Creek to work with [producer] Ryan Hadlock on the new record and it’s basically like a barn in the sticks of Seattle. It’s just this big, old barn that they transformed into a recording studio and they added on an extra room off the back where you can track any instrument in a big, open room.

The thing that was cool about it was we actually lived there; there’s a loft with a bunch of beds and stuff and we just like would sleep there and wake up in the morning and at about 10am we’d start working on the record and wouldn’t stop until like midnight, pretty much every day for a month. It was really cool. Kind of stressful sometimes, but it was interesting to live in the place that you were also creating in, because you were surrounded by it nonstop. I think that can be a positive and a negative thing, but it was really good for us, because we were always tinkering with the way we wanted things to sound. You were always surrounded by the fact that you were there.

Did you guys take those pictures for your album out there, too? [see above]

No, we wanted to, actually, but we didn’t. We wanted to. We took those in Cleveland. There’s a big parks system in Cleveland and we just went deep into one of the parks there.

What was the inspiration for that particular motif?

I just think with the album being called This Is An Adventure, we wanted to evoke a sense of recklessness almost. Reckless abandon, pretty much. People said we kind of reminded them of Lord of the Flies, which I think is actually pretty fitting. The mud on the face and everything — I think it’s just about doing things differently and not really caring about what anyone thinks about it and just doing whatever you feel. That’s what the adventure is about.

Tell me a little a bit about the name of the album. I think it’s the most exciting album name I’ve heard in a while — like literally exciting. In that it’s about adventure.

We were sitting around trying to decide what we should call the album and Steve [Diaz] recalled a line from a Wes Anderson movie and it sort of was the catalyst for creating the title. I think we really just wanted to capture something greater with the album. And once we had the name, we wanted all the songs to really follow that theme and that idea in their rhythm and the way that they sound as well as the lyrics and everything.

That whole theme would run through the album so that people would be able to grab that. They would be able to have that and take it with them on whatever adventure they go on. Or it would inspire them to do their own thing. So we wanted it to be big. We wanted it to be grandiose and have this broad name that people could pull from in various aspects of life.

So, thematically, how do you think that differs from your first album? Obviously, the sound has changed a little bit. The themes have changed.

I think the first album was a little bit more introspective. And it was more about how I felt than it was about trying to make a statement. I think this album is still about the things that I have experienced in my life, but it was more about making a statement like: This is life and you should live it to the fullest. That was something I really wanted to get across with all the lyrical content in the album.

Yeah, it seems like you’re being pretty consistent with the philosophy that your band name evokes, having been inspired by Moby Dick. The adventure. The search.

That stuff just hits me so hard sometimes. Everything from movies to literature — that stuff just moves me. Even things that I have experienced in my life that were just from my faith. It moves you. I wanted to evoke that in music. I wanted to have people be moved by it — that it would inspire them and drive them on.

Are you a big fan of that book? Or just literature in general?

I mean, I’m a big fan of the book, but I think it was just a moment in time where it really affected me. It’s not like it’s my favorite book of all time; it was the moment that I read it that it came about and that’s really what I drew from to create the name of the band. It wasn’t something that had been a lifelong or longterm theme.

So what are you reading now?

I actually just finished reading an account of the Navy Seals taking out Bin Laden, which is odd, but when I was younger I really wanted to be a Navy Seal before I decided to go in a different direction. Anything to do with that fascinates me. I was going to read it on tour, but I really wanted to read it, so I finished it in a couple of days right before we left.

What drew you to the Navy Seals?

I don’t know, I guess — and this comes out of music, too — just the idea of there being a greater cause or a greater reason for existing. I kind of felt that. I think that comes through in music, too. There’s a sense of something greater in everything that I try to create.

Image courtesy of Facebook, The Lighthouse and the Whaler