Acid Angels in Arizona: An Interview with Body of Light
Body of Light. Photo: Kaleb Marshall
In recent years, when Arizona’s experimental music realm rears it’s head, you are met with an entirely new world of talented individuals creating something enviable that artists are tracing their lines around. In steps Body of Light, a synth duo comprised of Alex and Andrew Jarson, two brothers that helped solidify the emerging Arizona music scene. Body of Light exhibits style and power, with swelling synths, the throb and peal of electronic drums surrounding hungry, searching vocals, further showcasing tracks that could surely be a staple of dancehall nights for years to come. Free Press Houston exchanged words with the Jarson brothers prior to their performance at The Secret Group on Friday.
FPH: Last time you were in town was a bit over a year ago with High Functioning Flesh. That was a fun show, and seemed like a promising tour with label-mates. This time around, you are visiting with Black Marble and DRAA, two bands I personally have been enjoying very much recently. Incredibly solid tours back to back. How has the tour been so far?
Andrew: It’s been a blast. Every show has had great crowds. They always seem to be very energetic, and we’re a pretty energetic band so that helps the shows in the long run. Black Marble had already been on tour for I think 20 something days before we met up with them in NYC, and it can be awkward starting a tour like that, but we had an amazing sold out show in NYC and that really set off the whole tour. Chris and Oliver from Black Marble are truly great guys and we’re blessed to tour with people we get along so well with.
Alex: We’ve been having the best time in the world. Nearly every show has been packed with people and the crowds have been very responsive to both bands. That’s all you can really ask for. We love touring with Black Marble. They’re amazing people and I’m kind of bummed we only have like 9 days left.
FPH: Alex, we met in 2013 and you gave me a few Body of Light (or Bodi of Light) cassettes, as well of other written works of yours. Older tracks like “Wayside City,” which were catchy dirge-pop hits, could have remained a lifelong direction, but then the LP Let Me Go comes around and seems to have realized a clear path for the band. Was this a natural evolution, or is this something you eventually wanted to work towards?
Andrew: I’d say it was certainly a natural evolution, we actually wrote Let Me Go not too long after we put out the Limits of Reason tape in 2014. I’d say the biggest difference between the two is that we had the intention of having the LMG tracks mixed professionally, and the songs did go through some gradual changes during the time between it’s released. Once we got Ben Greenberg on board to mix the record, the songs really took shape into something we had wanted them to be from the start. We had already envisioned Let Me Go as our first real LP, so he brought it to a level, to a platform that we felt we could build on as a band from here on out.
Alex: I’m very conscious of when I’m writing the same thing over and over again. We’ve never been that kind of a band. So when we went into writing this album, I wanted it to be different. We wanted high energy tracks that came off in a powerful way, especially live. But I also wanted it to feel hollow, yet emotional to the listener. Ben really helped push us to mold these tracks and I’m really grateful for his input.
FPH: Mentioning earlier your written works, you are both heavily involved and helped create Ascetic House, an incredibly influential creative collective that has produced some of the most noteworthy music of the past few years. How did it all begin, and do you still have the same creative input as you did before?
Alex: It starts much earlier than the name, you know? We were all going to shows, like anyone else involved in underground music. Eventually, people moved and things felt like it needed a bit of a push. We all got a bit older and wanted to have some influence with our output. We came up with the name, I think, in 2011. We released music we enjoyed and really pushed ourselves to grow and learn. The creative input is still the same. If anything, we have more control now as it expands.
Andrew: I moved to Tempe in 2009 and lived on Alex’s couch. I was making music constantly at the time on my Akai 16 track recorder, usually in the corner of the room that I had made into my little makeshift room, if you could really even call it that. I was pretty socially awkward at the time — I was 18 and I had gone to punk and hardcore shows with my brother for a while before then, but hardcore was never my thing at all, and I never really met anyone or anything like that. So I felt maybe like a bit an outsider. But moving to Tempe, I got the chance to see these amazing punk and indie shows at these great DIY spots like The Manor, Yobs, Eastside Records, etc. and I met all these great people like Danny Pupillo, Nick and Steve Nappa, JS Aurelius, JR Nelson, and way too many others to reference. We all realized we lived within blocks from each other, and as we started forming all of these bands with each other, and seeing so many amazing acts, that was really how Ascetic House naturally began.
FPH: Translating from being a part of the punk community, Body of Light puts on a very entertaining live performance, and utilizes an intriguing aesthetic. I know Alex used to carry a leg bone with him on stage while performing, which is great in my book. Tell me a bit about that.
Andrew: The bone era was about right when I joined the band. So I had seen him perform as Body of Light and understood what the performance was supposed to be. I never wanted to distract from that, I found my way to provide support and let him do his thing. His performance evolved from there on out, and at the same time so did my stage setup and the structure of the set.
Alex: I found this bone in a field and for some reason, I thought it would be fun to perform with. I would hold it in the air as if it was an instrument of its own, or a wand. I was experimenting a lot with my surroundings then. The idea of mortality was becoming ingrained in my mind. I think that idea terrified me and having that with me gave me a sense of peace. It didn’t matter. On stage, we were the ones who had control. When I felt like it was the right time, I threw it off the stage at a show in New York. It shattered into a million pieces. I still have a small fragment in a box somewhere.
FPH: Both of you are involved in solo experimental electronic projects (Memorymann, Blue Krishna, etc) and seem equally capable behind the gear. Has there ever been a shimmer of an idea to try performing a track with your positions swapped?
Andrew: Body of Light is a collaborative project, It’s not like I’m the songwriter and he’s the singer/lyricist. Sometimes he will write the basis of a song and I will give musical input, and sometimes I’ll help out with lyrics or vocal melodies. Just because we have roles on stage doesn’t mean we need to follow them in the long run. Not sure if I would ever do lead vocals at this point, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I’d love to do some backing vocals sometime, which we’re working on in practice. It’s that natural blood harmony, you know?
Alex: Yeah, roles are always changing. We have plans for him to get on vocals, perhaps on the next record. I’d like to play more live, if I ever stop running around on stage.
FPH: Besides the musical influences that stick out almost immediately from listening to your tracks new and old, what else in the creative world influences you for songwriting, performance, recording, etc.
Alex: There’s just too many bands and artists to name. I’m mainly influenced by the people that are close to me. Sometimes it has nothing to do with sound at all. Someone could do something and it produces a thought. The sound just comes from the emotion behind it. I’ve found that touring and traveling in general influences my music the most.
Andrew: Some of my biggest influences in terms of production from the past come from the Modern Soul and Funk world, like Terry Lewis & Jimmy Jam, Prince, etc., but I also love the pop productions of Scott, Aitken, & Waterman, Bobby Orlando, and Freestyle bands of the past. Stuff I love to listen to on the radio. As far as modern influence I really like the recent releases from Danny Wolfers/Legowelt, especially the Smackos stuff. I’m also a huge fan of some of our friends work, such as Glochids, High Functioning Flesh, and SURVIVE.
FPH: The LP from Dais made it’s way across quite a few 2016 Best Of The Year lists. I’ve seen great tours and shows showcasing you as well. What is next for the band?
Alex: I love our last record a lot and it’s really exciting to see how much it’s been listened to. We got to go play in Japan, tour the US twice, and meet so many amazing people. I never expected anyone to care, so it’s a huge blessing to be able to do this with my life. We’re going to finish this tour and jump into writing a new record. I think it’s time.
Andrew: I’m really excited to write when we get home from this tour. We have both got a lot more gear and production equipment since the last record, and I spent a lot of time building up my studio to work in a very hybrid ITB/OTB way. We’re also planning on some tours and have even bounced around the idea of adding another live member to the band. So there’s a lot on the table and we’ll see where it takes us.
Catch Body of Light at The Secret Group on Friday, June 23. The night will include Brooklyn’s Black Marble headlining, with DRAA from Tempe supporting. Pick up a copy of Body Of Light’s LP “Let Me Go” on Dais Records from the band, label, or local vendors Deep End, Wired Up, or Vinal Edge.
Also, catch up with the sonic innovations of Ascetic House at www.ascetic.house
by Josh Bosarge