Last Sunday night I went to see InLight at The Bullingdon Arms in Oxford. After watching two members of the band play an “acoustic” set last month at The Jericho Tavern when they supported Baskery, I was looking forward to seeing them as a full band.
It’s quite interesting hearing the stripped down version of a band first – with limited instrumentation. With InLight, when I saw them the first time, I was able to get a clear feel for their songs, and how the songs have the ability to hold their own without the need for ‘more’. Then, to go and see them as a full unit, songs colored in with drums and bass and more energy exuding from the stage, was even more of an uplifting experience. An enthralling performance.
Guitarist Mike Riddle is certainly one to watch – an unlikely guitar hero who from the start may seem like your normal “boy next door” is far from that, with his guitar technique and entertaining stage presence. With Riddle’s melodic guitar riffs in amongst frontman Charlie Cooke‘s endearing vocals, exceptional piano skills and songwriting, makes for a clever combination for a pop band.
The rhythm section, bass player Johnny Hunter and drummer Pete Lawless, is just as important especially on their brilliant song “Bridges”, with Charlie’s pleading voice and emotional lyrics. “Space” and “Icarus” are great songs as well, that show just how good a band InLight is.
From what I gather, InLight is a band made up of nice people. I know that for some, nice isn’t the coolest thing to be called, but nowadays in my book anyway, it is. A band with so much talent and what seems, so little ego…is refreshing.
Charlie was cool enough to answer a few questions.
Jenny May: Have you lived in Oxford your whole life?
Charlie Cooke: Nope! I’m actually from Cambridge, which means that I’m now an exile in both places and have to hide quietly under the stairs and in neutral colours on boat race day. But I’ve been in Oxford for four and a half years. I came to University here and didn’t have particular plans afterwards but, when I heard Mike play guitar, I was determined to stay. I think when we first played ‘Paranoia’ was the moment I knew that this was going to get serious. We all looked at each other and thought ‘ok!’.
Where is one of your favorite spots in Oxford?
I love to walk around the back of Queen’s and New College. It looks the same as it must have five hundred years ago and hardly anybody knows it is there.
Does the band have plans to tour around England? Any festivals this summer?
Watch this space!
I saw a MySpace advertisment saying that the movie was being filmed in Oxford and that they were looking for bands and for music. So I e-mailed the director and sent him ‘Bridges’, saying that I thought it would be perfect for the film. He agreed and said it was exactly what he was looking for and the rest is history! It is now in the trailer and the film’s climax, which is fantastic. When we went to the premiere at BAFTA I felt like I’d written it for the film, but it was actually written looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge in the cafe on Ellis Island in New York City.
Has your music been featured in other films/TV etc.?
Not yet, but if anyone’s listening we’re interested! I think our music does have a film-like quality, it often sounds ‘widescreen’.
What is the writing process for the band? Do you write together?
I tend to sit down on my own and write out what I would call the ‘song’; the lyrics, melody, chords and basic structure. I leave it a few days and see if I can remember it, and if it’s strong enough to work stripped down. For me, that’s the test: if someone can’t sit at home and play the song with just an acoustic guitar and vocals then it’s not good enough. If you look at a band like The Beatles, there’s not a single song of theirs that you couldn’t gather people around a piano and sing recognisably. Once that’s done, I will then bring it to the band and we’ll work out how to arrange it. And that’s when it becomes an InLight song.
What kind of guitars are you and Mike playing at the moment?
Mike’s main guitars at the moment are a rare Gibson semi-acoustic (a CS336) and his recently acquired Strat. He’s also got an imported paisley Fender Telecaster, but there isn’t usually room on stage for that many guitars.. I’m playing Mike’s old acoustic and have done since day one. I’m also using a big red Epiphone 335 to play Icarus live.
Does Mike have his eye on a particular guitar that he would like? Do you?
Mike is currently enjoying the idea of a Les Paul. But when is he not?! I quite fancy a 50’s style Gretsch, but they don’t come cheap…!
Do you guys have any guitar heros? If so, who?
All the band are big fans of Matt Bellamy and Muse. Mike and I both grew up with the Beatles records, so George Harrison is a big influence. And more recently Kings of Leon have been doing some really interesting stuff.
Any plans to record an album?
We’d love to. We have enough songs now – and enough light and shade in them – to record an album. But we’d rather wait until we’re signed so we can do it properly. I love the recording process, and I have very definite ideas in my head of how things should sound. There’s a lot of perfectionism in this band. I think that’s why it works, but it does lengthen processes. Besides, I find it difficult enough to let go, and would probably need a label to drag me away from the mixing desk, buy me a drink and tell me it’s over!
What bands/artists would you love to tour with one day?
R.E.M, John Mayer and, of course, U2. I think our audience is theirs; they are all very song based and difficult to put into a particular ‘scene’ category.
Are there any other projects outside of the band that the band members are working on?
No, this is our focus. Although we have combined other pursuits with InLight; we hand draw all the covers for our second EP ‘Postcards’. It’s time consuming, but well worth the effort! And we designed a lot of the stage show for our big showcase ‘Space’ back in May last year: video art, lighting, etc. That’s something we’re very into. I think growing up you’re either into one of two ideas of music. Some people like the stripped down bands who could just walk into a pub and be great, and others like the Pink Floyd approach. We’re in the latter. We can’t wait to take a big show on tour.
Have you been in other bands?
I was previously in a band called The Shambles which, after I had left, went on to become GoodBooks. But I’ve always played music and this is what I’ve wanted to be doing ever since I was a child. My parents gave me a portable tape machine when I was about four years old and it had an in-built microphone. I used to record myself playing piano on it and write ‘Parlophone’ on the tapes because that’s what it said on most of my Dad’s records!
How long has InLight been together?
Three years in various forms, but one year with this line-up. I really count us as being a year old as it’s since then that it has really clicked and we had a solid, committed, professional group of people whose main focus was the band.
You’re not currently signed to a record label…do you want to be?
We are currently unsigned. We’ve had some brushes with labels, including a day recording at Universal in London last October. We absolutely want to be signed. I think there is a lot of confusion in the industry at the moment as to where it’s going, and we’ve met an awful lot of bands which don’t want to be signed. We totally respect that, but we think we’d work best on a major label, and that’s what we’re aiming at.
By: Jenny May – BandWeblogs.com