Illiterate Light is a synth pop duo hailing from Harrisonburg Virginia. We got the chance to sit down with talented members, Jeff and Jake, over pizza before one of their shows in Baltimore. Read below as we discuss hometown music, touring, and the groups growth over time.
You guys are called Illiterate light, from the Harrisonburg region?
How would you define your group?
Jeff: We consider it experimental indie rock.
Jake: Depending on what type of venue we’re playing, like if it’s a house show, we’ll add the words “freak out” in there somewhere, because the weirder the space is the weirder we go to match it.
With that in mind what is your favorite type of show to play or your favorite type of audience to play to?
Jake: Well I enjoy when we play in kind of small claustrophobic spaces, or places where there don’t have to be a lot of people, but they’re engaged and sweaty. House shows are interesting for sure, small venues. We’d rather fill a small room full of people than play a place too big for us.
Jeff: Yeah… small rooms people like crammed in, people really close to us. We stand really close to the crowd, Jake’s not behind me we’re side by side, and to have the energy of somebody two or three feet away, I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad show when that’s been the case. We want the energy of the crowd because we’re all working together to make a cool show happen.
You guys play mostly in central Virginia; Charlottesville, Richmond, Harrisonburg all of those. And I’ve noticed that you’re playing a lot of the same places that Parquet Courts got their start in, have you noticed any other bands that you seem to be following the path of, or noticed that you’re moving up in the same way as a lot of groups before you?
Jeff: Charlottesville is a great example of the road we’d love to keep going down; Magnolia House, Tea Bizarre, The Whiskey Jar, all these different places in Charlottesville, booked the Southern, it’s an incredible city.
People don’t really expect Charlottesville to have the music scene it does because on the outside it just looks like Thomas Jefferson and a lot of brick. But Charlottesville aside, you all are from Harrisonburg, which is a super heavy math rock scene – how do you feel you fit in or stand out from being in that environment?
Jake: I think that there’s certain things about math rock that Jeff and I really like and there’s some really cool bands that we’ve seen from the math world, but I think that we are influenced by 70s proge more than math, and yes that’s kind of in the same world, but we don’t really think that we have a math edge. I think that we play with a lot of math bands but we live in a different world.
Jeff: Yeah, they’re like our second cousin that’s like a few years older than us.
So this is sort of the start of the nightly bar shows that close out Artscape every night, how do you guys feel about being a part of something that’s a lot bigger than a one off show.
Jeff: I think we’re really excited to share the stage with Wyclef .
Jake: Wyclef’s opening for us right now.
Jeff: Haha yeah, we’re excited about the moves that he’s making.
Jake: We listened to some fuji’s on the way over.
Jeff: Yeah…but it’s really cool – I grew up in Baltimore, I used to come to this in High School. This is where I saw cake. We’d like to spend some more time just walking around. But yeah, we haven’t felt super connected to Artscape this year just because we’ve been finishing up a new album – going on a big tour starting in August and kind of forgot this was happening. When we rolled in we were like – it’s cool. It’s cool to be in a city.
You mentioned the new album that’s coming up, how long has that process been?
Jeff: Too long.
Jake – Some of the songs were started probably about a year ago as we were touring and playing other music, and we started recording in February. We worked with a studio out of Harrisonburg called loose rocket, got some really cool sounds, really liked the people that we got to work with. We’re pretty anxious to move on, we’re constantly writing new music, so we’re really testing our patience to stick with these 6 songs for this amount of time.
Jeff – This was a huge learning experience for us., because we’ve both been in other bands that have been more under the radar. It was never “let’s put an album out and tour it” it was more “Let’s record some songs and put them out” and so now that we’re being a little more methodical about things, we’ll see how it goes, ya know? With the Internet and soundcloud and stuff like that we might just go down the path of releasing new music every month because we’re writing new music every month. That might not be the smartest way to build up certain songs, but it might just be more our writing style and where we’re at right now.
Do you guys schedule your own tours, or do you have outside help with that whole process?
Pretty much up through August we’ve done all out own booking, but we’re started working with a booking agent that is helping to fill in dates., and he’s pretty much in charge of filling in shows in-between the larger showcase shows we’ve set up through other connections. Because we do play a lot of DIY and house show spots he’s not really keyed into that, because it doesn’t work for him to get paid out of those pockets, so we book ourselves pretty heavily in that world. We’re probably going to start giving more of that work to him and focusing that energy on playing and promotion. Promotion is probably the hardest thing for us, or any small band really.
Jeff- pretty much Jake books the house shows and DIY spots.
Finally, to wrap up, if someone came up to you and asked what a show of yours was like and you could only use three words, what would those words be?
Jeff: Go away Grandma. I’m kidding but my Grandma did just ask me what a show of ours was like?
Jake: Gorgeous, paradox temperamental.
Interview by Kathryn DeFrank.