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Laylights – The Secret’s Out, Laylights Shine Down on Denver

The case that holds the first EP from Denver’s Laylights is artistic in its presentation, made in a very DIY style of white paint on black, used in a one-by-one screen printing process. The crowned, childlike characters from another time smile slightly, as if they hold a secret of what’s inside, one that they can no longer keep.

“Things have gotten a lot more busy for us, so we’re not having to initiate things as much to get shows…so our time is much more valuable,” explains Laylights lead singer and guitarist, Tyler Haden, of their need to move to a more production, retail oriented path for the next run of the EP.

Laylights’ brew has been simmering for the last two years with the two founding members Tyler and Martin Baker (drums), along with other players that didn’t quite fit like a glove. In the last seven months the magical ingredients were discovered in Chris Martucci (bass) and Ian McCumber (guitar) to solidify the lineup. Now their musical creations are being readily consumed.

Yes, the secret is out and since the release party at Hi-Dive at the beginning of April, Lay-lights’ party card has been filling up.

Saturday, June 17 they play a coveted slot at the Westword Music Showcase, which has expanded its breath of local bands consistently over the years. In 2006 Laylights play with local favorites Hot IQs, Dressy Bessy, Photo Atlas and Born in the Flood on the Indie Rock/Pop stage. The next night on June 18 the band headlines hi-dive with Photo Atlas and So Many Dynamos, which is then followed by an opening slot for Rogue Wave at Larimer Lounge on June 28.

“It’s just bizarre to be playing along side local bands that we respect immensely. We are friends with pretty much all the bands,” Tyler confides. “Six or seven months ago we were sort of looking at a music scene were those bands are moving up. To be playing in the same category and be regarded in the same way is definitely a boost in your confidence in what you’re spending your time on, what you’re passionate about, and that people are getting something out of it…that it’s worth your while.”

Although it took a few years to get to this place of synchronicity, Laylights feel that the wait was also worthwhile.

When bass player Chris came into the band last winter, he took his inspiration from local bands Swayback and Photo Atlas, which come from a space of rawness, punk, and bold rays of rock. After listening to the demo Laylights had at the time, which Tyler states is “horrible,” Chris admits that although he didn’t have a lot of expe¬rience being in a band, he recognized some good and not so good aspects of the Laylights sound.

“I could tell that there were parts in there that wanted to go there, but then there was also this very poppy, copied stuff in there left from the old guitarist,” Chris says. “They wanted to go where I wanted to go.”

The process of bringing in the guitarist who could contribute more originality and grit was a tiresome one for the three members. Going through the standard song and dance of online band dating, Tyler rolls his eyes and sighs, thinking back on the searches and numerous auditions.

“Every influence list has Tool,” and then shakes his head laughing, “Then you find out they’re all tools. It’s rough. People come into the room and rip out on this ‘80s rock thing with too many pedals and they don’t know what they’re doing, because they’re so distracted by this whole collage of pedal boards.”

Before Ian even auditioned, Martin had already made up his mind that this was their new guitarist.

“Martin told me, even before [Ian] came in, that this was the one just by the name,” Tyler recalls, as Chris and Ian start to chuckle. “He’s like, ‘Ian McCumber sounds great! It sounds so British!’ Martin is so into British anything.”

But when Ian auditioned with the group, little did they know that he was just dipping his toe in the water. He was there to audition them as well by keeping his amp so low they couldn’t hear what he was about…yet.

Laughing, Ian explains, “I was really restrained the first time we played together. Mostly, I was just trying to listen to them. I didn’t know what I was getting into and wanted to see how I could fit in and feel out what I might be able to add.”

Looking at his guitarist with a sideways glance, Tyler responds, “We didn’t know! We asked him back five times without committing anything and because we couldn’t even hear him. But when he did come in, he brought the guitar that we needed.”

Once they got past the courting stage, things moved very quickly as the band gave Ian free reign. He was encouraged to make the exist¬ing songs his own and “fuck ‘em up” in order to make his mark and further solidify his ownership within the band.

“We talked about how contained the music was because of the techni¬cal ability of the other guitarist,” Tyler says, “If you’re just going to play someone else’s music, you might as well be in a cover band.”

Ian nods his head in agreement, “I didn’t want to go in as a new guitar player and ‘this is what things were just going to be’ kind of thing. Right off the bat it seemed to be very col¬laborative.”

Laylights started off on the right foot, writing the strongest tracks on the new EP, “Sparrow,” which glides with an alternative bent as echoed and shimmering guitar is made meaty by Chris’ rumbles, and “Highwires,” where Ian blazes with razor sharp lines and pop intervention, just enough to get the kids to dance. “Sheets and Drapes” best spotlights Tyler’s radiant vocals, which plead and command at the drop of a hat.

“It’s all come into fruition. Now we can talk about a piece of music all together,” Tyler says of the band’s evolution. “We all have ideas and we can say freely if there’s a piece that’s not going to take us where we want to go. It’s all a respect thing. I had this guitar part that I just adored. But Ian thought it sounded like Nintendo.”

“I know why you like it,” Ian says, looking at his band mate, “Yea, it’s catchy. Yea, it’s cool, but we can’t use it.”

Tyler grins, “But I’ll make fun of him and play it every so often.”

Chris adds, “Someone will bring in an idea and say, ‘I think this is a great idea. And the rest of us are like, ‘No, it’s really not.’”

“We do explore the possibilities of those ideas,” Tyler continues, “And in some situations it’s just the timeliness of what we come up with. If we’re not feeling it at that moment, then we put it in a holding tank to bring out later. There’s so many songs that we’ve made efforts towards and it just doesn’t end up working. But that’s okay. You just scrape the cream off the top.”

It’s not difficult to pick up Laylights’ subtle influences of the British and alternative rock that Martin is so fond of; and the discussion of what goes around comes around in music, or any art form, arises.

“It’s all cyclic,” Tyler states. “It’s not that people are repeating music that happened before. In the ‘80s or the ‘70s, they’re touching on the same tonalities, the same textures. All art is cyclic. Joy Division copied the Doors, and the Doors copied tribal music from wherever. What impresses me is if people can take this basis of a sound because that’s where their ear goes to, and if they can push the envelope on it, if they push the limits of what that is, then that to me is making a progression in art. That’s what I respect. But if it is a cookie-cutter, sort of copy of what’s been suc¬cessful before, that puts the art into retrograde.”

When it comes to the lyrical writing, it’s all in Tyler’s court, which is organically derived after the bed of music is laid down. He also pulls lyrics from that vault of cast off songs, taking ideas and words and reworking them into a new skin.

“I do want to paint pictures. I do want to paint stories. I don’t want them to be so specific that other people can’t take them in for what they want,” Tyler explains. “I always say that I write generally specific and specifically general, which means, I am connected to the words for my own reasons, but I write generally enough that it can be taken in by another ear.”

When Laylights hit the stage is when the true talent shines, fully armed with a spectrum of me¬lodic vapors, driving hooks, and band members that project passion for their music.

After a day of working at the bank, it is a definite release for Ian, “The live show is an obvious excuse to kick that up a notch. There are a lot of bands that are good studio bands, and then you go see them live and it’s like,” he pauses, with a grimaced look on his face, ‘Wow, I really liked them.’ I think to be really good at what we’re doing you have to be good in the studio and good songwrit¬ers and be conscious of that. But you’re performers. You have to present that to strangers. And you get 20 minutes to make a connection with somebody. But you’re in the moment. We don’t go into a show planning that. It’s not like, ‘Okay guys, remember all the moves we practiced!’”

Although Laylights are considering the Midwest Music Summit, which takes place in Indianapolis, IN in August, until they’ve built up more material the group will be keeping most of the gigs close to home, which could also include the South Park Music Festival in September. As the secret spreads, the group is very determined to keep this current momentum running, which includes getting on the road when the time is right.

“We’re working hard on what we do, which is writing music,” Tyler says with a determined tone, “and then build the connections through that and push on our own. Things will happen. Nothing happens without the will to do so.”

Check out Laylights at the Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, June 17 (www.westword. com for the complete schedule), on Sunday, June 18 at hi-dive, and with Rogue Wave at Larimer Lounge on June 28. Take a listen to songs off their new EP at


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