After over a year of sporadic shows and an undetermined future, supergroup The Lights, featuring singer/guitarist Bret Krock-Preston, local producer and sound engineer Kevin Cubbins on guitar, and the hardest working rhythm section in Memphis, John Argroves on drums and Mark Stuart on bass, are finally ready to record their debut album.
“We weren’t able to play for a whole year due to scheduling,” explains Krock-Preston. “Kevin was producing, John was playing with The Glass, and Mark was playing the Secret Service.”
While mostly a side project for the rest of the group, Krock-Preston, 29, who was originally born in Memphis but grew up in Mobile, AL, has grabbed the reigns of the project and has plans for an epic double CD to be self-released in the fall. In the meantime, the band plans to continue doing warm up sets supporting other local acts, including opening for Arma Secreta and Augustine this Saturday at the Hi-Tone.
Krock-Preston started his Memphis music career after returning from Alabama to become an English major at The University of Memphis. Growing up in a family filled with musicians, he started playing guitar in his mid-teens.
“My mom and her dad are virtuoso pianists, and they tried to teach me piano, but I wasn’t interested. But my mom had a twelve string guitar, and I picked that up when I was 15,” he says. “Lately I’ve been inspired a lot by a CD my mom made for me of a symphony my grandfather (Robert Horsely) wrote that was performed by The Memphis Symphony Orchestra. That, and a lot of movie scores.”
With that type of musical background, it’s no wonder Krock-Preston sites as one of his biggest influences, other than The Beatles, as the illustrious Electric Light Orchestra.
“Jeff Lynn is one of my heroes, he’s a very understated rock star, he’s not even really a rockstar, he was just in a very popular,” explains Krock-Preston. “He produced a lot of really great records for Roy Orbison and The Traveling Wilburys.”
Before The Lights, Krock-Preston performed in another favorite Memphis band called Eighty Katie.
“We used to make up stories about where we got the name, we don’t remember, so we told people that it was an aeronautical maneuver that pilots used to get out of the way of missiles, and it just kind of stuck.”
The band played Cheap Trick inspired power pop while aspiring to irony-free arena rock.
“We weren’t being ironic; we wanted to be the biggest rock band in the world. We watched a lot of Kiss and took it to heart.”
After one local release, the band imploded and Krock-Preston found himself once again flying solo. Then by chance, he ended up in the studio recording a couple of cover songs with Cubbins and Stuart, and the seeds of The Lights were planted.
“We never really mapped out anything, initially it was going to be very basic rock in the vein of arena rock, but over the course of the first few months as I was writing songs for it, it changed, and I started watching Kubrick movies and I wanted to write really grand songs with vague lyrics that seemed epic.”
The sound is still heavily influenced by power pop but has also been described as sounding like Badfinger filtered through Ok, Computer.
In the meantime, before their debut CD is released, Krock-Preston plans to play more solo shows, which includes an opening slot for at Andrew Bryant’s CD release show June 1st at the Hitone. It’s a great outlet to try out new material and an excuse for him to play the piano; he’s still hoping to add more songs to his repertoire before The Lights begin recording songs next month for their ambitious double-disc debut.
“The goal is to make a great album, to have people enjoy the songs and the ultimate hope in some way, is to have a song you wrote impact someone’s life,” says Krock-Preston. “The first couple of years I was in the Lights, I had a nonchalant attitude, but now I really want people to see us because otherwise, you’re just playing to the soundman and the wall.”