Rocket Queen: Bright Magnetic Blackness

A new album on tap for the Lights; Champagne Champagne pops a 7-inch cork.

Just after 8 p.m. on an unseasonably warm Thursday in February, local punk band the Lights are wrapping up their weekly practice, hoping that the residents of the newly built condos next door don't call the cops. Though they're only on their third record, the forthcoming Failed Graves, drummer P.J. Rogalski, guitarist/vocalist Craig Chambers, and bassist/vocalist Jeff Albertson have been playing together for more than a decade, and give off the healthy air of a powerful trio with a long history. Yet the edgy, bright-toned hue of the guitar-driven rock they're pounding out sounds reckless enough to be the handiwork of a freshly minted band.The trio flops down in a media room adjacent to Albertson's living room, where the band practices. Albertson tosses One Foot in the Grave, Beck's anti-folk collaboration with Calvin Johnson, on the turntable and cracks the first of several Pabsts. With music in the background, the band recounts their origins in Boise (when they were called "Mass Love" for reasons that escape them now), their experience living in a group house in the U District in the late '90s ("We practiced every day, even if it was only for half an hour," recollects Albertson), and their current state as relaxed 30-somethings who enjoy each other's company now even more than they did in their younger years."Collectively, we've come to an understanding about how a Lights song is going to sound," says Rogalski, expanding upon their approach to writing Failed Graves, which will drop locally at the band's record-release party at the Funhouse this Friday, Feb. 26. "It may not sound like a previous Lights song or anything we've ever imagined, but there's definitely a group-think mentality at this point."The album was recorded in early 2009 with local producer Erik Blood. Basic tracks were laid down at Georgetown's Mysterious Red X Studios shortly before the band departed for a two-week tour with Obits, the latest project from postpunk underground legend Rick Froberg, and the vocals were recorded in Albertson's living room when they returned.The Lights' sound has grown from the starker efforts of the past to a lusher and more detailed document that embellishes the band's angular, aggressive sound with sharper pop sensibilities. "I think we've put more production into it...more layering of tracks," explains Chambers, who also fronts two side projects, Lovetan and Le Sang Song. "Things that wouldn't necessarily happen live...whereas before we were really strict about only doing what we could play live."Albertson also maintains a side project outside the Lights: Lamborghiniz is his goof with local MC Silky Pete."I honestly love late-'90s, Miami-booty bass," confesses Albertson. "I have a deep love and respect for that; it's a lot harder than people realize. Not that we can stand in the same corner as that genre, but it's a tribute to it. Hedonistic? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. A ton of fun? Yes!"No one could ever say that local hip-hop favorites Champagne Champagne were anything less than hedonistic, but they also take their partying seriously. This past Friday night they were gathered in the Capitol Hill apartment of MC Sir Thomas Gray, enjoying the company of a handful of friends, including Cat and Stasia of THEESatisfaction.The two groups are gearing up to celebrate their split seven-inch at a release party at the Can Can in Pike Place Market this Thursday, Feb. 25. Each side of the single features both bands, with the song "Magnetic Blackness" already an infectious hit on the radio and at local clubs. The beat was originally conceived by DJ Gajamagic (aka Mark Gajadhar, who also drums with art-punks Past Lives), just before the band left for South by Southwest in 2009."While we were [in Austin], Thomas started chanting 'magnetic blackness!' all the time," remembers Gajadhar. "It was our kind of phrase for the weekend. And we got back to the studio and they were freestyling, and Pearl was chanting 'magnetic blackness' over and over as Thomas was rapping. When we got back to Seattle, we thought it would be cool to have THEESatisfaction chanting 'magnetic blackness' all through the song while we rapped."The release party will also be a one-off revival of Phizz!!!, Champagne Champagne's former party night held at the now-defunct McLeod Residence. Says MC Pearl Dragon, "We just liked it, wanted it to be off the Hill, [and] keep it authentic to how we started: a dirty, sweaty party in a small venue where people can get drunk and sweat and push each other."

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