An Interview With Pop-Rock Trio THE RUNNING LIGHTS!
Posted On 11 Apr 2017
Meet the pop/rock trio The Running Lights! On March 31st, they released their single “Once Upon A Time.”
Following an appearance on NBC’s The Voice Season 3 and a successful touring career opening and playing for Atlantic Records recording artist Melanie Martinez, singer/guitarist Mike Squillante formed The Running Lights in the summer of 2015 with his brother Nick.
The trio has since released four well received live covers, garnering over 50,000 views while targeting Mike’s substantial YouTube fan base. The band will be releasing an EP to follow “Once Upon A Time” in late April.
Follow The Running Lights Here:
“Once Upon A Time” music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g0Jg7oRSMs
Learn more about The Running Lights in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? What were some of the highlights? What are you most excited about for 2017?
2016 was both developmental and experimental for us. We actually had an entire EP ready to be released early in the year but we ended up scrapping it completely. We’re definitely perfectionists and being a new act we really wanted to take advantage of the fact that no-one was expecting or telling us to sound a certain way yet. The only expectations were our own and we weren’t quite living up to them with our first batch of songs. So we went back to the drawing board for what seemed like months until we felt like we had really put our best foot forward song-wise and mix-wise.
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
My brother Nick and I come from a musical background; our dad is a professional pianist and a teacher so we were lucky enough to have music surrounding us at all times growing up. It was always going to music one way or another for us. My earliest musical memory is hearing “All My Loving” by The Beatles at the age of three blaring through my house. Nick used to sing along to a now defunct country station, Y107, that my mom absolutely loved. Steve remembers feeling the gut-punch of a four-on-the-floor kick drum in the back of his mom’s car. The song stopped but he couldn’t.
How did you come up with your band name and how did you all meet each other? Was it difficult to narrow it down? What other names were you considering?
Well, Nick and I are brothers so we’re stuck with each other for life! We’ve always had bands over the years so we figured why not pool our resources? Our drummer Steve and I were in several bands together growing up. He knows the musical language we speak and it enables us to work very quickly in rehearsals. He’s basically our brother from another mother.
As far as the band name goes I was on a particularly long flight during a Melanie Martinez promo tour, before The Running Lights started. On tours like that the only downtime we seemed to have was when we flew so I had made it a habit to try to write a complete song in my head and have it finished in my notebook between takeoff and landing. I knew that I’d use this material for some project, I just didn’t know when or for what. I remember looking up and down the aisle on the plane, tracing the tiny running lights on either side and it just popped into my head so I wrote it down. Once I saw it on paper it took on more meaning than just some lights on a plane. We’re all lights. You can live switched on or you can live switched off. But if you’re a running light it means your soul is in motion; you’re a moving, learning, growing blur of speed and energy and you can’t be stopped. There’s also the obvious rebellious, rule-breaker, hell-raiser connotation of going through a red light, making your own rules. But we definitely don’t wanna encourage anyone to actually start running red lights. Drive safe out there!
At the end of the month, you will release your single, “Once Upon A Time.” Can you talk about this track came together and what was the inspiration for it? How does this song prepare listeners for your forthcoming EP?
We wanted to have a track with that rolling bass sound reminiscent of modern Taylor Swift coupled with the lonely heart aspect of The 1975 or Nick Jonas. Once we got a groove together with a bass progression the rest of the production took shape quickly over the course of a day, the song, the lyrics, everything. “Once Upon A Time” is a reverse fairy tale told from the point of view of a hopeless romantic. I think we’ve all been in that position at least once in our lives. It’s knowing your entire love story, every precious memory, every tender moment, every laugh and every tear before any of it happens. The one thing you don’t know is how it begins, how to tell someone that you’re head over heels for them and you have been for some time. Each song on our forthcoming EP is written in that top 40 pop format. They touch on the general idea that although people may seem like they’re cool with a tough exterior, there is often a storm of different emotions brewing beneath their skin.
You have previously released four well-received live covers. Can you talk about putting those together and how you chose what songs to cover? Do you plan on releasing any more covers soon?
Releasing cover songs is largely about timing. The cover song market on YouTube is usually overflowing with millions of versions of the same song. If you can be first to that party it can be very beneficial to you. Also, when adapting another artist’s song to your band’s sound, it’s important to keep in mind that something about the song is already connecting with people, so preserving the songwriting itself is super important. Our drummer Steve chose Ellie Goulding’s “On My Mind” because he heard a rock drumming part behind it he could pull off. We chose Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” because the original version is so bare we were able to take it anywhere we wanted. I love Billy Joel’s music and “Movin’ Out” has a similar chord progression to “Death of a Bachelor” by Panic at the Disco. I think it’s our most musically complex cover to date in terms of what we’re all playing on it. Nick chose “Straight Up & Down” by Bruno Mars because, well, it’s Bruno f—ing Mars! We also wanted a one-shot, one-take cover to show everyone we’re real.
What was it like being on NBC’s The Voice Season 3? What did you learn from that experience? Would you do it again if you could?
It was the best worst experience of my life. I learned that success is not based on talent alone. In fact requires so much more than just being good at your craft; you’ve got to be a hustler in terms of personality. I don’t mean be fake asshole to everyone you meet. I mean find what it is that’s original about you; discover the pieces of you that make you unique and amplify those pieces. It’s about what sets you apart, not what allows you to fit in. I went into The Voice thinking I knew what they wanted to see. When it didn’t pan out in my favor I had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out that I’m way better of not designing myself or The Running Lights after an set model. That being said, I made some wonderful friends on the show that I still keep to this day. My touring relationship to Melanie Martinez would never have happened had we not been involved in Season 3 together! So yeah. Best worst experience!
Do you have plans to tour much this year? Where can fans see you perform live next?
We’d like to do some small-scale acoustic touring later in 2017. Like coffee shop vibe. Being a new band, it’s really important to us to be able to connect on a small scale, face-to-face with fans of our music out there. We wanna get to know and hang with our fan base as much as possible in this early part of the band’s life, then come back a blow the doors off a venue with a full-scale show. Right now the dates we have are all in our city, New York. We’ll be at Bowery Electric on March 27th, Pianos on April 20th, and Rockwood Music Hall on May 24th!
Who are some of your favorite musicians? What musicians would you love to work with in the future?
I’m a huge Beatles nerd; I know everything there is to know about them. I’m almost a Beatles historian. Modern artists I Iove would be The 1975, John Mayer, and I’d love to play some blues with Gary Clark Jr. Nick’s favorites for 2016-17 are John Bellion, Bruno Mars, and 21 Pilots. Steve’s picks are drum-driven bands like Blink 182, In Flames, and August Burns Red. I think we’d all love to work with Zedd in a production sense, and we’re huge fans of Julian Bunetta’s work.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
We all, as humans, feel hundreds of emotions every second. Some things are better left unsaid, but that doesn’t mean all things have to stay inside. I’d say we want our music to speak to anyone who’s ever been insecure or embarrassed about the way they feel about a certain situation. We want to encourage those people to be open about their feelings! And not solely feelings of love and loss, but about anything and everything. SPEAK YOUR HEART!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
We’re as independent as it gets at this point in our band’s life. We’re proud to be extremely self-sufficient on all fronts from the songwriting process, through the production, through the mixing and mastering, to the release. Everything you’ll hear in the coming months truly came from us. We’re firm believers in real songs, clever hooks, smart lyrics, and giving listeners “all the feels!” Lots of love – Mike Squillante, The Running Lights