Catching up with DC Soulpunk Band: Lightmare

Lightmare (Photo Credit: Mike Kim)

As part of DC Music Review's "Made in the DMV" series, we like to highlight bands that were cultivated right here in our community. One band that has continuously caught my eye over the past couple of years is Lightmare, a "six-person soulpunk arrangement making songs about love, death, and revolution, in any order and definitely overlapping." 

Some of the members of Lightmare first met as part of DC's Hat Band, named so because participant names are picked out of a virtual "hat" and then randomly paired with other musicians with varying skill level. Lightmare had serendipity on their side, and turned it into something dynamic, kinetic, and necessary on the scene.

Their sound has been described as "smooth and sharp, warm and galvanizing, punchy, political and personal." To me, their songs feels like whimsy and pop-punk and authenticity so perfectly mixed that when it's blending in your ears, you can't help but grab a ladle and sing along. They are a testament to what the right ingredients, chemistry, and vibe can do.

 Lightmare is thrilled to be playing a show on Friday night at Black Cat with two other jaw-droppingly original DC bands: the genre-bending pop surf punk band Born Dad, and the hypnotic indie pop band, Lotion Princess. 

 I had a chance to connect with Lightmare ahead of this big show to find out more about what makes them tick.



Nina Goodman: Hi Lightmare folx, thank you so much for connecting with me! So you all are a dynamic, funky bunch in concert and after I saw you, I couldn't wait to talk to you and hear your story. First off, tell me about the members of your band. 

Lightmare: We are so happy to talk with you and thank you for reaching out! So, we have six people in the band: 

  • Featuring Shady (they/them) on lead vocals
  • Vitamin Dee (she/her) on keys and backing vocals
  • Matty K (he/him) on sax
  • Beck (he/him) on guitar
  • Yousef (he/him) on drums, and
  • Frankie (x/x) on bass. 


NG: And where is everyone from? Any DC natives? 

Shady: I was born and raised right here in Washington, DC!

Dee: Houston, but I’ve been in DC for 12 years and have no intention of leaving. Still, anyone know where I can buy some good fresh flour tortillas?

Frankie: I’m originally from Lodi, NJ.

Matty: Richmond, VA. I think I love it even more than Dee loves Houston, which is a preeeeee-ty high bar.  RVA ALL DAY (laughs)!

Beck: Scranton, PA, like the Office (more laughs).

Yousef: Northern Virginia.


NG: So lots of DMV represented. And I'll get back to you on the flour tortillas. So how did your beautifully motley crew meet? 

Shady: The original arrangement of the band met as a Hat Band in the yearly showcase fundraiser for Girls Rock! DC. Others joined on at different times later, connected through awesome friendships and the extended DC music family.

Lightmare
Lightmare


NG: How cool! One of my bands also formed from Hat Band. That's one of the great things about the DC music scene, there are a lot of opportunities to meet musicians through jazz and open jams and things like the Hat Band and 7DrumCity's Flashband.

​​So question for each of you, at what point in your life did you start playing or really getting into music? 

Shady: I always had music around me growing up. Learned to sing and play these West African drums as part of the beautiful and invigorating traditional festivals of my culture. I was classically trained as a singer starting in elementary school and carried that on to learn many styles and uses for the voice. I always look for new things to learn and challenge myself.

Dee:  I was in piano lessons as soon as I could read. Whether I practiced and took them seriously, on the other hand… (smile).  My mom got me into a bunch of classical music that very much informs my writing. My dad was also a radio DJ back in the day. Listening to a variety of music and going to shows was a huge part of my upbringing.

Matty: I started playing the sax at about eleven when I was in middle school. It seemed more appealing to me than language classes, extra gym class or the other electives. It was one of the best decisions I have made in life. Music and the arts are so enriching and compliment all facets of personal development.

Beck: Music has always been a huge part of my life and I don’t know what I would do without it.  My grandmother loved singing and sang in the church choir for her entire life. She had a large part in arranging and managing the choir of the church I grew up attending. My dad performed in local bands throughout the 70's as a guitarist and vocalist and still plays guitar often.

I played drums from 4th to 7th grade, then tried to pick up the guitar and quit out of frustration. I spent a lot of time in high school with friends who were musicians but didn’t actually pick up guitar again until I was nineteen when a college roommate thankfully showed me a few things on his guitar, and I’ve been learning ever since.

Yousef: My first instrument were the Indian Tabla hand drums. My love for percussion and music progressed from there.


NG: That explains so much about why your sound so unique. You come from a myriad of backgrounds and experiences and bring it all together with such joy and connection.  So how long you’ve been playing in the DC scene? 

Shady: With Lightmare? For two and a half years at this point. Here and there with one-off projects and performances for several years, especially with my theater and performing arts company, CodAko Entertainment.

Dee: I’ve done a couple of short-term bands here and here, starting with Girls Rock! DC’s We Rock! Camp in 2014, but Lightmare is my first serious, long-term project.

Matty: Lightmare was my first band in DC. I played in bands when I was younger in Richmond and performing again was a goal of mine when I was staring down turning 30. Everyone should play music and join a band.

Shady (to Matty): Agreed!

NG: I triple that!

Beck: I used to go to jazz and swing jams at the now-closed Argonaut on H Street with my uncle when I moved here in 2015. Those were some of the most humbling and formative musical years for me, as I had the huge privilege of being able to sit in for a few tunes and share the stage with some seriously talented local musicians in an informal and low pressure environment. It was a very inspiring experience which drove me to take myself seriously and gave me the confidence to play — and mess up — in front of an audience. This led to wanting to develop original music and joining Lightmare, my first band.


NG: I love how for some of you, this is your first band experience after years of having music in your life. What a gift, especially to join something with as much personality and love as chemistry as this group.

I think your sound is so easy to love and access, but in no way simple. You draw on a lot of styles and grooves which makes sense now given your diverse backgrounds.

How do you think would your best friends describe your band and your music style?

Shady: That’s a tough one, haha! Some friends here and there have said we “invented a genre” or that “it doesn’t matter, we sound good,” which feels nice. My favorite response was someone who said we were “serious, dramatic, sexy, righteous, and silly all wrapped together.”

NG: So good.

Dee: In addition to Shady’s comments, I like, “party in a box.” Our official line is “soulpunk” for now, but I’ll also use “genre-bending” and “punk-adjacent.” A stranger once told me that we sound 70's “in the best way” which is also pretty rad.


NG: I love all of those things. And agree, you do have a sound that draws on a funkiness of the 70's but also feels really current.  Do you have any albums coming out or cool shows coming up? 

Shady: We’re playing the main stage at the  Black Cat on Friday, December 20th! It’s going to be a super awesome party with some really cool bands, Born Dad and  Lotion Princess.  We’re also starting preparation to record our sophomore EP in February — you’re the first to hear about it!

NG: That is awesome, congrats! 

Beck: We are really excited to get back in the studio. I think this next batch of songs follows our first album nicely and is a natural progression of our sound, which we are constantly exploring, shaping, and discovering.

Lightmare
Lightmare


NG: I can't wait to hear your new EP! And personally, think you all should go for a full length, I think you have something special going on here. I know songwriting and rehearsals and recording takes time and commitment. Talk to me about how you all balance your music with other life obligations.

Dee: None of us are full-time musicians YET (smile) so it’s a struggle to get all of our schedules aligned, obligations met, and spend as much time together as we’d like. Some of us are in the service industry, some work desk jobs. For all of us, though, Lightmare is a key part of our lives and schedules. It’s non-negotiable for those of us in the band. That isn’t true for everyone, always — we’ve had a little bit of lineup turnover because the focus band business and practice require can be a lot to deal with. But playing together is a highlight for us. For me, playing in the band is basic self-care. The fact that other people seem to like us too is a happy side effect.

Matty: I actually work in HVAC. It’s interesting because in Richmond, working a trade job or something like that was pretty typical. In DC, the first question is always, “so what do you do.” It’s fun in ways to exist in this city and not be involved with politics, lobbying, advocacy, and the like. My wife is super involved in those sorts of things and between both of our work and the band my life has sort of balanced itself in what I would say is perfect at this point in my life. More money would obviously be welcomed but I feel fulfilled mostly.

Beck: I strongly agree with Dee about playing in the band being basic self-care. I really feel that way about music and general and can’t go more than a few days — or more often a few hours — without playing my instrument or singing. It’s been exceedingly difficult to do this while holding down a day job in IT contracting. I’m lucky enough to be able to leave my day job at the end of the year for some time off to reset and refocus more intently on my musical development and figure out a way to generate income that is less of a drag on my creative, moral, and emotional life.


NG: And you all found time to make a video for your song GOOD NIGHT WHITE PRIDE. Tell me more about that.  

Beck: We filmed the video at The Emergence Community Arts Collective near Howard (University). Their mission is to empower the human spirit through social activities, traditional arts classes, support groups and educational seminars — and it was really nice to be able to find a space for the shoot that shared our values. The concept was dreamed up by our wonderfully talented Vitamin Dee, directed by Shady, and choreographed and filmed by some very good friends of the band that we have worked with before.

Dee: Through the Lab, we snowballed it into this vision of radical unity in diversity against oppression and injustice, featuring people from many of the marginalized groups that are targets of those violent oppressive forces. 

NG: It's a really powerful song, felt like a call to action.  

LM:  What surprised us was how energetic, galvanizing, cathartic, empowering it was to spend that time with a diverse group of artists and activists, old and new friends who came out just to help us express this idea. To say "no" to fascism, racism, bigotry in this particular way with us. In the end, the filming wasn't just work, it was an exultant expression of community. We all left sore and smiling.   


NG: Speaking of community, I want to hear about artists who you are listening to here in the DMV, and also your biggest musical influences in general? Let's start with musical influences.

Dee: Between the six of us? Can we just list everyone, ever, always? OH! We started a Spotify playlist to cover this. I had trouble editing mine down, so that’s why 50% of the songs were added by me (laughs).

NG: I know, it can be such a hard question to answer, but if this prompted you to create a playlist, then something is going right. I can't wait to check it!  (Which, post interview, I did, and it's fabulous! Any mix that has Darwin Deez it is a winner.)

Matty: For me, Heavy Metal like Lamb of God, Ska, Pop Punk, and Jimmy Buffett.

Beck: By far the biggest influence on me musically is Phish, who not only made me want to play the guitar, but opened me up to the spirit of improvisation, the community building power of music, and the importance of having of a DIY-as-much-as-possible attitude while putting your art into the world. They introduced me to new genres and I spent a lot of my early guitar days learning all their songs and going to all their shows — which I still do. Outside of that, I'd say jazz, funk, soul, and blues are all huge influences on me these days, both contemporary stuff and the classics. My most recent obsession has been with Steely Dan, who I think had a really amazing way of combining complex jazz harmony and technical virtuosity with pop songwriting to make great music that resonated with a whole lot of people.


NG: Ooooh, Steely Dan is so good. And tons of our readers would agree with you on Phish. And now I need to go deep dive into Lamb of God. 

Okay, now let's talk DC. Who are some local artists that excite you?

Lightmare
Lightmare

Shady: Most of my favorite musicians overall are DC musicians, truly. I really love Black Folks Don’t Swim?, Park Snakes, Clear Channel, Replicant Eyes, Bacchae, The CooLots, Black Alley and so so many more.

Dee: Yeah, the sheer breadth and density of musical talent in this city is unreal! In addition to everyone Shady mentioned, I dig Mock Identity and Flasher and The OSYX and BRNDA and Erotic Thrillers and Time is Fire and Literals and and and and….

Matty: Bad Moves, Kill Lincoln, Huda Asfour, Born Dad. There’s a lot of great music in this city, too many to list really.

Beck: Yes, Black Folks Don’t Swim?, also Aztec Sun, The OSYX, and Strangers that Clique are my current local faves.

NG: Yes to ALL of those! And I cover a lot of the DC scene and one of those names is new to me — but I won't tell you which one! —but I will be checking them out. And will be checking YOU out at the Black Cat on December 20!

Thank you SO much for taking the time to connect with me, it's been such a pleasure to get to know you all better.

Lightmare: Thank you so much, this has been a lot of fun and we appreciate what you do for the scene!

NG: You got it!


More info about Lightmare below:

Lightmare (Photo Credit: Les Tulusan)

Lightmare (Photo Credit: Les Tulusan)

Associated Album

Associated Album

Associated Album


Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Additional

Resources


To learn more about Lightmare, please see the following web resources:

Performance Details

Performance Details

Performance

Details


Friday, December 20, 2019

Door: 8:00 PM

Show: 8:30 PM

ALL AGES


Black Cat

1811 14th St. NW

Washington, DC 20009

View Map


$15 - In Advance

$15 - Day of Performance

BUY TICKETS NOW


About the author
Nina Goodman

Nina Goodman

Nina Goodman is a music lover, dancer, artist, keyboardist, and an avid ukulele player. You may even see her up on stage performing with local DC bands. Above all, Nina is a fierce supporter of the Washington DC local music scene. Nina's talents are mostly behind the scenes where she maintains and curates our event calendar and conducts interviews with local artists. If there is music playing in the DMV, you can expect to see her attending or at least making sure that our audience knows about it.