Headlights | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Jan 01, 2006 Web Exclusive Photography by Michael Lum Bookmark and Share

Comprised of former Absinthe Blind and Maserati members, Champagne-Urbana, Illinois’ Headlights play dreamy, orchestral comfort music. They can also rock, in a beautiful guitar-effects way, and the gorgeous male/female harmonies lend the four tracks on their Enemies EP depth and warmth. The Enemies EP was self-released in the fall of 2004 and eventually sold-out. The EP was recently re-released by Polyvinyl Records (also the home to Of Montreal). Look for a full-length sometime in 2006.

Headlights current line-up is Tristan Wraight on guitars and vocals, Erin Fein on keyboards and vocals, and Brett Sanderson on drums. We spoke to Wraight about the break-up of Absinthe Blind, the formation of Headlights, and the band’s plans for 2006.

Under the Radar: Since many of you were once members of Absinthe Blind, why did that band break up?

Tristan Wraight: The band decided to call it quits after Adam (the singer) quit to pursue domestic and career based goals. He wrote the lyrics in all the Absinthe Blind songs, which is a pretty major part of a band’s aesthetic and in addition. Most of us had been in that band since high school and we needed something new. Headlights was formed out of the members who wanted to stay on the road touring, those who didn’t want to tour, left.

UTR: Erin was in a band called The Orphans after the Absinthe Blind break up. Who was in that band and what kind of music did you make?

Tristan: Orphans was Seth on drums, Erin on keys and vox, and Brett on bass and programming. The songs were dancey synthy things. They were a lot of fun and a couple of the tunes evolved into Headlights songs.

UTR: What made you decide to form Headlights?

Tristan: After Absinthe Blind, I toured for a few months with Maserati, a post rock instrumental band from Athens, GA. Erin, Brett and Seth started Orphans to keep making music and to stay busy. It was always assumed that we would all come back together to start another project. When I came back we all collaborated on various things that we had written and that was that, we went on tour as soon as we had half an hour of material. Tour has always been what we’ve loved to do.

UTR: It’s been over a while since the original Enemies EP release. When can you expect a full-length?

Tristan: We will start recording in mid January, planning to release the full-length in August ‘06. There are also plans for a 7” in the spring sometime.

UTR: Are Headlights currently a three piece? If so what happened to your drummer and how is being a trio effecting the music?

Tristan: Yes we are - power trio. Well, our drummer left the band because he sort of fell out of love with sleeping on stranger’s floors. He was booking clubs in town and that started going really well, so he started promoting and booking bands as well. He is actually our booking agent now. Brett, our bass player is actually a drummer that we forced to play bass, so naturally he went back to the drums. Erin has a couple of keyboards and a melodica. I switch between bass and guitar and we use some sampling. We hope that the live sound is still big with only three people.

UTR: “Tokyo” is one of my favorite tracks on the Enemies EP. What is that song about and how was it created?

Tristan: I wrote that song while I was on tour with Maserati in Japan. It’s just one of those songs about being in a low place. It was a reflective time and I had some stuff going on. I’m glad you like it.

UTR: What is your song writing process like? Do you have a principal songwriter or is the band more of a democracy?

Tristan: Erin and I both write songs. Generally one of us will have a song or an idea that we bring to put together as a group. We all decide on what happens though, we’re very democratic.

UTR: Tristan, was it difficult for you to make the transition to being the singer in the band?

Tristan: It was probably harder for Erin and Brett than for me. I didn’t have to listen to me learning how to sing. It was sort of embarrassing, so I just started out really quiet, but we love harmonies so it had to be done.

UTR: What can we expect from Headlights in 2006?

Tristan: The 7” in the spring, which might be a split, we’re not sure, and the full-length in the fall. Also, a lot of touring. We will be on tour with Metal Hearts down to South by Southwest in the spring.

UTR: Is the band still based in Champaign-Urbana? Why there and not a bigger city like Chicago?

Tristan: We’re country folk man! Chicago is nice, but we have low rent, lots of space and a tight, supportive music scene. Polyvinyl is here and it’s nice to be able to communicate easily with them. To be honest, we really don’t see much benefit to living in a bigger city than a smaller town, if things are happening. Champaign has a great scene with a lot of fantastic bands.

UTR: How would you describe your sound?

Tristan: Um, nostalgic? We love good melodic music. We love pop music. We don’t have rules or pursue specific guidelines in our song writing, it just comes out the way it does. Sometimes we try to make people dance.



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January 10th 2011

The style of music that the Headlights play is a very controlled, nuanced recording that is as dreamy as much of the other music on Polyvinyl. Like former Polyvinyl act The Red Hot Valentine, the inclusion of a synthesizer really pushes the track into an emotion-conveying mood. The sad thing for fans and reviewers alike is that everything is so smooth and blemish free that tracks slide away like butter; by the time one actually gets into the CD it is half-way over .“Rolex Submariner