Members: Lee Swinnen (vox, guitar), Peter Claes (guitar), Bart Weyens (bass) and Niels Moras (drums)
Home: Diest, Belgium
Sound: dark neo-psychedelia interwoven with 60s spiritual pop tunes…
Album: finally Tubelight’s firstborn, titled ‘Heliosphere’, is arrived – an electrifying debut LP that bathes in the inexhaustible melting pot of the mind-blowing side of the experimental sixties, characterized by hazy ‘across the universe’ soundscapes, ‘spirit in the sky’ pop chants, floating vocals, trippy effects, tons of reverberation & feedback – you can hear sonic snippets of all of these ingredients on ‘Heliosphere’ but in contrast to the bright, multi colored and surreal visuals of that incomparably decade the band seems to be fascinated by only one color… black – the heliosphere is the region of space dominated by the sun (I did my homework) – but so far ‘Tubelight’ prefers a meditative stay somewhere at the dark side of the moon – the songs’ stories are about anger, depression, suicide and death – not exactly themes to start wild parties with – a search into the obscure, unknown territory of the soul and mind dominates the record – the perfectly appropriate and strangely catching soundtrack that Tubelight produced to match their melancholy and darkness is highly captivating – the quartet traveled with their time machine constantly between San Francisco and New York but only at night and that makes this debut album quite special and peculiarly attractive…
Highlights: Visions / Coming After You / White City / Suzy’s Suicide / I Wanna Hit ..
Explore: here’s ‘Heliosphere’ in full…
Frontman and singer/songwriter Lee Swinnen will tell us all and more about his band and his music – Hello Lee, thanks for joining us…
When and where was the band conceived?
Lee Swinnen: “We started out a long time ago, we’ve been around for almost 6 – 7 years now, I think. We knew each other from the youth club in our local town, which acts like a gathering place for kids who are into alternative music. We got to talking and found out we all pretty much had similar taste in music. We decided to form a band and started meeting up in my basement on a daily basis. At first we basically just met up to smoke pot, hang out, talk about music etc… But we gradually started taking things more seriously, which led us to enter some contests which would give us some nice exposure. We made it into the finals of Humo’s Rock Rally (a prestigious rock contest in Belgium), we released a few singles and now we’re here.”
What’s the story behind the band’s name?
Lee Swinnen: “I liked the idea of having an inanimate object as a band name. It’s just so happens to be that there’s an old, barely functioning fluorescent light in our rehearsal space and it just seemed kind of fitting to name the band after that. It still works after all those years.”
When do four individuals know and decide : “this is it, this is how we want to sound and what we want to play”?
Lee Swinnen: “It’s a natural process I guess. Way back in the beginning we were just having fun and gradually started discovering what we wanted to sound like. It was always there, it just took a while to manifest itself. At first we played what we thought people wanted to hear because we were young and inexperienced, I’d like to think that Tubelight really started when we became more stubborn and played what we wanted to play regardless of what people might think.”
It took the band quite a while to come up with the debut album. Any specific reasons for that?
Lee Swinnen: “A debut album is such an important step for any band, we didn’t wanna rush it. We learned from our past mistakes and basically waited until we felt comfortable enough to release an album we could be really proud of. I’d like to think we did a pretty good job at that.”
On the album’s opener ‘Visions’ there’s a line ‘take this trip and let it slip to your subconscience’. Should we call our dope dealer or will the music show us the way?
Lee Swinnen: “Hey man, whatever floats your boat.”
Who is / are the songwriter(s) of the band?
Lee Swinnen: “I come up with the raw demo’s/song-ideas. Then I send them to the rest of the band, see what they think. If they’re all on board we’ll fine-tune the songs until everyone’s 100% satisfied with the results. Usually this entails experimenting with different sounds or messing around with the song structures until we’ve reached the maximum potential of a song.”
‘Going Through Hell’, ‘Suzy’s Suicide’, ‘No Love’ and ‘I Wanna Hit’. These songs are definitely not about the birds and the bees. Is the world such a bad place to live in?
Lee Swinnen: “The only way you can reach people with your music is by giving them the most authentic/honest experience possible. The entire point of being a musician or an artist is to give the listener an inside view of your own environment. I prefer to write about dark subject matter because it feels more real to me. Everyone feels like shit every once in a while. On a more personal level it helps me as a person to deal with my own demons and to express myself through music. It’s an outlet I couldn’t do without.”
The first time I saw Tubelight live I was blown away by the ‘volume’. Deliciously loud in contrast to the much moodier sound on record. A natural process or an intentional decision?
Lee Swinnen: “Bit of both. In a studio you get to experiment with different sounds which you can mold until you’ve found exactly what you’re looking for. Live shows should always be about energy, that’s why we prefer to play at a passionately loud volume, so that the listener can lose him/herself in the music.”
What’s on the stereo in the tour van nowadays?
Lee Swinnen: “Last gig we spent the ride back home listening to ‘Night Beats’, great band to listen to whilst being on the road.”
What would you do if you were offered a big record deal with the unconditional obligation to move and to live in San Francisco, home of many psych bands?
Lee Swinnen: “WHERE DO I SIGN? ”
Which album would you steal from your parents’ record collection?
Lee Swinnen: “I’d have to go for Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures. My parents have the original pressing in mint condition from back in the day, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Is playing in a band actually ‘the best job in the world’ ?
Lee Swinnen: “Only if you’re real passionate about music, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.”
The number one artist on your list to do a world tour with?
Lee Swinnen: “I’d be up to do a world tour with any artist as long as we can identify with their music. I don’t think we’re very picky on that part.”
If you could travel in time what artist would you jam with on stage?
Lee Swinnen: “I would have liked to jam out with Spacemen 3 during their heyday. Sitting on stage, droning for hours on end… almost sounds like a spiritual experience.”
Social media: a blessing or a pain in the ass?
Lee Swinnen: “Pros and cons, it’s easier to get in touch with people all around the world but on the other hand the market gets oversaturated quickly and it’s hard to get your name out there. It’s just the way it is I guess.”
The Scabs (the band of Lee Swinnen’s father) or dEUS?
Lee Swinnen: “dEUS, The Scabs suck.”
Swinnen believes in dEUS…
The Velvet Underground or The 13th Floor Elevators ?
Lee Swinnen: “I love both but I’m gonna have to go with The Velvet Underground. It’s just one of those bands I keep coming back to. And when it comes to beautiful lyrics Lou takes the cake, sorry Roky…”
Rock Werchter (biggest Belgian festival) or Glastonbury (biggest UK festival)?
Lee Swinnen: “I’ve never been to Glastonbury before but it can’t possibly be any worse than Rock Werchter.”
What’s the band’s ultimate ambition?
Lee Swinnen: “To make music that people can relate to and hopefully enjoy, and to inspire others to do the same. Life would be a boring mess without music or art in general.”
Many thanks to Lee Swinnen for taking time for this Q & A ! May the road rise with Tubelight…
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