Nebula from the Detroit based outfit Cosmic Light Shapes, has already become my favorite record of the fall season and a strong contender for a spot in my favorite albums of the entire year. The album is part psyche, punk, garage rock and even a bit of experimental all delivered with a pop sensibility that in some ways reminds me of early 90s era Flaming Lips.
With the band mostly playing around the Detroit area, I didn’t know much about them if it weren’t for a Facebook post by Jett Plastic Records (the label that has just released the band’s vinyl debut). After a single listen I was hooked! Not only the extremely catchy psyche pop the band offers but I was also intrigued by their originality. I knew that whoever was behind such an interesting album had to be an interesting person. Of course I was right.
I recently had the opportunity to have a talk with Cosmic Light Shape’s founder Eugene Strobe (vocals and guitar) a gifted artists as well as one of the scene’s most interesting personalities. He shed some light on how the band got started, what makes the band tick, and why local scenes are important.
For those who don’t know, who is Cosmic Light Shapes and what do they do exactly?
Eugene Strobe: We are a psych-pop-lo-fi-rock power trio from Detroit Michigan & we have been a band since 2009. We often play shows in and around Detroit and we record a lot of our practice sessions on smart phones. Now that our new vinyl record is out, we plan to do regional tours of the U.S. starting in 2017 & in celebration we will launch our smart phones into outer space.
How did this project come about and what is the mission statement?
Strobe: Prior to the band, Cosmic Light Shapes Nebula was a light show I was doing around town, so that’s been a name I’ve had for a while. But the actual band came about from a little project here in town where bands become other bands for Halloween. I always wanted to play in a project with our drummer, Zenas Jackson, so we decided to do learn the whole “Band Of Gypsys” record as our “act.” However, a week before our Halloween show, our then bass player moved to California. We then had a bunch of uneaten candy so Zenas and myself started the two-piece version of Cosmic Light Shapes as a result. Naming the first album “Nebula” was our way of paying homage to the light show from the early days. Our mission statement is simple: Write, Rock, & Roll.
I get so many different vibes from Nebula, what are some of your biggest influences?
Strobe: My personal influences as a kid were The Kinks, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bowie, Queen, John Lee Hooker, but then segued into Beck, Eno, Pulp, Verve, Funkadelic, Sun Ra, etc. — I feel very fortunate that I grew up during a time of great music from the past, present, & future here in this region. Having strong college free-form radio at my disposal really introduced me to a lot of great sounds I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Also growing up in Detroit we have always had a strong blues, jazz, funk, Motown, influence and a strong core of rock from the Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, etc. The indie/neo-garage music scene here in town right when I started going to clubs & bars was really world-class in relation to sonic diversity and quality. So I suppose all of those influences seeped into the music on the record. — The record also has songs from when I first started writing as a teen, til present day. So there is a wide range there for me as a writer personally.
It’s good to hear this album on vinyl and through Jett Plastic no less, how did that come about?
Strobe: Well to me a record isn’t officially out until it’s on vinyl. Call me a vinyl junkie, but that’s my personal feeling. Other formats are all well & good, but in my mind having the sounds dance off of the wax and the needle makes it extra magical for me. — Jett Plastic has been great. Any new label that is actually caring about putting out records gets a big gold star from me in my estimation. So much goes into being in a band and producing records that it’s virtually impossible, or at least very time consuming for one person to do it all. So when I saw that Jarrett was starting his label, I thought it was a perfect match because he had fantastic energy, vision and passion when putting it together, and I felt that matched my feelings regarding my music. So those collective energies really seemed like a good fit. Also it’s nice to have your record label based only a few miles away from where you’re living. So that is another big bonus.
For those of us who haven’t caught you guys live, how well does Nebula represent what you do as a band?
Strobe: “Nebula” for us is very representational and symbolic within the context of the album and our philosophy as a band. For us it’s a mystery waiting to unfold. It’s a million various particles, elements, thoughts and energies bouncing around, exploding, melding, swooning. — It represents celestial history but it also alludes to the beginning of something unique & forward thinking. Music is a continual journey and a growth, so that sums it up best I think in regards to our outlook.
What have you been listening to lately? Is there a particular favorite of 2016?
Strobe: Well, I have no more room in my house for actual records, and my floors are ready to cave in from the extra weight (haha), so I’ve actually been listening to a lot of broadcast radio. We have a cool AM station that plays oldies, 60’s, some garage, and vintage dance-pop. There are a few cool Canadian stations as well that play good music, like the CBC. The college station in town, WDET 101.9FM, has a variety of good music programming. — A few of the newer bands who I think are really great are Tame Impala, St. Vincent, War Paint, Arctic Monkeys, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I don’t know if they released anything new in 2016, but I suppose anything that catches the ear is a ‘favorite record’ of mine, regardless of era. I have a little saying “what’s good is good,” period.
Judging by your social media accounts, you seem to be really into local artists. How important are local indie scenes?
Strobe: It’s very important to support indie & local. That’s where everyone starts. Every big artist was local & indie at some point. In addition, some of the greatest bands of all time never ‘made it’ as they kicked-ass on every local or regional stage before imploding or never being recognized by the mainstream. — That is a major reason why I think local is such a great thing. You are supporting artists and musicians around you, experiencing it first hand, and hopefully inspiring friends and neighbors to do the same thing and create as well. — I think a scene is what we make it. If anyone complains about how their scene or town sucks, I feel it is that person’s responsibility to make it better or construct something vital. Invite the nerds, the freaks, the geeks, the brainiac, and the ditz with the preppy hair… You never know who will become your best friend, band mate, the next Salvador Dali, or Frida Kahlo, or the next guitar hero.
What’s next for you and Cosmic Light Shapes?
Strobe: Touring in support of “Nebula”, recording a new record for a Winter 2017 release, hitting up the summer festival circuit, making videos with Godzilla, and releasing a four-hour audio/visual project entitled “Wizards Walk”. More details to be announced….
Cosmic Light Shapes Nebula is available on vinyl exclusively at Jett Plastic Recordings in multiple special variants. Pick it up while supplies last by visiting their online store HERE
For more information on Cosmic Light Shapes, please visit their Facebook page