Published on February 27th, 2014 | by TLV News1
Light Beam Rider: Mississippi’s Next Great Contribution to the Music Scene (by Suanne Strider)
by Suanne Strider
The above lines are from Light Beam Rider’s, “A Song About Some Byrdz,” one of the many exceptional songs off their 2013 debut album, Mississippi. The first time I heard this song I immediately fell in love with the music, but once I figured out the lyrics I was really blown away. As an Ole Miss alumna with a B.A. in English and Minor in Philosophy and Religion, I love a good metaphor. These verses are not only poetically beautiful; they construct a very logically successful analogy pondering the nature of God. It takes a special talent to relay such meaningful lyrics through kick-ass, head-banging rock-and-roll. After listening to Mississippi in its entirety, I had to see if these guys could pull off live what they so brilliantly laid down in the studio.
My first Light Beam Rider show taught me it is not just their music that seriously rocks their shows—their fans are nothing short of fantastic. The band has a very dedicated fan base. Everyone seemed to know the words to the songs and they all sang along while dancing furiously. At one point, a rabid, shirtless fan jumped onto the stage to sing a song with the band, and front man Thomas Sweat graciously allowed the guy to share his microphone for the whole song. The place went crazy for this stage crasher, and the band had a great time with it, too.
Light Beam Rider is a fine representation of the new generation of great musicians coming out of Mississippi. Much like The Weeks, with whom they have shared the stage many times, they seem to have their fingers directly on the pulse of the youth in Mississippi, and the music they create is great proof of that. These bands are creating a new genre of music uniquely their own and uniquely Mississippi. And yes, they sound just as good live as they do on studio recordings.
Light Beam Rider has become one of the most well-loved bands on the Oxford music scene—and the sentiment seems to be spreading like wildfire across the Southeast. Thomas Sweat, Daniel Sowards (lead guitar), Jesse Sutton (bass guitar), and Ian Man (drums) are experiencing amazing success with their Winter 2014 tour, and when it hits Proud Larry’s on Friday, February 28th with Wolf Cove, Bella Machine, and a “VERY SPECIAL GUEST,” they will no doubt have another packed house filled with great music and wild fun.
Thomas Sweat sat down with me recently to give me some insight into Oxford’s newest music sensation.
How did Light Beam Rider come about?
We started as an instrumental noise rock band back in 07, but it was a completely different band. I had been in a “screamo” band in high school, but was looking to do something different. People recommended that I get in touch with Ian [Manis]. He was drumming for a metal band called Bushhog Suicide. However, we disbanded and then formed again in late 09 with a completely new sound. We still liked the name, though, so we kept it. We almost changed the name to “Sleepy Head” and “Stoop Kids.” I’m so glad we didn’t.
Where do you get inspiration for your songs?
The music mainly comes from just extended jams we do, and then I try to form some kind of structure amongst the madness. (laughs) The lyrics on our first album had a lot to do with me dealing with the passing of two of my closest friends, one being the first lead singer of Light Beam Rider. Also, a lot of them had to do with me realizing I was living too hard and careless, and reflecting on past decisions.
Who wrote “A Song About Some Byrdz”, what does it mean, and what was the inspiration for that song?
I wrote a good bit of that song with our friend Brooks Pratt. The song is actually about how I see God, or what have you, as a skyscraper and how everyone can look at the same thing a different way, be you an atheist or Bible thumper. My ideas of spirituality are confused at best, but after losing two close friends I thought about things a lot and the song’s really just about me trying to make sense of everything in my own head.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Brand New, Donovan, Colour Revolt, Rod Stewart.
How would you describe your band’s particular style of music?
Jackson Free Press called us “post-rock jam bliss.” I like that.
Where did you record Mississippi?
With Winn McElroy out in Water Valley, Miss., at Black Wings Studio.
Are you connected to any other studio or label in Oxford?
We’re connected to Winn McElroy for life. He is our brother. Recording an album is a very up and down experience and Winn helped us through our first one with great poise. I can’t imagine doing an album anywhere else.
Do you see yourselves moving to a place like Nashville to further your music career, or do you think you want to stay based in Mississippi?
I would prefer to stay in Mississippi. All of the people and contacts we have been talking to recently live in Nashville, so it might be more economical for us to live there for a while. However, I will bury my bones in Mississippi, no doubt.
Light Beam Rider is currently working on their second album, with an anticipated release date of Fall 2014. Their debut album Mississippi is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, and can also be found at Oxford’s End of All Music, as well as other independent record stores across the Southeast. Oh—and the show at Proud Larry’s on February 28th is Thomas Sweat’s Birthday Extravaganza, so everyone please be sure to buy him a shot.
This article was originally printed in TLV #198 (published February 20, 2014). To download a PDF of this issue, CLICK HERE.