Talking playgrounds and politics with Peaking Lights’ Aaron Coyes

Monday 01st, December 2014 / 14:47
By Thalia Stopa

Peaking-LightsVANCOUVER — Although Aaron Coyes describes the experience as “intense,” bringing three-and-a-half year old Mikko and one-and-a-half year old Marlon on Peaking Lights’ recent European tour forced him and wife/bandmate Indra Dunis to see the region from a completely different perspective. In addition to visiting Switzerland for the first time, admiring the San Sebastian region of Spain, and playing a remarkable sound system in Brixton, the band wound up on an unlikely tour through what Coyes describes as the “Playgrounds of the World.”

“They [Mikko and Marlon] got to play on some crazy playgrounds…The slide in Switzerland that we went on was like three stories tall! It was like a tube-slide for most of it because it was so high up…it was all windy…it was so nuts. It’s like a ‘70s style playground.”

In a way this detour through the kitschy playgrounds of Europe and the ride down a borderline sketchy slide is the perfect metaphor for Peaking Lights’ third full-length album, Cosmic Logic. This fall’s LP release is a mutually kid- and adult-friendly fun and twisting sonic ride. There’s ample upbeat reggae influence and sunshine to make the 11 tracks of minimal electronic psych-pop innocuous enough for the whole family to enjoy. Its polish is deceptively mature-sounding for a band still very much rooted in the DIY approach. It’s an album reflective of the duo’s strong family values, matched by their collective political consciousness and distinctly West Coast sun-worshipping attitude.

It’s unsurprising to discover that the couple travels with their entire family unit, as their children have already been involved in other aspects of their music – Mikko’s gurgling was featured on 2012’s Lucifer album and the toddler costarred in the DIY psychedelic video for the album single “Beautiful Son.” However, raising children whilst having a career that demands involvement in social media is “a double-edged sword.” Coyes and Dunis have a “no media policy” at home and are proponents of the creative-based Waldorf school system. Coyes’ time in film school informs much of his philosophy around parenting. He believes that we need to acknowledge the power of the moving image on children’s early development. As he sees it, media “should be taught as a language,” in order to remove the exoticism and mysticism around film and television. “It’s like if you’re looking at a picture book and you don’t know what the story is and you start making up in your imagination what the pictures are. And then, all of a sudden, when you read the words…you don’t like the story anymore.” Another irksome side of technology, according to Coyes: cellphones at live shows. “You go to shows now and everybody’s got their fucking phone up and taking pictures. What happened to just enjoying it? The videos look so shitty anyway…”

“We [himself and Indra] are both very political people in our hearts and [we] view equality as something very important to us.” This attitude comes through loud and clear on new track “New Grrls.” The couple’s ties to the ‘90s riot grrrl scene is communicated on the lo-fi electro-pop shout-out track, which is reminiscent of Kathleen Hannah’s post-Riot Grrl band Le Tigre’s “Hot Topic.” In fact, Dunis’ first band, Tractorman, was a Riot Grrl band and she was more than once in the audience for a Bikini Kill show. Coyes lists Huggy Bear, Spitboy and Tribe 8 as memorable shows he attended during the height of that scene. Whereas Peaking Lights normally chooses lyrical metaphor to convey an underlying political message in their music, circumstances while they were writing for the album – including last summer’s protests in Austin, Texas surrounding anti-abortion laws- inspired a more straight-forward approach for “New Grrls.”

When prompted to think further back to his own childhood, specifically his earliest musical memories, Coyes laughingly recalls a particularly traumatic childhood experience involving a drum set. “My grandma actually reminded me because my mom got our kids a drum set for the last Christmas… I totally forgot that my mom’s mom had got me a drum set. And I was so stoked on it! But then it like disappeared. My dad got rid of it. It was like this memory that I had locked up. And it made me so pissed because I probably would have been a drummer.” Aaron grew up in the country, in a small beach town between Los Angeles and San Francisco, where “it would have been the perfect spot for me to play drums.” He still writes or programs most of the drumming for Peaking Lights, but relies on Dunis to play them live.

Peaking Lights is continuing their tour in support of this fall’s album release, Cosmic Logic, with a few Northwest Coast dates the beginning of December.

Peaking Lights perform a late show at the Fox Cabaret December 5th.

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