Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Light Pollution on the Internet (originally published in Jettison Quarterly)

Unfortunately I had to cancel my show last night. That Snotorious B.I.G. was the real deal. So instead of the typical Wednesday CHIRP playlist, here's an interview I did with Jim Cicero for the current issue of Jettison Quarterly. Click on that link. You can read the article at the source (with the pretty pictures, layout, and edits), and also check out the cover feature on the Chicago Independent Radio Project.

Light Pollution is a Chicago indie psych-rock band that has been playing chill-out shows
around town since 2005. The band signed to an independent record label in January of
2010. Before their signing with Carpark Records, the lead singer of the band had to do all
of work by himself. Jim Cicero explains what it took to keep the band alive, “We were
unsigned and I was booking all of our shows. We had no PR, no help from anybody.
It was all just me emailing people our tracks. I had sent a close-to-finished copy of
Apparitions to a handful of labels and was getting contacted by tons of them in December
and January, even some major labels. But I really felt comfortable with Carpark. Out of
all the labels, with everyone I got on the phone with I couldn’t talk to them for more than
five minutes without getting irritated or confused or misdirected. But Carpark is a great
label. They’re doing the right thing over there.”

With the label’s backing of their full-length album, Apparitions, Light Pollution has
since become somewhat of a buzz band in 2010. “We’ve gotten press from everybody
but in different amounts,” Cicero explains, “There’s been positive and negative, mostly
positive. But either way, people are noticing us, and that’s the big thing. There are a lot
of bands who put out amazing albums but were just on critics’ bad sides, so they get
horrible reviews for years until they put out one record that clicks.” Light Pollution has
been clicking ever since South by Southwest, touring nonstop with bands like Delorean,
Phantogram and Deerhunter.

Part of the reason for Light Pollution’s quick rise was the proliferation of attention they
received from blogs and Internet music communities. While some positive aspects can
be found in online marketing, Cicero has seen artists make attempts to flee the online
scene, “There were a lot of bands and people who would put out cassette tapes and tape
labels in recent years, just to get away from the internet culture with its blogs and critics,”
Cicero explains, “but now tapes are being reviewed online anyway. There’s no way to get
away from it. You have to just embrace it and do something genuine.”

Light Pollution’s acceptance of the Internet as a marketing tool combined with their old-
fashioned hard work has contributed to their recent success. Cicero remarks, “We’re in a
healthy medium I think. I used to put a lot of time into Light Pollution but now it seems
that we have a lot of people believing in us and will help take care of things. That is very

As long as Cicero is making the music he wants to make, he’s content with whatever
manner of marketing helps him. “I think the Internet is wonderful, for the only reason
that you can find the best music out there. Everything is available. But at the same time,
the Internet is a terrible thing, because now there are so many bands who can just have
one song that gets radio play, and then they’re playing for sold out crowds for their first

Cicero’s Midwestern work ethic shines through both on record and in the ways he
pushes his band forward into the indie spotlight. But something he believes no one
can ever experience on the Internet is the energy of a live show. “I’ll always know the
difference between live and the studio,” Cicero explains, “For me, in the studio I’m not

against doing overdubs and adding strings or doing whatever you want to make the song
whatever you want it to be. But live it’s supposed to be about energy. You might play
songs a little faster than you ever would in a recording and get into it, and that’s the only
way it should be.”

As long as there’s live music, the Internet will be more of a means than an end. The
real thing is more interesting than the virtual. But even as the two hybridize, Cicero
remains optimistic, “Just do what you want to do and make the record you want to make.
Everything is just going to keep molding together. So it’s either a ‘go with it’ or ‘get out’
kind of deal.”

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