By Roger Barrett
About a decade ago, I saw Green Bullet with Drums — one of many projects of Lightbulb Detective Agency — play a small house to a handful of people. I knew the band, Du8 and Amjad Faur, but during their short set they seemed different, unknowable. Behind their songs was an absurd humor that I had never seen, something begging you to create. The manic nature of their performances was telling you to live. I saw Green Bullet with Drums play houses, art shows, coffee shops, places where weird music wasn’t supposed to happen. Not only are these among my favorite shows, they also reaffirmed the idea that music can be anything.
Since the late ’90s, LDA has been involved in Fayetteville’s small but growing metal, punk and experimental music scene, as Green Bullet with Drums, Tommy Tantrum, Order of the Eye and Storm the Castle! Lately they’ve been releasing music as Lightbulb Detective Agency, which defies genre and easy classification. Think John Zorn, Mike Patton, any self-released Sonic Youth album, Dillinger Escape Plan, but don’t think too hard, these are bad descriptions.
LDA recently did a Q&A with me. Here goes.
Explain yourselves. What is the Lightbulb Detective Agency?
Lightbulb Detective Agency is one of two things: A) An outlet for us to explore any and all creative impulses and B) A secret society first mentioned in cuneiform tablets.
How have your previous bands affected what you do now?
Lightbulb Detective Agency was originally conceived in 1997 with long periods of inactivity. Largely, those periods were filled with attempts at far more specific styles of music: metal, experimental, etc. Green Bullet with Drums was the exception to this in that we felt at liberty to do whatever the hell we wanted, but we were severely limited by the instrumentation of that band (drums and voice only). The current incarnation of LDA fulfills our impulse to explore music at a very intuitive level while divesting ourselves of any concerns about instrumentation or stylistic framework.
You have taken metal to new and absurd directions. Is this a deliberate choice? Do you have problems with the genre, if so, is LDA your way of trying to fix the problems?
Our roots are in metal. We have been playing music together since 1993 and when you put us in a room together with instruments, metal will happen. We have enormous respect for the traditions of metal. That being said, we don’t necessarily consider what we do metal. We both respond quite powerfully to music that reflects a sense of intentionality and sincerity. In this regard, we are essentially making the kinds of albums we would love to stumble upon in the bargain bin. This band is not so much a response to the current shortcomings in metal but an honest approach to music that means quite a lot to us, metal and otherwise.
Both of you are artists outside of the band, what nonmusical art shapes what you do in LDA?
Du8 hasn’t done a lot of visual art in the last few years. His primary external influences come from exploring the narrative mechanics of fiction and film editing. Amjad is always eyebrow deep in the visual arts so he tends to come to the band with slightly more abstract ideas concerning tone, structure, dynamics. He is thinking more in terms of, “How do we make this part sound like a glacier crawling over you much faster than it should?”
Should bands talk politics? Do you?
If a band wants to be political in any way there is no reason they shouldn’t do it. We live in a privileged country and have the luxury of debating whether or not a band “should” be political and not if a band “can” be political. If some part of our worldview comes through in veiled allusion or seems imperceptible altogether, we are not avoiding confrontation but simply suggesting that people not take anything at face value, that they think for themselves and pursue the making rather than the consuming things.
Does the longevity and activity of bands like Vore and Deadbird influence you to continue? Does the local music scene impact the band?
Certainly, their longevity is inspiring, but at this point, bands like Vore and Deadbird tend to have a larger crowd than the touring bands they open for. In some sense, they are like the spine of the local metal community, getting people out to shows and sustaining an incredible energy for what they do. And they do it damn well. The local metal scene has had less of a direct musical influence on this band than say, a band like Shut the Fuck Up! who were so at ease in playing caustic, challenging music to large crowds. We basically thought, if they can do it in Northwest Arkansas, so can we.
What are you working on and writing about, lately?
We are currently recording a full-length album called “Walrus.” Musically, this album is an evolution, many steps beyond the “Little Eyeballs” EP which we put out in October. We are focusing heavily upon arrangements, textures and dynamics. Certainly, the album is not short on metal riffs and double bass drums, but the context and structure of these parts are woven into a much larger and stranger musical picture. There are a lot of sharp left turns and the composition of this album has been quite an adventure. Conceptually, the album is a shrine to small moments destined to be forgotten.
Any upcoming shows or projects?
We currently have a moratorium on shows until this album is finished. We are both far too burdened with OCD to just practice for a week and then play a show. It literally takes us months to prepare for a performance so this album currently has priority. However, while not being a show in the musical sense, Amjad will have an exhibition of photographs called “Bethlehem in Wax” showing at the ACAC (Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative) in Little Rock this September. LDA is working on a subliminal sound installation that will accompany the images during the show. We are already preparing for Judas Priest-style court hearings.
You might find out more at:
ACAC information can be found at http://acacarkansas.wordpress.com/events/