Locals: City Lights find inspiration in the Dark Side

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From the December 5, 2013 edition

City Lights recorded its debut album in a scant 10 days. So when the band found itself with nearly a month to record its sophomore album, The Way Things Should Be, the quintet opted to take a far more cavalier approach.

“We were like, ‘We have a whole month, surely we can write another six songs and rock it out,’ but that’s not what happened,” said singer Oshie Bichar, 27, who joins the pop-punk crew for a record release show at Skully’s on Tuesday, Dec. 10. “We showed up to the studio completely unprepared and didn’t have enough songs written and it was pretty much hell the entire time we were there.”

The initial sessions, which took place last October in Baltimore with producer Brian McTernan (Senses Fail, Circa Survive), went so poorly the band ended up shelving the recordings and spending nearly six months trying to rework the material. According to Bichar, the five musicians struggled to adjust both to outside expectations — for the first time the longtime mates found themselves with a dedicated audience to please — and internal pressures.

A breakthrough finally arrived in the form of “The Dark Side,” a “Star Wars”-themed tune Bichar viewed as a throwaway (“I didn’t write the song for City Lights; I wrote it to blow off steam,” he said) until he played it for his enthused bandmates.

“Originally I was just trying to please too many other people,” he said. “After [‘The Dark Side’] I went back and made all the songs how I would want them. It was like I could just enjoy myself rather than trying to make it something it didn’t need to be.”

The frontman described the band’s debut as formulaic, and he was determined to shake things up this time around. So while the new album, which the crew re-recorded at Capital House Studio in July, still features an assortment of fist-pumping, sing-a-long choruses, there’s more variety now in terms of tempo, mood and overall tone.

“We could have taken the most popular song or two off our first record and just gone that direction with it, and I’m sure it would have made a lot of people happy,” said Bichar, who first picked up a guitar late in high school because he hoped to form the next Blink-182. “But we’re a band that likes to switch it up. There are some super-fast songs and some slower songs and some darker songs and some happier songs.”

One thing, however, has remained a constant.

“I still like songs with big choruses,” he said, and laughed. “If I didn’t I wouldn’t be in a pop-punk band.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston