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Summer songs are normally associated with feel-good party jams perfectly suited for warm weather months. But the season is also a good fit for the opposite of feel-good party jams, the sort of luminous music you play at dusk at the end of the year’s longest days.
A Color Of The Sky is an album like that. The third LP by the Brooklyn indie band Lightning Bug has been in constant rotation for me ever since I received a promotional copy a few months ago. But now that A Color Of The Sky has finally been released today, Lightning Bug’s blend of blissed-out shoegaze guitar tones and singer-songwriter Audrey Kang’s wistful indie-folk melodies sounds even better in late June. It captures the melancholy of knowing that seemingly eternal daylight will soon give away to the rigors of winter before too long.
For Kang, however, listening to one of the year’s most beautiful indie albums isn’t always pleasant. “It’s a painful experience,” she says of the record. “I feel like I always cry.”
For one thing, it wasn’t clear if A Color In The Sky was even going to be made. After 2019’s critically acclaimed The October Song, interpersonal problems in the band seemed to portend doom for their future. But instead of breaking up, Kang and her bandmates — including original guitarist Kevin Copeland and engineer Logan Miley along with new members Dane Hagen on drums and Vincent Puleo on bass — faced their issues head on, recording together in a room as a live band for the first time.
The result is a beguiling listen that feels very much like its own world. While you can make general comparisons to other acts — Mazzy Star comes immediately to mind — A Color In The Sky ultimately feels like no other indie album I’ve heard this year.
“I think people have a hard time classifying us in a genre,” Kang said. “They often resort to like shoegaze or dream pop, which isn’t, I don’t think, exactly correct. I think our genre is DIY rock or DIY pop because we record, we engineer, we produce and even mix it ourselves. So I think there’s a coherence to how everything is coming from us that makes the world hopefully sound very all encompassing and complete, like you’re really entering into our space.”
I spoke with Kang about the making of A Color In The Sky and how the album essentially saved the band.
This album sounds like the most band oriented of the Lightning Bug records. Is that a fair assessment?
The previous records were very, very disjointed. The first record was never meant to be a record. I didn’t know I was a songwriter at that point. I didn’t even know I was a musician. We made it very DIY in Logan’s bedroom and recorded everything track by track.
Obviously I know that I can write songs, but they come so suddenly. It feels like a higher power is helping me do it. Beverly Glenn-Copeland speaks of this force called the UBS, the Universal Broadcasting System. It’s like a radio station of songs to be written and you’re able to access it and they come to you. That’s sometimes how I feel because I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no technical knowledge at all.
You’ve said that before you made this record you thought the band was finished. Why is that?
We were just emotionally exhausted. The October Song, the one we released in 2019, wasn’t an easy record to complete. It actually took us four years. And Kevin and I used to date and we were really, really close and we broke up. And obviously that’s very difficult to deal with and still be in a band. And then Logan’s between all of that and all of that drama. And it just felt like we weren’t able to create a healthy environment for music between the three of us anymore.
How did you get through that?
I think this record is actually me getting through that. I really grew. I realized, basically, if you love someone or something enough, you can change. You can find the willpower in you to be who you really want to be. I think a lot of times people will say, “I feel how I feel,” or “I react how I react and I can’t help it because these are my emotions and this is how I feel.” But I actually don’t think that’s true.
Basically you fall into these cycles of behavior with people you’re close with. Kevin, Logan, and I have fallen into these pretty toxic cycles of behavior in the way we interacted. And then I realized that that didn’t have to be the case. You actually could make a change for that if you really, really wanted to. Kevin was someone who’s worth keeping in my life. I really wanted him to be in my life, so I had to change. Writing the songs actually really helped me get me there, emotionally. And having songs to work on that everyone was excited to work on, gave us the excuse to come together again.
But throughout making the record, it was still a process of also healing within interpersonal relationships. Everything wasn’t, “Oh, we’re all good. Let’s just record this record now.” The whole entire process was a process of, I guess, healing.
Do you feel like the band came out stronger after going through that difficult period?
Oh, definitely. I think we still always have room to grow and we still have stuff to work on. But, I mean, to be honest, I think the root of everything was me. I was always the biggest problem. I don’t think I was a very good person. I was very volatile, angry, and had a lot of just destructive patterns of behavior. And so really it was my fault. I was really the one who had to grow and change. After I decided to grow and change, then everything moved towards a healthier path in general.
When you listen to this record, is it a cathartic experience?
It’s a painful experience. I feel like I always cry. And performing too, I’m a little nervous because I feel like sometimes I will begin to cry. When we were recording up in Vermont, I did cry while playing a few of the songs because they just hit, they really… Especially when you find that you’re making the same mistakes that you are sort of referring to.
I mean — tell me if this is just too much information for you — but all we had this big fight due to just lack of communication. And I don’t think I dealt with it very well. I was sort of volatile and a bit emotional about it. And then pretty much right after, we had to record “The Return,” and there’s some lines that referred to it I say, “The times I should have let it go, but instead I blindly fought.” I was like, “Wow, I’m so much wiser as a songwriter than I am as a real person in real life.”
Are you the kind of artist who feels that there needs to be some emotional crisis you’re working through in your art?
Yeah, definitely. I have to have something to say. I can’t just conjure it up. I always have to be working through something in myself, and then the song is my answer where I arrive at. Always.
A Color Of The Sky is out now via Fat Possum. Get it here.