Back in 2006, Hit The Lights’ “Body Bag” was a teenage rock anthem. Fans were singing along to the catchy tune all over the place, and enjoying the live performances on one of the most popular music festivals of our time, Warped Tour. That song, along with many others, furthered the career of Hit The Lights, up until a few short years ago. It seemed that the band was no longer around, and fans wondered, “What happened to Hit The Lights?”
After various record label frustrations and some time off, they’ve come back with their 2012 release, Invicta. The band is finally happy with their label, musical growth and a whole lot more. The Aquarian Weekly talked with guitarist Omar Zehery to find out what Hit The Lights have been up to.
What has been going on throughout the last few years?
A couple years ago, we fulfilled our contract with Triple Crown Records and we were kind of free to talk to other labels. We signed with Universal Records and we wrote about 30 or 40 songs and demoed them, worked on them with the label and other co-writers. What ended up happening was somebody at the label ended up leaving, and developing other artists was put on hold.
At that point we were already a band for like seven years, and we weren’t really a developing artist so we asked if we could part ways with them. It had been a year and we hadn’t put out any new music. Luckily, it was a very easy process and we got off of Universal and signed with Razor & Tie; put out our newest record earlier this year. So everything worked out really well.
How has the band changed since the departure of your previous singer, Colin Ross?
The easiest part about that, really not that much changed, because Nick [Thompson] was playing guitar in the band at the time and he started singing for us. I think it would’ve been a more drastic change had we brought in somebody else. I think with our fans who knew us at the time, it made the transition really easy. Nick was also one of the songwriters in the band and sang backup. We took a year to audition people and it just never felt like the chemistry or the right connection. At that point it was the best option and made the most sense.
What is the band’s writing process like now?
We all write. Usually the song will stem from somebody’s idea and someone else will try to help them out and we all throw our ideas into it, which makes the process longer than one person. But it actually works out really well. We kind of balance each other out.
How was it working with Ryan Key of Yellowcard on Invicta?
That came about through Universal at the time, because they set up some co-writers for us. It was really cool because I’ve been listening to his band since I was about a freshman in high school, so it was cool getting to meet and hang out with someone you look up to. On top of that, to sit and be creative, learn some new tricks about somebody else’s creative process, it was really enjoyable for us. I think it turned out pretty amazing.
How has your sound evolved from your first record?
We started this band when we were just kids and from then, peoples musical tastes can change in a matter of months (laughs) and we’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. It’s been a lot of growing up and expanding and I hope it shows. From the first thing that we recorded to the last thing, I think it really does.
It’s been fun and it’s been cool to take that journey with some of my best friends. We’ve always not tried to complicate things with genres, we’ve always seen ourselves as a rock band and took pride in that. That’s what we still see this band as, is a rock band.
Is Colin Ross expected to return for your upcoming tour?
It’s a lot more casual than that, but yeah, he’s going to be coming out on that tour with us. We’re pretty much going to split the set. The songs that Nick sings on, Colin is going to play guitar, and the stuff that Colin sings on, Nick will play the guitar. It’s something we’re all really stoked about.
We actually still live in our hometowns and whenever we’re home, we still hang out. Our group of friends is small. He’s still one of my friends. This last time that we had off, we were just hanging out and talked about it in a joking manner. We went back and forth talking about it for a few months and ended up seeing what was up with his work schedule and our tour schedule and it fell into place. It was a very casual thing and ended up working out.
If you could pick one song from each album to play at your shows, what would they be?
Let me see, that’s a really good question. I like playing “Body Bag” off This Is A Stick Up... Don’t Make It A Murder, because it seems to be the song that most kids react to. From Skip School, Start Fights, I really enjoy playing “Breathe In,” which is the second track from there. We usually open up the set with that and it gets everybody pumped up. Off the newest record, I really enjoy playing a song called “Float Through Me.” I’d say those are my top three favorite songs to play live.
Do you enjoy playing larger venues or smaller ones?
You know, the cool thing about where our band is at right now is that we get to do both. We get to play bigger sized venues like House Of Blues, which is really cool to be in a room with that many people, but there’s a barrier between you and the crowd. But it’s always fun in that kind of cramped small room with everyone right in your face. We’re lucky to be able to experience both of that right now.
Do you have a favorite venue to play?
Yeah, there’s this place in Norfolk, Virginia called The NorVa Theatre that we were just out on this tour with All Time Low, The Summer Set and The Downtown Fiction. The coolest thing about that venue is how nice their backstage is (laughs). They have a basketball court so whenever we’re there it’s just like a party pretty much, with the bands hanging out. That’s always fun, we look forward to playing that venue.
What’s next for Hit The Lights?
Well, right now we have our headlining tour going on, it starts December 11. That’s going to be going on for a couple of weeks. It starts in the Midwest and goes to the East Coast. Then we’re off for the holidays. We’re trying to figure out what our plans are here in the States next year but right now we have some overseas stuff booked. We got some cool stuff planned, so if whoever is reading this wants to find out more about us, check out our Facebook and Twitter pages and our online fun stuff.
Hit The Lights’ Invicta is available now through Razor & Tie. See them at Mexicali Live, in Teaneck, on Dec. 13. For more information, go to hitthelightsmusic.com.