The Whisperlights Announce Breakup and Final Show at Crescent Ballroom

Whisperlights Surfaces Release Party at The Duce
Whisperlights Surfaces Release Party at The Duce
Melissa Fossum

After five years of fun and memorable shows, The Whisperlights are calling it quits. Like many in long-distance relationships, the band members tried to make it work by getting together once a year or so. With members living on both coasts, it's difficult to get the full eight-piece band together. This energetic chamber pop band will perform its final show at Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, January 11 -- then they're gone for good.

"We want to have a party and play our favorites one more time before everyone moves too far away to come back for shows easily," says singer/guitarist Ilya Riske. "We're playing all rockers at this show. Well, maybe one slow jam."

Are you done for good, or are there any hopes for a reunion show down the line? No, this will be it. No hope!

How long were Whisperlights together? We started in the spring of 2009, so I guess that our last show will mark almost five years of being active in some way. Our first show was in April of 2009; we recorded our first EP, Wake Up Dead a few months later, right before Owen [Marshall, guitarist] moved to Chicago for a few months.

Was there ever a point where everyone lived in Phoenix at the same time? Yes, in 2009, through September. Then we met Dave Gironda at our last performance at Modified, and we brought him in to replace Owen. Then Owen came back in January, 2010, which was great. I'd say that was our most productive time, 2009 and 2010. We practiced about three times a week and wrote a lot of material and played a lot of shows in that time. Also, this was when we met Underground Cities, a band that really is nothing like us but one that we all adore and became instant friends with all of them.

We recorded Wake Up Dead in September 2009, then recorded most of Surfaces in May 2010. Owen and Dave both moved away in September 2010. Owen went to Ithaca to attend graduate school at Cornell, which he continues to do, and Dave moved to Austin. Both have come back to AZ at points over a few years, either for the album release party and tour in support of Surfaces or for one-off shows now and again. Dave is always ready to come back to play shows. It's more difficult for Owen.

Wasef [El-Kharouf, drums] has been in graduate film school at USC -- or filming graduate school. Either way, he's been living a meta-life in Los Angeles with our friend, percussionist, and producer of our records, Chris Kasych. Now Dave has moved to LA and has been making a go of it as an actor, which is appropriate.

How did you guys manage to make it work with members living all over the country? Was it challenging? Yes, it was challenging, but our writing style was really very individually focused, for the most part. By that, I mean everyone wrote songs, and whenever anyone would write something, they'd bring it to the group and we'd learn it and workshop it a bit before performing and/or recording it. Very collaborative and helpful for all of us really. And when some people weren't around, myself included, we'd have to figure out where we fit into the new material when we returned. But we'd always keep the door open to those who had left and come back.

Is there anything else you hoped to accomplish with this band? Well, personally there were probably 10 more songs that I would have loved to play more and record. We'd all still be playing in a band together if everyone still lived here.

What are some of your most memorable experiences with Whisperlights? We did two summer tours up and down the West Coast in 2010 and 2011. Both were amazingly fun, and we were lucky enough to play with a lot of really amazing groups all over, and spending two to three weeks with your closest friends in a van without air conditioning with nothing else to do but drive 300 miles and then play music that you love is pretty unbeatable.   Will the final show feature the full band? Yes, everyone will be there!

What can we expect from your farewell show? Well, we have friends making special appearances -- they'll come up for a song or two and play with us. Mostly, you can expect us all grinning from ear to ear and laughing our way through our set. Tobie [Milford] will deadpan all of his jokes. Owen will do his head-shakey thing when he is really into what he's playing. Wasef will tell some bad jokes, and then laugh at them. I'll do my ankle-jive dance. Chris will adjust his fedora several times. Henri [Benard] will shout "WHOOOOO!" and throw up his hands. Brent [Bachelder] will forget something, maybe a note, probably a cable. And Dave will probably mug for the cameras all night. Which cameras? All the cameras.

What will the Whisperlights guys be up to after this? Lots of stuff! I'll go down the list one-by-one:

Illya: I have a new band, There Is Danger, and we'll be opening the last Whisperlights show. We released an album in mid-2013, and are working on material for a new album at the moment. I'm also playing guitar in the new Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra with a slew of wonderful people.

Tobie Milford: Tobie's working on a new album at the moment and is still active as a solo artist as well as playing with a quartet now and then.

Dave Gironda: Dave lives in LA. I dunno if he's doing much music these days.

Wasef El-Kharouf: Finishing his film degree at the moment. I don't know if he has any musical projects going on, but I doubt it -- he's pretty busy with film.

Owen Marshall: Owen had another band in Ithaca, Ssunn Sspellss, which was pretty droney and awesome. It may have been spelled Sun Spells as well. Anyway, they got banned from a lot of bars in Ithaca because they were too awesome, and because Ithaca is full of squares. Apparently.

Brent Bachelder: Brent continues to play bass for Underground Cities.

Henri Benard: Dry River Yacht Club and The Sunpunchers, both great local bands who have reputations that precede them.

Chris Kasych: Continues to produce AZ native bands like Party Gardens, formerly Yellow Minute, and works too hard.

Top 40 Songs with Arizona in the Title 9 Tips for Using A Fake ID To Get Into A Show Why Indie Band Oregon Trail Is The Hardest Game Ever The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All TimeThe Whisperlights perform their final show with There is Danger and Dry River Yacht Club on Saturday, January 11 at Crescent Ballroom.

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