Music News

The Lights Go Out

Every week, a band breaks up, ending more often with a whimper than a bang. That's a fate South Mountain Lights sought to avoid with The Last Word, the release of which they'll celebrate with their final show.

"We've both been in bands where the band falls apart and you never finish that last album's worth of material, which you usually feel is your best work," says singer/guitarist Rick Heins, sitting with drummer Jason Farrell at Fender's corporate offices in Scottsdale, where they work. "We decided to put as much energy into it, despite the fact that we knew that it would be the last thing that we did."

The pair met when they worked at Tower Records in Tempe back in '94, bonding over a mutual appreciation for Fender Jazzmaster guitars. Heins eventually moved away, but they stayed in touch. When Farrell told Heins about a job opening at Fender four years ago, Heins decided to move back and they started writing together. The next year, they started South Mountain Lights with bassist Adam Crofts.

Their varied interests coalesce in songs that don't hew strictly to verse-chorus-verse conventions. Sometimes reminiscent of early '90s math-pop act Pond, their songs are melodic but interlaced with chewy, churning guitar parts. Tracks such as "For All I Care" alternate a psych-rock hook with intermittent chunks of post-punk guitar angularity. The best track may be "Had I Met You," which opens with an intricate acoustic guitar line whose melancholy air is abetted by elegiac backing vocals.

"Jason and I talk about music constantly. There are always arguments about which album or artist is better. It's always on our mind, so it filters into the band as well," Heins says. "We know each other's taste, and when we improvise, we seem to know where each other is going."

Though the band's breakup is permanent (Crofts is heading to Idaho with his family to teach), they aren't giving up music. Heins will keep playing guitar and writing. Farrell hopes to put the drums in the shed, play a little guitar around the house, and get a degree. "I'm hoping after my MBA, I'll go to the storage shed and maybe give Rick a phone call."

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Chris Parker
Contact: Chris Parker