by Tom Reardon
Valley band LightSpeedGo is celebrating the release of their first EP on California-based label, Felony Records this week. The record itself is a no nonsense pop-punk slab of wax with tight rhythms, nicely blended vocal harmonies, and just enough sass to make the biggest Screeching Weasel fan smile and maybe even turn their cap around backwards before going into the pit. The three(ish) year old band is fronted by Rico Caldera on guitar and vocals, Paul Levesque on bass and vocals, JD Stooks on guitar, and Marty McDevitt on drums who are all vets of the Phoenix scene.
LightSpeedGo plays the Rebel Lounge on February 26 to celebrate their release. They were good enough to have a chat about the release, life in Phoenix, and music in general. Chiming in for the chat was also Bill Marcks, formerly of Authority Zero, and now LightSpeedGo’s manager.
YabYum: What inspires you to play music?
Rico: My family has always been very musical. Some of my first memories were hearing my Dad play Spanish guitar around the house. I think that is why I love acoustic music so much, especially classical. It’s the gateway drug to metal, so it’s something I’ve always reverted back to.
JD: Without an artistic outlet I would go a little crazy, so it’s nice to be able to still play guitar in a band rather than in my room.
Paul: Being a part of something with my friends that we all love doing and connecting with strangers through the music we create. It’s an incredible feeling when someone tells you that they have a connection with something that you have written and it has helped them in some way or another.
Rico: When I’m depressed, happy, or anytime I feel overwhelming emotions, whatever it is I can’t help but pick up my guitar and write. It keeps me sane.
YY: Tell me about the band…history, previous bands, you know the drill.
Rico: We formed about 3 years ago. Paul and I were separately looking to join a new project, and we had both recently been in bands that disbanded. Eventually, we were connected through a couple of mutual friends (Johnny No Gimmick and Angela RoseRed).
Paul: My previous band (Lookout Look) had broken up a few months prior and I was going crazy not doing anything.
Rico: After some back and forth on the FB, Paul and I found we had similar influences and decided to start writing songs together. Paul brought in his buddy Marty to sit in on drums and I asked my longtime friend JD (Stooks) to play some guitar. All of us have been playing locally for a long time, in bands such as No Gimmick, Off the Mark, Lookout Look, The Ultramatics, and The Dead Irrelevants. I think this has really contributed to us getting a lot of really great shows and opportunities. The longtime friendships in the band has really helped make the writing process easy and fun.
JD: I’ve been in LightSpeedGo for two years. I was a later addition. I was in No Gimmick from 1996-2004. I did a solo project under my name from 2004-2011.
YY: What led to you guys signing with Felony?
JD: Paul is friendly with the owners and they made us a great offer. We like the other bands too. That helps.
Paul: I had met Ron at punk rock bowling a few years ago. We kept in touch over social media and I would run into him at shows in California quite often. Marty and I ran into him again at the past year’s punk rock bowling. He had said he was interested in putting out a LightSpeedGo record on his label. We had talked back and forth about it for a few months. He and Kris came out to a show we played in Oceanside. I guess they liked what they saw and offered to put out our newest record on Felony.
YY: Tell me about the record…where did you record…all the good stuff?
Rico: Two of the songs were recorded at Double Time Studios in San Diego with Jeff Forrest, he is known for recording Cheshire Cat with Blink 182. Most of this record was recorded at Underdog Studios with Kristen Taylor of the band Miles To Nowhere. We also had legendary local producer Bob Hoag (The Format, the Ataris), who is quite the character, mix the EP. Finally, we had Jason Livermore of the Blasting Room (famed Fort Collins, Colorado studio) put the final touches on the EP and handle the mastering. We are very proud of this record, we worked with some great people and are so excited for people to listen.
JD: I didn’t play a note on the thing. All the guitar work is done by Rico. He has a great style and I didn’t want to get in the way. Less cooks in the kitchen kind of thing.
YY: What surprised you the most about your new record when you listened to it the first time after it was mastered?
Rico: Well, we picked some really great people to work with (so) obviously we were in good hands, but when I heard the recording first time, it was mind blowing how everything came together. It’s one of the best parts of the musical collaboration process.
JD: Nothing surprised me. By that point I think we were happy to have a completed project. I’ve probably heard those songs 1000 times by now so it was tough to be surprised. It sounds great.
Paul: What surprised me the most was the transformation of the music from what was recorded originally to the final product. Bob Hoag is a mad scientist behind that board. The songs sounded better than I thought they ever could. Then add Jason Livermore’s final touches on top of that. It just blew me away at how good the final product sounded as a whole.
YY: Well, it sounds really good. What’s the best thing about being a band from the Phoenix area?
Rico: The local Phoenix scene is awesome, but living in Tempe is great because we are close to everywhere cool. Vegas, California and Mexico, or even just going downtown. It makes traveling so much easier!
JD: Great access to other areas is nice. In a weekend we could play in a number of other great cities depending on what direction we drive. LA, San Diego, Denver, Salt Lake, etc. We have really great promoters and venues in Phoenix. Pretty strong music scene out here.
Paul: Right now in Phoenix the punk scene is really starting to take off again! There was a span of time where the scene had become stagnant. There were really not that many punk bands around. But within the last few years it has really picked up. All the bands support each other. Every show I go to, I see members of other local bands whether they are playing or not and that’s pretty rad.
YY: So Bill, how has the transition been from string bender to string puller?
Bill: I’ve enjoyed the transition. I’ve been in their shoes before and earned my stripes. I’m playing the same game as I did in Authority Zero, networking and grinding, without having to do it from a Flying J in Alabama or a Motel 6 in Clinton, Iowa. (Laughs) I dig being at home and chilling.
YY: What is it about Lightspeedgo that made you want to help out?
Bill: I review local bands’ albums and help the scene as much as I can on my site, GringoBill.com and was listening to their first EP, New Direction. It brought me back to Face to Face and old Blink 182. The album was over before I realized it because it flowed so smoothly. I really dug their style.
Paul hit me up out of the blue to fill in for J.D. for about six gigs while he was on his honeymoon. I really got along with the boys and knew they had a shot! I figured I’d do my best to blow them up.
It helped me come to my decision to manage them when I saw Paul’s hustle. He’s a workhorse like me. Marty is a cool cat and I’ve known J.D. and Rico for at least 10 years. We (Authority Zero) used to play with them all the time in No Gimmick. It was a good fit all around.
YY: Awesome. What does a successful 2016 look like for you guys?
Rico: I think a great year would be having a tour lined up and getting back in the studio to record our first full length album. Going on the road is always a blast, but I love being in the studio and creating.
JD: I would love to keep playing great shows and keep getting the music out to an audience. It’s nice to know someone is paying attention in such a saturated music world.
Paul: Hopefully doing some touring and expanding outside of the southwest. I also hope that we are back in the studio recording our first full length before year’s end.
YY: Toughest lesson learned playing music so far?
Rico: Facing myself and realizing who I am as a person. Writing music, I found out things about me I never knew. Good, bad, and everything in between. I also learned that staying true TO yourself in music is one of the hardest things to do. There has not been a day that has gone by where we didn’t have to fight for the integrity of the band.
JD: Don’t leave equipment in your car overnight.
Paul: For me it’s compromise. Being in a band is like having 3 relationships at the same time. Everyone has different tastes and different idea. It’s not Burger King. You can’t have it your way all the time.
YY: If you guys had a vote for the AZ music hall of fame, who do you vote for?
Rico: Although he is from Michigan but has lived in Arizona for so many years, Alice Cooper deserves a spot. Growing up in Phoenix I have had friends who were on his son’s little league team, so I’ve learned he is an amazing person outside of the stage persona. As a kid I would listen his music and radio shows all the time. It’s amazing to see how his career eventually lead into owning his restaurant, Cooperstown. As a culinary student, it inspires me to see how music can expand into other areas I’m passionate about.
JD: The Meat Puppets…they’re probably in there already though.
Paul: There are a few bands that come to mind. I would have to say my choices would be JFA, Authority Zero, and Jimmy Eat World.
YY: Advice for new bands on dealing with show promoters?
Rico: Have your sources ready. They will ask to hear your music, see pic’s and probably want to watch videos to make sure you’re not a hack. HAVE YOUR SOURCES READY.
JD: You’re lucky in Phoenix. All the big ones are very legit and genuine fans of music. All around nice men and women too. It’s not like the 90’s at the Mason Jar or anything.
Paul: Don’t burn any bridges! Most of the promoters are friends. Be smart!
YY: Any pre-show no no’s? Any superstitions about playing?
Rico: As a pleasantly plump fella who likes to eat, I try to avoid greasy foods that can affect my vocals or cause bubble gut. I do like my rum, but avoid consuming too much before the set. When I was drumming for a former band, I had to run off stage in the middle of the set to take a piss. The guys started to play the next song, when they realized I was gone they were gone they were pretty steamed. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson.
Paul: Definitely do not get wasted drunk before playing a show!! I’ve been that guy on a few occasions in my time playing out. The outcome is hardly ever a good one!
YY: What shows do you have coming up?
Rico: We have our CD release show on February 26th at the Rebel Lounge. Also, we are doing the Unwritten Law show at Pub Rock Live on March 11th.
For more information about the release show, head here.