The Love Lights: A band of teachers

Bellingham’s own The Love Lights have been on the scene since 2005, but most people may not even know that, as they only take the stage about once or twice a year and tend to keep their album releases on the down-low.

Yet, even if the band is in-and-out of the scene, guitarist and vocalist Rob Stauffer has been a constant presence. He also helms guitar for punky outfit Bright Weapons, among a myriad of other musical projects and solo gigs. He literally stands head and shoulders above most people in the scene (he’s really tall.)

The Love Lights latest release, Team Honey, dropped last August, but the band has yet to play a show in support of it. That sad fact will change soon enough, on Dec. 29, when they open up for The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies at the Wild Buffalo.

There are many reasons for the band’s lack of shows, but make no mistake: they are still a band. Three of the seven band members are teachers (including Stauffer, who teaches 7th grade Language Arts,) many of them have gone on to have children, get married and move away. In other words, they’re all grown up now.

“We all kind of just moved on with our lives and pursued different things,” Stauffer said. “That’s not to say we don’t enjoy being in the band or anything. It’s just like a relationship. The only reasons bands break-up, or the main reason, is just like a relationship: one person wants more than the other one wants. One person takes it too seriously, while the other doesn’t, and it creates false expectations. For us, we’ve found a comfortable spot and we just do things at our own pace without the expectations of a tour, or promoting an album or making it big, or anything like that. We’re all just happy with what it is.”

The Love Lights originally started out as a 3-piece band. Stauffer was the main songwriter at the time, with fellow Western students Ben and Jeff Ballew backing him on bass and guitar. They used an iPod for drum beats. The main focus was on indie-pop songs, but over the years has turned more in a soul direction, as Ben took over the role of primary songwriter for the band. The transition from indie-pop to soul started during the recording of The Love Light’s second album Young Lions.

In an e-mail, Ben Ballew said Team Honey was influenced heavily by Curtis Mayfield, The Band and Maxine Nightengale, which was a stylistic change from Young Lions. Ben Ballew said Young Lions, and previous albums, were more influenced by music and artists that were more rooted in the sounds of the ‘60’s. The Love Lights also recorded one other album titled “Problems and Solutions.”

“We know a [The Love Lights] song when we write one,” Ben Ballew said, via e-mail.  “As opposed to a Bright Weapons riff, or a Grove Street riff…The inspiration from a lot of these songs came from the idea of [The Love Lights.]”

“When our band added horns and Ben started writing more soul-oriented songs, I kind of took a back seat as far as songwriting went,” Stauffer said. “I didn’t listen to much soul music at the time, and just didn’t feel comfortable writing those kinds of songs, or singing them. The music I was creating just didn’t vibe with what the band was doing. Of course, now, I listen to soul music all the time.”

Stauffer said the entire 6-piece band will play the show, which will be the first time they will be playing songs from the new album in a live setting. The rest of the band includes Alex O’Farrell on drums, Steve Reno on keyboards, Jeremiah Austin on trumpet, Diana Austin on baritone saxophone and the Ballew brothers on bass and guitar. Reno will not be able to make the show at the Wild Buffalo, but Stauffer said there will be a replacement keyboard player for the show.

“Every time we get together to play now, it is like a family reunion,” Stauffer said. “We share baby pictures and catch up with each other and stuff. It’s a nice, comfortable situation we’ve got going. But, I do wish sometimes there was more of a push to get out there, because I feel we are better than ever.”

Stauffer said that, although he has no real qualms with how the band works, he is somewhat frustrated that there has not been more work to get Team Honey out to the public.

“I really do feel like the new album is the best one we’ve ever done,” he said. “And it gets frustrating because I want it to be noticed and listened to. But, it’s like having a stubborn child or something: you push them and they resist even more.”

Frustrations and all, even if The Love Lights were to never play another show or record another album, their presence and influence on the scene will always be remembered via their music and those rare moments when they stood on stage, turned on their love light and let it shine on all of us.

You can listen to and download Team Honey and other releases from the Love Lights at thelovelights.bandcamp.com.