Hailing from Tampa, Florida, the death metal capital of the United States, Seventh Rule Recording artists Light Yourself on Fire are preparing to launch their latest sonic attack. Their newest release, Intimacy, due to hit stores on September 16th is heavy, brutal, and full of aggression. Thematically the band has a lot to say; they are heavily influenced by the Existential Philosophy of ‘nothingness’. So much so that the title track is based on a Jean Paul Sartre short story entitled “Montag”. The band will be touring through the rest of 2008 including a fall stint with Racebannon in support of Intimacy. I spoke with vocalist Matt Coplon who answered some questions about the band and their new record and their philosophies.

Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?
Matt: Relieved. But this process works vise-versa for us. We’ve had a difficult time translating the live show into a recording. It’s a bummer when you see such an amazing live band and the recording is just so produced (or under-produced) that it loses its essence. That’s what we are afraid of, the loss of the music’s intimidation and intensity by “cleaning it up.” We don’t want clean; we want you to hear us as if you’re standing a couple feet from us at our practice space. I’m not sure if that’s at all possible? Overall, our newest recordings are the closest we’ve gotten to that.

The name of the band Light Yourself On Fire is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Matt: Years ago, the old school punk band Dr. Know played Tampa. Robert went to check it out (he’s really into them). Before playing the song “Burn,” the singer yelled out “This song is called Burn, so light yourself on fire.” At that point all of Robert’s friends turned to him to capitalize off of his reaction to such an embarrassing statement. Robert said he was kind of bummed at the singer’s asinine comment, but Dr. Know got away with it by bringing such an intense and legitimately scary live show. So, when tossing around names back in 2003, this story popped up at practice and someone mentioned that Light Yourself on Fire might be a good name. We wanted something a little absurd to catch people’s attention. From there, Light Yourself on Fire stuck.

Light Yourself On Fire will be touring throughout 2008, including a September tour with Racebannon. How do you maintain that level of energy and exuberance when you are out on the road for extended periods of time?
Matt: That’s a really good question. It’s really hard for sure. Playing that many shows in a row, driving for hours on end, and sleeping unwell and uncomfortably takes its toll after awhile. As a band, we try to combat the physical and mental woes of touring by eating as well as possible. For me, it’s more about making sure I have plenty of throat-coat handy. That type of tea always saves me on tour…the better I can hear my own vocals when playing, the more out of control I feel which translates into live energy. Energy can come from the venue as well, which has saved our morale on tour in the past. We’ve felt like shit before, and have showed up to say, a basement show, where the place is packed (not so much by people, but by the lack of space) and that intimacy just proves to be the best recipe for release. Being encompassed by sound and by an audience puts us into another frame of mind. I’m assuming the same works for any band, really?

Your brand new CD titled Intimacy is set for release on September 16, 2008 now that it is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Matt: It’s funny, I just watched the documentary Joy Division—Under Review. They talk quite a bit about Martin Hannett’s strong-arming of Joy Division’s production, which, honestly, made Joy Division’s sounds so timeless on recording. But, when I listen to their live recordings, it creates the same effect for me, sometimes even better than the recording. The same thing happened to me when in 1997, my friend Mike Delach brought back a tape recorded live show of Portraits of Past in Arizona. I remember listening to that shitty recording for years, and it always gave me (and still does) the chills. The recording on that tape had a raw power that was so unique, so in your face punk. I think that is what we’ve tried to accomplish (maybe not as successfully as we’d like) with our recordings: to capture the raw, overwhelming sound of a live show. No frills, no over-production, simply raw and in your face. Intimacy is as close as we have gotten so far. But I’m sure we can get closer (no pun intended).

What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Matt: We’re in an interesting situation. None of our schedules ever match up. And to top things off, Robert, our bass player, works in NYC and is only in Tampa a week out of every month. We do write together, and that is the really difficult part. We have a window of roughly seven days a month to practice and write new material. So if we have a show coming up, we sub the writing process with a solid practice. Plus, we’re really picky about what we choose as a lead riff or drum beat. Most of the time, anything that shows any ounce of promise is usually thrown in the trash; we end up having to start clean slate quite often. Overall, our writing process is slow and painful. But because of the process of picking and choosing, once something is created, we’re usually pretty happy with it. It makes a new song always worth it in the end.

Give us some insight into the album lyrically. This is a super pissed off sounding record?
Matt: I think the two overt themes throughout this recording are the ideas of “monotony” and “nothingness.” Death seems to haunt me through everything I do which is linked to anything I write. But, even more so than death, not living a fulfilled life is much scarier. Our time is limited; we constantly fight monotony and boredom in hopes to make our lives worth something. In the same instance, we’re buying time to have to not think about the ultimate. And that “ultimate” is the sad case of nothingness. Being happy/content in the depression/repression of nothingness is really our only panacea. For me, contentment is staying overly busy and producing as much as I can. How many of us can say we are truly happy? It’s quite scary. That’s something I’ve always written about, it’s something that will always haunt me.

What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of Intimacy?
Matt: Hopefully a train wreck… We write songs with certain themes in mind; let’s make something that sounds like a car crash, let’s make a song that sounds like a bombing raid, or a train collision. This album is what we have collected recently. We throw so much material away because it just doesn’t make the cut. These six made it through, I hope they can justify our aesthetic.

Playing such visceral music in a recording studio must be vastly different than at one of your chaotic live shows. How do you feel your live show differs from your recordings?
Matt: I think our live shows allow for someone to be engulfed by the music. We played a show with some electronic dance band in Tallahassee about a year ago. I remember the crowd becoming entranced right when the music started; People were just freaking out. I remember my girlfriend turning to me to express how creeped out she was at the crowd’s reaction. But it made total sense to me; these people were just letting themselves get lost in the rhythm of drum and bass. That, to me, is what music (especially live music) should do to you: it should engulf you…you should be overcome by it. I can only hope we have that effect on people live.

Intimacy is your second full length release, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned since recording and touring with your self-titled debut CD?
Matt: I’m going to have to speak for myself on this one. Recording wise, I’ve learned not to feel pressured by time. If we’re running up the clock and I’m frustrated with how something sounds, I either come back to it or save it for another day. What you lay done on a track can quite possibly be permanent, so rushing anything is always risky. On top of that, we record, sit on it, and re-visit it at another time. My commute to work is an hour, so the week after recording I’m usually filling two hours of my day listening to what we’ve created repeatedly. That usually gives me plenty of time to critique and eventually make the needed changes.

As far as touring goes, we’ve gotten really lucky (knock on wood). So far, every lengthy trip out of town has been pretty successful. We’ve been really lucky with our connections: through the years we’ve met plenty of consistent people who have their shit together. And through these connections, we’ve found more links that are equally as helpful.

The worst experience for us has been getting on last minute shows…it’s really only happened once which was back in October in Brooklyn. We played a show at some dive bar to three people who were more than likely coked out of their brains. But even that show was fun; we played as hard and as intense as we would have anywhere else.

The art work by Steak Mtn. (Against Me, Panthers) is quite interesting. How does it tie into the album’s title?
Matt: We gave Steak the lyrics and the title and he had his way with it. Overall, we’re really happy with it. I think it contributes to our roots both musically and aesthetically: a mix between Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead and the Misfits Walk Among Us.

What is next for Light Yourself On Fire?
Matt: With our conflicting schedules, we hope to keep moving forward as quickly as possible on a new full length release on Seventh Rule. Again, our creative process is slow but having new, specific deadlines puts positive reinforcement on us. To keep touring as much as we can in between would be great. But I guess we have to get this next one out of the way first (which starts in less than a month). These are our long term goals.

This week we’re working on a cover of New Order’s “Dreams Never End” for a N.O. compilation. We decided to do it (not only because we love N.O.) but because it will give us a break from hustling together new material. I’m pretty excited to see how this song will turn out considering it’s a complete genre jump. We’ll see…  [ END ]