Big Light is a San Francisco based rock band that emerged onto the scene in 2007. They are now considered one of the Bay Area’s hottest up and coming bands and released their debut full length album, Animals in Bloom, in March 2010. I had a chance to sit down and talk with Fred Torphy, the lead singer of Big Light, about their album, where they have gone since, and how they are using technology to connect with their fans.
TC: Big Light seems to pull its sound from a variety of sources. What are your major musical influences?
FT: Well, I think everyone in the band will cite different influences. I think Jeremy would probably cite a few contemporary bands. I’m more influenced by cats and movies than music. But I like Tom Waits and Nathan Moore a lot…
TC: Do you pull a lot of influence from San Francisco, where you live now, or Rhode Island, where you grew up?
FT: I’m influenced by everything that happens in my life, so I’ve probably picked something up from every place I’ve ever spent a good bit of time in. San Francisco, Rhode Island… Sure, but I would also need to add a few other places to that list. I lived in Burlington, VT for six years studying archeology and then getting back to playing in bands, something I had done since grade school but put down during college, for the most part. I started writing my first songs in Burlington. “Monster”, which is on Animals In Bloom, was something I started writing in Vermont.
TC: You guys have played in a variety of venues in San Francisco. Which venue has been your favorite to perform in and why?
FT: The Independent in San Francisco – hands down the coolest place to play in SF, staffed by some of the nicest people working in music. It’s our hometown gig.
TC: In which one have you gotten the best crowd response so far?
FT: Putting the Independent in SF aside, The Brooklyn Bowl in NYC is an amazing venue that always has a great audience.
TC: “Triceratops” was recently made available for Rock Band on XboX. What caused you to sign this deal with Rock Band?
FT: We like the idea of people from different scenes learning about Big Light through a game… I think it’s cool to infiltrate a whole world that was completely alien to me until recently. It’s not like we’re background music for a video game. People playing “Triceratops” on Rock Band are interacting with our music in a really interesting way.
TC: Were there incentives for this?
FT: The exposure it offers is certainly an incentive. There isn’t a huge check coming to us from Rock Band or anything like that. You can buy our song for a buck.
TC: How did the majority of your fan base react to this?
FT: As always, they are supportive.
TC: Did anyone bring up the idea of “selling out?”
FT: Well, “selling out” usually involves making a bunch of money, so no it hasn’t come up.
TC: Being one of the up-and-coming bands in the Bay Area, where are you hoping that your album “Animals in Bloom” will take you?
TC: Big Light has played a variety of music festivals such as: Noisepop, SXSW and Outside Lands. Which festival has been your favorite to play?
FT: High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA is my favorite festival, hands down. I’ve been six years in a row, and Big Light has played the last three years. I met my girlfriend there. I’ll always show up for that one, as long as they will have us.
TC: Is fan connection easier at a festival or at a normal show?
FT: Sure. Everybody shares their drugs.
TC: Have you shared the stage with any artists you have looked up to?
FT: Yes. The guys in The Mother Hips, Marco Benevento, The Slip, Nathan Moore – we’re lucky to have worked with all of them. Nathan, in particular, is someone who I’m extremely honored to be working with on a semi-regular basis. I learned how to sing and write through studying his music. Now we collaborate and write the occasional song together and started a band called The Dun Four.
TC: You guys are really active in online and mobile marketing – what does your digital marketing strategy consist of? Can you comment on any initiatives that went really well?
FT: It’s how people live their lives now. Facebook is an important tool for every band, I suppose. It also just brought down a 30-year-old dictatorship in Egypt. It’s ubiquitous.
TC: How does your MobBase mobile app fit in to this strategy? What has the response been from fans?
FT: Well, those fans that have an iPhone find the MobBase app helpful for keeping up on what’s happening with us. I get a kick out of all the technology that we employ to do business. It’s a lot different from when I was in high school, putting up posters and using word-of-mouth, literally. The internet had no role in my life back then… These days every band needs the web to exist.
TC: If Big Light was a superhero, what power would he possess and what would his costume look like?
FT: He’d be able to stay up for days in a row playing music. His costume would be all black, naturally.
Big Light’s next show will be at Slims on 4/20/11 for $13.