Light Yourself on Fire: Blazing talent, searing sound
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2010 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Light Yourself on Fire.)
Like a controlled burn, Light Yourself on Fire hits with expert precision and blazing fury.
Live, the Tampa metal band smacks you with a wall of sound, seizing you with thunderous roars, jaggedly melodic guitars, guttural screams and dynamic rhythms — all timed and arranged with searing clarity.
It’s a potent, spellbinding formula, and as a result, Light Yourself on Fire’s fans aren’t just loyal, they’re devoted. They worship front and center, body-rocked and in a state of soul-cleansing ablution. When news of a Light Yourself on Fire show hits, it’s not a casual “Hey, let’s grab a bite and maybe go to the show,” it’ more of an imperative, “When are they playing — we’re there!”
Light Yourself on Fire formed in 2004 and draws fans all ages and of all tastes, transfixing and moving crowds with a heady mixture of metal, hardcore and eerie, random samples – sources include philosopher Alan Watts, a church hymn and oncoming train.
The biggest mindbender of all: how effectively frontman Matt Coplon, guitarist John Allen, drummer Ken Karg and bassist Robert Winslow inflict such a smash-and-grab while maintaining balance and restraint, captivating fans both cerebrally and viscerally.
According to Allen, it’s no accident.
“It’s intentional. For us, I would say it’s been a natural development. It’s really easy to make hardcore boring. And hardcore music is what we’ve all done for years, so if you’re a hardcore fan and you play it and you’re in the middle of the chugga-chug revolution, it doesn’t take long for you to feel like, wow, something different has to happen. But you never lose your taste for that part you feel. We try to keep that part you feel but make it interesting so that it’s not just what hardcore used to be.”
Speaking of those days, Allen, Karg and Winslow all played in the scene-beloved ’90s band Scrog, while Coplon fronted Reversal of Man, a band with socially relevant themes.
So, where did the old friends reunite?
“At Publix,” they responded in near-perfect unison. Karg, Allen and Winslow bumped into each other at the supermarket and discussed starting a band. Coplon was the unanimous choice for a frontman.
Coplon has a modest, polite demeanor in everyday life, contrasting his demonic screams and spasms on stage, a performance style he describes as therapeutic. He’s the most avid reader of the band, inserting references to Camus and Sartre in his lyrics.
Light Yourself on Fire doesn’t fit the mold of the typical metal band. They don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or even listen to metal all that much. Curly-mustached Allen is a manager at Cappy’s Pizza and Karg is a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Winslow does hair in New York and commutes to Tampa for gigs. Coplon manages sales and the BMX freestyle team for Profile Racing.
But they do capitalize on some expertise of production talent in the metal genre, with the help of sound engineer Mark Nikolich (Torche and the Holy Mountain), visual art by Steak Mountain and Atomic Audio Studio — most recently on their 2010 Sea Legs EP.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*.