Brite Winter 2016 Artist Spotlight: By Light We Loom
By Rachel Hunt
Storytellers, innovators, entertainers: we expect musicians to embrace many roles within their craft to keep our attention as listeners. Perhaps there is no one as fickle as the critic, which is what each of us inherently become when listening to a new release or watching a live performance. Shanna Delaney and Eric Ling, the duo behind By Light We Loom, understand the desire that audiences small and large alike have to be engaged.
“All four of these songs have been mainstays of our live set for several months,” Delaney says, going through the tracks that made their way onto their newest EP, Caught in the Tide, released on January 12th of this year. “We try to be very picky about what we release. A while back we came to the conclusion that we would much rather release a few songs that we are really proud of than stretching to release a certain quantity.”
Caught In The Tide is an extremely well curated collection of instant indie-pop classics, catchy as all hell, and at just under 20 minutes long, impossible to listen to too many times in a row. Where By Light We Loom’s debut EP The Ignition was an exploration of the couple’s transitioning sound, this year they have found their niche. “When we first started making music together it was really, really difficult,” acknowledges Ling. “We were coming from complete opposite sides of the music world. So there was quite a bit of head butting as we each tried in vain to push the project more to our liking.”
On the album they sound formidably large, like an Arcade Fire led by Régine Chassagne instead of husband Win Butler. It’s an apt comparison considering their jangly full-fledged melodies, early 2000’s synth-pop sensibility, and that Delaney and Ling are also married. What is it with power couples? “We loved music and each other so much, we were persistent where wiser people might walk away,” Ling says. “I think we are fortunate, because I can’t think of anything that has gotten harder over the years.”
By Light We Loom is content with keeping the lineup to just the two of them after having played as part of multi-member folk-pop group Bethesda for many years. After releasing an album at MOCA Cleveland and playing festivals such as Bonnaroo, CMJ, and Bunbury with Bethesda, Ling and Delaney readily adapted by doing a little extra, filling out songs with guitar, synth, looping beats, and strong vocal accompaniment in order to sound like a much bigger group. They also enlisted the help of some friends in the studio specifically for this new EP.
“We have become good friends with Jim [Stewart]. So rather than coming in and being focused on recording our parts, we felt free to enjoy the creative process, try out new ideas and truly collaborate to try and make a great album. On his side, Jim felt comfortable enough to throw random musical parts, including full bass lines, into our mixes without us knowing! It became a game to try and find what Jim had added,” laughs Delaney. “But really, it is unique to have a great engineer and producer be so involved and invested in a project. I think that extra bit of heart he put into this project has really helped elevate the songs.”
“We had decided that we wanted some three-part harmonies and group vocals on various parts,” Delaney adds. “We could have created these with our own voices, but we thought it would be a great opportunity to invite some incredible musicians, so we put out an invitation to some of our musician friends from Northeast Ohio. We were thrilled to have the group that we did.” Among those that showed up to contribute were Megan Zurkey and Shawn Brewster who will also be performing at Brite Winter.
One of the qualities that “The Scientist”, “Caught In The Tide”, “Clouds Will Cover Us”, and “Cardinal” all have in common are the intricate stories that they tell through fantastical lyricism. “Every once and a while a story that we are told sticks with us. If we are still thinking and talking about it a few days after we hear it, then it must have impacted us and will likely impact others. That’s when we sit down and try to put the story to song,” says Ling. Delaney’s voice easily allows listeners to get caught up in the emotion of the tale, similar to how legendary lyricists like Kate Bush are able to set the mood with melody.
Even the band’s name, By Light We Loom, was inspired by the classic myth of Penelope’s funeral shroud from The Odyssey. Delaney, who is a high school English teacher by day, knows it well. “We loved this imagery of hanging on to hope, even when all signs seem to be saying that hope is lost. In our minds, by light she loomed. In a similar way, we were experiencing a period of ‘what now?’ following the end of Bethesda. We could either let music in our lives wither away or pick up the broken pieces and loom them back together with hope. Like Penelope, we labored to prolong the hope and continue to do what we love most – write and perform music.”