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Lamplight's self-titled debut takes a journey through consciousness

Joshua H. Chang
Chromatic PR

The Roanoke-based folk-rock musician performs at Black Iris Social Club on March 13.

Virginia musician Ian Hatcher-Williams performs under the name Lamplight. It’s a fitting title for a project that’s distinctly preoccupied with the meaning of home — Lamplight’s self-titled debut album, out March 8, was conceived while in the process of moving from New York and back to his home in the Roanoke area.

Influenced by both the layered techniques of Broken Social Scene and the pensive approaches of Duster and The Big Net, Hatcher-Williams describes his songwriting process as “sifting through moments and dusting them off.” I caught up with him to learn more about the new album, his upcoming show at the Black Iris Social Club, and the art of making the subconscious conscious.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You're performing here in Richmond with Burns Burly West and Saw Black at the Black Iris Social Club on March 13. Let's start by talking a little bit more about the show.

I got introduced to Burns Burly West by Mike, who plays in that group. He is an old friend of a friend of mine, Adam, who actually plays drums on the new record. They used to have a project named The K Word, and they were very active and touring, maybe like 15 years ago. Burns Burly West also recently released some music, so I'm excited to hear a full-length there.

I came across Saw Black a long time ago and have really appreciated his ambient approach to music that you would consider Appalachian, or tinged by place. A lot of the artists that are playing on this tour, I'm also excited about that fresh take on what it means to not be from a city. I think that can come across in the music we've made. I've been excited to find and discover artists that I hadn't heard of along the way.


Your debut, self-titled album is out on March 8, and you recorded it while in the process of moving into this old farmhouse in Appalachia, right?

Yeah. I’m from Roanoke, which is 3.5 hours south of Richmond. Two years ago, now — we recorded the record in 2022, so this would have been the summer that I started writing it — my partner, Elizabeth, and I spent about a month in the sticks around that area.

We rented out the basement of this other person's house and got to know him quite a bit. It was kind of a test run for us being back in the state: We lived in Brooklyn for five years, pursuing careers, pursuing leaving home for the first time in our late 20s.

And the very last day of that test run, before we leave to go back to New York, I see this house online and we go there that day. We smelled the air, heard the birds and immediately put an offer on it.

A lot of the record is made with that context — knowing that we're going to be leaving this place and returning not quite to where we're from, but close enough that we could say that we did return. Dealing with all of the emotional toil that comes with that: leaving a path that you thought you would be on for a while and realizing that this is actually a better path than the one that you were on.

The record is very much inspired by knowing that a transition is coming because there's a calendar date attached to it, but you're not quite in it yet.

I think the theme of home is very present on the album. There's this consistent negotiation throughout of what home means, and what it means to leave and come back.

You're totally right to use the phrase “negotiation,” because I think a lot of people would view this move or return home as a failure in some sense. There were a whole lot of doubts in in choosing that, and so it’s very much voicing this idea of evaluating yourself, evaluating your own decisions, evaluating the voices that you listen to.

This is the first Lamplight album. What are some of the major influences on Lamplight as a project and this record?

I took a huge break from making music in between my last project and this one, which is the first time any music of mine has been signed to a record label. And I think, in the meantime, my tastes have changed quite a bit. I think there's still remnants of that in that wall of sound that's happening on the record, just the sheer amount of noise and layers of instruments. A band like Broken Social Scene — one of the guitarists had a project named Apostle of Hustle, and that was really influential in my early 20s, wanting to create this massive, noisy, lush thing.

Since then, I've started to be more attracted to projects that don't really require that. Most recently, there's a side project of the band Wand, namely the songwriter Cory Hanson. His solo records are this very stripped-down representation of his songwriting in comparison to Wand. Things like Duster, general slowcore stuff.

The main engineer and producer on this record, Kevin Copeland, his project and the mixing engineer’s is called The Big Net, and I think they do this really well. They're a three piece, some vocal harmonies. It's very much about the songwriting, and whether or not each individual piece serves the purpose of the song.

I don't know, the influence question is a tricky one. It's such an internal record that I feel like my influences are more, like, my therapist, honestly. One of the working titles of the record was this phrase, “between stimulus and response.”

It comes from the author and psychologist Viktor Frankl, who's famous for writing Man's Search for Meaning. He's a Holocaust survivor. I'm going to paraphrase the quote a little bit here, but it's something to the effect of “between stimulus and response, there's a place, and in that place, you have the power to choose your response.”

And in choosing that response, you are in control or have autonomy over your own growth. It's saying, “you can't control stimulus, you can't control things that are happening to you. But you can control how you react to them.”

Another thing that strikes me about the album is the scope and how it shifts. The title track covers years and years of ground, while “Call Your Mom” zeroes in on a really specific moment. How do you decide how to tell these stories and which lens to use?

I don't think I've gotten to the point where it is conscious, or that I have a master plan. The piano player on the record, his name's Joshua Chang. He writes songs very intentionally, and I definitely look up to him for that reason. He's such an amazing songwriter in that he can, like, hear a situation and decide in that moment that it's a song, and then he'll go off and write it.

In contrast, this record was written sifting through moments and dusting them off, or unveiling them from under some sand that I'm brushing away. It's very much a discovery process for me, and it's a very clumsy one.

You mentioned producer Kevin Copeland. How did you decide to work together?

That was also kind of a subconscious thing. Elizabeth worked at this company in New York called Ninth Street Espresso, and we can't place a single employee that has worked there that doesn't have an artistic practice. And yeah, I don't know, it was just this organic thing.

Elizabeth mentioned that I had bought a new guitar to Kevin, and he just poked me into trying out demoing stuff. And then that snowballed into convincing myself to write a whole record’s worth of songs, asking for a bunch of help. Josh also works at Ninth Street; Kevin Cabano plays guitar on the record and also worked at Ninth Street.

Being surrounded by all of these people making music, I was feeling like I had paused that part of myself for too long. It was just presented to me on a silver platter, and I just took the opportunity to do it. I'm glad I did.

It's amazing how intuitive this whole process has sounded for this record – not only assembling the group who would play on it, but also the songwriting process and even finding the house.

Yeah, it's weird. I'm still reckoning with that. My therapist likes to describe luck as a disguise for being prepared for something. Whether you're consciously or unconsciously prepared for something, it will appear that it is luck, but it's really you being prepared for something to happen — and maybe you weren't before.

Lamplight’s debut self-titled album is out now. He performs at Black Iris Social Club on Wednesday, March 13.

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