In the immortal words of Willie Nelson, "Turn out the lights / the party's over / they say that all / good things must end."
As some celebrate the end of the year unreservedly, others tend to the bittersweet wounds of new beginnings.
On Dec. 21, fellow SoundDiego Associate Editor Dustin Lothspeich played his final show with Diamond Lakes following lead singer Matthew Bradley's hiring at Meow Wolf, an arts production company in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In addition to the farewell affair at the Merrow (which was extra special, given the fact that Lothspeich is also the talent buyer there), the band -- which, aside from Lothspeich and Bradley, also includes Adam Eidson on drums and David MacAdam on lead guitar -- decided to give listeners a Christmas miracle by going out in a blaze a glory with the surprise release of "Anti-Gravity," the second and final release of their four-year tenure.
Lothspeich was right when he wrote, "Burnout rock & roll never sounded so good," online when sharing the EP last week. So, in honor of the band turning out the lights and letting this good thing come to an end, I've included the entirety of my conversation with friend, colleague and Diamond Lakes bassist Dustin Lothspeich below -- it just didn't feel right to leave any part of it out.
You were together for four years, correct? How did you meet Matthew and why did guys decide to start this band?
Lothspeich: Yeah, we’ve been playing together since 2013 but Matt and David had been playing with two other guys for about a year or two prior (I’m hazy on the dates). We met because we shared the same practice space and we’d all run into each other pretty frequently because of that. I was playing in Boy King at the time and both of the bands ended up on the same bill at the Tower Bar one night. After we played, Diamond Lakes went on and Matt announced that the show would be the last for both their bassist and drummer and said that if anyone in the crowd knew someone that could step in, to send them his way. Me and Adam (the drummer in Boy King) both looked at each other at the same time and were like “Uh, how ‘bout it?” We both loved the band’s music and Matt and David were, of course, cool dudes. So we went up to Matt after the show and told him we were down to step in if they wanted us. Dude almost cried tears of joy because he just kind of assumed the band was going to be over. [Laughs]
What's your favorite memory from playing in Diamond Lakes?
Lothspeich: Man, we had a good run. Lots of good shows, some bad shows and some really wacky shows. I think my favorite memory though was our final show on Dec. 21. Matt’s moving to New Mexico for a new job and it was a true farewell party. All his friends were there and his brother Jeff drove out from Phoenix and surprised him at the venue. Apparently, Jeff plays drums but the two of them had never performed onstage together. So he came up and played drums on our cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements and man, it was a real special moment between the two of them. Don’t think there was a dry eye in the place after it was all said and done, and I don’t think it could’ve ended any better than that.
What are the themes and stories behind this EP?
Lothspeich: Bradley’s really the guy to talk to about that since he wrote all of Diamond Lakes' songs (well, except for “Once in a While” and “Comin’ Up Again" on the new EP, which are MacAdam’s songs). I'll let him take it away.
Bradley: I don't really think this was intentional, because these songs came together over such a long period of time, but I can see a certain despair in the lyrics that I'm responsible for ("Anti-Gravity," "Pocket Full of Dimes" and "Hollow Claims"). There's a lot to be distraught about when you look around, not just the immediate political shit-show, but our culture and economy in general. It feels like we're approaching some sort of tipping point. I think the lyrics that I contributed to this EP reflect that. Hopefully there's also a light-hearted "oh well, f--- it ..." kind of vibe too, though. I try to utilize humor to lighten the mood. I hope that comes across.
Bradley: I guess this is the hopeful song of the bunch. I'm into conspiracies, alternate histories, etc. This song is kind of new-agey I guess, which is funny to me. There are theories that gravity can be manipulated and that that's how they built the pyramids and Coral Castle and stuff. Zero-point (free) energy theories line up with this too. A piece of deliberately indulgent wishful thinking. Our economics are really f---ed up; something's gotta give.
What did you guys hope to get across with the new EP?
Bradley: I don't really think I approach music that way. I just want to play loud kick-ass rock & roll. Tonally, I like presenting a dissonant relationship between the poppy melodies and the noise/power of the band. But, I don't approach lyrics with much of an agenda. I just kind of say what I'm thinking at the time, and try to make it work with the music.
So many bands are doing the long-distance thing these days. Why not keep the band going across state lines?
Lothspeich: Well, we had actually tapered off earlier this year. It was getting increasingly difficult to write new material between our schedules and daily lives, and rehearsals were getting fewer and farther between. Adam told us he had decided to quit -- but since we had plans to record a new EP, he said he’d stay on so we could finish that. After that was done in May, he went on his way and we were stuck in that weird band limbo area where you need a new member but not really sure how to make that happen. We reached out to a number of people but nothing ever seemed quite right. A month ago or so, Matt landed his new job at Meow Wolf and told us he was moving in the beginning of January. We still hadn’t released the EP and we all felt like it’d be really fun to play a final show, send off Matt in style and put the new songs out at the same time. There’s been no real talk of continuing the band after he leaves, really. It’s basically up to Matt though -- the band is his baby, he’s the heart and soul behind it. He knows I’ll always be down to play with him whenever. But I think we kind of wrapped it up as well as we could, and that’s a satisfying feeling.
Anything you want to share about the importance of Matthew and Diamond Lakes to your life and musical development?
Lothspeich: For me, playing in Diamond Lakes was just about trying something new. I’d never played bass in a band before and I ended up really enjoying it. The music was unlike anything I’d played and the kinds of songs that the band wrote just sound so different than a lot of what is coming out of San Diego right now. I think that really appealed to me as a musician. As far as the importance of Matt to me? He’s one of my best friends. And he’s truly a great artist in so many realms. Besides being a student of all different kinds of music, I consider him to be an extraordinary songwriter, a passionate performer, and a supremely talented painter -- my wife and I are proud owner of two of his paintings (you've also seen his work on the covers of some Lucero records, and he's exhibited all over -- including a recent run at the San Diego airport). Of course, none of that would matter if he wasn’t a great person. He’s so sincere, easy to be around and there isn’t a disingenuous or mean bone in his body. There are some people that come into your life and enrich it in ways you never imagined -- and he’s one of those people.
What’s the hardest thing about breaking up?
Lothspeich: Honestly, just losing that sense of camaraderie. We’re all still great friends, of course, but there’s something about knowing you all have this schedule where at the very least, you knew you’d be able to hang with your buds a few times a month. I’ll miss that. Being in a band is all about personal relationships. That’s why when some bands break up, they never speak to each other again. With our band, at least we got to the finish line with those relationships intact, and I think we all love that it was able to end with a bang rather than a whimper.
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford poet-neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now fronts the Lulls, plays lead guitar in LA band Velvet and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Instagram and Twitter (@RArosenborg), add him on Facebook or contact him directly.