There are a few ways to tell the story of what's happened to Lima, OH band Hit the Lights between the releases of their debut This Is a Stick Up… Don't Make It a Murder in 2006 and their new album Skip School, Start Fights, which comes out July 8th 2008. The tale could be recounted as an overly dramatic saga of four young lads who prevailed over the tragic loss of their former singer and came out swinging- and singing- with even greater ferocity and passion than before. Or it could be conveyed as a comedic lark, eschewing drama for a series of jokes about guitarists with afros and puns involving their band name. Or, maybe, it could even started with the words "Once upon a time…" But anyway you tell it, anyway it's told, the journey of Hit the Lights over the past two years has been a necessary one, filled with blessings in disguise, and ending happily in every possible version.
After touring endlessly on This Is a Stick Up with bands like Paramore and New Found Glory and spending two successive summers on the Vans Warped Tour, Hit the Lights shuffled home to the endless cornfields of Ohio in the beginning of the summer of 2007 with the intent to write and record their follow-up album. But- cue the dramatic music- just as the band was settling in to pen some songs that would, as Omar says, "totally cream the songs on the last record," their singer Colin Ross packed his microphone and called it quits. The remaining four members spent the rest of the summer writing songs on their own, all the while searching for a new singer that would mesh with the chemistry the band has spend the last five years acquiring. As it turned out, they needed look no further than their own guitarist.
"We were trying to encourage Nick to do it from the beginning, but he wanted to make sure that there was nobody out there we could find that would be better," Omar explains of selecting Nick to jump into frontman position. "There was no harm in looking before we started going in that direction."
So the band went to Philadelphia in the fall of 2007 to lay down a few demos with Playwork Productions to get a clearer sense of the songs they wanted on the new album, which Omar defines as a "bigger, heavier, poppier version of us." While on the East Coast Hit the Lights hooked up with producer Rob Freeman (former guitarist for Hidden in Plain View) and recorded a rollicking cover of Scandal's "The Warrior"- with Nick on lead vocals. The experience was- cue the dramatic soundtrack again- illuminating for the band, setting them in the right direction for the record.
"We just clicked with him on every level, as far as a producer goes," Omar says of Rob. "We were definitely on the same wave-length. He totally got what we were trying to do. Based on the chemistry we had with him we just made a decision right there- Nick's going to sing and we're going to produce it with Rob."
The beginning of 2008 brought Hit the Lights into the studio with Rob in New Jersey for a month and half, where they refined the 13 tracks that eventually landed on the jumping, hook-laden Skip School, Start Fights, an album that does, in fact, totally cream their first disc. First single "Stay Out," which initially appeared on the band's MySpace page as a demo before the album's release, epitomizes the band's signature combination of catchy choruses, bouncing melodies and generally likeable musical sensibility. Plus, as Omar eloquently puts it, "the record version just kicks the demo's ass." The rest of the tracks range from the energetic fun of "Drop the Girl" to the thumping, guitar-heavy "Cry Your Eyes Out" to the driving, propulsive "Winding Down," but really it's, as they say, all killer, no filler.
"I love every song," Nick adds. "The goal even before Colin left the band was to write better songs than on our first record. After that whole experience, I think we made a better record than we would have originally. We were able to write the record we wanted to make we got to make with someone we wanted to work with. There was a great vibe in the studio and it was the best recording experience we've ever had. Everything just felt right. It feels good to have a record we're proud of!"