Flashlights started in the basement of Ethan Converse's house in Four Mile Canyon shortly after he graduated from college, when he and Sam Martin met through mutual friends. Inspired by Martin's desire to break away from his background in rock groups and propelled by Converse's realization that a creative endeavor would be more fulfilling than pursuing an academic career path, the pair started making music together under the Flashlights moniker.
Since the act's inception in the fall of 2009, the two have crafted a body of evocative, hazy synth pop that recalls the later work of Giorgio Moroder, conjuring images of neon-lit '80s-era dance clubs. There's an unmistakable dreamlike air to much of the band's music, and its sound is a bit like retro-futurist R&B, in part because of singer Converse's resonant tones. In spring 2011, Binary released the Hidden Behind Trees EP, now being reissued on vinyl in time for Flashlights' West Coast tour. We recently had a suitably late-night phone conversation with Converse about the illusion of any young band's seeming rise to notoriety.
Westword: Some people might be under the impression that Flashlights is an overnight success of some kind, with you signing to a label so early in your band's history and the press you've received outside of Denver.
Flashlights, with Force Publique, R E A L M A G I C and Whygee, 8 p.m. Friday, August 5, Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street, $8-$10, 303-292-2083.
Ethan Converse: Some of the songs that are on our [latest] EP we wrote over a year before that — so it's not like we wrote three songs, shipped them out and bam! And it's not like our deal is all too glamorous, either. Me and Sam started out with such low expectations, and I had never played a show in my life before [February 2010]. We probably have fifteen or twenty songs that we wrote that will never see the light of day. I feel like a lot of bands start up immediately, write their songs and put them out, write the next batch and put them out.
Because we had no expectations, we kept them close to the heart, and when we got over them, they were done for good. Over time, a few of them stuck out, but there were probably two or three songs between each one we ended up keeping that got thrown out. So it's definitely not an overnight thing. We put a year in before we even thought of releasing anything, because we didn't think we were good enough — mostly because we were learning our instruments, learning how to use programs and how to produce the music.
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The overnight thing might count if you just heard of us, but we spent our due time in basements before playing shows, and even after playing a couple of shows and reinventing our wheel. Once we were confident enough with the few songs we had, we hit it hard. We e-mailed everyone we knew, and we got a few bites from it, but Binary seemed like the best move at the time.