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Lightlooms has jelled with its Synaptic Sea EP

Meet the illuminating members of Lightlooms.
Nicole McElhose

Meaghan Lillis met Josh Guisinger while the two were students at Auraria. Lillis was studying piano performance, and Guisinger was an art student. They had run into each other at Radiohead and Björk concerts, and then at the bookstore in Westminster where Lillis worked. They bonded over music and decided to jam together.

Lillis suffered from terrible stage fright, and working with other musicians appealed to her immediately. She and Guisinger wrote music together as a duo for more than a year before playing occasionally with Guisinger's cousin, bassist Zack Martinson, and then more regularly with Chris Durant, who has played in a dozen or so bands over the past several years. Lightlooms released a stripped-down debut EP in 2010, shortly after making its live debut as a trio at the Meadowlark. Last year, the bandmembers began to jell creatively more than ever, and the results of their collaborative partnership can be heard on their new EP, Synaptic Sea.

Lillis is self-effacing about her musical chops, but the EP reveals a clear ability to structure songs in a way that takes advantage of technical knowledge to make instantly captivating music. Although very much in the realm of dream pop, there is an emotional immediacy to the band's sound. We caught up with the musicians at Halogen Sound, where they rehearse and record, and talked about Lillis's classical background and Martinson's mad-scientist tendencies and signature bent-circuit devices.

Westword: Why did you not continue down the path of classical pianist?

Meaghan Lillis: After studying classical piano in school, I realized that was never going to happen, and I never really wanted to be a classical pianist anyway. Just technique-wise and the atmosphere of the classical-music world — it's extremely competitive. You kind of figure out you don't have the chops. I never really wanted to be part of that world; I just loved studying it, studying music theory and learning ways of actually being able to do something with this stuff. I went with it to learn as much as I could, but I really knew all along that I just wanted to write my own songs. I kind of thought I'd do the sort of piano singer-songwriter kind of thing. I never really felt comfortable doing that, either, though. I love a lot of piano singer-songwriters, like Tori Amos, Regina Spektor and some of those people, but I felt like I didn't have much to say with that. I was looking for something a little bit more.

Zack, you have a device called Dora the Destroyer. How did you come up with that?

Zack Martinson: Actually, there's a company that makes them. I found a schematic and got all the parts. I put it into a Dora the Explorer lunchbox. It's basically a "photo-theremin" or a "photo-synth." It has different oscillators that I can use to change the tones.

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