Music News

Lightning Cult Tackles Death and Impermanence on The Whole Pulse

Lightning Cult releases its debut full-length album on Friday, June 10.
Lightning Cult releases its debut full-length album on Friday, June 10. Leah Woodruff and Nina Wright
Lightning Cult’s debut full-length, The Whole Pulse, evokes the sounds of electronic duos such as the Flowerpot Men or Ratatat, the effects-laden guitars of U2 and the psychedelic textures of the Flaming Lips — all at the same time.

The album, which is set for release on Friday, June 10, is "a big conceptual thing,” says Mike Marchant, one half of the Santa Fe-based indie duo. “The songs flow into one another and are musically and thematically linked. There are instrumental pieces that kind of work as bridges between this song and that song.”

While writing the music, Marchant took inspiration from psychedelic and art rock from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, as well as epic records from the likes of Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys and David Bowie that he listened to as a kid while learning to play the guitar. More recent influencers include the bands associated with the Elephant 6 collective, which has a strong connection to Denver and its DIY spirit, as well as a penchant for making big, ambitious records.

Marchant has called Santa Fe home for the past several years, but he has deep roots in the Denver music scene. He grew up in the suburbs and moved to the city when he turned eighteen. That’s where he says he discovered his creative identity, including his time as the frontman of psychedelic rock band Widowers.

“I used to be more of like a bandleader, playing lots of shows, performing a lot,” he says. “All of that happened in Denver, so I'm very tied to a lot of musicians there, a lot of venues there. It’s where I started out.”

His last few years in Denver marked a rough time in his life, however. He beat cancer, but fell into drinking and using drugs. Marchant got sober in 2015 and moved to Santa Fe to “lay low,” as he puts it, temporarily retiring from making music. What was perhaps a passing relocation became permanent as he decided he liked the town.

“I found it to be a really great place for me to live, and I just kind of stayed," he says. “I didn't plan to pull up my roots and move. But I just kind of stayed and then ultimately sort of built a life down here.”

Marchant knew his Lightning Cult bandmate, Luke Bern Carr, from around town, and the two eventually began collaborating at the suggestion of a mutual friend. Marchant sent Carr some demo tracks to break the ice, and the pair wound up releasing two EPs prior to The Whole Pulse.

“We just really jell creatively,” Marchant says. “[Carr] is really good at everything I’m not, which makes him an ideal partner. We trust each other’s work, which I think is really good for a creative partnership.”

The new album combines the best textures and sounds that he and Carr culled from their first two EPs, he adds: “The first [EP] is pretty straightforward. The second one kind of starts to get into some of the more experimental and electronic textures that are on this new record.”

Thematically, The Whole Pulse deals with the concepts of death and impermanence and, more broadly, connection and communication. “There was a period of time during which few people who were significant to me for very different reasons passed away,” Marchant explains. “All these people made things and destroyed things, gave and took, helped people and hurt people. Everyone does all of these things in different ways and [to] varying degrees.”

He paid attention to how the people around him reacted to these losses by continuing to interact with those who passed on, says Marchant, adding that he likes to tackle heavy subjects in his work and disguise that heaviness under a veneer of beauty.

“I’m naturally drawn to things that are dark or mysterious or complex,” he says. “But I’m kind of an optimistic and positive person, so it winds up somewhere in between. What I hope comes out is a real warm-sounding record about a cold subject, or a bright-sounding record about a dark subject.”

While The Whole Pulse is a concept album, Marchant cops to the fact that most people probably won’t care to explore that part of it. And he’s okay with that — he just wants you to listen to it as you would any other music.

“You can put it on while you do the dishes,” he offers. “Hopefully, people will hear the way that all of the songs are kind of connected and working in the service of this bigger whole. I hope that comes across to people regardless of whether or not they care to dig into the lyrics.”

Marchant and Carr split instrumental duties, with Marchant taking over most of the guitars and electronics, and Bern manning the drums and bass.

“We wanted a really big sound,” Marchant concludes. “We wanted something that will reward the listener who dives in with headphones.”

The Whole Pulse will be released Friday, June 10, on Bandcamp.
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