Lakefight is among one of the most energetic acts in Seattle. Singer and piano player David Gladfelter has an ability to lose himself completely to the music. While playing he thrashes his fingers over the keys while screaming, squirming, and rolling his eyes into the back of his head like like a amped up Jerry Lee Lewis. With equal voracity Ziggy Comer smashes on drums, guitarist Dillan Johnson shreds, and bassist Taylor Schomer keeps them in line with a focused beat.
Sweat – along with everything else people weren’t able to work out at the gym or their shrinks office – comes pouring out the audience members faces in response to Lakefight’s music. With a punk-core, can-do, get on that floor and fuckin’ dance attitude, this foursome are one of the rare acts in town capable of making Seattleites thrash.
After a night of letting loose at a Lakefight concert, I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with the band. From their personal dynamics, banana hands, the Iceman, hot-dog suits, feathers and more, we got to the grist of what it means to create high octane music with a boot to ass-force ratio that would down a Stallion.
David, you have an extremely unique voice. You’re a real screamer; it’s awesome! When you’re jamming on the keys and your eyes are rolling in the back of your head, it’s very theatrical. How did you find that?
David: I would say when I first started music I was not that good at playing music, but I wasn’t really into that, I was more into songwriting really. So I made just really upsetting acoustic songs, and that was part of it, because I would get so into it, and that’s kind of where it started. Then playing in an aggressive band which kind of just changed my voice around, using it more as a crutch, because I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my voice, and wouldn’t say I have tons of it. But just finding the way that you sing. The screaming stuff, when we first started this band four years ago with different people, screaming was like a big thing. It was very nice to have gang vocal, everyone just goin’ crazy, and that’s kind of where it started.Ziggy: One thing that I definitely like about the way you sing, and the way we play, and I think that has carried through into the way we play our music, Lakefight ethic in a way, is that like regardless of melody or technicality, and being able to play super duper well, it’s about the emotional cell, about the rise and fall of energy as much as it is about melody. When we’re writing a song we’re not just talking about notes, we’re talking about like “we need to ramp up the energy for these three beats, so the next eight bars are over the top, then drastically bring it down, then bring it back up. Really try and sideswipe the listener, try and catch them off guard as much as possible.
David: A lot of times we think of the music not as a separate thing from the vocals, but we work really hard to make sure it can be played instrumentally and you wouldn’t get bored. And so the vocals are like the icing on the cake and we read just, pretty I guess like, not linear songs, not like verse chorus, verse chorus.
From a composition standpoint it sounds like you put a lot of thought into structure. What do you do, or look for, or draw upon in order to achieve this?
Dillan: I think the people that we think are the most interesting are the people who are the most expressive about themselves. The people that are cool are the people who are themselves. You know what I mean? So it’s like, how do you write a cool song?
Ziggy: Make it as honest as possible.
Dillan: When you get up there and you want to play, what do you want to play? If you’re gonna play it 500 times in three months, the fuck do you want to play? This is what I want to play.
Ziggy: We could write pretty indie songs, but we want to get up there and kick ass so we write bad-ass songs. Songs we’d want to listen to.
David: And it’s not that lame like, artists thing of “I make music or I make my art just for myself.”
Dillan: It’s personal in that respect.
Ziggy: In a particular part you have certain people in mind that you know are gonna like it. It’s like, I can’t wait to drag them to a show and throw this in their face. There’s a lot of sniping of people that support us, like the Iceman, oh my god you should tell more about that story.
Dillan: At our old practice space we met a guy called the Iceman. He’s the most epic person ever. He’s tellin’ stories about going to the King Diamond shows and sneaking in people, I don’t know exactly what direct point to get to with this story. You know, he has hair down to his ass and wears a tight white leather jacket.
Ziggy: He’s in a thrash band.
Dillan: Yeah, he’s in a thrash band and I could hear him shredding around the corner of our practice space. One day he comes up smokin’ a cigarette and says he got hurt so he can’t work anymore, but he wants to give guitar lessons to like ten year old’s. Well I was like “hey, I’m 23, you wouldn’t give me a guitar lesson?” And uh, he showed me a couple of things and we worked on this one song in particular called Bowie Knife, and he showed me just how to go up and down and left and right on the neck. And last night we go to play, third song in, I look over my shoulder to look at Ziggy, and out the window behind us, because we’re playing in the front of a bar, the Iceman is there just like “yeah!” He wasn’t even coming to our show, he was just walkin’ by. And we’re like, here’s the song you helped us with.
Ziggy: He’s like an ice wizard.
Dillan: His hair is super blond. He’s mythic, that’s the word, mythic. I took one lesson from him and it was like an hour long, and he was like, you’re not leaving here until you’ve learned Raining Blood, you can’t be a shredder until you know Raining Blood.
Ziggy: But we could go on forever about the ice wizard.
David: So basically last night the Ice Man cameth.
Ziggy: Cameth all over the place.
David: But that’s enough about the ice wizard.
Ziggy: Banana hands. Banana hands.
Dillan: Banana Hands!
Ziggy: Banana Hands. Time to get serious.
Dillan: Whenever we’re messing around that’s the polite way of saying…
Ziggy: Stop noodling.
Ha! Nice, I like you have a contingency plan for losing focus. You all seem to work really well together both on and off stage, what do you see drives the success of your collaboration?
Dillan: The reason I’m here and the reason you’re here is because you can do stuff that I can’t and I can do stuff that you can’t. That’s it, that’s the ultimate understanding.
David: Yeah and that works. I think all of us are pretty knowledgeable but we’ve been trained differently. I’d say like Schomer is super knowledgeable.
Dillan: A fuckin’ encyclopedia!
David: And then Ziggy went to school for that shit. So he’s like, before not knowing a lot, and then like translating. Dillan and I, Dillan knows more than I do…
Dillan: Not actually trained, just picking up and figuring it out.
David: There’s still a bond there because like, say like, sometimes we’ll struggle, or I’ll have something that I don’t know how to explain or translate to everyone else. This one instance there was like, I was tryin’ to figure out a time signature and couldn’t figure it out, and Ziggy and Schomer just sat down and were able to figure it out.
I know keeping such high energy for a whole show would be impossible for me. What do you have to face? What are the challenges you have to overcome with such intense performances?
David: Connecting with a crowd, that’s tough. And I feel like…I know I have a problem with banter in between songs and making it seem like real. Sometimes we’ve had things that don’t go over. Sometimes we joke with people. It’s mostly like “what do we do?” This is so weird, especially when you’re playing something super dense.
Ziggy: The character drops.
Dillan: We don’t spend time talking about what we’re going to do between songs.
You need an MC to jump in.
David: We used to, we had a real close friend of ours who did most of our artwork in the early days, Luke.
Dillan: He did it to death.
Dillan: He passed away unfortunately. He was the man, he was definitely awesome to have in a band. We had a show right, the show sold out, we were playing second, but he shows up and he’s wearing a hot-dog suit and sunglasses and he opens up with “Live! Direct from Hell, it’s Lakefight!” then spent the rest of the show moshing in the hotdog suit moshing and getting everybody fuckin pumped!
David: I wish we had another hype man, I really do, seriously. Because a lot of the time, with older Lakefight, the music was not as complex and so we could do theatrics and throw feathers and do these kind of things. But now, we really just have to be on it.
Taylor: Yeah, to be honest we’ve dropped a lot of the theatric aspect of the band, honestly. Not like intentionally like, we don’t want to do this…
Dillan: We don’t need it anymore. It’s awesome for showmanship, but its like the music has become so dramatic we don’t need to rely on it anymore. It used to bridge a gap basically when it was just me and David and we didn’t have the musical talent that we have with these guys, we were compensating.
Well now that you’re at a point musically you’ve succeeded making up for where that theatric once was what’s keeping you from bringing that aspect back? I mean, hot-dog hype man, that sounds fantastic!
Dillan: I am not averse to hot-dog hype man, I just think we’re just a lot more focused in on something a little more dogmatic. More at the heart of the music, the music is so theatric now, essentially, we are more just ourselves on stage which is something that has gradually happened just recently, maybe in the last six months or so we’ve stopped throwing feathers on the stage and wearing white t-shirts and short shorts, and painting our faces; we used to do that all the time, you know just smearing paint all over the place. Or like trying to do our own Kiss makeup.
David: But I think that cuts to the core of band ethos. It’s always been about like, “guys, we’re in this together and we can do everything ourselves.”
Dillan: And we can be something bigger than we are on our own, together.
David: Oh yeah, exactly. Going in with that connection. I mean that’s kind of what art’s about: communicating something that’s in your head that you couldn’t do any other way.
So I take it you’re all pretty close personally outside band business?
David: Yeah, when we first started the band, it was, you know, Dillian and I were huge friends, and two of our other friends, it was like all of us were just like super good friends; we all liked each other a lot. And then, you know with Ziggy we became super good friends getting tight like that. So when we brought Schomer into the band he just blowed us over musically, and then like find out, Schomer’s super super tight. So its just about being super good friends with each other and make each other laugh and shit like that; that’s the most important thing.
Dillan: And to be able to check each other on our shit too.
Ziggy: And you know, the main thing that drew me to theses guys, I saw them play, and I understood the energy and what kind of was going on there. And it was more about being on the same page of what needs to be expressed and what needs to be out there, than it is about “I want to play guitar with this guy.” I didn’t necessarily want to play drums for these guys, but it was more about being on the same energy wavelength and having the same ambitions, than it was about the music itself. The music is a result of that relationship.
David: I think we talk about music in a super particular way. There’s a lot of what note, chord, key this needs to be, but a lot more of the time its like…not to sound lame or something…
Dillan: It’s gonna sound lame
Schomer: It’s gonna sound lame
David: What, how, why are we doing this? What are we trying to convey?
Ziggy: I think what we are trying to do with music is basically remind ourselves, and in the process everybody else, that punk rock attitude that anyone can do it like, “yeah, fuck yeah!” And that it doesn’t have to be this 50’s call back to like the 1-4-5. You can like emulate the soundtrack to Doom and these Italian movies from the 70’s and just link it, tie it back together. Because music is a thorough composition, it has been an evolution.
Dillan: It sounds like a spastic 80’s video game. 8 bit pixel and crap where some guys just freaking out or on drugs.
Ziggy: For me, a lot of it, and the fucking band, it’s about destroying apathy. Its about eliciting an emotional response. All this different types of music we like, the 50’s, the Blood Brothers, hip-hop is another really big thing, these are things that elicit emotional response from us and then we incorporate them into our music and then we sell it with all we fucking got to get an emotional response from the crowd. And not even just the crowd, we’re in the crowd all the time too at shows, that apathy exist in me too at shows, and I’m tryin’ to destroy that as much as I’m trying to destroy it in other people, and I think that’s a huge part of what Lakefight is about.
Catch Lakefight this March 5th at the Vera Project, 20th at the Blue Moon Tavern, 3/23 at Rendezvous.
Tavis Hamilton is an independent writer and filmmaker based in the Pacific Northwest. Find his clogged spout of self promotion on Twitter @TavisHamilton