Psych-pop rockers Stop Light Observations have been playing together since 2012, delivering intricate lyrics and all-over-the-map sounds for almost 10 years. The foursome consists of lead vocalist William Blackburn, drummer Luke Withers, bassist Will Mahoney, and John Keith Culbreth (aka Kubby) on piano, guitar and synth. Their sound is derived from four worlds colliding: Ray Charles meets The Rolling Stones, and Kanye West meets The Neptunes.
One good thing that came out the lockdown was “8teen,” the group’s newest single. “This song is the peak, monumental energetic field from when everything was at the height of commotion,” Culbreth told the City Paper. SLO’s tour had just been canceled, and most everyone was afraid to leave their houses. Livestream solutions and social-distanced shows weren’t a thing, yet.
“We were completely clueless and at the same time, we had this feeling of complete freedom. It was this certain kind of magic, figuring out how to collaborate.” Band members watched as Charleston reverted to the slow-moving city they grew up in, when you would drive down King Street and only see a car or two.
During the shutdown, “8teen” was written piecemeal. Blackburn was staying out on Pawleys Island when he tapped into inspiration and sent Culbreth a voice memo with some vocals and chord progressions. Culbreth then hit up Withers to beatbox. Mahoney sent bass lines.
“I pretty much sat down, and using all these puzzle pieces, put together this culmination of ideas at this really interesting time in U.S. history,” Culbreth said, who ended up writing the lyrics in about five minutes. He and Blackurn laid down some home-studio vocals, and 99% of the song was done in a week. A year later, “8teen” is ready for listening.
Overall, the coronavirus opened up avenues for the band’s creativity and camaraderie with other local acts. “It gave us the opportunity to collaborate in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do, because pre-pandemic everyone was on the road,” Blackburn said, who took full advantage of fellow bands like Little Bird and Susto not being overextended time wise.
SLO’s members been remaining active, doing live streams at Coast Records and performing at Slim S.O.U.L. ‘s Monday takeovers at Pour House on the deck. For Culbreth, despite the fear and worry, the coronavirus rewired mindsets as to what’s possible when it comes to co-writing and performing music without being physically present.
As for what’s next on the menu, the band will work things in where it can.
“There really isn’t any road map to how to go about things,” Blackburn said. “We are trying to remain flexible and go with the flow, but there is definitely another EP in the works.”