Interview by Alexander Laurence
Lightning Dust is a band from Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s a duo,
Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, who are also members of the band Black Mountain.
They have two albums: Lightning Dust (2007) and the new one Infinite Light
(2009). So far this year they have toured with Cave Singers and Bonnie Prince
Billy. They tour Germany this December 2009.
AL: Have you toured in Germany and Berlin before?
Joshua: Black Mountain has a whole bunch. We have been there four or five
times now. We have done both festivals and club shows. Most of the time in
Germany we play clubs. The festivals are more likely to happen in the UK, the
Netherlands, and Scandinavia. WE have played a lot of clubs in Berlin. The
place we have played the most is the Festival of Kreutzberg, which is a
staple of the neighborhood. It’s a hall.
AL: When you get to Germany on a tour, do you have time, or a day off, to
Joshua: Yeah. We have a little bit. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.
It’s cool to check out European cities, especially Berlin, which is huge.
You can spend months there and not see much of the city at all. It’s a
beautiful city. Parts of it are a wasteland and parts have amazing architecture. A
lot of it is quite modern. Berlin is constantly in decay and rebirth.
AL: The last Black Mountain record came out almost two years ago, and you
toured on that record until Spring 2009. When did you have time to do this
Lightning Dust record?
Joshua: We made the record last winter. It was in between Black Mountain
tours basically. You can’t really tour anywhere, unless you are in the
southern hemispheres. We started the record in November 2008, and finished it in
January 2009. The record came out in the summer, after we had finished all the
Black Mountain tours. We had to put together an actual band to tour as
Lightning Dust. The new stuff requires a full band. The first album was
different, and we played as a duo. We have done a few North American tours, and are
excited to go to Europe.
AL: You never thought about coming out with a laptop computer?
Joshua: We have never done that. Our first album is really sparse. It is
actually only piano and guitar. And vocals. We did one tour as a duo and a
bunch of local shows and one off shows. We couldn’t do that with the new
record. When we record, especially with this band, we never think of what it’s
going to be like when we play live. It is a studio group. This album is way
more orchestrated. We had to put together a band to tour.
AL: How was it playing shows with The Cave Singers and Bonnie Prince Billy?
Joshua: The Cave Singers are old friends of ours. We feel comfortable
playing shows with them. That is a familiar arrangement. That was an extensive
five-week tour of North America. It was great to play small clubs to a few
people. It’s great when both bands get noticed by people who listen to music.
AL: Since you know Cave Singers so well, do you collaborate or play with
Joshua: Yeah. Both Amber and I have played with those guys. Amber has done
some singing on both of their records. I played some drums on their first
records. On this tour I played some keyboards. It’s pretty fun that way.
AL: And Bonnie Prince Billy?
Joshua: It was really different. It was frightening too because it was our
first tour with this band, with the extra members. We had to rise to the
challenge of playing really nice theaters every night in front of sit down
crowds. It was really cool. We had really attentive audiences.
AL: Some bands that are a little more quiet and subtle, and have silence
and space in their music, have a hard time in these rock clubs where people
are talking all the time. What do you think about that?
Joshua: It’s hard to get people to listen especially if you are thrown in
front of people who have no idea what you are all about. If people come to
see you, they might understand better. It’s a challenge. Shows are social
occasions and part of life. Lately, they have been matching us up with some good
AL: Did you write these songs when you were on tour with Black Mountain?
Joshua: Mostly we wrote the songs in the time in between tours. We
collected the songs over a period of two years. There is not a lot of time on the
road to sit down with a guitar and piano and write new songs.
AL: Does Amber write all the lyrics and melodies first?
Joshua: We write songs two ways. Amber writes songs on guitar and her songs
are based more on melody. The vocals come first in the way that she writes.
There is another way we write songs. That is where I write a song on piano
as an instrumental, and she adds the melody and the lyrics to them.
AL: Since you are writing songs all the time, how do you decide which songs
go to Black Mountain and which ones go to Lightning Dust?
Joshua: It’s pretty obvious that we are not the main songwriters in Black
Mountain. Steve is the main songwriter in Black Mountain, and we are involved
more in arrangements in that band. Amber has written a song or two. Black
Mountain is a rock band. Our songs are not suitable for a rock band.
AL: What songs are you playing nowadays?
Joshua: We have picked some favorite songs to play. It’s mostly new songs.
AL: So now we are talking to Amber. Where did you go?
Amber: I was buying something at a department store. The line was long.
AL: Are there any good places we should check out in Vancouver?
Amber: We have cool stores here that our friends are running. It’s a skate
shop called Antisocial. They have a lot of cool stuff. They have an art
gallery in the back. Bands play there.
AL: Is anyone in Lightning Dust a skateboarder?
Amber: Josh and I used to skateboard. I think Ryan the drummer still does
it. Most of the band doesn’t though.
AL: Was there any new influences on this new Lightning Dust record? Were
there any books that you read? Was there anything you wanted to do that was
new with this record?
Amber: We only did one small tour for the first album. The only thought I
had when we did the second album was to have more instrumentation so we could
tour easier. When things are that sparse, it’s hard to tour in rock clubs.
I don’t think that I was influenced by any books. I just read the Twilight
AL: You like vampire stories?
Amber: No. I just read those because it was light reading. Josh read Master
and the Margarita by Bulgakov. I just read Glass Castles by Jeannette
Walls. I like that. It’s a memoir.
AL: Do you bring a lot of gear on tour?
Amber: No. We have tried to condense it down. Josh used to bring a
Wurlitzer organ. All the old gear brakes down. It’s hard to bring stuff around on
planes. We have one of those ugly Nord pianos. It’s all in one pianos. My
sister used to be in this band, The Organ. It used to take every member in the
band to carry this organ around. My sister now plays bass in Lightning Dust.
We have a simple setup.
AL: So you just rent a bunch of gear when you get in Germany?
Amber: Yeah. We have our man, Heist, in Germany. I am bringing this
terrible guitar, because I don’t want to bring my good one. We brought some stuff,
as Black Mountain, and left it with Heist. Now Josh can have a better snare
when we get to Germany. It becomes expensive to bring a bunch of guitars.
AL: You have toured a lot this past two years?
Amber: Yeah. Black Mountain probably toured for six solid months. We got to
go to Brazil and Australia. We haven’t been to Asia yet.
AL: Have you seen any good new bands?
Amber: We played with The Oh Sees. They are from San Francisco. I saw
Dinosaur Jr. I wasn’t really a fan, but seeing them live was rad. We played a
couple shows with Portishead. They were the headliners. We played with Neil
Young in Denmark. We saw Jay-Z too. The tour with Bonnie Prince Billy was
AL: You can’t top that.
Amber: Definitely you can’t top that. Watching him play every night never
got boring. The way they play the songs changes every night. He has a group
of people who are very passionate about music. It was inspiring.