There is a literary quality to The Lighthouse and The Whaler's lyrics that is simultaneously at odds and completely in sync with the band's sophisticated folk sound. The music is smart without being pretentious. It sticks in your head like a pop song while avoiding any hint of frivolity.
Maybe that's what happens when your band's name is inspired by Herman Melville's whaling epic Moby Dick, specifically chapter 14, "Nantucket" — five paragraphs that beautifully wrap isolation, tradition and allegiance in a blanket of age-old realities and long-held legends.
"I hope when people see our name they think: This is intelligent music. They have something they want to convey," says singer and guitarist Michael LoPresti, who co-founded The Lighthouse and The Whaler in 2008. "I hope people take away that there's a message and a reason that the music is being made."
The Cleveland-based band released their four-song EP A Whisper, A Clamour in 2008, followed by an eponymous full-length debut a year later. This month, the four-member group will release their second full-length album, This is an Adventure (Sept. 18), and play the Grog Shop (Sept. 15) as part of the concert club's 20th anniversary celebration.
The band's Pioneers EP — released last spring and featuring three of the songs included on This is an Adventure — offers a hint of what's to come. The sunny electric-piano backbone, start-stop construction and radio-ready chorus on the standout title track reflect the band's deliberate and sophisticated approach to their music.
"A lot of the songs on our new album are much more full and bigger and grander in scale," LoPresti says. "It was an evolution for us that we felt was necessary as we grew as a band over the last couple of years."
Producer Ryan Hadlock, who worked with acclaimed indie acts The Lumineers and Ra Ra Riot on their debut releases, helped focus that growth. After meeting Hadlock at Austin, Texas' SXSW music festival in 2010, the band asked him to produce their next album after running into him while on tour a year and a half later.
They recorded at Bear Creek Studio — a barn near Seattle where Fleet Foxes made their 2008 debut and Soundgarden recorded their 1991 album Badmotorfinger. LoPresti says Hadlock's studio knowledge was critical to the recording process for The Lighthouse and The Whaler's new songs, which were written in Cleveland over the course of six months.
"He had a sonic understanding that we didn't really have," LoPresti says. "He has experience that goes far, far beyond anything we have as musicians when it comes to how to record and the way to get the best sound out of each instrument. That's where the listener is going to hear it the most. It's really in the details."
Before going into the studio, the band first had to finance the recording. Not signed to a label, the group launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to help offset the cost. Fans who donated $10 were awarded a digital download of the album two weeks before its release, while those who contributed $250 got a raft of rewards including a signed copy of the album, a mention in the liner notes, dinner with the band and a hollowed out copy of Moby Dick filled with one-of-a-kind photos from the recording session.
"We thought it was a really cool opportunity to involve our fans in the process of creating the album," LoPresti says. "The album is about making life an adventure and enjoying every opportunity that you have, no matter where you are in life. It was very important to us, based on the theme of the album, that they had a hand in making it."