Peaking Lights are the creatively and intimately linked couple, Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes. They craft dubby cosmic cruisers that float in the daydream zone where post punk pioneers shake hands with interstellar psych travelers. While their mixing desk may be navigated by star maps, they set real world goals in order to continue developing with integrity. They've made blissful albums and founded grassroots art spaces but their finest output are two young sons who generate joy and keep them on their creative toes.
LETTING GO IS GOOD
Aaron: I haven’t always easily let go of things. I guess that would be related to our background which was punk-oriented and DIY. We did everything ourselves. We still kind of roll that way, but at the same time I have no interest in putting out our own records. I want someone else to do that now, so we can be purely creative. Coming from an underground state of mind, I sometimes feel only certain people can fight this battle alongside us and do it right. There are people who can run a record label, do an insanely good job, make sure everyone’s taken care of and really put a lot of positive energy into the bands they deal with. They can really support the bands in a positive way and not be held up with their own insecurities about what should be. Not being held up by insecurities is really the main thing.
I like working with people who are putting out records for the sake of wanting to help bands, not for the sake of wanting to better their own social standing.
I like working with people who are putting out records for the sake of wanting to help bands, not for the sake of wanting to better their own social standing. I feel like we’ve had to navigate some pretty sketchy things, especially in the last couple of years. It’s definitely taught us a lot about how to deal with people and what people’s intentions really are. I want to do the creative work and I want someone that can back us up and not be self-conscious or an asshole to people they’re dealing with on our behalf. I feel that’s been a really big lesson.
Indra: Yeah, I guess on the subject of record labels, I think it’s good to definitely to choose wisely. Take your time, and if you have the opportunity to choose a label, really look into it and find the people who are most excited about your music.
Aaron: It’s not necessarily who you’d think about right away...
Indra: No, it’s about keeping an open mind and not necessarily doing what is considered the most cool, ya know, but keeping an open mind that there are cool people everywhere.
Aaron: And all kinds of different scenes.
STAY OPEN BUT TREAD CAREFULLY
Indra: I think it’s good to be open. I think that’s a really good lesson, to be open...open to working with all types of people. Also on that subject I think it is also important to have a contract when you start working with a label, and not just singing the contract the label gives you straight out, but have it looked at by somebody and make sure it benefits you as a musician, because so many musicians never get any financial gain from what they are doing. Just make sure you are benefitting and you know what’s up with the rights to your music.
Indra: We didn’t make money from making music for a long, long time. Most people never do. We never really expected to either because you just don’t see it happening often. We have a handful of friends who are successful in that way, but we got very lucky because we released a record that got some attention, which was 936.
Indra: Somehow our record got listened to. A lot of critics liked it, and then, kind of out of the blue, we started getting these calls and emails from labels, bigger labels than we had ever worked with. They were asking us what we were doing, who we were, and what our plans for the future were. We were like, well...
Aaron: We kind of brushed it off...
Don’t write somebody off because they seem like they are from a world you don’t quite relate to.
Indra: We didn’t really take it seriously at first, but [we thought maybe you] shouldn't write somebody off because they seem like they are from a world you don’t quite relate to. We had just had our son Miko, so we were in the throes of being new parents and really overwhelmed. So when we were first getting contacted we were like, "Oh, that’s interesting," but we didn’t really get it what it meant. People just kept contacting us and we started getting offers for record deals and we started to think, this is kinda cool and serious, we should really look into it.
We sort of tried to do the business thing ourselves at first. Then we ended up hooking up with Mark who’s now our manager. Mark contacted us from London and he was like, "Hey can we get on the phone and talk?" We’re like sure, and we hit it off really well. We had this two hour conversation, just about music, random stuff. He was a really good dude. He contacted us because he was just really curious who we were and wanted to know if we were interested in releasing a record with him or working with him in some way. We’d never heard of him and didn’t really know his label that well. It wasn’t really a scene we were familiar with because we had just been underground, kind of experimental artists for a long time and we weren’t really used to interacting with people who were a little more mainstream I guess.
Aaron: It’s not even mainstream really. Just people who can navigate multiple worlds but still have their heart in the right place for sharing and caring and loving artists...
Indra: Not mainstream in a bad way, but what's a different word?
Aaron: Experienced? Totally experienced.
Indra: Experienced with helping bands actually make a living doing what they want to do, which is the number one dream most musicians have. So the fact we were given that opportunity was like the best thing that ever happened to us, really.
GET YOUR MONEY UP FRONT
Aaron: We got some really good advice from a friend who’s on a bigger label. He was like, "If you guys sign a contract with someone, get as much money as you can, especially if you are working with a bigger label because if you don’t, you’re going to get put in the background."
Indra: Because the more money they invest in you up front, the more incentive they have to actually push you.
Indra: I just remembered something that we did around the time we started Peaking Lights. We wrote down our goals.
Aaron: We still do that every once in a while. We'll have like...goal night.
We did write down a goal recently, that we wanted to make a million dollars.
Indra: We make a very conscious effort to write down our intentions and our goals in life. However that manifests, we don’t really know, but I remember one of the things we wrote down together was that we wanted to make music and support ourselves and help other people, with our music in some way. We wanted to make a living as artists. Every once in a while we'll write down our next big goal in life. I think having that focus is really huge. It's not something I've always done in my life, but I feel it’s really helped to manifest what we’ve wanted. It’s kind of funny, we did write down a goal recently, that we wanted to make a million dollars.
Aaron: Without screwing anyone over!
Indra: Without screwing anyone over!
Indra: I’m really interested in developing as artists and not just having one shtick forever. I like the idea of trying different styles so I’ve been in a variety of bands, mostly punk and no-wave. When I met Aaron I was really wanting to branch out and try different things. He helped me get over some of my fears of doing things like, improvising live. I’d never done that before. I had always been writing songs then practicing them a million times and performing. Aaron was the opposite. He was like, "I don’t write songs, I just go with all my noise shit up on stage and jam out!"
Aaron: Whatever happens happens. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a total failure. Ya know?
Indra: I thought that was incredibly brave.
I learn by putting myself in crazy situations.
Aaron: I still have that mentality. It’s just like with my dublab radio show, sometimes I just grab a stack of records and if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but I always come out of it with something. I learn by putting myself in crazy situations. Sorry to the listeners who have to go through that process with me, but trying new things under unpredictable circumstances helps you get looser.
Indra: You have to let go and be in the moment and really be attentive to what’s going on and feel what you’re playing. Feel the music and connect with the other musicians you’re playing with. That was a really eye-opening experience. It was a breakthrough for me when I first started making music with Aaron and we were just improvising. When Peaking Lights started we were kind of a noise band. We would just take stacks and stacks of weird instruments on stage. I swear it took like an hour to set up!
Aaron: We started with the intention of just getting into it and letting it develop. We weren’t like, “We want to sound like this band.” We just let it go to become whatever it would become. We’ll start here and just see where it goes.
STAY FLEXIBLE & CONNECTED
Aaron: We try to stay positive and connect with each other. With the kids it’s rare that we get more than an hour together.
Indra: We usually get like an hour or two at the end of the day when the kids are asleep. We’ve changed the way we work together quite a bit. Now we work together but separately. We'll record something then the other person will listen to it and add things. That’s how we end up working now because one of us has to be with the kids. Getting a babysitter is our next goal...
Our career took off the moment our first son Miko was born.
Aaron: It would be nice to have a babysitter and we're definitely looking forward to being able to get back into creating, but I also like the fact we’ve been able to spend so much time with our kids, much more than if we worked normal 9-5 jobs and had to drop the kids off daycare. It’s more hectic this way but I feel better about the energy we give the kids.
Indra: Yeah, for sure. It’s not the easiest thing in the world but Aaron and I really talk things out and communicate. Because we have an intimate relationship it makes it easier for us to connect creatively as well. If there’s ever a conflict though it's more intense. It’s a heightened relationship.
Aaron: We’re pretty good about being open with each other.
Indra: As far as the kids go, I wouldn’t do anything differently because I am happy with the way things turned out. If you’re a couple that makes music and you want to have kids, I would say if you have time biologically, push having kids for a bit so you can work and develop your creative project together. Once you have children it becomes a lot more challenging to tour and do the things you need to build up your career. For us it was kind of crazy because our career took off the moment our first son Miko was born. We just had to roll with it. We took Miko on tour with us and we did all kinds of crazy stuff with him, but it was definitely more challenging. I remember thinking, "If only this had happened before we had kids it would have been so much easier." At the same time, I wouldn’t have done it any other way because it’s part of who we are now.