Kill the Lights – All About the SongSunday, 6th September 2020
Capturing a sound and bringing it into the future is no easy task. But you wouldn’t think that’s the case after hearing Kill the Lights’ debut, The Sinner. The act has successfully brought all of the best parts of the ‘00s metalcore movement and polished them up with a modern gleam. It shines in its songwriting aspects, something that gives it some aggressive and intricate nuances at times, but also wisely indulges in some very melodic and hooky melodies too. We caught up with guitarist Travis Montgomery to discuss his involvement with the band, the supergroup tag, his approach to playing in different groups, and even a little Threat Signal talk.
Dead Rhetoric: You were brought into the band later, what excited you about Kill the Lights?
Travis Montgomery: The main thing I liked was that even though it was still metal, it was very different from anything else I’ve been involved in. with Threat Signal, it’s more tech-y, almost djent type of stuff and any other band I have been in it’s more tech-y metal. I thought it was cool to dial it back a bit. The songs were really great, and I really liked that.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that Kill the Lights brings to the table?
Montgomery: I like that all the influences are kind of throwbacks, and the sound is still kind of a throwback in and of itself to the early 2000s metalcore scene, but I feel there’s still originality there. I think the band took that sound, which has been missing for a while, and still makes it sound modern.
Dead Rhetoric: With the members involved, you get that supergroup tag tossed in there. Has it been a blessing or a curse? Or both?
Montgomery: Maybe both [laughs]? The curse aspect is that when people hear the word supergroup, they expect greatness all the time. I’m a big Dream Theater fan and those guys are called a supergroup all the time. When they don’t live up to expectations from their fans, it seems like a huge letdown within the fanbase. When you throw out that word, and someone isn’t familiar with Kill the Lights, they hear ‘metalcore supergroup’ and then end up not liking the music and its like, “Huh? What do you mean?” The blessing part of it is cool, because it’s flattering to toss that word around…that’s pretty cool.
Dead Rhetoric: What are you most proud of with The Sinner?
Montgomery: I just like all the songs, honestly. Like you were saying, I came into it a bit late. Mostly everything had been written already. I heard the songs and I was blown away by the actual songwriting. I think the songwriting ability is really cool. It’s good to hear that back in a metal band.
What it reminds me of, in ways, is not only that metalcore type album, but kind of the way that Metallica’s Black album flows. They have their heavy moments, but there’s melodies thrown in there too. With The Sinner, I feel that the way the tracks are organized it flows in that same way. I haven’t heard a band really do that much variation in quite a while, as far as metal goes.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s something I was thinking about as well when I have listened to it. Do you feel the album has the potential to reach an audience outside of the traditional metal boundaries?
Montgomery: I do, yeah. That’s one thing that drew me to the music. I feel like we could tour with a lot of different kinds of bands. Not just in the straight-up metal genre. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for Kill the Lights once touring starts happening again.
Dead Rhetoric: You started releasing music for the album close to two years ago now. Does it make you feel more confident for the release knowing people have had time to digest the released music already?
Montgomery: Yeah, it’s been very cool to see the response so far. Like you said, we’ve had two years to gauge how people are reacting to it. It’s nice to see the amount of positive response we have gotten, especially with the varied songs. It’s not all similar songs – they are all pretty different from each other, so it’s been nice to see how positive it has been over that span of time.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy about the early ‘00s metalcore sound, as you were saying that was a big part of the band’s sound?
Montgomery: I was introduced to metal before that era. I started playing guitar around the same time, around 2003. But my influences were Metallica and things like that; I was a huge Metallica fan. But when a friend of mine showed me Killswitch Engage, I was blown away. I started listening to Killswitch and All That Remains. Lamb of God isn’t really that same genre, but I started listening to them at the same time too. I just fell in love with that whole genre of music, just because of how aggressive it can be, but all the melody that’s involved in it as well. I think we have sort of perfectly captured that on most of the songs on The Sinner, and I’m really proud of that.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve got a number of bands that you have been involved with, and are involved with. How do you approach your playing when it comes to individual acts?
Montgomery: I have to change it up with each band. They are all going for different things, and the target is different for each band even though they are all metal-focused. I wouldn’t say it’s really difficult to do. I lean towards the more techy stuff since it’s what I have been doing.
It’s actually a challenge to write Kill the Lights stuff at times. While there are some techy parts, we focus more on the songwriting aspect. I have to really think differently as opposed to most of the other projects I’m in. It’s a really nice challenge because I have to really focus on chord progressions, which I usually do for choruses, but now I have to look at it for the entire song. It’s a juggling act for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: Obviously, a lot of people who listen to metal are looking for that tech-driven approach. But is there something to be said for just straight-ahead songwriting?
Montgomery: I think so. I absolutely love techy music, and that’s what I listen to most of the time. But I feel like when you get to a certain point, it’s hard to give instruments room to breathe and let things shine through. But when you simplify things and focus on chord progressions and the overall writing and make sure it all gels and nothing clashes, it just gives it the room – especially for vocals and things, to stand out. It’s good to have songs like that. Even if you are a tech-y band, it’s good to have simpler songs, more focused on the writing.
Dead Rhetoric: Being that you were brought in to the band later on, what does the future look like for Kill the Lights? Is this going to be a full-time, push it as hard as you can, kind of act? Are you going to be more involved with songwriting?
Montgomery: Yeah, that’s been the goal for the band since I joined. COVID has kind of put a wrench into things. It’s really screwed up schedules as far as being a musician goes. Everybody’s goal was to make it a full-time thing. The guys that do work full-time jobs, including me, could quit our jobs and do it as a career. But not having the ability to tour has given us time to write. We’ve taken advantage of this time. We have more than enough material for a second album already done. We definitely keep busy.
Dead Rhetoric: Will the future material be more tech-y, or are you trying to fill into those lines that you created with the debut?
Montgomery: There are a couple of more tech-y songs. There’s one of them that is literally a Threat Signal idea that we just didn’t end up using. I reworked it a bit, but it’s still 90% a Threat Signal song. I don’t know if we will end up using that song or not, but there are tech-y things. The influence I bring is more in that direction.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you done with your downtime due to COVID-19, outside of just writing?
Montgomery: I work a lot. I have a 9-5 Monday to Friday job. I co-own a shipping company/fulfillment business. I work with a lot of Amazon sellers and friend’s sellers who have music products that we do shipping for. That’s a lot of my time. But I also am a huge gamer, and have been since I was a kid. So I spend a lot time playing games, as well as guitar. That’s pretty much my life at the moment.
Dead Rhetoric: I spoke to Jon [Howard] about this as well recently, but I’m curious to hear your response too. In terms of Threat Signal, it’s kind of hanging low. Are there any thoughts to bringing it back up to the surface at some point?
Montgomery: Yeah, that’s always in the back of my mind. We have a handful of demos for another album we were working on. But I don’t know. With these new projects, it’s tough to find time. Both Imonolith and Kill the Lights are what we are both focusing on.
Even if we did bring Threat Signal back, it’s always been so tough with that band [laughs]. There’s been this curse, this black cloud over the band. It’s one of those bands that we’d have to take a break from for a while, and maybe come back to it years down the road and hope that people are excited to hear it again…kind of spark that feeling that was originally there.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans does Kill the Lights have for next year?
Montgomery: We just got reconfirmed for Download Festival next June. We also announced a short headlining run in the UK in March. Right now, that’s all we have booked. I know our manager is working on more stuff. But with how uncertain things are at the moment, it’s hard to get anything solidified.