Photo courtesy of Amanda Fondriest
Columbus rock band Yellow Light Maybe plans on keeping the group intact after college. In fact, the group is banking heavily on keeping the musical act going as a full-time source of income. The band members say the degrees that they earned in college are a back-up plan, even if the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle doesn’t bring them fortune.
The band formed at Ohio University, where three of its four original members graduated, and then moved to Columbus to find its fifth member. The band has since slimmed back down to four members.
Yellow Light Maybe has recorded two EPs with local recording label Secret Song Records, and started recording its third EP just after the new year.
“It feels like every time we write a new song, it’s better than the last,” said lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Brian Day. “As a songwriter, I get better. As musicians, we all get better.”
Along with opening at Columbus venues, such as The Newport and The Basement for nationally touring acts, Yellow Light Maybe toured during the summer, performing in New York City, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C., among others.
“The tour was pretty unbelievable,” lead guitarist Ken Lutze said, “pretty successful for being our first time on the road.”
Lutze’s ability to transition from an upbeat chorus to a declining interlude, like he does in the song “You’ve Been Good” from the band’s “More of the World” EP, is one of the qualities that makes the band’s sound hard to fit into a neat genre.
Lutze’s musical roots began with a different instrument than the guitar, however.
“He got tired of being beat up for playing the alto sax,” drummer PJ Schreiner said jokingly.
Lutze said he discovered his current instrument of choice when he found guitars that his father “had hidden around the house.”
joking around has been key in keeping positive chemistry with band mates, Day said.
“If you can critique the other guy without getting upset, that makes a good band. Egos are what kills bands,” he said. “We critique each other constantly.”
When the band’s keyboardist and backup singer left in February for a job opportunity in Florida, the band’s self critiques became even more important.
“Since our keyboard player left, we’ve been going for more straightforward rock rather than the more complicated stuff,” bassist Casey Lehman said.
Lehman, a fourth-year in film studies, had a different path to the band than the others.
The band’s original bassist left in 2008. That’s when Lehman’s sister, a friend of the band members, said she had a little brother who played bass.
Yellow Light Maybe replaced its bassist, but doesn’t have plans to bring in another keyboardist.
“It helped move us in a different musical direction,” Lehman said, adding the performance they have now isn’t as complicated as the material listeners heard on the first two albums.
Despite Yellow Light Maybe’s new musical direction, its goal remains the same.
“I just want people to walk away and say ‘Those guys were a good band,'” Schreiner said. “If they like all 15 songs, that’s awesome. If they want to come to another show, that’s great. I’m not trying to take their money or anything; I just want them to appreciate (our music).”
Although three of the four have degrees already and Lehman on is track to graduate in spring 2012, the band isn’t really interested in using what they learned in the classroom.
“It will probably mean that I’m poor, but if I can pay my bills…” Day said with a shrug, admitting he’d like the band to be his full-time job.
Schreiner said, “There’s hundreds of groups in this country that do that and you’ll never hear of them.”
But he followed up this bleak truth with some optimism.
“If I could be a f—— millionaire rock star, that’d be great too,” Schreiner said.