Louis is a very important member of the South Carolina-based band Stop Light Observations. Like the musicians, manager and crew, he attends every show. However, unlike the cast of characters that normally comprises a band’s tour, Louis has four legs instead of two. Louis is a French Bulldog. Perched at the edge of the stage or resting on his pillow bed upstage, Louis is there for the whole set.
“The last three years he’s been on the road with us,” said Will Blackburn, lead vocalist for the group. “I personally feel like he kind of loves it. He’s just working the crowd.”
Louis the dog, or just “Lou” as he is more affectionately known, is the canine mate of keyboardist John Keith “Cubby” Culbreth. Their other human counterparts are guitarist Louis Duffie (not to be confused with Lou, the dog) and drummer Luke Withers. You can catch all five members of the crew at their show at Rough Trade Records on Monday in Brooklyn.
Stop Light Observations is a four man band hailing from a suburb of Charleston, S.C., called Mt. Pleasant. It’s tricky to put just one word to their distinct musical stylings – they draw on everything from southern rock to psychedelic to hip hop to indie to folk. In a world where new genres pop up every day, there’s no need to slam a label on their music, but it’s undoubtedly a style all their own.
These musicians have achieved what few have even aspired to do – they created a live album, and they recorded it in a 200-year-old plantation house in South Carolina. Their 2016 album “Toogoodoo,” named for the plantation where it was recorded, is chock full of storytelling, satire, grit and the live nature sounds of the plantation grounds, like chirping crickets (listen closely to “Dinosaur Bones,” and you might just hear them).
It’s a different route than most modern musicians take, but for Stop Light Observations, it paid off.
“I’m so proud to have done it live,” Blackburn said. “Having done that is just such a huge accomplishment. We learned a lot about what the modern listener wants to hear and what they care about.”
And they’re not done pushing the musical envelope just yet. The band has just announced a special new project – “Volumes,” which will be released in increments over several months. As will be with each volume, the first volume, which arrives on Spotify August 11, will have a digital A-side and a B-side. Typically in music, a B-side is a secondary recording that delves more deeply into the song or offers another perspective. On Volume 1, the A-side will be “Coyote” and the B-side, “The Ghost of Larry Ford.”
Each volume will also be accompanied by a recorded dialogue, which creates a storyline that will carry over across time.
This style of releasing music deviates from the norm, but gives the band an opportunity to try something completely new and express their stories in a totally different way. “Volumes” will focus on storytelling.
“With this project it’s going to be a really cool way to express ourselves really freely,” Blackburn said. “We’re just stoked about a new way to release something that’s not the norm. “
As they keep challenging themselves musically, the band sticks together.
“The brotherhood between us has kept us together and made it easier to fight through,” Blackburn said. “[We’re] just finding a way to be authentic every night.”
August 11 is still a few weeks away, so, in the meantime, give their fantastic and sarcastic song “Security” another listen or two. It’s both telling and relevant.
Blackburn shared his musings on the current climate in music and art, and the band is sure to keep pushing for authenticity and seeking a creative summit.
“It’s an important time in art to talk about what you care about and things that mean something to you.”
For tickets to see Stop Light Observations (and Lou, the dog, of course!) on Monday at Rough Trade, visit the Bowery Presents website.