Home » Sounds of Syracuse » The Lightkeepers Shine On: A Chat with Aaron Fried

The Lightkeepers Shine On: A Chat with Aaron Fried

Keep the light on. They just made a record. They’re nominated for a 2016 SAMMY. And their schedule is packing in. And it’s no wonder. The five members of the Lightkeepers share years of combined music experience Together, their collective talents create an original rock experience which has recently culminated in the form of a new release produced and engineered by Scott Sterling and Jeff Moleski. And while their repertoire is predominantly original, they also offer their own readings on covered material.
3129222Its a hard working band and it shows. They’re already stacking up their summer schedule with great gigs and airplay all across the region. Their band roster includes some very notable Syracuse musician that come with their own credibility. Together they create a unique sound derived of retro influences all mixed together in some sort of new-fangled funky blender.
I recently had the pleasure of conducting this interview with Lightkeeper bassist and band spokesperson, Aaron Fried. Here’s what he had to say.

CS: Howdy, Aaron. Welcome to Table Hopping’s Sounds of Syracuse.
AF: Thank you, Chuck. Glad to be a part of it.
CS: Tell us about the Lightkeepers. Who’s in it?
AF: The Lightkeepers are Mike Vincitore on lead guitars, PJ Will on rhythm guitars, Jim Dunham on Drums, Jes Sheldon sings, and myself, Aaron Fried on Bass. This thing started out as a project; Mike and I are in Dark Hollow together and he approached me with the idea of starting a project to record some of his songs. He had already been working with PJ, who recommended Jes. When it all started coming together, we thought that we had more than just a one off collaboration. We all do other stuff musically, but the Lightkeepers seems to be the great energetic experience for all of us to contribute to.
CS: There are a variety of aspects to your music. How would you characterize your music?
AF: It took a few months of experimenting. Initially we were heading towards a more traditional jam band/rock band attitude, but when we started working with Jes we realized that we had the potential to go many places. I think we start from a point where 60s soul meets 70s rock and try to put a modern spin on it. For example, we’ll play a Led Zepplin or Rolling Stones song, but play it more like Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner. We are influenced by a retro pop vibe, I think we are influenced, as a group, by modern acts like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Amy Winehouse.
CS: Is there a certain inspiration for the name “Lightkeepers?”
AF: PJ named the band. His inspiration was our lyricist/spiritual guide and friend Mike Powell, who both an electrician and a pretty electrical personality! PJ felt our music had a spark and a positive vibe and that the Lightkeeper represented all of that energy. I came to find out that they called the people who kept the light shining in light houses were also called lightkeepers. I have always though that makes the name an apt metaphor.
CS: How did you get started in music?3464350

AF: I started playing the trombone way back in 4th grade. I wanted to be in the jazz band in high school, so I switched over to the bass. In college, I lived under the delusion that I could be a guitarist or singer/songwriter, but when I was senior, the school needed a bass player for a musical and I was asked if I could do it. I found out that I was really a bass player and that was how I thought about approaching and playing music. I think that my experiences as a trombone player, as long ago as it has been, really gives a melodic insight into playing bass, though.
CS: Tell us about the influence that shape your music.
AF: I could list a ton of musicians, bands, writers, etc. But when I always come back to two different bass players: James Jamerson and Carol Kaye. If you listen to any recording from the 60s and many from the 70s, you are probably listening to one of those two players. Jamerson defines the low end of the Motown era, and Kaye’s work with the Wrecking Crew spans the list of 60s Billboard top 100 lists.
CS: Wow. The Wrecking Crew! As important and notable as they are, I still think they’re underrated. I’m a huge fan – and somewhat of a music disciple of Carol Kaye. What kind of highlights can you share with us regarding the Lightkeepers’ music experience?3129226
JF: I was personally ecstatic that days after Dave Frisina got copy of our album, he was spinning it on the Rebel.
CS: God bless Dave for what he does for the writing musician.
AF: It was a great experience to go in the studio with Dave last year and talk about and play tracks from the album. Scott Dixon also selected our song Miracle and one of the top songs released in the area last year. The album has been nominated for SAMMY this year, we really feel like we are riding a wave a good experience right now and we’ve been able to do it on our terms which has helped keep us sane in the process. I think that the best times we have, though, are when we play a regular gig and we finish up and there are a line of people who want to meet us and talk to us about our music. Every time we play we seems to pick up a few very committed fans that we start to see over and over again and keep bringing more people to the party! I can’t stress enough how important it is for us to know we are reaching out to fans with our music and that it is making their day. That is probably the most humbling experience; to think that the way I feel about famous musicians, people can sometimes feel about our music.
CS: Syracuse is bustling with music. What is your impression of the CNY music scene?
AF: CNY has a tough music scene because it is jam-packed with quality musicians! CNY has a great music scene because it is packed with great musicians! On the album, we worked with a horn crew that is as good as any session group anywhere. We try very hard to not over saturate our performances so that we can keep delivering a fresh experience to our fans. We also know that it is difficult for people to choose who they are going to see, so we want to reward people for choosing us.
CS: How do you go about writing your material?
AF: Almost everyone in the band has contributed original music to the effort. Sometimes someone will bring in a finished song and present it to the group, sometimes one of us will bring an idea that we hammer out. Everyone collaborates pretty well, and no one gets a bruised ego when we make suggestions about each others work. Personally, it has been challenging writing songs for a female singer. It took time becoming comfortable with that. But I work directly with Jes, give her drafts of lyrics, give her the emotional tenor of the song. She then takes the idea and runs with it.
3129223CS: Somewhere out there, there is a new musician entering the abyss of what we refer to as the “Biz.” What would your sage advice be to that musician?
AF: Stick with it. And, music is a business, so you should get paid for what you are doing. I labored in basements and on couches learning how to be a bass player. I had very little success until that one right moment when someone needed a bass player and I was there to step in. Network, I hate to say it, but is about who you know; there is no avoiding that in any business. Most important, music has value and venues should pay for that. Many bands have been offered “exposure gigs,” which only pays off for the venues because they are getting something for free. Also, by taking gigs for no money, you are hurting everyone else because it sets the precedent for a venue.
CS: What does the future hold for the Lightkeepers?
AF: We find out soon if we win a SAMMY, but if we don’t, we know we made a killer record with Scott Sterling and Jeff Moleski. We’ve only been around for about a year, but we have made some big bookings for this summer; Taste of Syracuse, Oswego Harborfest. We are going to go all out to make sure that those shows are above and beyond with horn sections and other fun stuff. We have been writing new material, so hopefully we can head back into the studio again soon! Most importantly, we want to keep making good music!
CS: How do we find what the Lightkeepers are up to?
AF: Our official website is lightkeepersmusic.com and we are pretty active on facebook at facebook.com/TheLightkeepersBand. Come out to a show, we promise it will be a really good time.
​CS: Thanks, Aaron. I’ve enjoyed this chat. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Table Hopping.
AF: Thank you, Chuck.​

Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.