Ball of Light started 2020 on an upswing. Still a trio when they released Flux last year, the Cincinnati metal band’s debut LP was heavy enough to catch the attention of Planes Mistaken For Stars frontman Gared O’Donnell.
“We were opening for Weedeater and we were at the club really early,” describes drummer Patrick Cost. “I was looking at my phone and Gared randomly hit me up about Flux. He was like ‘Hey I’ve been listening to this a lot. I’m not blowing smoke up your ass, I really like this.’ That’s kinda how the conversation started.”
After a brief courtship with the boisterous frontman, things got serious and the band recruited O’Donnell into their ranks as second guitarist and backup vocalist. Eager to test the waters, Ball of Light entered the studio in January with producer Jeffrey Dean to record their self-titled EP, which dropped in August on Rad Girlfriend Records.
“I mean they haven’t officially invited me into the band, but I am on the 7-inch,” O’Donnell clarifies. “But I would love to do so much. I adore what these guys do. It reminds me very much of why I still do what I do, why I started doing what I do, and why I want to continue to do what I do. But it’s nice to not be the one steering the ship. Not to complain about what I do in Planes or [Hawks and Doves], but it’s nice to just be like, ‘Alright I’m gonna stand in the corner and do this weird creepy thing and you’ll find out about it later.’ It’s their baby, but I don’t mind changing its diaper! [laughs]”
The new songs have an eerie and sinister thread woven through the driving riffs and punishing rhythm section, with O’Donnell’s haunting backup vocals adding new dimension to Charlie William’s guttural screams. In many ways, the EP is reminiscent of when Mike Patton joined Dillinger Escape Plan.
Yup, everything was looking rad for Ball of Light – and then, of course, COVID took the piss a few months later. But aside from having their tour schedule cleared out indefinitely, Ball of Light – along with O’Donnell- remains intent on pressing forward. After all, the current state of the world has presented plenty of artistic fodder.
Rest assured, the band’s new material will tap into the river of discontent that all of us are currently experiencing (after all, they are a metal band- it can’t all be high fives and bong rips). But Ball of Light are less interested in whining about quarantine and more in unearthing the roots of all this unhappiness. Isn’t that what being an artist is all about?
“If someone happens to listen to it ten years down the road, they’re not gonna be like ‘I don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about,” Williams elaborates. “I want you to be able to relate to it in a way. Gared was talking about the first song ‘Under Red Skies’ the riff has kind of a Discharge feel. But Discharge was never like ‘Fucking Gorbachev!’ [laughs]. It’s not talking about specific people or specific things, but the forces that are at work behind them. COVID is – knock on wood – going to go away, Trump is going to go away. But the situations are going to pop up over and over. If you write about the feeling, that will last forever.”
“For me, the idea of writing songs about the world right now sounds nightmarish,” confesses O’Donnell. “The English Beat had this song called ‘Stand Down Margaret’ about Margaret Thatcher. My 13-year-old loves the English Beat, but he’s like, ‘What the fuck are they talking about? Margaret? Is she a music teacher?’ I get tackling things topically. But at the same time, you want to make art that will last. The best sci-fi books are a hundred fucking years old. But they land in whatever time they’re in. H.G. Wells, you can read fucking The Time Machine and it’s literally a time machine!”
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