Lights Over Bridgeport
Interviewed by Jessica May 22, 2016
Music is amazing in the way that it brings people together. You meet someone who has similar taste in music, and then they share with you something new. You form friendships, share experiences, and possibly hear something new that really fall for. That is how I came to hear about Lights Over Bridgeport, a connection made via a mutual love for Face to Face.
LOB is a punk rock band hailing from Chicago, IL and is made up of John Hamlin (Guitar and Vocals), Kevin Jamroz (Drums), Miko Ramirez (Guitar) and Kurt Miller (Bass) . The band has been working hard in its current line up since 2008, and in late 2015 they released their second album Trenches. Personally, I love the whole album... but if I had to pick a favorite track it would most definitely be the song "Leaving in July". This is one of those songs that gets you down deep, gives you goosbumps, and makes you feel like playing at full volume. I dare you to read the lyrics and play this song without feeling something....
"i keep our melodies as memories in my bones
you seem to almost appear when i hear them alone
i want to scream each note out loud until they reach you in the clouds just like you're with me"
John Hamlin was kind enough to give us some of his time and answer a few questions for Mable Syndrome, and we are stoked it is our inaugural interview.
Mable Syndrome: Ok, so I have to first of all admit that its pretty rare that I get introduced to music that I really get into. I know its a bad habit, but I just can't help it... I am nostalgic to the core. However this is why I am so stoked to talk about LOB. I was introduced via the Face to Face fanclub when you posted a link and have been listening ever since. Can you tell me who your "old favs" are that you listen to, as well as one band that you have been newly introduced to that you think we should know about?
JH: I can tell you that there are certain bands that basically embedded themselves into my soul early on in life and that connection has never really wavered. This core of bands, for me personally, is Jimmy Eat World, Face to Face, Descendents, and Strung Out. That's the core for me as far as the older bands - been listening to them since I was in high school or earlier and that will never change (I always refer to Face to Face as "my soul music", haha). Bands that I've gotten into a little more recently that I would still consider a part of that "core" would be Polar Bear Club and The Swellers. Bouncing Souls are also a big one from my youth. But yeah, as far as bands that have really made an impression me that I've only known about very recently...I guess I would have to say Half Hearted Hero. I've been listening to them for years now but they're definitely one of the most talented, underrated bands I can think of. And they have a new album coming out in just a few days!
MS: Through conversations I have had with you in the past, as well as some of what I have read about LOB you guys write and play about a lot of personal stuff that you have experienced. I love hearing the back stories about songs that I love. Leaving in July is one of my favourite tracks as I feel like its personal to me. What song is the most personal to you and why?
JH: While I deeply admire the ability in others, to this point I have never really felt like I could consistently write songs that tell third-person stories, or that address more abstract ideas, for example. I typically only can be driven to write music from personal experience. And I would say that both learning from - and coping with - those life experiences through the songwriting process is something that is truly sacred to me Perhaps crudely stated, once I've "gone through enough", I will usually have to pick up the guitar and sort of get it out of me...it's something I'll eventually just NEED to do. I know it's like that for many songwriters and artists. And it's not always negative or heavy stuff, but that stuff seems to weigh on you the most. I've tried to challenge myself to write songs that have more of a positive focus even if it's a song that is dealing with negative emotions, and I feel like I've gotten a little better at that. Leaving In July deals with the loss of someone very close to you, so that one is personal for sure. The fact that a good number of people have shared with me that they have connected with the song is one of the most awesome things I've ever experienced and I have so much gratitude for that. For me, the songs that are the most personal that come to mind are "Restless", "The Same Things", and "Horchata", from our old EP Prayers and Eulogies. Each of them deal with wrestling with very personal emotions and feelings - and all at a point where I felt like something had to give, like I was at a breaking point and needing to make changes. There's an element of a need to heal and mend in all those songs. Of those I mentioned, I guess I would say that I'm most close to Restless and Horchata. Absolutely love playing Horchata live! There's such a catharsis to it for me. Every time. (Note from Jessica...check out Horchata, its awesome!)
MS: You get to pick your dream line up to play with at a one day festival... who are the three other bands playing with you guys?
JH: Man this is an insane question. Have to say Face to Face, Jimmy Eat World, and I'll throw Coheed and Cambria in as a wild card. They've been a huge influence/inspiration to everyone in the band and they are just a machine as far as a live rock show. We definitely would be opening. Haha.
MS: How did you guys come up with the name Lights Over Bridgeport?
JH: My dad was born in Chicago and spent his early, formative years on the South Side. My dad was the first "big influence" I had in life, for obvious reasons. Not only did he pass on life lessons, wit and humor, etc, like many fathers - he also shared his love of music with me, and taught me to play the guitar. Anyway, some of my earliest memories of my dad were about him constantly talking about his days growing up on the South Side. He always had such pride about the South Side working class, and being a part of that way of life. So, the fact that this was such a big part of what my dad cared about sort of had a big influence on how I perceived the world around me as I became a young man, and it made such an impression on me. So, to answer your question: I was at a White Sox game many years ago and when the fireworks at the end of the game were going off the phrase "lights over bridgeport" just came to me. But I always want to make it clear that it's a tribute to the underdog, working class people -- it is NOT about baseball, which is what some people have said, haha. But yeah, the good, honest, working folks anywhere - South Side, North Side, any side, doesn't matter...it's about the underdog, and specifically, the often overlooked good in people and places EVERYWHERE. That's the basic idea of where the name came from, illustrated in our case by a fireworks explosion adjacent to a neighborhood in Chicago called Bridgeport
MS: What is the one questions you hate being asked? Im crossing my fingers I haven't already asked it... but if I have, tell me!
JH: I am actually REALLY glad you asked this! There is only one question that we hate and I am so appreciative of the opportunity to address it respectfully. That question is when people approach us by asking us about whether or not we live in Bridgeport. Now, two of us happen to live there - which happened totally by chance, not by any grand design. But, we have had people seem to take some sort of offense that we are called "Lights Over Bridgeport" but we don't all actually live in Bridgeport. And I just don't understand that! it's like, did people get mad at Screeching Weasel because they weren't actually Screeching? Or weren't actual Weasels?? Are people calling out Deftones because they "aren't DEF enough"??? It just doesn't make sense to me - our band name HAPPENS to have a deeper meaning...but it's also JUST A NAME and not a mechanism to identify where we are from or who EXACTLY and exclusively we are. Usually we get good feedback on the name itself but people have really taken issue when they find out we were born in Indiana but call ourselves something dealing with a Chicago neighborhood. Newsflash, a few people in Chicago weren't actually born here. Haha. Anyway, yeah, that is annoying sometimes. Oh well, we are just always surprised sometimes how often it comes up. I think sometimes it's an easy way for people to make conversation with us though, so maybe I should just cool it. Haha.
MS: Favorite thing about playing in a club? Least favorite thing about playing in a club?
JH: My favorite thing would just be the chance to sound good and connect with a new fan. My most favorite actually would be if the club had really great food. Any club that has giant golden fried mozzarella sticks, and pizza, etc....we want to play there. Clubs should serve bowls of cereal. Anyway, least favorite thing I guess would be people rushing us off stage. We try to be extremely quick loading our gear on and off stage, but some bands assume we're going to take our sweet time and when I'm still holding my last note, I've got some dude bringing his crash cymbal on stage saying "good set guys". I try to respect everyone. But that's one of my pet peeves.
MS: We love knowing more about what bands are listening to and how they listen to it. Are you guys collectors of music, love the digital formats, or still rocking a walk-man?
JH: Speaking for myself, I consider myself a fairly big music fanatic, of course. As far as mediums go -- I have gotten more and more into collecting vinyl, but I do it more because I love the sound. I enjoy amassing LPs that I really just love listening to as opposed to collecting so that I have all of the different color variants, etc. As far as most everyday listening though, I am a loyal Spotify user. Most of the music I listen to is on-the-go - driving to and from, sometimes at work, lots at the gym. And as it goes I'm an "albums guy" really -- I prefer listening to albums from front to back as opposed to shuffling through random songs most times, although I'll occasionally mix it up!
As far as what I'm listening to lately, here are my 10 most listened-to albums of the last 30 days courtesy of my Last.fm profile (Yes, I still use this site -- I can really geek out and become OCD when it comes to organizing music!)
Fallujah - Dreamless
Face to Face - Protection
Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book (and Acid Rap)
Hammock - Everything and Nothing
Charlie Siren - Mood Swings
Off With Their Heads - Home
Nails - Abandon All Life
No Use For A Name - Hard Rock Bottom
Wormed - Krighsu
MS: Ok Indulge me being a fan...When will you be playing in Canada, Western Canada, more specifically the Vancouver area?
JH: Haha, see the answer to the question above - - the whole "day jobs" thing can really be a drag. It's tough for a band as small as ours to not only coordinate our schedules to get on the road but also to get a place far away to take a chance on us with a show when hardly anyone knows who we are! Haha. With that being said, we try not to play small with our goals and we've been lucky to play awesome towns like Milwaukee, WI, Grand Rapids, MI, Green Bay, WI, various college towns in Illinois and Indiana -- so whatever we can do to branch out even further than that - we are all for it. I hear nothing but amazing things about the Pacific Northwest, playing there would be a dream. No plans to tour extensively right now but we plan to release some new music in 2016 and we will do our best to tour wherever we can once that is done!
MS: Any last words, anything you want us to know about LOB?
JH: I just wanted to thank you Jessica and Mable Syndrome for the opportunity for this interview. In a nutshell the impression I hope to leave with people as far as our band is very basic and simple: we're just 4 grown dudes with day jobs still doing our best to feeding our teenage punk rock dreams. We're super appreciative of anyone who helps us reach more people with our songs, we hope to do this as long as we can!
Now everyone go and check out Lights Over Bridgeport... if you are in the Chicago area, make sure and go see them live on Saturday June 25th @ Quenchers Saloon in Chicago with Turnspit.
Download FREE on Bandcamp lightsoverbridgeport.bandcamp.com
LOB will send you their newest CD for FREE if you order any shirts/items from our merch store lightsovebridgeport.bigcartel.com