It’s a snowy and bright Saturday afternoon in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood, and electro-pop duo FLASH/LIGHTS is hunkered down in a white backyard shed. Dusted with snow, it looks pastoral, like it might hold a few bales of hay and a chicken. Inside, the duo is surrounded by a jackpot of second-hand electronic audio equipment—effects pedals, old synthesizers, amplifiers—and a good old fashion drum kit.
This is the makeshift headquarters and studio of Hug Records, the band’s self-owned label. It’s where FLASH/LIGHTS’s Ethan Converse and Alex Anderson have spent much of the last five months holed up working on their new EP. On Thursday at the Larimer Lounge, they’ll play their first show in almost half a year. Next week, they’ll headline the Colorado Music Party at SXSW.
Converse queues a couple tracks off the EP on the studio’s desktop. The songs are less effervescent than the band’s previous work, with more soul influence and out-of-the-box instruments. It occasionally brings to mind an indie version of Boombox, though with sharper vocals (which is not hard to manage). Considering the less-than-professional workspace, the music sounds tight, a testament to the work Anderson’s put in engineering the space.
After a few minutes, they confer with one another. “How do we wanna talk about…” Converse starts asks to Anderson. “Or do we?”
“Yeah, we do,” Anderson replies. “We probably need to, right?”
They’re whispering about what they call the “next chapter” of FLASH/LIGHTS. Specifically, their new name: From here on out, Converse and Anderson will be performing and recording as Rose Quartz. The new EP’s working title, “Flashlights,” will pay tribute to the group’s past and provide a link for confused fans. But beyond that, FLASH/LIGHTS is no more.
“It’s hard to let it go,” Converse says. “FLASH/LIGHTS was my first real band. [But] I’m cool with dropping it now. Time to move on.”
There’s more excitement than sorrow in his voice, a buzzing energy that’s palpable through our whole hour-plus conversation on Saturday. Read on as Converse and Anderson talk about why they changed their name, meeting the other Flashlights band and what they’ve got in store as Rose Quartz.
Reverb: Other than your show at the UMS last summer and a single here and there, you’ve been quiet. What’s the deal?
EC: FLASH/LIGHTS, being one of the few electro-pop acts in town, we were playing a lot of shows. So many that it was hard to write. It was more about rehearsing than writing. We had to take a conscious five months and tell our manager, ‘no shows. Don’t book us anything.’ We needed a solid five months in the studio so we could come out kicking again. [This Thursday’s show at Larimer Lounge] is going to be the debut of all that work and the new style.
AA: We’re both amped to be able to get into a room again with a loud soundsystem and smiling faces have a dance party again. It’s been awhile.
This is the first EP you’ve worked on together. How’s the recording process been?
AA: It took us a little while to figure out exactly how we wanted to get everything done. Four months ago, we decided we should book a show so we’ll be ready.
EC: We’d go to the studio and keep writing songs. We’re like, ‘Cool, this song’s done. Let’s actually finish it and get it out,’ and then we’d try to finish it, and we’d write another song. It just kept happening, so we had like five new songs.
AA: It was really cool, because we really got to know each other through that a lot more. Because we’d been playing in each other’s bands—he played in Mancub for a little while and I played in FLASH/LIGHTS for a little while—and I took a break after that just to do Mancub. After that, we were like ‘Fuck this, let’s just do it together.’
EC: He was playing in Mancub and FLASH/LIGHTS, and most weeks we were playing like three shows a weekend. It sucked.
AA: We were playing too much.
How would you describe the new material?
EC: Some of it is a little more poppy than Mancub and a little grittier than FLASH/LIGHTS. This has been the most fun we’ve had recording, tracking and mixing. The EP is like done. It’s mixed and mastered already. We’re debating getting some other hands in the mix. We’re all in-house, so it’d be nice to get some other ears on it.
AA: (Motioning around the studio) Every single piece from here to here is on that record. FLASHLIGHTS used to be pretty much all in-the-box. We had a Micro Korg and that was it. This one, we have all this gear.
We’re both big fans of Tennis. Their being able to take recording techniques and bring it in to the electronic side is why there’s this organic emphasis [on the new EP]. We’re taking more influence from modern indie band techniques and applying them to electronic music, rather than just straight up electronic looping.
Let’s talk about the new name. Why’d you decide to change it?
EC: We’ve been doing this for a while and we wanted to give it a fresh start. But also, FLASH/LIGHTS had been dealing with a cease and desist with our name. We put a slash in it. It was a huge bitch to deal with.
This other band, the other Flashlights, they’re nice guys. No fault to them. I met them at CMJ. We were like ‘Sorry for all the internet shit-talking!’ They were like, ‘It’s cool! It’s just the internet man! No worries!’
They’re touring more than we are at this point, and we had fans that were buying tickets to their shows. Fans were saying, “Hey man, I’m such a huge fan. I can’t believe you’re coming through Phoenix. I got all my friends tickets!’ I’m like, ‘Dude, we’re not coming to Phoenix…’ That’s kind of heartbreaking. I’m sending that kid a vinyl.
It’s not fair to the fans, the other band, it’s not fair to us. We need to totally rebrand.
Why “Rose Quartz”?
EC: My dad’s a geologist, so rose quartz has always just been around. It’s the stone of love.
AA: The stone means endless compassion, warmth and unconditional love. That’s what we do. We make this because we love it.
EC: Our record label is HUG records.
Do you have any rose quartz on you?
AA: We don’t have any in the studio.
EC: We need to get some.
AA: [It’s a shame]—you never get the same reverb as when you record in a cave of rose quartz.
Were there any runners up?
AA: There were no other names on the table. Ethan was just like, ‘I want to start a side project called Rose Quartz.’ After a while, we were just like, we should just call this band Rose Quartz. I’m glad there was only one name. So many kids in bands, you’re trying to find your image, so everyone’s throwing out names and you have to decide on one.
EE: It was either that or a heavy metal band called Mammogram.
I’m assuming you googled “Rose Quartz band” before you finalized all this.
EC: Shit yeah. (laughs)
AA: We’re not making the same mistake twice.