As they approach their eight-year anniversary as a band, White Light Riot have announced this week that they will only play one more show before parting ways and focusing on other projects.
“We were planning on doing a new record, and it kind of came time to do it and everyone had these different obligations that are going on that are pulling them away,” says drummer Mark Schwandt. “So it kind of came time to get down to the nitty gritty and we decided that it’s in everyone’s best interest to follow the things we want to do.”
Schwandt says he and his bandmates — brother and lead singer Mike Schwandt, bassist Dan Larsen, keyboardist Randy Tomes, and guitarist Zack Carroll — are parting on friendly terms, and will still remain close as they pursue new ventures. “We are tight-knit as can be. We do everything together, all our girlfriends are friends, we’re really a family, a cohesive group. And I don’t think that will change, I don’t think the friendship will change, I just think that we can almost be better friends without fighting over the creative differences in the band,” he says.
Back in the winter of 2005-’06, the Twin Cities experienced something of a British invasion as a crop of young bands with fat Beatles and Oasis record collections started causing a stir at local clubs. Leading the way was a pair of newcomers who — seemingly out of nowhere — issued incredibly well-produced, tightly composed EPs: The Alarmists with A Detail of Soldiers, and White Light Riot with the Erik Appelwick-produced The Dark is Light Enough.
White Light Riot caught my attention right away, especially live, and there was an undeniable momentum behind them as they shared bigger and bigger stages with the Alarmists and other like-minded bands like the Debut, This World Fair, and Ari Herstand.
“That was a really exciting time for everyone, because everyone was seeming to do well locally. That was just a great time for us. Unfortunately we went down the route that you hear so many bands doing, and that’s getting involved with the wrong people.”
For their follow-up to The Dark is Light Enough, White Light Riot signed to deep-pocketed upstart 50 Records, which operated out of an office in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. The band was almost immediately at odds with the label over promotion and copyright issues, and after the release of Atomism they went through a years-long legal battle with the label to win back the rights to their songs.
“I think White Light Riot has done a good job of showcasing what not to do, in some business interests,” laughs Schwandt. “But one thing we’ve always done is try to put out music we love. We’re definitely writing for ourselves, and that’s one thing I like about the guys in the band is our creativity and our musical writing has always been for us.”
White Light Riot’s final album, White Light Riot, came out last year and was received positively locally, but the band never regained that spark that propelled them through their early years. Now that the bandmates are officially parting ways, it should open the door for more collaborations from the members in the future; ex-guitarist Joe Christensen is already an active member of Alicia Wiley’s new band, All Eyes, and Mark Schwandt is staying busy as a new member of Usonia.
“The farewell show is going to be awesome,” Schwandt says. “So It Goes is going to be opening — they haven’t played for I think almost two years now. So it’s kind of a reunion one-off show for them and our finale. Expect some craziness like always, controlled chaos on stage, and expect to see some old friends joining us. We’re expecting it to be a pretty fun time, and more of a celebration than any kind of sadness.”
White Light Riot will play their final show Saturday, September 15 with So It Goes and the Color Pharmacy at the 7th St. Entry. Tickets go on sale Friday.