Seeing sights and sounds

Local band More Than Lights takes a break from festivals to promote its new album.

The hip-hoppers in More Than Lights blend rock and folk influences with a flower power shtick to create trippy waves of sound.

Brian Butterfield

The hip-hoppers in More Than Lights blend rock and folk influences with a flower power shtick to create trippy waves of sound.

Anne Hiner


Local hip-hop band More Than Lights’ new album “Sights and Sounds” tells listeners to stop taking life so seriously. In between guitarist Matiu Unga’s new baby and More Than Lights’ frequent visits to Harmony Park, the band managed to find the time to finish its second full-length “fun”-themed album.

The seven members originate from very different musical backgrounds, with influences that vary from Ani DiFranco to OutKast. This variety places the band in a unique musical genre.

“Sights and Sounds” is a smooth jazzy album that falls under the category of easy listening. Tracks “Power Now” and “I Speak Jive” mix a mellow jam band sound with fast rap verses.

All 11 tracks share a message to live positively. The group’s “free-love” attitude and bluesy sound give the members the appropriate status as hippie hoppers.

Emcees Big Zach and Unicus have been making music for more than a decade in the local hip-hop group Kanser. More Than Lights fell into their lap as drummer Corey Hess and guitarist Unga simply offered to create a band after meeting Zach at a Heiruspecs show. Later, vocalist Natalie Fine, bassist Reuben Rodriguez and saxophonist Josh Holmgren jumped on board, completing the group.

The new album puts a stronger emphasis on Fine’s vocals and Unga’s guitar riffs, heard specifically in slow-tempo tracks “The Moment” and “More and More.” More Than Lights hopes the new focus will communicate to listeners that the group is something other than Kanser with a band.

“Our song ‘Cool Kids’ is different than most songs,” Unicus said. “It’s got a throwback ’50s swing feel to it. I don’t feel like I’m in a hip-hop group, I feel like I’m beyond that.”

“Sights and Sounds” tiptoes through a variety of topics but doesn’t dive deeply in specific subject matter. The group steered away from Kanser’s storytelling lyrical style. “Sights and Sounds” is basic and focused on creating a high energy “fun” vibe to get the hippies and hip-hop junkies grooving.

More Than Lights is taking a break from its festival shows to begin touring the Midwest promoting the album for the rest of 2012. It will kick off the tour with back-to-back nights at the Cabooze on Oct. 5 and 6, showcasing a variety of opening acts.

The group sold out the Fine Line Music Cafe and the Cabooze last year, showing its growing popularity. As a local group more similar to Wookiefoot than Wu-Tang Clan, More Than Lights hopes to continue its success and achieve fame but doesn’t want to go to extreme lengths. Kanser worked closely with artists like popular local emcee Prof, but More Than Lights is aiming at another kind of success.

“We want to bring people into our world, without going too far into theirs,” Big Zach said.

If listeners decide to enter that world this October, they should expect a jazzy performance rather than a typical rap show from More Than Lights. The hip-hop group is much more likely to shower its audience with glow sticks than with beer and bills.