Lightmare is a six-piece powerhouse bringing together politics, beauty, collaboration, and diverse life experiences in Washington, DC. Their horn-laced soul-punk fusion captures the allure of an irresistible future through relatable and danceable compositions designed to awaken what is most important and intrinsic within us. Lightmare coined the genre ‘soul-punk’ after realizing that no structured genre fit. The band brings together what appear to be contradictions, righteous anger, and heart-laden intimacy — but like soul and punk, they work in tandem.

Lightmare was formed through Hat Band, an event that placed musicians together via lottery to write, perform, and raise funds for Girls Rock! DC. Lead singer Shady Rose (they/them), a plant-whisperer and stick-and-poke artist, guides Lightmare with their rich and flexible voice as a bedrock of exposed emotions. Shady is backed by and works collaboratively with keyboardist/reformed modern dancer Dee (she/her), lead guitarist/amateur pickling artist Beck (he/him), saxophonist/Jimmy Buffett stan Matt (he/him), shoeless/dancing/queer af bassist Frankie Hellfire (x/x), and finally, drummer Yousef (he/him), who well and truly exists.

“We all have diverging experiences and identities — a mix of genders, ethnic backgrounds, sexualities, and more,” explains Shady, “Yet we are all artists surviving, interpreting, and responding to common environmental and material conditions.” Lightmare’s music is often surprising, created at an intersection of pathways. To create music in DC, a seat of international and governmental power, is to build on a home of activism, culture, and resiliency under the lens of the national stage, forged in a strong underground spirit and commitment to justice.

Washington D.C. has always found itself at an intersection of pathways. It is a seat of international and government power, and it is a home of the people’s activism, culture and musical experiences. It’s no surprise then that the music of D.C. has always been particularly bold, brave and eclectic. On any given night in the nation’s capital one can hear punk, Blues, international tunes, dance music, and D.C.’s own distinct local rhythms of Go-Go spilling from doorways into the same streets where the wills and desires of the country are argued, disputed and made law. But it’s a lived-in city too. Much like your own hometown. D.C. residents have carved their own unique arts spaces.

Nowhere else would Lightmare so powerfully exist, rolling together a bevvy of influences, ranging from Billie Holiday, Queen and Phish, Blonde Redhead, Parliament and Green Day, 90s hip hop and Tabla drumming, to create an accessible, energetic, poignant, and holistic invitation to dance, to exist, to question, to get angry, and to rock out.

“The more we created, the more Soulpunk as a genre just started to fit.”, continues Shady “The punk is our screaming outrage at the injustices and wrongs we see in the world around us, our battle cries for action, our unending work on ourselves to rise to the challenge. The soul is our deeply rooted humanity, our shared sense of history and responsibility, the hint of mysticism and heartfelt musicality that drives the complex emotions in our lyrics and instrumentation. Together they represent music with a sense of urgency, made to pierce all the way to the heart and shake things up.”

Dirt, Lightmare’s forthcoming album on This Could Go Boom! Records, perfectly captures the intersection of these ideas during a time that inspires music lovers to question the establishment and to experience joy and euphoria as a sort of rebellion. “Shady's lyrics are a big part of that rebellion,” says Vitamin Dee “Their writing is compelling, poetic, metaphysical, and has you ready to fuck shit up all at once.” One can almost imagine that Lightmare’s songs are an aural expression of Shady’s personal influences, Jean-Michel Basquiat—offering his internal world laid ruthlessly bare, Malcolm X—with his staunchness in fighting injustice, and Octavia Butler—pioneering the way forward for Blackness and femininity.

Through their music, Lightmare hopes to inspire courage, softness, and love; tapping into that wavelength that makes people move their bodies—which, in turn, evokes an urge to move and transform their communities, too. “Our music is kind of like the elephant in that old adage,” describes Shady. “You know, the one where there's an elephant in a completely dark room and five people are circling around it, poking and prodding at different parts to find out what it is they're experiencing. One at the side says ‘an elephant is warm and leathery,’ another at the tusk says ‘no, no, an elephant is smooth and hard,’ a third yet at the tail says ’no, obviously an elephant is bushy and bristly!’

Lightmare’s latest album, Dirt, is kind of like that. It can be seen from so many wildly different angles while remaining a complete and holistic thing unto itself. This album is born of a long memory and deep well of feeling that existed before us and will exist after us, we simply dipped into it and brought up our little piece of it.”

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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