The most notable thing about the Wilmington power-rock, pop-punk band I Am Lightning is that each member hides their face during photo sessions and on-camera interviews — revealing their mugs only during concerts.
Hence, the peculiar foursome will appear unmasked for their gig tonight at the World Café Live at the Queen. IAL will share the bill with acts The Click Clack Boom (New York) — who will be joined with Mia Tyler (daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler) — and Kid Felix (New Jersey).
Face the music
Whether hiding their faces behind sheets of computer paper with printed images of animal faces or head shots of celebs like Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis Jr., IAL decided to conceal their identity back when they formed in 2009, for two reasons.
Firstly, they wanted to poke fun at the cliché band photos most groups display on their websites and album covers. Secondly, IAL felt hiding their identity would be a clever marketing tool they could use to lure people to hear their music.
“We didn’t want to be those bands that have those poses where it’s like, you know, you’re trying to look cool,” said frontman David Sanchez, 33, of Wilmington. “I look at a lot of band photos and I’m just like, ‘These guys are tools.’ And this isn’t even listening to their music or anything.
“What do you get out of looking at a band photo? If I were to look at [Nickelback], I would have no idea what their music would sound like. And honestly I don’t care. But if you were to look at I Am Lightning’s page, which is just a random picture, it kind of makes you a little bit more curious, I think.”
As for why IAL doesn’t pattern after a band like KISS who’s known for playing gigs in disguise, Sanchez said, “I think that’s just going, too, extreme. I think the press photo things are cool, but when we’re live, I’m not going to wear a mask — it wouldn’t be very comfortable.”
Sanchez — who’s also the owner of Spaceboy Clothing boutique, located on Kirkwood Highway and Market Street — is IAL’s frontman, but he’s certainly not the star of the band. With the way vocal duties are distributed on most of their songs, everyone gets a chance to either sing the chorus, a verse or harmonize. It’s also a collaborative effort for the entire group to write lyrics and guitar arrangements for each song.
Page 2 of 2 - “I think the one thing that makes us pretty unique is the fact that we all collectively write the stuff — it’s not just one person,” said drummer Kevin Hardy, 32, of Wilmington. “Dave will have an idea or I’ll have an idea on guitar, Brandon [Hilkert, lead guitarist] will have an idea and the fact that we can come together collectively in that sense… it’s not just one person’s idea, it’s everybody’s.”
Sanchez then hitched a ride on Hardy’s train of thought.
“I agree with Kevin,” Sanchez said. “But also the vocal structures of our band — Paul’s still new so he hasn’t really started singing — but Kevin, Brandon and I, we’ve been playing together for a while and we’ll sing. I sing maybe a quarter of a song, or maybe half of it, and we switch over to Kevin and he’ll sing part of it and Brandon’s like harmonizing. So we have three layers of just vocals going.”
IAL bassist Paul Lemley, 32, of Wilmington, recently joined the band in April, so he’s still learning the songs. But when he gets the lyrics down pat, Lemley says it’ll feel natural singing with the guys because he often sang as the former bassist of the pop-punk band Shutter, of Dover.
“A lot of times you see [one guy] up there and he’s just singing, and the rest of the guys are just standing around with their instruments,” Lemley said of most power-pop bands. “But in this band it’s all equally… all the energy comes from equal sanctions.”