It's a sunny Saturday afternoon and Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis — members of breakout psychedelic duo Peaking Lights — are trying to mellow out Miko, their vivacious 10-month-old son. He's gnawing on an unopened furniture box from Ikea.
“Dude,” Coyes says. “You're being extrasilly today.”
It's a rare moment of respite for Peaking Lights. They've just finished mixing their ebullient latest album, Lucifer, due in June on Mexican Summer in the U.S., and on Domino imprint Weird World globally. It's their first new release as part of the career-making, multi-album contracts they signed with the labels this summer. Soon, they'll leave their home in Echo Park for months of touring, including dates in Europe with fellow Angeleno Julia Holter.
For two lifelong independent rockers, that's not just high-stakes stuff — it's what you do to take care of your family.
Coyes, who talks with a wide-eyed wonder befitting a former surfer, spent the past two decades in and out of punk bands, including Oakland's confrontational Heart of Snow. In the Bay Area he met Dunis, then of post-punkers Numbers, and the two relocated to her home state of Wisconsin to live for cheap on a sprawling rural estate that Frank Lloyd Wright built for one of his mistresses. That's where the expansive, discreetly romantic music of Peaking Lights was born.
Released last year on Highland Park-based experimental label Not Not Fun, their second album, 936, was a game-changer. At that time, so-called chillwavers were achieving popularity by washing facile pop melodies in baths of haze and echo. The mellow, dubbier stuff of Peaking Lights was a refreshing alternative. A year later, 936 has sold something like 3,000 copies — not exactly burning up the charts, but Not Not Fun's most successful release by far in eight years of business.
Even better, within months of its release, swarms of A&R executives and indie tastemakers were emailing Coyes and Dunis with offers for lucrative rereleases. And the offers were enticing. At the time, Coyes and Dunis were making ends meet by reselling vintage clothes and records to college kids in Madison, but with a baby on the way, they were looking for something more stable. One problem: These rockers didn't know the first thing about lawyering up. It turns out the only contract they'd had with Not Not Fun was a hearty handshake.
“We were just overwhelmed,” Dunis recalls. “But we got help when we found our manager Mark [Bowen, of U.K.-based Wichita Recordings]. He convinced us that we could do this as a career.”
She laughs. “Lo and behold, six months later, there we are, recording a new album in a studio in New York, and promoting 936 with festival gigs overseas.”
The two toured and recorded with Miko, often while he was sleeping in a sling attached to Dunis. In fact, you can hear the influence while listening to Lucifer, which means “light-bearer” in Latin. The rhythmic hiccups and coughs sound suspiciously like an overexcited baby, and the songs bounce like a toddler in his crib. It's the work of musicians who not only find parenthood totally trippy but just happen to bring their child to work every day.
Peaking Lights play Little Temple, 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd., tomorrow night, Tues., March 6, with Sapphire Slows, LA Vampires, Pharaohs and SFV Acid.