There's only one band in Memphis, and everyone is in it. The truth in that old pearl was underlined by last Saturday's tribute to Dr. John's Gris-Gris, a party that ended at Cooper-Young's Bar DKDC — after the musicians took the revels to the street. The performers included members of Marcella & Her Lovers, the Sheiks, and, yes, Memphis' new alternative goth-rock band, 1000 Lights. The historically amorphous lineups of Memphis bands is of note because 1000 Lights is something of a Bluff City supergroup itself. The band will release its debut album, 3NC EP, on Forbidden Place Records this Friday, August 16th, at B-Side.
The lineup includes Jesse James Davis (Yesse Yavis, Model Zero) on vocals, Joey Killingsworth (Joecephus & the George Jonestown Massacre, Super Witch) on guitar, Flyer film editor Chris McCoy (Super Witch, Pisshorse) on bass, and drummer Russ Thompson (The Margins, Static Bombs, Pisshorse).
- 1000 Lights: (l to r) McCoy, Thompson, Davis, and Killingsworth
"I just love Russ. There's a lot of good drummers in town, and I think he's the best rock drummer in town," says McCoy of his longtime bandmate. The two go way back. Back in their days in Pisshorse, they used to share bills with the Oblivians and the Grifters. "We were one of the first bands to play Black Lodge," McCoy adds.
Pisshorse played a set of Black Sabbath covers at Barrister's, a now-shuttered venue in Downtown Memphis, which secured the band an invitation to perform a "secret set" at the infamous "Hell on Earth" Halloween party series. They decided to cover The Stooges' Fun House. Unfortunately, they never got to play that night. "The cops came when people started setting off smoke bombs," McCoy says. "So we never got to play. And I was always bitter about that."
So when a recently broken-up Super Witch was invited to play Black Lodge's Halloween celebration, McCoy saw his opportunity to play Fun House, at last. Of course, McCoy and Thompson would make up the rhythm section, because "there's something about a rhythm section that's been together for a really long time," McCoy says. "You get a telepathic relationship." To handle guitar duties, McCoy and Thompson tapped Killingsworth from Super Witch. All that remained? "We needed someone who could be Iggy," he says.
The then-trio wanted arguably one of the best front-persons in Memphis. "I met Jesse James Davis at that Bowie [tribute] show," McCoy explains, further adding to the mosaic of musical influences that helped inform 1000 Lights. Memphis songwriter Graham Winchester put on a David Bowie tribute concert in 2016 to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and McCoy and Davis both performed. "Everybody was good that night, but Jesse just blew me away." Who better to be the band's Iggy than someone who had already played Bowie?
They planned to play the Halloween show and, if everyone felt good about it, pursue the band as a full-time project. "We walked off stage at that Black Lodge show," McCoy says, "and Jesse turned to me and said, 'Let's do it!'"
"The name 1000 Lights comes from a line in 'Down on the Street,' the Stooges song," McCoy says. So the band set about crafting its sound, influenced by their roots but branching out to cultivate music based on their varied tastes. Killingsworth "wanted to do something really gothy," McCoy says. "He's really into Bauhaus and he loves Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds."
There is a darkness and a sense of drama to 3NC EP, recorded at Move the Air Audio, but there are also shades of punk, post-punk, and early alternative music.
The first two tracks, "Shark Tooth" and "Exile Your Life," open the album with a grit-your-teeth, Stooges-like momentum, but as the record plays, the band lets the songs spool out a little longer. "Isolation Line" has an opening rhythm that recalls Joy Division's "The Sound of Music." The multifaceted structure of the songs speaks to the collaborative nature of the project — and the songwriting chops on display. Memphis' newest supergroup, 1000 Lights, burns brightly. 1000 Lights record release with Alyssa Moore and Glorious Abhor is Friday, August 16th, at B-Side, 9 p.m.