RIP EXCLUSIVE: Getting To Know Berliner Modern-Rock Band Off Lights
Sabrina Yanez ⋅ Nov 30, 2023
Off Lights, a Berlin-based modern-rock band, is here with their debut EP Back To Life; now available on all streaming platforms, here.
Members Julian Ticona Cuba (vocals), Thorsten Schäfer (guitar), and Sascha Dürr (drums), came together mid-pandemic to give you one lyrical powerhouse of an EP; which features six catchy, hard-hitting rock anthems. Their ability to seamlessly blend genres into one cohesive and unique sound shines through with Back To Life. This modern-rock-electro-pop fusion of a trio doesn't disappoint.
Back in September – following the release of their debut single "Man Or Machine" – I sat down with Julian to talk about the story behind Off Lights, and what to expect from the upcoming EP.
To start, tell me about the history of Off Lights. I know you're a bit of a newer band, so tell me about when and how you all started making music together.
Julian: Absolutely, we formed a group in the middle of the pandemic. I found Thorsten, the other songwriter on guitar, through a group on Facebook – luckily I met Thorsten and he referred to some bands I love listening to, and he already had a SoundCloud link loaded up with some tracks he did. I loved it from the start, and from there on we started to make music together for almost a year without seeing each other. I would record vocals, send it back, and we played ping pong with the files until we were happy. And then all of a sudden we had an EP together, and decided to record it professionally, and went to Sweden where we met for the first time after working together for one year. That's how the whole thing started. Once the EP was recorded and everything, we got Sascha the dummer in – who I knew from a previous project we worked on together – and from there on we started to make a plan about how we wanted to release the whole thing, how we wanted to do the videos, etc.
You guys currently have 3 songs out so far, the most recent being your single "Man or Machine," which I feel ties into your previously established modern-rock sound with more electronic hints here and there. It's so refreshing when bands fuse together elements from multiple different genres into rock music to create a unique sound, as you guys have done. There really isn't one definition of what rock is, it's so broad; and with this you can see how much modern-rock has evolved over time. Is this something you've thought about with your music, especially with the new EP?
Julian: Yeah definitely, I'd say we take influences from a lot of different genres – I love electronic music, I love heavy metal, and I also love pop music, same with Thorsten. I think that just happens naturally when we write, we think of electronic patterns for the background when we play guitar riffs, or some synthesizers or whatever. I think it's part of our sound, to mix the guitars and the classic drums with a more modern approach in terms of electronic elements. I would say you can also hear it in the vocals, in terms of the style of singing, I refer a lot to pop acts, and not typically only rock acts. I just love pop music a lot, and that's where we come from. We try to mix it all together into something that is still rock but has these influences from other genres as well.
So your debut EP Back To Life is dropping sometime this month?
Julian: We are shifting the release date to December. We just felt it's too early since we recently released "Man Or Machine," and it's just now starting to get attention on the radio here in Germany by the big rock stations. We feel that it still needs some time to grow. So yeah, it's now gonna release in December. That's also when the new single will come out – there's a fourth single after "Man Or Machine" that will come out with the EP, and then it's done with the EP.
Yeah that totally makes sense. What can you tell me about it? What can we expect?
Julian: There will be 6 tracks on the EP – the fourth single will be released along with it, so after that there will be only 2 more. The whole EP doesn't really have a concept or anything, but I would say you still can hear some kind of progress or evolution in between the tracks, which is overall defining our sound and what we stand for. In terms of the lyrics and the topics, it's basically just very personal stuff. To be honest, when I started to write lyrics – because I always write them after we make the tracks – I was trying to look at other rock artists and big artists and seeing what works, because I really wanted to make it good. But it ended up being super confusing because it just didn't feel right, it didn't feel honest, and in the end we ended up writing about stuff I experienced and feel. That ended up being the best thing for us, and that's what the lyrics are about; what I've experienced, and what I carry inside with me. In terms of the music, I would say it's just straight rock with some electronic elements as you already saw. The new tracks we're already starting to write are probably going to be a bit heavier than what we have on the EP, but I think nevertheless it's a good start to introduce ourselves as a band and the sound we want to play.
Do you have a favorite track from the EP that you're most excited about?
Julian: I would say it's probably the first one we released, "Back To Life." I remember how I listened to the instrumental – because it was written by Thorsten – and to this day, even after hearing it a million times with all the production and everything, it still twists some knobs in me. I just love it in terms of emotion, I don't know what it is. It's probably not the song with the biggest hit-potential, we released it because we just love it so much, and it didn't get the attention we were hoping for. It started to take off with our second single "Into The Night" which I also love. I would say, if I had to sum it up, I would say "Back To Life" is my favorite song. I will say, for Thorsten and Sascha it's probably different tracks than for me, I can only speak for myself.
Taking a step back from the band, I'd love to know more about your personal journey with music. Did you always envision yourself being a musician, or did you have one of those "lightbulb" moments where you realized that this is what you wanted to pursue?
Julian: I've been in rock bands since I was 14 – so that's almost 16 years now. Started off with nu-metal, then went to screamo, and then went to indie/synth-y-pop. I would say I have a long history with making music, but mostly independent. The peak of it was 10 years ago when we were signed to Universal Music here in Germany with our previous band, where our drummer Sascha played with me, and that's where it all started to become more professional. The band broke up unfortunately and we lost the deal, but I kept writing for pop artists here in Germany and really tried to shape my talent as a songwriter. In the end, I always came back to my true passion which is rock music. That's where I started to combine my experience and what I've learned with pop-writing, and put into my passion of doing rock music. That's why I think the sound of Off Lights is what it is – it's very pop-y I would say in terms of the lyrics, it tries to be catchy, but it's still rock music.
We have a little time left so here's a bit of a bonus question: I'm a music student studying abroad here [in Berlin] for the next few months, do you have any recommendations for German rock/punk bands I should see live while I'm here? Literally anything you might want to put me onto?
Julian: That's a tough question, I guess it depends on which type of rock music. We have a lot of indie, electronic bands here that are pretty cool. There's this band, Jeremiah, which are also pretty good and pretty big. There are a lot of young, indie bands right now making a wave in Germany. But in terms of what we do, there's not much else that I know of. I feel like the rock scene is coming back a little bit right now, but it's not where it's supposed to be. You might have to dig a little bit, most of the bands that are here are from the states. But yeah, we are going on tour so if you wanna check us out, then you have the chance in November! We're going on tour with Written By Wolves which is actually a band from New Zealand, and we'll support them through all the German dates in November. It's gonna be in Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Köln.
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