Pretty Lights Listening Party at Sonos Studio

Derek Vincent Smith is every bit what you would expect a dude hailing from Colorado to be. Pot loving and goofy, he walks with a slow laidback swagger, jams out to music with impressively expressive faces and seems so approachable that his fans often feel comfortable interacting with him in a manner as if they are old college buddies. Otherwise known by his moniker, Pretty Lights, Smith’s shows always deliver what his alternate name suggests. Mesmerizing lights enhance all of his performances, giving his music an all-encompassing color soaked 3D visualizer. Last week at SONOS Studio in Los Angeles, for an event hosted by KCRW’s Jason Bentley, Smith previewed his new album, A Color Map of the Sun to an intimate gathering of 150 people. He had just flown in from Bonnaroo–his shoes still covered in the Tennessee dirt.

Besides his usual mesmerizing spectacle of a light show, Smith is known for blending electronic, hip-hop and soul music. Being able to meld these genres so seamlessly enables Smith to successfully incorporate elements from different eras of music. Smith does not shy away from working with disparate artists. He even collaborated with country singers LeAnn Rimes and Dr. Ralph Stanley on a remix of the classic “Wayfaring Stranger” for the RE:GENERATION Project.

The night started off with a screening of a documentary, shot by his girlfriend Krystle Blackburn, that chronicled the making of his new album. Smith began by referencing how this particular album was “an experiment of creating modern cutting edge music with gear that existed 40 years ago” that was trying to represent “analog electronica in its purest form.” He demonstrated the variety of instrumentation that he used–from traditional instruments such as trumpets and violins to more obscure ones, like toy pianos and music boxes. Usually when Derek makes an album, he spends the bulk of his time digging through record stores for vinyl. However, he told us “instead of collecting that crate of vinyl, I’m going to be creating that crate of vinyl this time around."

Derek, who started out his musical career producing hip-hop, attempted to closely emulate the process of sampling what hip-hop producers often do for their albums. After pressing his own vinyl to sample from, Smith headed to New Orleans for more inspiration and to collaborate with different musicians. He kept their sessions minimalistic, wanting the process to be simple and beautiful. He described the process as “vibing off of each other to create the best musical moments.”

During the Q&A, Smith talked about wanting his album to be something “that can still be played when the power goes out.” He admitted that he will indeed be taking the band out on the road with him, saying that they will be performing together “in a way that’s never been seen before.”

Jason Bentley, who produced the recently released Bob Marley remix album, commissioned Pretty Lights to create a remix for the project. He admitted to Smith that he referred to the Pretty Lights remix of “Exodus” as his favorite on the album. Flattered by this compliment, Smith replied, “I know it’s good when I get out of my own chair and start dancing. But I also found myself tearing up.”

Smith explained the emotional process of creating this Bob Marley remix. When using Marley’s acapella track, he was able to hear Marley’s soul. Smith truly felt Marley’s power and was able to really reflect on how it changed the world in massive ways. He speculated that “rare souls and musicians who come along and really make the world a better place, make us more conscious as human beings."

Pretty Lights’ new album A Color Map of the Sun and documentary will be released on July 2, 2013. To hear a full stream of the live session, tune into KCRW at 11:15 a.m. on July 2, 2013. In the meantime, feel free to stream Pretty Light’s entire new album A Color Map of The Sun right HERE.

Photos By: Koury Angelo

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