Akron’s Bluelight Takes Own Path To Create Experimental R&B

[photo: Bluelight]
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After studying together in the University of Akron’s Jazz program, the members of what would later become Bluelight went their separate ways but stayed in contact.

In 2013, bass player Matthew DeRubertis went to visit his old schoolmate Phil Anderson, who lived in Chicago. Anderson, a vocalist, shared some musical sketches he had been working on with DeRubertis.

DeRubertis was blown away by what he heard.

“Being musicians, we play a lot of music that doesn’t necessarily hit you in that heartfelt place, it almost more rarely does.  I just remember we were playing the first tune and I thought, ‘oh, this is deep, there is something here that needs to be explored,’” DeRubertis said.

A few months later, Anderson came to DeRubertis’ home in Akron to work on the pieces he had shown him in Chicago.

However, the musicians faced a problem.  Anderson could only stay for five days. So Anderson, DeRubertis and drummer Holbrook Riles, who joined them, had a very short period of time to accomplish what they wanted to do musically.

The three players completely shut out the outside world and focused only on music.  They were joined by vocalist Jul Big Green and saxophonist Chris Coles and by week’s end, both the Bluelight sound and the group’s first recording were born. 

 

[photo: Bluelight]

Anderson, an Akron native, eventually moved back to his hometown from Chicago.  Even as all the members of Bluelight were then living in Northeast Ohio, the band opted not to change its approach of holing up for several days, sometimes at a rural cabin, to rehearse, exchange ideas and work on their recordings. Several months sometimes go by before they reunite.

“I found that in contrast to other creative situations I’ve been in, I liked that infinitely better because it was total immersion.  We could just be 100 percent about the music. We had the freedom to explore whatever ideas were coming.  It taught me to access creativity both individually and collectively, that kind of immersion has to happen,” DeRubertis said.

Trying to categorize the music Bluelight makes into a single style, doesn’t really capture the band’s sound, Anderson said.

“It’s been kind of hard to identify the band, but we say ‘R&B’ because we are groove-based a lot of the time.  We have some hip-hop and spoken word and I sing.  However, we also say ‘experimental,’ because we bring in elements of modern jazz and progressive rock.  We bounce around quite a bit,” Anderson said.

While Bluelight covers a lot of ground, DeRubertis said they don’t engage in “eclecticism for the sake of eclecticism.”

“It’s never been that we should make an intentionally weird mash-up of all these things. Rather, it’s whatever we are hearing  just kind of comes out,” he said.

 

[photo: Bluelight]

The band’s latest recording, “Home,” has a definite theme.

“Most of the songs were written as I was travelling and shifting around my home location.  At the time, I was exploring different themes of home.  What does it mean to be home? Is it a space versus a mentality?  What are things that go into that? Feeling like you are home in a place you have never been versus being lost in a place with which you are familiar?’” Anderson said.

For Bluelight, the frequency in which they get together, is less-important than what happens when they do.

Bluelight plays CODA in Tremont Friday, March 8 at 8 p.m.

Check out Bluelight's "one take" video of "Birds and Bees"

 

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