The Rebel Light consists of Alan and Jarrett Steil and Brandon Cooke; two brothers and their cousin. Starting a band with relatives seems like something that would be entirely deliberate, but for The Rebel Light it was happenstance. The precursor to the Rebel Light was located in Ireland; Alan and Jarrett were drummerless and searching for inspiration (because, in Alan’s words: Nothing encourages songwriting and music like year round rain and a great drinking culture).
Following their expedition overseas, the brothers moved out to Los Angeles, where they bumped into a long lost cousin who, quite conveniently, played the drums. While they are still out on the West Coast, the Steil’s time in Ireland has rubbed off on their first statement to the public. Their self-engineered and self-produced debut EP is a quick three songs, an effectual sample platter of tipsy, scream-along anthems that belong in pubs and concert halls.
The vocals for The Rebel Light were recorded in a bathroom and the drums were recorded in a shed, far removed from the bands that pay a lot of money to make their music sound like they didn’t pay a lot of money to make it. This penny-pinching measure isn’t an encumbrance, however; it speaks to the band’s mettle more than anything else. The Rebel Light is the culmination of a decade-long fight by the Steil brothers to make their music heard. The struggle is what comes through the most. In purely emotional terms, The Rebel Light is a literal and figurative success.
If you know someone who needs their daily dose of perspective (or if you need some yourself), the accompanying video for “Goodbye Serenade” provides plenty. It’s humbling on multiple levels, and it’s matched pound for pound in the band’s performance. The jubilance in the music is so genuine you’ll have a hard time not getting caught up in it. The lyrics are outdone by their delivery, but it’s the whole that counts here. Notes of sadness perforate the freewheeling chorus, and everything builds superbly into one colossal release.
“My Heroes Are Dead” unearths touchstones from fifty years past, including “I Am the Walrus,” Ziggy Stardust, and early day Oasis. A symphonic chorus balances understated verses, and the vocals again steal the show. The cynicism of the title isn’t projected as vehemently as you might think, either. The Rebel Light don’t want to mourn their loss, they want to pick up the torch and carry on. “Wake Up Your Mind,” the least memorable of the three, is a disgruntled electronic number: “Hypnotized by endless shades of gray,” sings Steil. The megaphone vocals bleed from underneath the clammy production work, creating a texture that smothers and antagonizes.
At just three songs, The Rebel Light is still a muscular display from a band with sizeable potential. It’s joyous, impassioned and raw, exactly what you hope for from a release that’s meant to break the ice. Hopefully the band will continue to branch out with subsequent releases, but The Rebel Light has enough spine to stand without assistance.