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Dallas supergroup Thanksgiving Lights beats obstacles with new album

Dallas supergroup Thanksgiving Lights beats obstacles with new album

Thanksgiving Lights
Thanksgiving Lights, from left, Shawn Collins, Mike Trujillo, Harden Hampton Harrison. Courtesy photo

A new Dallas supergroup is finally ready for its long-in-the-making debut: Called Thanksgiving Lights, it's an art rock/post-punk trio starring vocalist/bassist Mike Trujillo (Puncture), guitarist Shawn Collins (Polystarra), and drummer Harden Hampton Harrison (Rigor Mortis, Pervis), who will perform at a debut/LP release party on Saturday March 12.

Ordinarily, there is a certain order bands follow: musicians meet, compose, practice every note til it's rote, play gigs, pool their money and record, release a product, tour, rinse, repeat.

But things did not go so easily for Thanksgiving Lights, who encountered an unprecedented series of obstacles to complete their self-released album, called Subject Is The Body, a dreamy-yet-brutal album that took more than a decade to emerge.

The concept began in 2011 when Trujillo, Harrison, and the late, great Rigor Mortis guitarist Mike Scaccia came together with a goal to create music that was different-than-their-norm.

It abruptly came to a halt when Scaccia passed away in 2012. But the idea lingered, and a few years later, Trujillo and Harrison decided to revive the project.

Right around that time, Trujillo injured his leg and was laid up for nearly a year. He bought his first bass and used the time to teach himself how to play on 4 strings instead of his usual 6. Delving into Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, METZ and more, he approached the instrument with a less-metal mindset.

Once back on his feet, Trujillo invited Collins to play guitar. It was an inspired choice: Collins' dream pop background provided an intriguing contrast to Thanksgiving Lights' harder-edged material, and made the perfect complement to the bass and drums.

But the band was dealt another blow when Harrison fell off his porch and broke his neck. He underwent successful surgery but their momentum was delayed, although Harrison and Trujillo continued writing and making demos. The upside to the delay is that it gave them time to refine the pieces.

They finally began recording in 2021, recruiting an A Team, with mixing by Trujillo and Alex Bhore (Goldfrapp, the Halo soundtrack) and mastering by Matthew J. Barnhardt (The Echo Lab, Chicago Mastering Service). Dallas visual artist Mark C. Merchant designed the cover, depicting a woman's bust with a Day-of-the-Dead-style skull surrounded by muted flowers.

The album has eight songs including original tracks "Reserve Breath," "To The Grave," "Napoleon Man," and "Lincos." There are two covers: Joy Division's "Day of The Lords," and "Moon Over Marin" by The Dead Kennedys, which take on new life through Thanksgiving Lights' interpretation.

It's important to note that this project shouldn't be defined by the musicians' mostly metal backgrounds. The album has abrasive elements, but it has quiet, creative elements that can't be categorized as metal or industrial. My suggestion on the best way to listen to this album is to lie down between two speakers (or with headphones), crank it up while stoned in a dark room, and absorb to draw your own conclusions.

There are two surprise tracks, one slightly macabre: It's a 1963 alleged recording of a female cosmonaut who burned due to a malfunctioning spacesuit, audio released by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers. The other is a clip from War of the Worlds, which occurs backwards then forwards.

Subject Is The Body has a limited release, with 100 LPs and 25 cassettes, available at Good Records in Dallas, Top Ten Records in Oak Cliff, Vandango Records in Greenville or through thanksgivinglights.bandcamp.com. It's also streaming on Spotify, Amazon and iTunes.

Thanksgiving Lights' debut/LP release party is Saturday March 12, with Uncle Toasty and Mutha-Falcon, at Doublewide, 3510 Commerce St. Doors are at 9 pm, and the show is at 10 pm.