PRETTY LIGHTS – Article and New EP

Oct 26, 2010 by

PRETTY LIGHTS – Article and New EP

derek-streetlamp-173x250Pretty Lights

“Spilling over every side and taking up your precious time”

Written by: Jenna Stecker

He isn’t just another college dropout. 5 years ago Pretty Lights was just Derek Vincent Smith, another student at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Fast forward to today and Smith is half of the musical powerhouse Pretty Lights, tearing up the electronic music circuit and lighting fire under his loyal fans and creating new flame converts by the day. His fusion of Electronica, Down-tempo and Hip Hop alongside his wide berth of samplings from current Rap, classic Funk and old school Soul creates  head nodding flow along with danceable beats. The addition of a percussionist during his live shows creates intrigue among electronic music cynics and draws a wider variety of people to him.

Film student by day and musical producer by night, Derek Vincent Smith was producing tracks for student house parties back in the day in Boulder and Ft. Collins.  After meeting Corey Eberhard,  they fused Smith’s Electronic, Hip Hop style with Eberhard’s live percussion back up during shows, giving their audiences a special element to relate to. With the feeling that there was something different happening, Smith dropped out of CU to focus on music. In 2008 Under the moniker Pretty Lights, Smith and Eberhard toured the country hitting such festivals like Bonaroo, Rothbury, and Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes Festival.


Pretty Lights style of music combines deep synth bass lines with body moving grooves and samples from every era of music. That is because he will listen to just about any style or genre of music. When there are music fans that say they like Rock and Country but hate Rap, Smith points out some great classic Rap tunes and some really bad Rock ones. If someone says they love Techno but cant stand Jazz, Smith draws a parallel between the two and shows them a Jazz hook they never even knew they loved. “I am one of those people who can really listen to any genre as long as the sound is good.” he says. Is there any type of music he doesn’t like listening to? “Bad music.” he states simply. But he doesn’t get more specific than that. “There can be something bad in any style of music.” His style reflects that ability to find something good in just about everything and it is why he can bring together such a wide variety of  listeners. Whats on his play list at present? “ I am really on this Soul kick. Like 60’s Soul. Chicago, Memphis, and Detroit all have these amazing Soul scenes that were right between the classic oldies of the 50’s and 60’s and the Funk of the 70’s.  I’ve been making mixed CD’s of old 45’s that I can rock in my car.”  Although he may be grooving to Sam Cooke or Wilson Pickett while driving through Lodo,  “I feel like an archeologist digging through the past finding all this music that I didn’t even know existed and it is really inspiring to find all the emotions and feeling and power of the music that I’m rocking.”  It is his colleges and friends that help keep him fresh. “I also like to stay up to date with new producers. There are a bunch of producers in my crew that are eventually going to be releasing on the Pretty Lights music label. There are just a few of my homies in my crew and we really just like to motivate and inspire each other.”

Very much in the vein of Sound Tribe Sector 9 and EOTO, the addition of live play musical instruments with electronic shows is not something that is totally unique. As a standard duo, however, it is much more uncommon than not. Adding this organic element to his music has helped Pretty Lights win favor with many people who would have normally turned away from a strictly produced music show. This is where Pretty Lights really shines, if you will excuse the pun.  Look forward to Smith expanding that role in the future also. In an August interview with Smtih said, “People in the past have tried to merge my style of production with a live-band, but I don’t feel it has ever been done to the level it could be. I want to bring my music and show to the level that nobody thought possible.”


Pulling out onto the scene with Taking up Your Precious Time in 2006, Pretty Lights introduced himself with a smooth and energetic album. Following up in 2008 with Filling up the City Skies, a two disc compilation, Smith took a step forward developing his sound and style. While Disc 1 followed his debut album in the same head nodding, groove manner, there was a juxtaposition in Disc 2. Pretty Lights changed his game and delivered more driven dance style songs. Samplings from 50 Cent and other rap artists gave many of his songs a beat driven club feel while still maintaining a mystical quality with his choice of samples and style of editing. By this time, Smith and Eberhard were hard driving tour warriors. When Passing By Behind Your Eyes came out in October of 2009, Pretty Lights was well known and desired within the festival circuit and opening up new eyes to their music because of their relentless touring schedule.

After finally being able to rest and take some time to allow the creative process to fester, Making Up a Changing Mind was released in March of 2010, marking it the first in a trilogy of EP’s to be released this year. Spilling Over Every Side(my personal favorite) followed in July and an as of yet unnamed EP will be dropped before 2011. On the website along with most releases there is an explanation for each album. An explanation of his mood and inspiration while the record was being created, the feel of the album as a whole and sometimes just an explanation of certain tracks themselves. “I make the records and try to express where I’m at as best I can. Then I look back and try to wrap my head around a more general sort of assessment of what was going on in that record. And that is how I try to describe it when I write the text files that accompany the EP.” Smith explains.

The thing that is uncommon about all of these albums is the fact that they are all available for free download at  HYPERLINK “” Smith seems to realize, with other modern artists like Radiohead and Big Gigantic, that free music is a powerful distribution model. Having this free download approach is something Smith has always wanted to do and would like to continue, if possible. “It’s been my model from the beginning; me giving my music free to my fans and then them supporting me via the live show – It’s working for right now. I tell people that I am going to continue to do it for as long as it is a good thing for me. I may not give my music away for free forever but for right now it seems like it is a smart move and it makes people think about the industry differently I suppose.”

It is also a powerful tool for molding and shaping the modern music industry itself. “I just want to continue to make music that is dope and getting better all the time. It seems like this model has turned into more of an attempt to transform the music industry as a whole. I mean the whole micro chasm of where I could potentially want the music industry to go.” It definitely sets him apart musically and artistically in an industry suffering from lagging sales due to technological advancements like file sharing and illegal downloading. In all of that, Pretty Lights thrives. In fact all Pretty Lights music recently surpassed one million downloads on the website. To say thank you he gave back to his fans, rewarding the one millionth downloader with a VIP trip experience to see a Pretty Lights show in Las Vegas on November 27th at the House of Blues which is, coincidentally, Smith’s Birthday Bash.

This summer Smith replaced his live show partner Cory Eberhard with New York drummer Adam Deitch. While Smith declined to talk about the separation specifically saying, “I don’t want it to be the focus of interviews and articles because it is something that I’m trying to move forward from.” He did state that he was ready to step up his game on all levels, “Moving forward with Adam Deitch was necessary.” A very good decision indeed, as Deitch has been a drumming favorite of mine for years.


Adam Deitch is the product of a drumming family(both his parents were funk drummers) and was in the seat drumming by age two. By age eight he was sitting in with his parents funk band playing many different styles of music. He became interested in hip-hop at an early age, inspired by Public Enemy and Eric B and Rakim. His proficiency in hip hop and funk drumming has made him a hot commodity. By far one of the most versitile drummers/producers in the music scene right now, Deitch’s drumsticks are in a mixing pot of many, many different projects such as Average White Band, Lettuce, Fyre Dept., Chapter 2, John Scofield Band, and the Adam Deitch Project. He is a proficient producer also with credits alongside Soulive, Jurassic 5, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake as well as an active member of the popular live/sampling movement with Borahm Lee in Break Science. Not to mention laying along side one of the funkiest families in music (Royal Family Records). It’s not so much of a stretch you could consider him the Warren Haynes of drumming. He’s everywhere you look (even if you didn’t know he was there). Deitch’s background of funk and hip hop seems to meld seamlessly with Smith’s visions “It just worked out. Adam and I have known each other [awhile] and we’ve wanted to work together and we are on the same wavelength in a lot of different levels. Its been awesome and I honestly couldn’t be happier in the situation.” says Smith. Along with with Deitch’s history in production it will be interesting to see what he can bring to the table for future Pretty Lights albums.

With Deitch in pocket and the final section of his trilogy set for release, 2010 has been quite the year. This summer alone he has performed at Cochella, Summer Camp, Bella Music Festival, Starscape Music Festival, Camp Bisco, and Wunderlust. With the UK tour dates in between, let’s not forget the place he played that is close to all our hearts, Red Rocks Amphitheater. Pretty Lights held his first headlining show at Red Rocks this August eventually selling the 9,450 person house out. I asked Smith what his favorite show was for this summer. “Obviously I am going to say Red Rocks because I have dreamt about playing that venue since I bought a bass guitar in 8th grade. It was such a massive project and happened so fast that I had to try to just keep up.” It must have been quite the production considering that their first tour was not that much more than a year before before.

“We were playing 200 person bars in the south . We’ve all had to adapt and learn how to pull off a show like that was a massive undertaking. And you know some things went wrong and didn’t go exactly how we wanted it but it turned out being awesome.” A close second on the list of highlights this summer? “Besides Red Rocks I did a show in New York City(Deitch’s hometown) at the beginning of the summer. I hadn’t been back there for awhile and we were trying to play a really big room and I was a little nervous about it. However it ended up selling out pretty fast and we played a cool show to about 4,000 people. Its cool to go to New York, the music capital of  the world, as far as hip hop and other stuff that I do, so it felt really good to be back.”

After all of these endeavors, It’s no wonder he is looking forward to some time off. Not that he isn’t working just because he isn’t performing. “Well its the beginning to my time off so I’m jumping into working on my new EP, thinking about production coming on my next tour, just a bunch of really cool stuff going on without the pressure of an immediate obligation in the near future.” Don’t expect that to last long because by the time this will be at press, Smith with already be off on a 6 week headlining tour this fall starting September 24th at Lake Powell’s festival, Powellapalooza, and wrapping up close to home in early December with two dates in Telluride and one in Aspen at the Belly Up and his New Year’s shows in Chicago where he is performing two nights at the Congress Theater


So at present Smith is chilling at his apartment in Lodo getting his ducks in a row for the upcoming craziness and playing “sweet X box games”. He is also building a brand new studio in Denver in order to create his next album. “At the end of 2009 I set a side a chunk of time that I wanted completely off which is going to be January through March next year. That is going to be so I can really sit down and make a new record in a [different] way than I have in the past. I am building this studio from the base up.” He hopes to have the studio open by the beginning of 2011. “[I am] trying to maintain this style that I have developed but approach it differently. Instead of spending weeks in record shops trying to find obscure timbres and sounds and collage them. I want to build a studio with all pre 1970 equipment and instruments to recreate all those timbres and tones of the technology 50 years ago so that I can create something completely free of vinyl samples but maintain the same esthetic and style. So I am building that right now with the idea to make that record in it.”


There is so much going on with this Colorado producer, be sure to keep an eye out for the continued rise of this meteoric star. Another hectic tour. Producing and releasing new artists on his label. New albums flowing all the time. Like the names off of his albums which flow like poetry themselves, Pretty Lights is Spilling Over Every Side, Filling Up the City Skies trying to create new music for his fans. For those of you who might allow his music to go Passing Behind Your Eyes, take a second and listen. You may find something you didn’t expect. Pretty Lights may help in Making Up a Changing Mind and you’ll realize he’s not just Taking Up Your Precious Time.

Glowing In The Darkest Night, the third installment of Pretty Light’s trilogy of 2010’s EPs, is now available at


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