If anyone in the audience is singing along at a PIPELiGHTS show, it's almost certainly to the song "19 States." But that tune that's helped define PIPELiGHTS actually pre-dates the band. Written for the first group that Abby Corcoran and Clarissa Sarabia played in together, The Borderline Sound, "19 States" had a style and feel that never quite fit.
"That song sounded like a different style. It didn't sound like our old band. It sounded like a band I wanted to do but never did, until we started playing with PIPELiGHTS," Sarabia says.
Eager to form a band with which they felt could go in a different direction, Corcoran (guitar) and Sarabia (moving from drums to bass) added Gaby Lisk on drums and, after a few other short-term members left, brought in Emily Poppen on keyboards. So "19 States," written when gay marriage was legal in only 19 states, found a new power to realize the potential Corcoran and Sarabia knew the song had. It's become the song that anchors not only PIPELiGHTS' live shows, but also the band's debut album, 518.
"Every time we played it with our old band, I felt like I wasn't portraying it properly, and people weren't really receiving it the way I was feeling it," Corcoran says. "It's a really passionate song, and when we play it together as PIPELiGHTS, I can tell people are hearing it the way it's meant to be. That was the driving force behind this album for sure. That song is PIPELiGHTS being born."
Both the name PIPELiGHTS and the album title 518 reflect on the moment Corcoran and Sarabia decided to move on from The Borderline Sound. Their rehearsal space in the Pennington practice rooms downtown is number 518, shared with two metal bands.
"It's fitting that this is the very first album, and this is where it all came together. We rolled in here, two girls with a bunch of guys, and it was kind of scary. We decorated our end of the room and there's this rusty pipe over our drum kit so we wrapped some lights around the pipe," Corcoran says. "As The Borderline Sound went on, it wasn't really what we wanted. We were sitting in the room contemplating and Clarisssa just looked up at the pipe and said 'If we ever have the band we want, we're going to call it PIPELiGHTS.' Right then, in that moment, that's where PIPELiGHTS was born."
The band didn't set out to capture a particular sound, mostly jamming together and moving forward with whatever felt right, creating a dynamic sound that pulls together strands of art-rock, alternative and psychedelic rock.
"It was pretty loose at the start. I would say a huge influence on PIPELiGHTS initially was Warpaint, but there are so many artists we all like, and we have a little bit of everything we like," Corcoran says, citing Florence Welch and Karen O as other strong influences.
Now, Corcoran says, PIPELiGHTS thrives on a strong current of emotional energy that the band members never before experienced playing in other projects.
"I can't put into words how strong and incredible the feeling actually is when we all play together. It's something that I've never felt before and didn't even think was possible. It's so powerful," she says.