We interviewed Mau, Dag, Jeff, and Yusuke from Night lights about their lives as musicians and a strong charity they support called A21, that helps abolish human trafficking.
ALTP: Each of you is from a different country! How do each of your different backgrounds influence Night Lights?
DAG: Since we all grew up in a different cultural environment, I think we all bring a different bags of musical ideas, values and ways of dealing with life, just for that reason. It makes for a great and exciting dynamic, and I think it helps us to approach what we do with a wider perspective.
ALTP: We saw that you were featured on ABC for the 10 most viral tracks on spotify. How does it feel to really know how many people are listening to your music?
MAU: It feels great, but I think more so, it is humbling. We have been writing music together for 3 years now and we love the music we make. I mean, we have to. Our hearts are in there, you know? But we're biased because we made the songs, so it’s always inspiring to see such a positive reaction to our songs. Other people don't have to like our stuff, so it feels genuine and definitely fuels the engine to press onwards.
ALTP: You guys recently relocated from Boston to Los Angeles … what made you decide to make the move?
YUSUKE: We moved to LA very recently! The whole band has been here for about 4 months now. It already has been quite the experience being here. We decided to move to LA for few different reasons. LA of course is known for the vast diversity of cultures, and the strong presence of many forms of cultures, including pop culture. With our manager’s input and advice, we really felt like there was no better place for us to be. With people with different backgrounds and perspectives here in LA, we hope our message will be received well!
ALTP: How has music affect you and the world around you?
MAU: You know, i think music is one of those art forms that really pulls everyone in and creates a sense of connection, unlike any other art form I've experienced. I mean, I am musician, so I guess my view is pretty skewed, but let me back it up. Going through a break up, I'll listen to, I don't know, let's say, "Palms" by Local Natives. There's a sort of healing that happens when I hear someone else share the feelings I do and I am able to sing along, or dance, or move, or cry, or process things however I need to, while feeling connected and understood by someone else. Music is brilliant like that, and it’s such a common language that you don't need to know how to play music to understand it. Growing up, I was the outcast kid that always had headphones on. I liked the big ones too. So, I'd beg my teachers to let me have my headphones on during work (not lectures because that doesn't make sense) and I'd always have one form or another of music playing in the background. Maybe that’s why I’m so scatterbrained. Anyway, I have distinct memories of songs that became the literal soundtrack to my life, and I had constant wisdom poured into me by songwriters and philosophers through music.
ALTP: If you could perform with any artist in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
JEFF: I'd probably have to go with Dave Grohl if we're talking current artists. As a bassist, I love locking with a solid drummer, and Dave has played on a lot of the rock records I grew up with.
ALTP: If you had to describe your band in one word, what would it be? Why?
JEFF: Eclectic. We talk fairly often about each member being from a different country. But even beyond our diverse nationalities, Night Lights is a band comprising a wide variety of musical tastes and creative ideas. All four of us are pretty strongly opinionated about lots of things, which is a big part of what brings the energy and unique Night Lights flavor to the music we create together.
ALTP: Other than playing music, what do you guys do in your spare time?
YUSUKE: In our spare time when we aren’t playing music, we love to do other fun activities. After our rehearsals, we usually go to the park and throw frisbees, play soccer, make new friends, and occasionally we like to go on Night Lights retreats to beaches.
ALTP: What charity did you guys choose to draw awareness towards, and what makes it so important?
MAU / DAG: We really want to bring awareness towards A21 which is addressing and working diligently to solve sex trafficking. This charity is really bringing light to a really big issue that a lot of people are not aware of. Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world. A21 helps to rescue women captured in this evil and give them a chance to start a new life. What I love about A21 is how they value "the one", and celebrate every single person rescued. Their campaigns all over the world raises awareness and educate people on what is going on, and that's first step in the fight against human trafficking.
ALTP: How did you find out about A21?
JEFF: Our drummer, Dag introduced the rest of us to it. At least, it was new to me. I did a little bit of research after he mentioned it and was excited about the organization's really well-rounded approach to ending human trafficking.
In the United States, 5,544 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2015. California is the highest state with human trafficking. We are aware that you are from California. How does it feel to know that the place that you grew up in contains such a high risk of human trafficking?
JEFF: It's definitely surreal to imagine the amount of injustice thriving outside the limelight in places like Los Angeles.
ALTP: In what ways do you hope to use your platform as music artists to help others?
MAU: Well, we have always been advocates for shining a light into darkness...that's why we chose the name Night Lights. Our hope is to use the power of music, which is able to cross barriers, to bring awareness to topics that are hard to hear or talk about, and to eventually open up the conversation about how to step up and challenge situations like human trafficking, homelessness, and anything that defiles humans or burns the bridges between people. We hope to inspire people to step up and become lights in darkness.
ALTP: Do you have any personal role models? People you look up to, either musically or just as an inspiration?
JEFF: I think my biggest role models are those that I can look up to both musically and as well-rounded, incredible human beings. Creatively, I look up to artists like Sufjan Stevens, MuteMath, and Michael Jackson. Most recently I've noticed that the people I strive to be like are friends of mine. I look up to musicians who are hard-working, talented creatives on a deep level, but who are also equally great, caring, loving people.
ALTP: Why is giving back to your community important to you?
YUSUKE: I believe giving back to community is important for an infinite amount of reasons.
With our generation being a social media generation, with its focus on “likes” and the online presence, it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day what makes a quality of life, are things like human decency and integrity. When you look at humanity as a whole, it is important to acknowledge that things like online presence and social status do not further our kind. Humanity is a community, we are raised by communities, thus we need to nurture and raise communities.
To learn more about A21 and how you can help, please visit www.a21.org.