We Went Deep With Lightning Bug, Whose New Album Out Today Is Just Spectacular

Ingmar Chen

We Went Deep With Lightning Bug, Whose New Album Out Today Is Just Spectacular

Ingmar Chen

The greatest compliment one could give Lightning Bug’s music is that it’s restorative. Since releasing their debut album Floaters in 2015, the New York indie rock band has crafted gauzy, intimate songs that muse on life and love. They utilize dream pop and ambience as avenues for productive introspection, and their third album, A Color Of The Sky, finds them honing their craft with remarkable precision: The arrangements are more lush, their songs unfurl with a patient grandeur, and their lyrics pose both questions and possibilities about self. That lead singer and songwriter Audrey Kang finds the songwriting process so natural is a testament to her ponderous nature; these songs can only be wrought from lived experience and countless hours of reflection.

A Color Of The Sky wastes no time in building up a pensive space for the listener: “The Return” opens with winding guitars and a sturdy drum beat that find a balance between meditative stillness and difficult soul-searching. It recalls the spiritual resplendence of Talk Talk’s final two records, and while that post-rock band is an admitted influence here, Lightning Bug don’t aim for emulation. In fact, their songs are built from identifying the core emotions and ideas underlying the lyrics. Kang then provides images and colors as signposts for her band members, who flesh out the material into full-fledged songs. There’s an especially deep bond between Kang and two of Lightning Bug’s other founding members, Kevin Copeland and Logan Miley. They’ve all known each other for nearly a decade, and even lived together at one point. The band added two more members, Dane Hagen and Vincent Puleo, after signing to Fat Possum in 2020.

One of the most alluring qualities of Lightning Bug’s music is Kang’s voice. It’s quiet and calm, but undeniably suffused with lived-in emotion. It’s rarely mixed at a level far above the instrumentation, allowing its gossamer texture to invite listeners to tune in even closer. When one takes hold of her lyrics, this act of focused listening mirrors the inward-looking contemplation Kang exhibits throughout the record. “As a child, I used to hide in the nooks of playground slides,” she sings on “The Right Thing Is Hard to Do.” “Then the years went by and I found different ways to hide / I learned how to lie and keep the things I felt inside.”

Much of A Color Of The Sky is about this desire to be honest with oneself, to maintain the purity of one’s expressions and emotions from when they were a child. These songs find Kang in this process of self-excavation, not just for herself, but for the betterment of her relationships with others. The title track, for example, is a forthright expression of love towards a friend. Its second half dissolves into soft, sweeping drones, and is emblematic of the album’s constant provision of comfort and catharsis. Underlining every song, though, is an important reminder: vulnerability and fearlessness go hand in hand.

Below, find our conversation with Kang, Copeland, and Miley. They discuss their new record, their history as a band and as friends, the songwriting process, and rebuilding fractured relationships. You’ll also find the new album and an exclusive live performance of its opening track “The Return,” recorded in Vermont and directed by Kit Zauhar.

Do you mind sharing how the three of you first met and also the first impressions that you had of each other?

AUDREY KANG: We were so under-formed. I was like 18 when I met Kevin and probably 19 when I met Logan. I was barely really a person. Not to say teenagers aren’t people, but just that I, personally, wasn’t a person [laughter]. I remember, Kevin, you had a veneer over you. I remember thinking that you had a front, kind of.

KEVIN COPELAND: Interesting, because that’s kind of what I was going to say about you.

KANG: Oh I certainly did [laughter]. Kevin has this very good-vibes first impression. He’s very positive and likeable and that’s definitely the impression he gives off. But I remember thinking there was something beneath that happy-go-lucky vibe. You were very bubbly back then. Logan was super quiet and he did a lot of drugs. But then I’d see him going crazy at a show and be like, “That’s the same person!”

LOGAN MILEY: Damn, that’s what you remember about me? [laughter]. That’s embarrassing!

KANG: I also remember that one of the first things I thought was when talking to Logan, I felt like I was falling into a vortex. There’s something with his eyes when you talk with him one-on-one. They start glowing, they’re really luminous, they’re really intense.

Kevin and Logan, when did you two first meet?

COPELAND: We met at a funeral.

MILEY: That’s right, we did meet at a funeral.

COPELAND: Logan and I had a mutual friend, who was like my best friend in high school. I gave a eulogy at the funeral and me and Logan saw each other in the city and were both like, “I know you from somewhere.” It sort of just clicked. We met briefly and re-met later.

MILEY: You played that Jimi Hendrix song at the funeral. I remember thinking that Kevin was really cool. I definitely did not tap into that thing Audrey saw lurking beneath the surface. I just thought he was nice and cool and wanted to be friends. Having that connection with that mutual friend made me think, “I’ve gotta hang onto this guy.” With Audrey, I remember thinking she was really mysterious, but really nice. I feel like it took a really long time to really get to know you.

Do each of you mind sharing an early memory you have of really enjoying music?

MILEY: I played the cello for my whole life, basically. I don’t play anymore but I started when I was six years old. I played in this orchestra called the New York Youth Symphony all through high school. We’d play three concerts a year in Carnegie Hall, which is already really sick, but I remember playing Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring one year and that was just one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had with playing music. It was incredibly fulfilling to practice that for months and to perform such a crazy piece of music.

COPELAND: I really loved Back To The Future as a kid. That was one of the VHS tapes we had in the house and there are two scenes, one where Marty McFly blows up the speaker with the electric guitar at the very beginning, and one at the end where he plays Chuck Berry. I was obsessed with that sound, and I didn’t know who Chuck Berry was at the time. It was electrifying. That was one of those things that stuck with me, and then I slowly became obsessed with guitars. I needed to get a red guitar. In middle school I got a knockoff red [Gibson] SG guitar.

KANG: Now that you mention that, an early memory of being distinctly obsessed with music was that song “Part Of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. I was so incredibly moved by that song and I took it upon me to learn the whole thing. I remember my neighbor had this little recording device and I would record myself singing it, and it was probably really cute.

Would you be able to sing all the words right now?

KANG: No. I mean, I probably could [pauses]. I can, but I won’t [laughter]. I was feigning having forgotten [laughter].

When did you each realize that you wanted to make music? Was there a specific moment that signaled that to you?

COPELAND: I feel like when I was 15 or 16, I became really obsessed with playing guitar. For my entire high school career, I was pretty single-minded about it. The more I learned about it, the more obsessed I got about it.

KANG: I think my connection was very emotion-based. I went through a period of really intense sadness and I remember that the only time I ever felt good or that things were going to be okay was when I was making music or playing music. I really think that saved me in a lot of ways because it gave me a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. Music is how I found my way back to myself.

MILEY: I’m kind of similar to Audrey in that music brings me the greatest sense of fulfillment out of anything I do in my life. The turning point came in college because I originally went to school to study physics, but I was still playing in the community orchestra. At some point a switch flipped and I thought, I’ve been doing this thing my whole life, I’m happiest when I’m doing this, so this is what I should be doing.

Audrey, you said that music brought you back to yourself. Can you be more specific? Like, who did you find yourself to be after “coming back”?

KANG: You’re always yourself, you know what I mean? You’re just different versions of yourself. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be. You’re born a certain way and I think it’s fascinating how you can see certain traits and characteristics even in early childhood, and then those personality traits are obscured by what you learn in life, the experiences you have, and the ways you’ve been hurt. You put up shields and have mechanisms, and I think I had just gone through certain things that made me too much of these shields and mechanisms and not enough of whatever I was born with. I think now, if you took me from early childhood, I’m the adult version of that now. Not too much has changed but obviously I’ve matured.

Music taught me how to play by myself. As a kid I was very independent and constantly creating my own worlds and was fully in my own worlds. I could keep myself entertained for way too long. And it’s really hard to do that as an adult, but music really brought me back there. When you’re playing or writing a song, you have to enter your own little world to access it. I think that’s another way of “coming back to yourself.”

That reminds me of a lyric on A Color Of The Sky, specifically from “Song Of The Bell.” The one that goes, “If I empty me of all my self, am I a vessel or a shell? / If I cast a line into the sea, will I catch what may feed me?” I ask this because I’m wondering, then, what sort of things you want to soak up in your life and have come out in your music or in the way you live? What sort of things do you strive for?

COPELAND: What Audrey just said reminds me that when we first met, we didn’t really know one another. But once I started observing the music-making process between Audrey and Logan and former-member Mikey, I was immediately drawn to it. It became clear that what I had been doing was going through the motions of music-making, and as soon as I saw what she was doing, I was attracted to it because it seemed so true and pure. I think that’s something we strive for as a band — we don’t want to beat around the bush, we don’t want things to feel manufactured.

Are there things you do as a band to make sure things don’t feel manufactured? How do you make sure that’s felt in the music?

COPELAND: We try to talk about the basest emotion of whatever it is we’re working on and try to access that, to tap into that as directly as we can.

MILEY: That kind of informs everything else about the record, whether how it’s arranged or the sounds that we make. It’s always about the base emotion.

KANG: I don’t think it’s a conscious thing [pauses]. I think one of the secrets is that I really know nothing about music. I don’t know what I’m doing, I really don’t. And I think that really helps, honestly, in creating a sound that’s not manufactured because I think sometimes an excess of knowledge or even skill can get in the way of pure expression. Not to say that there aren’t skilled musicians who are incredible songwriters, but I think sometimes it can get in the way because you can get too technical. It can become lifeless. When you know nothing, it’s hard to copy others [laughter].

What was the hardest song to write, then, on A Color Of The Sky?

KANG: I feel like this is an obnoxious thing to say, but songwriting is really effortless for me. Other people are gonna read this and be like, she’s so arrogant [laughter] but I never really struggled to write a song. The production aspect is an entirely different matter, of course, but everything with this record just flowed out.

MILEY: I think from all standpoints, it really was the most effortless record out of all the records that we’ve made. Those songs just really popped out.

COPELAND: I think the hardest one collectively, not that it took any longer, was the title track. I just feel like it was really raw and emotional. It felt really heavy in the room and I’m pretty sure the acoustic part was the first take.

KANG: I played one take and I started sobbing so we were like, “Okay, that’s the take.”

COPELAND: It was hard in that sense, but it happened really fast.

KANG: That’s interesting that you say that because when I wrote that song, the lyrics and melody came together at the same time. So in fact it was the most effortless song to have written.

Who is that song referring to that made it so emotional to perform?

KANG: I’d prefer not to say because I would prefer to be more private. To be honest, I think what’s so emotional about that song is that it doesn’t have to be about this one person at all. It’s really just about deep, unconditional love, and I could have sang that for my brother, you know? If I told him, “I love you,” he wouldn’t really understand the depths of what I was trying to tell him, but if I sang that song for him, which I will not do [laughter], then… [pauses]. It’s funny because the song is trying to express something that can’t be expressed.

When you were talking about these specific base emotions that define these songs, how does that then translate to the production or the style of music that’s employed?

MILEY: Audrey honestly has a full picture painted in her head when she comes to Kevin and I with the songs. It’s really just up to us to translate that. She often talks about musical ideas but in non-musical ways, like with color imagery.

KANG: Because I know nothing!

MILEY: Because we’ve been working together for so long, we understand what needs to happen to realize the vision.

COPELAND: Not only does Audrey have a clear picture in her head, she also has a good idea of what me and Logan are capable of. If there’s something she has in her mind, she can describe it in a way we can understand, which is really cool, and that comes from a long time of working together.

So let’s take “September Song, pt. ii,” what were the descriptions given there? And how did that compare with the previous “September Song” from your previous album?

KANG: I wanted it to sound charged with a lot of potential energy. I wanted it to sound like an end that was a beginning. In other words, like the autumn season. You know in autumn when you go outside and everything feels extremely enchanted and the sky is impossibly blue and everything is so sharp, like you’ve never seen with these eyes before? Do you know what I mean, or am I being dramatic?

No, I get it.

KANG: You see every leaf so sharply and all the colors are insane and the wind is blowing. I wanted the song to sound like that.

So then how did you know how to translate that, Logan and Kevin?

COPELAND: That process is equally as nebulous. It was like, okay, sounds cool, let’s do it! [laughter]. We just kind of did it.

MILEY: It’s not like a conscious thing where Audrey tells us these descriptions and “wind equals this, blue sky equals this.” [laughter]. That would be weird, honestly.

KANG: But sometimes we’ll create a character. Like for “September Song, pt. ii” we called this counterpoint melody Nunzio.

MILEY: That was my grandfather’s name, it was totally random.

KANG: Nunzio had a sort of whimsical character and he was stepping in to be whimsical — he was Nunzio! And then I was like, “Kevin, he’s Nunzio.” And Kevin was like, “Okay, who’s Nunzio?” And then I sang this melody who I believed Nunzio to be and Kevin got the idea.

COPELAND: I feel like Nunzio was in the air and it was almost like the melody just came down. It was like, okay, yeah, Nunzio.

KANG: I’m really inspired by classical music. [Sergei Prokofiev’s] Peter And The Wolf comes to mind, how each melody represents a character. So yeah, Nunzio, Logan’s grandpa I guess.

Have you met Nunzio, Audrey?

KANG: I have not.

MILEY: One day I opened up the ProTools session and it was like, what is Nunzio? [laughter].

COPELAND: I have this habit of naming tracks after people’s names.

MILEY: When you’ve got like 200 tracks, there can only be so many, like, “guitar 3.”

COPELAND: “Can you turn up ‘Paul’ please?” [laughter]. I’ve never met Nunzio either. He seems like an intimidating figure.

MILEY: Oh no, he’s not.

KANG: Nunzio is straight whimsy!

Were there other characters then for other songs?

KANG: There definitely were, but I’m not sure I can remember them at this point.

MILEY: There were a lot of different bird calls. Audrey didn’t even tell us at the time but for “The Right Thing Is Hard To Do,” halfway through the song this guitar part comes in and Audrey’s really specific about how it should sound.

KANG: It needed to be harsh and screaming and far-away sounding.

MILEY: Only a couple weeks ago was she like, “the seagull sound.” And she was like [sings guitar melody] and we were like, “Oh, that is a seagull sound.” Sometimes it’s not explained in the moment but it comes out as a melody or fully-formed musical idea and only in her head is it the seagull sound.

KANG: Yes, the seagull sound. I was imagining seagulls circling above, when you get to the ocean, when you can hear them crying.

There’s the song “Wings Of Desire,” and I was wondering if that was a reference to the Wim Wenders film. Or is that about birds again? [laughter].

KANG: Yeah, that song is named after the movie. It’s a beautiful movie. The song is about the things that you yearn for and desire, and how that changes as you change. It was this question: How do I know what I most desire most passionately in this moment will be what I continue to desire a few moments from now? How that connects to the film is how in the first half, when the man hasn’t entered human existence yet, the angel is pure longing… or pure loneliness. And his desires are realized by the end, but it leaves this question of what will or will not continue.

Is that why songwriting is a nice medium for you, because you can say things more clearly?

KANG: Yeah, definitely. I really think it’s the only way to say what I mean, otherwise I fall short every time. I think there are so many things that are impossible to say, so even if you are extremely eloquent, you wouldn’t be able to express it just right because words can only do so much. But somehow songs say what you can’t say.

How do you three feel you’ve changed as musicians and as people since the first album, Floaters?

MILEY: We’ve all definitely improved as musicians, and Audrey has improved insanely as a songwriter. For me, I feel like I’ve improved on the more technical side of things, but I’m always remembering back to not knowing what the fuck I was doing on that first record. The greatest happy accidents can come from that sort of thing, when you don’t really know what you’re doing, as Audrey mentioned before. While we’ve all improved at our craft, I’m still trying to remember that feeling.

COPELAND: While we’ve all changed so much, I think the throughline is that making things together is like a time of play. It makes me think about what Audrey said about going back to the purest form of self when you’re three years old. We’d like to make sure accidents can happen.

MILEY: What’s the point, otherwise. That’s what feels the best.

KANG: We were up in Vermont shooting some live sessions and my good friend Owen, the cinematographer, was shooting us and he always says “leave room for God.”

COPELAND: People use that phrase when teenagers are sitting too close.

KANG: Is that how they use it? [laughter].

COPELAND: Yeah, it’s like what Southern parents would say to young Christian children. He said the phrase out of context though, similar to what you’re saying, and I like that.

Kevin and Logan, you both have the band the Big Net. And Kevin you were in Charly Bliss several years ago. I’m wondering, what’s it like being in Lightning Bug versus other projects?

COPELAND: Lightning Bug and the Big Net are the two things that are closest to us. I like to work with other people and play guitar when I believe in their stuff, but those two projects really mean the most to me and Logan. Being a part of Lightning Bug feels like helping facilitate a vision that is not necessarily clear to me from the outset; it’s about trusting in Audrey’s vision. In the Big Net, it’s more…

MILEY: Your vision. Kevin is the songwriter for the Big Net. I don’t really know how to explain the difference for me.

KANG: Lightning Bug is most fun. [laughter].

MILEY: I do technical stuff for both bands, but it’s also just a very different process.

KANG: Lightning Bug carries emotional weight. The Big Net does, too, but Kevin, Logan, and I have been through stuff as friends and there’s an emotional aspect to our relationship that is inevitably tied to the music.

MILEY: Lightning Bug can feel more taxing at times for me. But at the end of the day, it’s still incredibly rewarding, especially because of the history of the band. It’s like a different mode for me because I play bass in The Big Net and I don’t even need to think about that. For Lightning Bug I’m doing all this crazy computer shit so I have to go into a different mindset.

COPELAND: I think the Big Net is just simpler. Lightning Bug has more layers of complexity, not to say one is better or one is worse.

MILEY: Lightning Bug is like composing a symphony.

COPELAND: Even playing guitar in Lightning Bug feels like playing guitar in a symphony versus playing guitar in a rock band. I approach playing the guitar parts in a different way. Even “The Return,” which is one of the more straightforward band-like songs on the album, I feel like I’m thinking about the melodies interchanging a lot more closely. It’s like the way you pass voices between members of the orchestra.

Audrey, you mentioned how all three of you have gone through stuff together. What sort of things were there?

KANG: You know, there are the normal pains of growing up and experiencing life. We grew up together, we met as teenagers and are now no longer teenagers. We’ve known each other for almost a decade. I’ll speak for myself and say that I can be kind of difficult and intense, which breeds intense situations. All of this vagueness is probably so tantalizing [laughter]. All three of us lived together at one point and we’ve seen each other at our worst. They’ve stuck with me when there was nothing to like about me, and still found something to love. From my perspective, there’s such a deep trust there, knowing that these people love and accept me for no good reason.

MILEY: We’ve got a few reasons. [laughter].

KANG: I can be more specific. Kevin and I dated, and that breeds its own conflicts.

COPELAND: And that’s when we lived with Logan too, so Logan had his own conflicts. [laughter].

KANG: And Kevin and I were super, super close. We didn’t just date, we sort of merged into one person. Now look at us [laughter].

COPELAND: [Tries to give a virtual high five to Kang via Zoom]

She’s not reciprocating!

KANG: I hate high fives [laughter]. Kevin still tries to high five me sometimes and it fills me with rage!

Is it because you just prefer hugs?

KANG: I definitely prefer hugs but it’s not like when he’s giving a high five I wish it were a hug [laughter]. I don’t like the energy of a high five. It’s too patronizing.

MILEY: It’s like when people say, “Hey, buddy.” It’s like that for me.

KANG: That’s the exact vibe.

COPELAND: Wait, I say buddy all the time.

KANG: If you called me buddy, Kevin, Lightning Bug would be over. [mimicking a news anchor] Breaking news: Audrey called buddy by Kevin [laughter].

Has it been difficult being in a band together after the breakup?

KANG: So difficult! The answer is yes [laughter].

COPELAND: I can only speak for myself but it’s not difficult now because we’ve been through the ringer like three or four times. You think everything’s fine and then there are hidden emotions you tuck away and only after having worked through all that and still wanting to be friends and make music together has it been made right.

KANG: Right now is the best because there’s so much trust. And it’s only through music that we’ve remained friends. But yes, the answer is yes. It was difficult for all involved. For Logan as well. For everyone.

Luke Clerkin

There’s a question I like to ask bands when I interview them. Do all of you mind sharing one thing you love about each other? And I understand if you’re like, “Josh, don’t ask this question!”

KANG: Aww. Who would say no to that question?

Some people have been turned off by it.

KANG: People with fear in their hearts [laughter].

MILEY: I really love how intense Audrey can be when she’s striving to make the music the best it can possibly be. She really drives me personally to perform and make music at the best possible level.

KANG: I thought you were gonna say “drives me… to insanity.” [laughter].

MILEY: I wouldn’t be good at what I do without her. For Kevin, I like how he’s able to mediate any situation. He’s the peacemaker in the band. I just love that about you, dude. And also you’re the best fucking guitar player ever.

KANG: Ever.

MILEY: He doesn’t play the most notes or the fastest notes, he only plays the right notes.

KANG: The good notes.

COPELAND: I love everything about both these people, they’re my best friends. I can’t say a bad thing about them. I love how Audrey can exist saying two opposing things simultaneously and feel and believe them both. I really think that’s special and I think I relate to it in some way, because how can you not feel both hot and cold, both love and hate. Sometimes I feel like Logan is the other half of my brain that I’m missing. While I have certain faculties, I think I lack the funnel. And Logan feels like the funnel. He keeps everything in the right order. You keep me clean, Logan.

KANG: This is a really hard question to answer because I really love everything about both Logan and Kevin. What do I even say? [pauses]. I won’t go deep because I love them so much. I love when Logan makes lists. He’s just constantly making lists for recording purposes, for all the gear, and he writes in this really nice way and it’s very relaxing to watch him write. And he’s left-handed so it adds a little something. He also doodles in the corner sometimes, which I really enjoy watching. I find it to be very therapeutic. One time he sent me a list just to look at it and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. But it’s not anyone’s list, it’s only Logan’s lists! With Kevin, I really like the way he eats. He eats like he’s eating the most delicious thing in the world ever, always. He eats with gusto.

COPELAND: Someone was watching me eat for the first time and she was like, “You really love that.” And I was like, “Isn’t this like the best pasta ever?” And she was like, “I mean, it’s really good.” And I thought it was insane, the best thing I ever had! I think it’s my living-in-the-present mentality.

KANG: Yeah, I think both of those characteristics that I’m explaining are representative of a character trait that I love in both of them as well.

Well, now I have to ask: What’s one thing you love about yourself?

KANG: [laughter]. Now I’m just thinking of so many funny things I could say.

MILEY: My rockin’ bod [laughter].

KANG: I like my ability to let go of stuff and get over things, and not be prideful. Like, I’ll say, “I’ll never blah blah blah.” And then five minutes later I’ll be doing it, and I’m fine with that. I don’t feel the need to make excuses. Or if someone has greatly offended me, I’ll get over that really quickly as well.

MILEY: I love my ability to be hyper-focused on things when they need to be focused on. I guess that’s a specific music thing. I could be focused on music for 10 hours a day and have it be actual good work, and that’s something I really like about myself.

COPELAND: I kind of love that I’m, well, not “easy to please,” but whatever’s connected to the way I eat, I love that I’m that way. It helps me make it through. I’m able to be in the present and shut out all the other information. I feel like there’s always a flip side to the coin.

KANG: Wait, can I change my answer? Are you done though, I want to talk about me [laughter].

COPELAND: Yeah I’m done.

KANG: I want to adjust my answer, which is getting to the core of who I am. I enjoy how unpredictable I am. I’m even unpredictable to myself. And that keeps me very entertained.

Can you give me an example?

KANG: Oh yeah, there are so many. I just rode a motorcycle back from Mexico to New York. I had no idea how to ride a motorcycle like a few months ago. I had no idea I was going to do that. If you told me I was going to do that a few months ago, I would’ve been very confused about what you were saying. Like, “Why am I even in Mexico?” Or “I don’t even know how to ride a motorcycle.” Or, “That sounds terrible.”

Why’d you go to Mexico?

KANG: I randomly decided that I wanted to surf and I was like, “Oh, why not surf in Mexico?” I just decided to go really surf, I guess, and that’s why I ended up down there. Surfing is really difficult and it’s really hard to get better at if you’re not doing it all the time, and I just wanted to get better. I also wanted to learn Spanish.

Is there anything that you wanted to say that we didn’t talk about?

KANG: I’m at my parents’ house right now. And we had a really bad relationship for most of my life, and then over the past year or two we have almost fully healed our relationship. I’m proud of that and hope that people can be encouraged to heal relationships with their own parents.

That’s a hard thing for a lot of people to do.

KANG: Yeah. One thing you have to do is let go of the past. I had this breakthrough where I realized that the way people have harmed you in the past and have treated you in the past don’t really exist anymore. You’re not that person anymore, you’re no longer a child, and they’re no longer who they were either. The person I’m upset with or who hurt me or whatever — I don’t want to get too specific — that I was unable to have a healthy relationship with was someone who existed 15 years ago. If I were to ask for an apology, the person apologizing to me — in front of me — isn’t that person because they’re gone. They exist somewhere in time but not here.

I was reading this book [by Viktor Frankl] called Man’s Search For Meaning, and there’s this quote that says “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” I could continue to blame my parents, and I could be right about that, but I always have the freedom to choose how I want to react and how I want to be. If I deny that freedom, I’m denying my own freedom; it’s not their fault at a certain point. When they’re older, you can’t say you’re this certain way because at a certain point, you’re choosing to be that way. So I decided to approach my parents—and this sounds cheesy—but with love. And I think it is crazy how love is incredibly healing.

Let’s say your mom comes over to you and she starts you yelling at you and you yell back. And yes, she triggered that in a way, but really you had a choice as to whether you would get upset or not. It always takes two to create a toxic relationship, and I was equally fueling it. I took personal responsibility for our relationship. I stopped focusing on what they had done wrong and focused more on what I had done wrong, what I continued to do wrong, or what I could fix on my side. But this came after a period of complete estrangement. I think space is important too.

Were any of the songs on A Color Of The Sky about your parents?

KANG: I directly reference my mother in “The Return.” There were older Lightning Bug songs about my parents. “Bobby” is about my father, and “Real Love” I wrote for my mother. So those were songs on Floaters. I think by the time I had written the songs on A Color Of The Sky, our relationship was already well on our way to being what it is now, which is generally healthy. It wasn’t my main focus but it all connects, this concept of unconditional love, of seizing your own free will—like choosing your own attitude—to bring it back to the Frankl quote. These ideas were extremely prevalent in my mind as I was writing the record.

In the chorus of “The Return,” I do say “I’ll run ahead to leave it behind,” which is always what I did. As a teenager I always tried to run away and leave things behind instead of facing them. That’s why I called it “The Return,” because at one point in your life you have to go back and face things.

A Color Of The Sky is out now on Fat Possum.

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