20 Questions: The Lighthouse and the Whaler

A love of M83 drove the Lighthouse and the Whaler to their latest bold LP, but so did a love of stealing pirate ships and quitting jobs in order to see Sigur Ros concerts.
The Lighthouse and the Whaler
Mont Royal
Roll Call

When Cleveland, Ohio’s own The Lighthouse and the Whaler released their first album in 2009, they arrived with a sound that was very much derived from what “modern indie” had become: buoyant melodies, lots of acoustic work, pointed lyricism, etc. The band, formed by Michael LoPresti and featuring his brother Matthew (as well as current members Mark Porostosky and Ryan Walker), had a live energy which was immediately relatable, but their debut album did what most debut albums did: established the group and their sound, but not much happened in terms of waves.

When it came to 2012’s aptly-titled This is an Adventure, however, their sound grew stronger, more muscular, and more altogether more confident. The group started netting more high-profile gigs, but in a 2013 interview with our own Jonathan Sanders, LoPresti noted how, when it came to discussing current jams, that he loved M83’s last album, noting how he loved “the danger of it, it’s really cool and I’d love to emulate a little of that on our next album; I love how impressively big the album feels. I’m the kind of person who really gets into an album one at a time.”

Well guess what?

Mont Royal, The Lighthouse and the Whaler’s third full-length effort, arrives with a bigger, sleeker sound, ditching string sections for synthesizers, making not a dance album but a more forceful, dramatic record than anything they’ve done previously, a sign of the group’s growing ambition. To help celebrate the release, Ryan Walker answered PopMatters 20 Questions, revealing an affinity for all things Lego, a step-by-step guide for how to steal a pirate ship, and why quitting his job to see Sigur Ros live was the best move he ever made with his life.

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

The latest movie that made me cry is a tie (because I can’t remember the order I saw them in/they both feel significant) between Inside Out and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl. But to be honest, I could see a very unemotional movie and be moved to cry in some way. In the words of Jewel, “I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that way.”

2. The fictional character most like you?

The fictional character that I think is most like me is Paulie Bleeker from Juno. In general I feel like I relate to most characters Michael Cera plays, but this one sticks with me, not because I have every gotten anyone pregnant, or because I run cross country, but he is kind of soft spoken and sensitive and is attracted to a more extroverted, outspoken woman. And I think that also describes me.

3. The greatest album, ever?

The greatest album ever is OK Computer by Radiohead. I remember the first time hearing the album. The beginning for me starts out very mysterious and it draws you into the rest of the album. The album is almost 20 years old now and I really feel like you can feel their influence in a lot of modern rock and indie music. One other album that I really like is Aja by Steely Dan. There are so many albums out there that it’s hard to pick one, and that’s why I didn’t.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars. I liked Star Wars so much when I was younger that I got mad at my little cousin for also liking it a lot too, because I liked it first. This was without realizing that Star Wars is a huge craze and beloved by many. I like Star Wars, but I’m sure there are many more people out there that really, really are in love with it. This year for my birthday, my friend bought me Star Wars Legos and that was a pretty nostalgic moment on account of both Star Wars and Legos. Anyway, I would just like to take this time to apologize to my cousin for my irrational anger directed at him.

5. Your ideal brain food?

I really like podcasts. One of my favorites right now is You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes. He mostly talks to comedians, but he also talks to spiritually inclined people as well as scientists about their craft. They also cover sex (or love), and God (or the meaning of life) with each guest. It’s very mind opening and is able to get me to think about many different areas of life. Pete Holmes’s ability to sit down and and ask someone a few questions, which then prompts his guest to say his/her deepest thoughts on life is amazing to me. It’s also funny, too.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I’m proud of this album because, as with any accomplishment, when you put it out there you can say. I put this out into the world. It marks your progress as an artist. I am proud of where we have landed creatively, because I think it is a very mature place, but also a place where we have opened the door for many more creative endeavors.

7. You want to be remembered for …?

One thing I would like to be remembered for is starting a venue that is holistic in nature. It would have really great hospitality for artists, but also be a positive contribution to the community it lives in. And definitely a killer sound system. I think I am really attracted to the idea of harmony, so I would like to see it as a place where people who are different could come together and be unified by something, whether it’s music, art or comedy.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Speaking of Legos, I would say whoever invented Legos. Legos are really inspiring in general, because you have a few different building blocks that are able to create anything you can imagine. Like the same blocks can be used to make a spaceship, or a city. I think it’s kind of the same for music. Everyone is given the same basic elements, but creativity really makes anything possible.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?


10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I like to do stand up comedy, when we aren’t on the road or busy writing music. It’s a cool outlet for me that gives me the opportunity to think about life and just be silly. When you are going to open mics a few times a week, you really start feeling part of a community. It’s really awesome to see someone work out their jokes and progress over time. So I guess my hidden talent is watching other people get better at comedy.