project lightyears

The Lightyears – live at Westminster Library

14 February 2013

And, unfortunately, so is the beer.For those of you who don’t know, I’ve written a novel inspired by the international adventures of The Lightyears, entitled Mockstars. The band are also working on an album of original songs to accompany the book, making Mockstars the first ever full-length novel by a band, about the band, with its own original soundtrack.

On Saturday 9 February we unleashed this concept for the first time on the general public. A library felt like an appropriate place to kick off a project that combines rock ‘n’ roll with fiction and so, on National Libraries Day 2013, we booked in a headline show at Westminster Reference Library, just off Leicester Square. Most people are slightly taken aback when you tell them you’re performing in a library, but WRF has a track record for these things and has previously hosted, among others, British Sea Power and Mr Hudson (not to mention our erstwhile piano-led chums Royworld) and so the idea wasn’t totally unprecedented. Plus we’ve played libraries before and we know it works – here we are entertaining the crowds at Burlington Library in New Jersey back in 2009.

The gig took a fair bit of organisation, and we were expecting a capacity crowd, so the pressure was very much on. When Tesco delivered all the alcohol to Berkshire instead of Westminster Library I can reveal that a few heart-rates began to race – but then some kindly Lightyears fans who were coming from that direction agreed to play booze courier for us, and we were back on track. By 8.30 the venue was full, we had sold out, drinks were flowing and I had begun to feel that maybe this zany idea just might work.

After spellbinding Nigerian author Chibundu Onuzo opened the show with a couple of songs and a reading from her book The Spider King’s Daughter, we took to the stage. It’s been a while since we played our own songs in the capital, and I could tell I wasn’t the only Lightyear who was relishing the novelty. We opened with Wait Forever, a slow-building ballad with (predictably) a rousing, vocal harmony-filled chorus, and from there segued straight into Blinded By Light, the song which probably best sums up the musical direction the band is now heading in. After a 2013 acoustic re-imagining of our old gig favourite This House Will Burn, I stepped up to the mic for my first reading.

Up until this point I honestly had no idea whether it would work. If you were there yourself then, well, I guess you can tell me – but the reaction I got from the crowd certainly seemed to suggest that people enjoyed it. The band perched on the edge of the drum-riser and I proceeded to tell the (gloriously embellished) story of our first meeting with LYs drummer Tony. Tony had deliberately not read this scene in advance so that he could enjoy it first-hand with everyone else, although it’s possible that he began to regret that decision once his character entered the fray and he realised his personality was entirely at the mercy of my metaphorical quill.

I was delighted with how well the reading went down, but I’d also planned to keep each extract to roughly the length of a song so as not to bore anyone! From there we slipped right back into the music, and as the evening went on we continued to reveal material from the new album alongside a few carefully-selected older songs – tracks like Brother (from our 2005 album Mission Creep) and Fine (from our 2002 release Flying Blind). You can catch live videos of some of the new tracks – Embrace Of Many, Wait Forever and One Way Or The Other – at, along with video readings from Mockstars. Before the set ended I read a scene recounting the band’s first rehearsal, set in Croydon’s Scream Studios, and another that describes one of my first ever encounters with, for want of a better phrase, ‘posh groupies’ in the French Alps (also available to view on the Project Lightyears micro-site).

LYs photographer Alex Cooke – who took this photo of us at Wembley Stadium, among many others – was on-hand to document the event through his trusty lens, and you can see the pics on our PHOTOS page. We were also very lucky to have Kaushik Bhattacharya of Milky Films shoot the gig for us, and again we’re hopeful of putting together some of that footage for our YouTube channel over the coming weeks.

Thank you once again to everyone who came. It was a special night for us, a true career highlight, and hopefully the beginning of an exciting new chapter for The Lightyears. The book and album are still in development, but this gig was the first step on the road to becoming, as far as we’re aware, the only band in history to have released what I often ill-advisedly refer to as a ‘novel-bum’.

Watch this space.

Chris Lightyear

ps. Sorry we ran out of beer.

Emily, Andy Baldwin & The City That Never Sleeps

11 December 2012

George in Andy's Chinatown studio, laying down guitars. You can tell he's in New York 'cos of his wicked hat.We recently unearthed a version of Lightyears track “Emily” which hardly anybody outside the band has heard before, and we’re giving it away free as part of Project Lightyears – just as soon as we reach 100,000 views. In the meantime, I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell the story behind this unusual version of one of our most popular songs…

During our third American tour, we played a venue in the Lower East Side called Pianos. A producer called Andy Baldwin (who had previously worked with acts like Bjork and Morcheeba) was at the gig and we got chatting afterwards; he said we reminded him of Blur, which as you can imagine we thought was BRILLIANT, and the idea of working together whilst we were in New York was mooted.

Problem was, we didn’t have a lot of time. We were gigging every night – squeezing in meetings and parties inbetween – and were due to fly back to London just a few days later. Turns out the answer was to sacrifice sleep, which partly explains why the recording has an unusually gritty tone for a Lightyears record. We were all completely wired during the recording sessions.

In truth, of course, the grittiness was mainly down to Andy’s production skills – in the past we’ve often been produced to sound clean and poppy, but he was very deliberately going for a much dirtier, edgier sound. I recorded my backing vocal after an all-night bender in Brooklyn (I have no idea how – I had no voice – but somehow Andy got a performance out of me; the man’s a genius), and George’s lead vocals sound uncharacteristically husky, which is rather cool. As a result we have two different versions of the song – Hugh Padgham’s polished, super-charged pop version (online here at Soundcloud and available on our 2009 album London, England) and Andy’s chunky, punchy Britpop version (available at Project Lightyears once the counter hits 100K).

Project Lightyears has arrived…

1 July 2012

Project LYs - it's not really this small. In fact it's massive.People of the world… Project Lightyears is upon us.

No, not a NASA space initiative, but a social-media storm aimed at spreading the word of The Lightyears to all corners of this good green Earth.

It’s all go here at LYs HQ. Work is moving on apace on our new album, which we hope to release later this year along with my Lightyears novel, Mockstars. We need your support to make this happen, and that’s what Project Lightyears is about.

Click here to visit the Project LYs mini-site and you’ll find a host of video content including live acoustic performances and brand-new novel readings.

Our message is simple – we’d like you to share these videos with as many people as you can. The more our fanbase grows, the closer we will come to making this release a reality.

Our ultimate aim is to reach 10 million views, and as the counter climbs we’ll be unlocking delicious free downloads for your listening pleasure.

To kick things off, we need just over 500 more views to unlock an unheard acoustic version of “This House Will Burn”. Click here to pay your first visit to Project Lightyears.

Thank you, as ever, for your support.