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Searchlight celebrates debut album, thanks to zombies

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Every guy has a niche for zombies,” said bassist Kevin Abdon, 24. Searchlight was particularly inspired by video game Resident Evil 4.
Photo: Richard Brian
Becky Bosshart

It all started with their love of killing zombies.

Las Vegas alternative rock bank Searchlight found international recognition on the soundtrack of Resident Evil: Extinction.

The band has played local gigs for more than three years (in many now-defunct venues). They’ve opened for Kiss at a biker fest and garnered MySpace fame along the way to debut album, Until the End and After,which will be available Feb. 27 at a release concert at The Farm, an all-ages venue in southwest Las Vegas.

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    Contagious

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The album includes the moody, lyrically mysterious song “Contagious,” which comes with a back-story.

“Every guy has a niche for zombies,” said bassist Kevin Abdon, 24.

He and fellow Searchlight vocalist Adam Michaels, 24, were heavily into the zombie-infested video game Resident Evil 4 after moving to Las Vegas in October 2005 to start their music careers. It was more than a video game for them: It was the center of conversation. The center of life. Abdon blames losing a job over the time he spent playing that game with his buddy.

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Las Vegas band Searchlight will celebrate the release of their debut album Until the End and After with a show at The Farm on Feb. 27.

The game also birthed a creative idea. “(Michaels) wrote the lyrics (to “Contagious”) sitting on the couch while I was playing the game,” Abdon said. “He would read me off this sentence, and I said, ‘Yeah, yeah it sounds awesome.’”

Distracted, but interested.

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Adam Michaels, lead singer and guitar player for Searchlight, talks about leaving Lake Havasu, Ariz., for Las Vegas.

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Adam Michaels and Ricky Torres, drummer for Searchlight, talk about how MySpace helped the band form.

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Adam Michaels talks about the band's music and recording the album.

“Contagious” went on to be featured in the closing credits of the 2007 movie Resident Evil: Extinction and by February 19 had about 38,000 plays on MySpace Music.

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Searchlight Album Release Party
Feb. 27, 6 p.m.
The Farm, 5597 S. Rainbow Blvd.
Band Guide
Searchlight
Lydia Vance
Beyond the Weekly
Searchlight MySpace

It was strangely appropriate that the band’s song would be picked for the action thriller starring Russian babe Milla Jovovich. The movie follows Jovovich’s character as she travels through the Nevada desert and the ruins of Las Vegas battling zombie hordes and killer creatures.

Band members did their own traveling through the desert to get to Las Vegas.

Michaels and Abdon sold more than $2,000 worth of Lord of the Ring and Star Wars collectibles (their “nerd memorabilia,” as they call it) to pay for the move to Las Vegas from Lake Havasu, Ariz.

The foursome says they don't stick to one genre, but the music they create organically tends to be categorized as alternative rock.

This was after Michaels spent months staking out the vacation home of the manager of The Used, the Utah rock band that made it big from their own small town. He scored a sit-down with the manager and was referred to Branden Steineckert, now the drummer for Rancid and the owner of Unknown Studios in Orem, Utah. He became Searchlight’s producer.

The band’s name also came to Michaels while he was in the desert. Driving between his home and Las Vegas, he saw the sign for the town of Searchlight.

The band became complete after Michaels and Abdon found guitar player Matt Hopkins, a 2002 Centennial High grad, and drummer Ricky Torres, 23, through MySpace.

“A lot of bands try to figure out what their sound is. It almost seems like it’s not natural,” said Torres, the Tom Waits fan of the group. “With us, we end up being alternative rock in the way that our songs are alternative of what you hear. But we don’t stick to a genre, it just comes out as alternative rock.”

Their collaborative efforts birthed their debut album, influenced by groups such as The Used, My Chemical Romance and Rancid.

“It’s more so like, ‘Hey, look what I made up today and let’s see what we can make out of that,’” Hopkins said.

The foursome agree that it’s difficult to find that fresh and new sound when everybody wants to make it big by sounding like somebody else who made it big.

“You have to do something that hasn’t been done yet,” Abdon said. “And Adam sings really good, so that makes it stand out.”

If it sounds like these guys are friends, they are.

Searchlight's name comes from the town of Searchlight, Nevada.

No battling egos yet. They laugh at one another’s jokes. They’re hipsters who don’t carry the pretentiousness of the alt-music scene on their shoulders like their scarves and locks of shaggy shorn hair.

Lead singer and guitar player Michaels did the cover art for the album, but he didn’t say that, the drummer did. They travel to shows in the same car and have piled into one motel room to save money.

“I fear the road and the industry changes people,” said Steineckert, who also helped form The Used. “Egos get big. I’ve seen it with bands – my former band. I don’t see it with these guys. They are friends and they are in love with what they do.”

It may help keep egos in check that they have kept their day jobs. Torres works “carrying towels and water” at the spa at Green Valley Ranch Resort.

Hopkins buses tables at a Cheesecake Factory outpost in Summerlin. Abdon is a vet tech at an animal hospital. Living the “starving artist” life is Michaels, who got fired from his job at an art store and decided that was “a forceful opportunity to live off my artwork.”

Michaels said the four of them are the perfect guys to “spend a life in a band together.”

Steineckert agreed. “They’re not out to be superstars,” the producer said. “They want to make music. I think if there’s a band who won’t be changed by success, it’ll be these guys.”

Searchlight’s record release show will be at The Farm, 5597 S. Rainbow Blvd., 6 p.m., Feb. 27 with guests Lydia Vance, Collin Creek and This City in Collision. The album will also be available on iTunes and other digital download sites. Tickets are $10 through www.myspace.com/searchlightmusic or $15 at the door.

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