Looking on the brightside
Red Light kid grows up, crafts debut with killer hooks and sharp lyrics
Thu, Jul 31, 2008 (midnight)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
A local teen taking on Las Vegas’ biggest rock band? Call him brazen, foolish or naïve if you want, but Ian Shane Tyler might just be the most business-savvy just-turned-20-year-old on the local music scene.
“I definitely had it in the back of my head that this song could potentially help me get noticed,” Tyler says of “Every Flower Dies”—a track on his pop-rock tour de force debut, Through a Telescope—that takes a very deliberate shot at Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers. A sample lyric: “Don’t look back/’Cause you know you’re wrong/You had a friend here but now he’s gone/Don’t come back/’Cause this ain’t Sam’s Town/You burned a whole lot of bridges down.”
Those words refer to the one-time relationship between The Killers and Tyler’s former band, Red Light School District. In 2006, Flowers and Killers’ attorney/manager Robert Reynolds appeared to be grooming Red Light for a support slot on an upcoming Killers’ tour (the two bands did share one Hard Rock bill), but according to Tyler, the relationship soured, Red Light splintered and he hasn’t spoken to Flowers since. Tyler insists, however, that he intended “Every Flower Dies” as a playful barb, not some bitter diatribe.
“I don’t want it to be known as a hateful song; it’s more of a clever-play-on-words type song,” he says. “I don’t necessarily feel the same way now or really care about any of that, but I felt like the song needed to be on the album, since it was a part of me. But I don’t hate those guys or anything. I can imagine what was going on with [Flowers] at the time, trying to record [Sam’s Town]. I’m sure his heart was in the right place for wanting to help my band out at first, but then I think it just got to be too much for him to pay attention [to us]. When you’re a mega-superstar I think you just have to be careful, because it’s probably super-easy to hurt people’s feelings.”
Tyler admits it took him some time to get over his Red Light disappointment—“There were a few months that sucked a lot,” he says—but he came out the other end wiser and more cautious, carefully proceeding with plans to record his solo debut. Tyler handpicked a band: Charles Henry and Graham McLachlan (both from Blue Man Group) on lead guitar and bass, Paul Campanella Jr. (a touring musician for recently deceased bluesman Sean Costello) on drums and Eric Zellner (of defunct Vegas outfit Jr. Anti-Sex League) on guitar and keyboard. Tyler hired contractors to construct a state-of-the-art home studio (“We can record drums in the middle of the night and the neighbors can’t hear anything.”) And Tyler began the painstaking process of producing and mixing Through a Telescope himself, with help toward the end from family acquaintance Timothy Scott Wood.
“I learned as I went along and it was a terribly painful process … but I had a clear vision and I really wanted it to sound exactly that way,” says Tyler, who completed the album before his 20th birthday. “I felt like if I screwed it up, I’d have no one to blame but myself.”
The album’s collection of grabby hooks (stream “What’s Wrong With Me?” or “The Muse” at myspace.com/ianshanetyler to get an idea of Tyler’s Ben Kweller-esque writing capabilities), combined with Tyler’s enduring industry name recognition from his Red Light days, could catch the attention of label scouts before long. “I definitely want to go places and without a record label it’s tough because you can’t really go anywhere without financial backing … unless you do something on YouTube and cause a big scene or something …”
Maybe something like feuding with Las Vegas’ best-known rock star, in song?
Through a Telescope is available for purchase at myspace/ianshanetyler