Logical, yet cosmic with Indra Dunis of Peaking Lights

Paula Mejia

All photos by Jonathon Bernstein

The lysergic masterminds behind LA’s Peaking Lights, Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes, carve out worlds between the conscious and the imagined. The two are creative soulmates and a team alike, creating warped dub wonders while raising two young boys in a perilous world.

Peaking Lights’ fourth LP Cosmic Logic meanders into punchier, poppier territory than the lullabies that characterized their previous works, notably Lucifer. The balance between steady dub and classic dance find a home on the mystical Cosmic Logic, which owes as much to the cosmos as it does to the worldly. We discussed the making of the record, going back to innocence, and numerology.

What kind of headspace were you in when writing Cosmic Logic?

Indra: Cosmic Logic was a title that kind of came up during the writing process and I think it just refers to how we view things in general. Just at the sort of… another reality happening that is maybe less tangible, that can sometimes move things and direct your life and bring you messages. So it’s like the cosmos is an idea of the universe bringing you messages, bringing you information. Given that, we are pretty interested in mysticism and transcendental ideas. It all ties in with that. We bring up ideas of that in our songs.

We’re pretty into numerology and astrology, and the cool thing about this record’s title is that we were toying with ideas for one. He came up with this idea for ‘Cosmic Logic,’ but he was spelling it with a K at each end—Kosmik Logik. He was running it through this numerology calculator to see what kind of meaning it had. He was doing that, and it wasn’t really that favorable, so I said what if you just spelled it the normal way. He did that and the calculator spit out 936, and that’s the title of our previous record that kind of got us where we are today. It got us noticed and then people had interest in our band. The story is that the numerology is 936, so of course we thought that’s cosmic logic!

After you recorded these songs and you put them away for a while, how does it feel revisiting these songs?

Well, I’m totally happy with them. The process of writing was long and kind of going through different phases of what direction we should go… not necessarily that we weren’t on the same page, but we were experimenting a lot. We kind of agreed that we wanted to try to make a record that had more clarity, but that had the psychedelic elements we’ve always used but in a different way. For example, Aaron makes a lot of his own synthesizers with unique noises. Instead of using them straight as background noises, he made them into percussive sounds on the record. So we’re picking up the same sounds but using them in a different way, and things sound clearer and brighter.

We’re getting out of the haze a little bit, just because we enjoy music that sounds like that too. It was a challenge for us. Looking back, I feel very happy about how it turned on out. There were times that we were maybe not in agreement about what our sound should be, but now that it’s said and done, I feel like it sounds really good. And the songs are incredibly fun to play live… they really move you. There are more dance-y elements to them than our previous music. It’s been great.

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While the sounds are clearer and brighter, I noticed that thematically the record revolves a lot around letting go of things, breaking free of others, particularly negativity or nightmares. Was this conscious?

I think everyone sort of deals with the positive and negative within themselves and in the world. That’s one thing: just bringing attention to that. You can write solely about the positive elements of your life, but you’re ignoring the whole other half. There can’t be one without the other. To answer your question more personally, having had another baby—now we have two boys—being a parent, especially a new parent, is super intense.

A lot of things come up from yourself that you had forgotten about… things from your childhood. You start acting a certain way that reminds you maybe of your parents. When you become a parent, there’s a part of yourself that opens. And there’s things you’re challenged with that you haven’t previously been challenged with. When you’re a single person pursuing your creative interests and living your life without kids, you have a lot of time with yourself. Which is a luxury. You have all this time to spend being creative and doing what you want to do at the moment you want to do it.

Whereas parenting is a 24/7 job, and we have two babies—a one and a half-year-old and a three-year-old, and it was very challenging to kind of juggle being a new parent and also trying to keep up the creative world. Just the wrestling of the two is very difficult, as many parents probably agree with. It kind of brings up things in yourself you hadn’t remembered. They’re not all bad things—it definitely opens you up to the wonders of the world again. But then it also can kind of bring up more personal issues as well.

I wish I could go back to that state of play, innocence that kids have. It astounds me how they can completely lose themselves in this world. Do you find yourself channeling this at all in your world of music?

Yeah! I think it’s a great reminder of that aspect of life, of being a child. It’s kind of a dream-state almost. Their imagination is so vivid. Especially our three-year-old. He has imaginary friends and can just go on and on with his toys and his stuffed animals. He’s very involved in his world, and even the way he sees things it’s inspiring.

You can look at reality in a lot of different ways. We’re all kind of… you can get stuck in this reality of, I have a job, I get home, this is what I do for fun. But there’s a lot of different ways you can live your life and see things. And children really do open you up to that because everything is new to them. And their creative mind and imagination is super open. It’s really inspiring as a parent to think about that, and it makes you remember back to when you were a child. I was a creative child as well. But the older you get, the further you get away from that unless you consciously keep it up. I think it’s a huge part of our experience right now, though, having kids and being reminded of how wondrous the world can be.

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What kinds of music do you listen to with your kids?

Our son Mikko, the older one, is into older dance tunes like Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, that’s one of his favorite songs. He loves Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”.

He always asks me to play that. He also likes “Double Dutch Bus”. I have a lot of old records, so that’s kind of mostly what we buy. He does actually like Top 40 kinds of stuff too. He likes “Happy”, that was a big hit with the kids.

What have you been listening to lately?

The Tom Tom Club’s first record, their self-titled, I’ve listened to a lot. I can always put it on and feel sort of light and happy. The kids love that record, too. I just like the combination of influences on that record and some of the amazingly poppy, catchy keyboard lines are great too. You can tell they had a lot of fun recording that record.

I’ve also been into William Onyeabor lately. We did a show last weekend where we performed with Atomic Bomb, a label that put out his music. He doesn’t play live anymore, so they put together a band to perform his songs. So we were asked to participate in the show in Central Park. It’s really incredible music. He was a Nigerian musician from the ’70s, and played electronic keyboards and music. It was a really new thing, especially in Nigeria, and it’s very unique.

Peaking Lights’ Cosmic Logic is out now on Weird World.

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