The Running Lights are a pop/rock trio from New York, who are about to embark on their next journey as a band with the release of their single ‘Once Upon A Time’.
Made up of singer/guitarist Mike Squillante, his brother Nick Squillante on keys, and drummer Steve Ranellone, The Running Lights were formed in the summer of 2015. Prior to the band’s formation, Mike had been active in the music industry for a number of years, releasing videos on his YouTube channel which has over three million views. He competed on season three of NBC’s The Voice, and had a successful touring career with Melanie Martinez.
After taking some time out to reconnect with his own music, Mike decided to form The Running Lights with brother Nick, an accomplished audio engineer. At the time, Nick was working exclusively with Michael Brauer at Electric Lady Studios on records for artists including Bon Jovi.
Taking the first steps to creating their own material, Mike took the lead on songwriting whilst Nick concentrated on the overall soundscape. To make their sound complete, they brought in longtime friend and drummer Steve Ranellone. Since then, they have released a few covers which showcase just what the band is capable of.
Now, The Running Lights are ready to showcase their original music, with single ‘Once Upon A Time’ due for release on March 31. With its infectious chorus and clever lyrics, intertwined with a captivating beat, this pop-rock anthem is definitely going to be a welcome addition to your music library. The trio will also be releasing an EP later this year.
We recently caught up with The Running Lights to discuss ‘Once Upon A Time’, TV talent show experiences, working with family, on-the-road must haves and much more.
We love your new single, ‘Once Upon A Time’. What can you tell us about the song and the inspiration behind it?
Mike: The song is basically a fairy tale in reverse. If you’re the person in the song, you can literally see your whole love story including the happy ending play out in your mind’s eye. You just can’t seem to find the way to begin that story, either because you’re too shy and nervous or you don’t feel confident enough to tell your crush that you’ve fallen hard for them. It’s about chasing your “Once Upon a Time” moment. Everyone has been in that situation at least once. There are folks missing out on the best of life because they can’t say what’s on their minds. And it’s not just about love and hopeless romanticism like our single. This happens all the time with many situations; people unhappy with where they are, yearning to be where their dreams would put them, but too afraid to take the first step.
What’s your favourite lyric from it? Ours is “I’m doing what I can to find a beginning to our happy ending”.
Mike: Thank you! My favorite lyric by far is “I’m a brokenhearted heartbreaker.” I love playing with words and trying to coin new phrases, like stuff people could adapt into their everyday conversations. It applies to me as well; a lot of people think I’m some kind of cold heartbreaker dude before they get to know me, then they realize I’m actually a hopeless romantic who loves musical theater and has had his fair share of heartbreak.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Mike: The two sort of went hand in hand with this single and the upcoming EP. I used to write alone using an acoustic guitar or a piano. Now that Nick and I have joined forces, we’re usually starting a song with a groove and some sounds in ProTools. Once something inspires us, even if it’s just a few bars of music in a loop, lyrics and melody will start taking shape resulting in both the processes happening simultaneously. Nick keeps me pretty well in check if I try to go off on an artistic tangent. He’s great with keeping the material grounded and simplified so it’ll hit home with most people. Once we throw the ball to Steve, the song is fully realized and it’s time to get a dope drumming performance on it.
Nick: Like Mike said a lot of the time it goes hand in hand, there is no one way we write especially in the very early stages of the creative process. I love new sounds, so I’ll try to find something I want to base a song around, come up with a progression, and then Mike will come in and really polish it off with anything from voicings to arrangements to melody and lyrics.
Who inspires your sound?
Mike: Sonically for me it’s modern acts like The 1975, Nick Jonas, and The Chainsmokers. Songwriting-wise I listen to a lot of John Mayer. I believe in traditional songwriting and Mayer has a way of keeping the classic song structure new.
Nick: I like to stay very current when it comes to the sound of pop music so some big players that influence me are acts like Zedd, Jon Bellion and 21 Pilots.
Steve: Travis Barker of Blink 182 is really my main influence behind a kit. He manages to find ways to be intricate without getting in the way of the song itself.
We hear that we can expect an EP soon. What can you tell us about it?
Mike: All of the songs on the forthcoming EP are crafted for the radio but they stem from a deep place. They all have to do with the general theme of saying what’s actually on your mind WHEN it’s on your mind. Plenty of folks out there miss out on the fullness of life. I think we’ve all been that person at least once, unhappy with where we are, knowing what it would take to get to that happy place, but never taking the first step because we’re too afraid to do so. We’d like to inspire people to not let a moment go by without striving to get the most out of that moment. Sonically speaking, imagine that John Mayer joined The Chainsmokers and their favorite band is The 1975.
Have you all always wanted a career in music, or did you have other plans?
Nick: I thought about being a videogame designer once but that was back in my freshman year of highschool, every step since college has been music, music, music.
Steve: I’ve always wanted to be a musician but I am also fond of modern medicine and helping others.
Mike, you appeared on The Voice Season 3. What was the experience like, and would you recommend it to others?
It was the best worst experience of my life. I learned that success is not based on talent alone and that you’ve really got to be a hustler in terms of personality. You have to find what it is that’s original about you; discover the pieces of you that make you unique and amplify those pieces. Find out what sets you apart, NOT what allows you to fit in. I went into The Voice thinking I knew what they wanted to see and things didn’t exactly pan out in my favor. I had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out that I’m way better off not designing myself or The Running Lights after any set model. That being said, I made some amazing friends on the show that I still keep to this day. My touring relationship to Melanie Martinez would never have happened had we not been involved in Season 3 together! So all in all it was the best worst experience of my life to date.
Would you consider going down the TV talent show route again, this time as a band?
Mike: We’d definitely consider it! For up-and-coming bands and artists it’s all about creating a platform to build off of. Reality television can really speed up the platform-building process.
Mike and Nick, as brothers, do you find it easier to make band decisions, or does Steve have to be the voice of reason between you sometimes?
Mike: We definitely battle sometimes but there’s a mutual understanding that both of us want what’s going to be best for The Running Lights. In that sense the battles can be constructive. I’m confident that we get the best solution to any problem every time because we’re so forthcoming with our opinions.
Nick: Battle is a good word… but Mike is right. When it comes down to it we’re both trying to do what’s best for the band. So, if we can’t quite see eye to eye at first we’ll eventually get there!
Steve: And yes, I’ve definitely stepped in to break a tie on more than one occasion!
Mike, you’ve opened for Melanie Martinez, which must have been an incredible experience. Who would be your dream artist/band to open for?
Mike: Opening for Mel was amazing. I have to shout it out to her for giving me that opportunity for two tours in a row! Dream artist to open for? If time travel was possible then The Beatles in 1964! Realistically speaking I think we’d go great with Maroon 5, DNCE, or even All Time Low.
What are your five must-haves for when you’re on the road?
Mike: My 64 Audio A12 in-ear monitors, a Stephen King novel, my black leather jacket, a notebook, and a Starbucks dirty chai once a day.
Nick: My 64 Audio A12 in-ear monitors, a phone charger, my laptop (with Pro Tools of course), some beef jerky, and pillow.
Steve: My GoPro, my laptop, a good book, supplements (Fish oils, Multivitamin, Protein, etc.) and a good sleeping bag.
What else can we expect from The Running Lights during 2017?
Mike: We’d like to do some small-scale acoustic touring in 2017. Being a new band, it’s really important to us to be able to connect on a face-to-face basis with fans of our music. We wanna get to know and hang with our fan base as much as possible in this early part of the band’s life, then come back to town and blow the doors off a venue with a full-scale show. Right now the dates we have are all in our city, New York. We’ll be at Pianos on April 20th, and Rockwood Music Hall on May 24th!
Thank you to The Running Lights for their time! ‘Once Upon A Time’ will be released on March 31.