When Derek Vincent Smith takes the stage Wednesday night (Nov. 4) at downtown Miami’s The Vagabond, he’ll transform himself into his alter-ego, Pretty Lights. It’s not as benign as it sounds – Smith blends hip-hop, soul, fierce electronic beats and a live drummer to create a blur of musical energy that is powerful yet melodic, cutting-edge yet comfortable. Check out his album “Filling Up the City Skies,” a 26-track journey through a plethora of cool samples and slick musicianship, and you’ll make sure not to miss the show.
What can we expect from you live?
Well, I’m really excited to come to Miami, first of all, because I’ve heard so much about it – it’s a mecca for electronic music. With me live, basically I perform a lot of songs off my record but try to do it in a new and sort of interesting reworked way. I bring a drummer live with me, and I also use a number of electronic instruments to make the songs different every time. But I also tour with a pretty significant visual production, a light show, LED bars, video screen. But unfortunately – and I just found this out today – some of the rooms we’re playing in Florida, I’m not sure if they’re powered to handle the production needs we have. So we’ll see what happens – we’re trying to do what we can, maybe bring a generator in to make it happen. We might have to tone it down a little in Miami, but it’s still gonna be a heck of a show, audio and visually. It’s all about the energy.
What about the term Pretty Lights hit you as a good name for your act?
I chose that for the project way before I knew it would become as big as it has, and way before I decided to invest in bringing a lot of light and video production on tour with me. What it meant to me – I saw the term for the first time on an old Pink Floyd flyer – is more than the whole light show of the culture. What the name is really trying to touch on is the random experiences we all have day to day, the little moments that can be beautiful or inspiring, the moments that artists or anyone with an eye for that kind of thing can experience throughout the day to affect the expression they put out or their creativity or just how they think. Sometimes people ask for an example – like when it’s raining outside and lights reflect off the raindrops on your windshield. It just looks pretty, or inspiring or enlightening or whatever. It’s the same reason people like to stare at sunsets, or get up early to check out a sunrise. Just those little moments of beauty.
How did you begin your musical career?
I first started out with a bass guitar in middle school and wanted to be a rock band, but then I got into hip-hop in high school and the electronica scene and went to raves and just got very curious as to how the music was being made. And then I got into the whole production thing and bought some cheap computer software way before I had an Apple or Pro-Tools, or Ableton Live. And then I played in bands and I was always the guy who would rent the mixer and recording stuff and made the demo. But it was really my exposure to the underground hip-hop scene and the electronic/rave scene simultaneously that spawned my production style. Today it’s really just a fusion of hip-hop, soul and dance music.
What’s on your iPod that would shock people?
A lot of people assume I just listen to a lot of downtempo and dubstep and hip-hop, but I also spend a lot of time just converting my vinyl collection to MP3’s. I have a pretty significant chunk of old, totally obscure Polish funk and jazz that you would never get. That’s some of the coolest stuff to listen to. I have this thing I like of not being able to understand lyrics of songs – I think they sound prettier that way.