Red Light Challenge: A Band of Brothers

Words: Sage Battad
Photos: Brittany Reis

[Click here to listen to their music while you read their interview!]

Meet Sean and Kyle Luster, two brothers hailing from Waipahu who make up Red Light Challenge, a local alternative band. Recently they released their debut EP, “Lookout Mountain.” Flow intern Sage (dialogue in bold) and head photographer Brittany Reis were granted the opportunity to speak with the boys and do a brief shoot before their mini-tour.
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Why did you both want to create a band?
Kyle: Well we always listened to music on the radio. But our parents listened to music really from the 60’s on up and we really loved it. We were just always inspired by all kinds of music, and so it was just fun to be able to make like a real life thing out of it…that we could create and we could attribute what we’ve been influenced by and what we also express ourselves with.

What was the process of creating Red Light Challenge?
Sean: Originally I was in a band in high school when I was like sixteen or so. So we did a lot, y’know a few performances here and there and we were slowly moving up but then that band wound up breaking up while I was still in high school. So at the time he [Kyle] was, I think, ten years old and it was just me playing the guitar pretty much in the other band. I sang occasionally and I said, “Hey, you wanna learn the drums?” So like in two or three weeks he started playing the drums. We performed after two or three weeks of him being ten years old, y’know, just playing the drums. So it all pretty much stemmed from then, so now we both play all the instruments and everything. So we’re both versed in what each other does pretty much, but that’s how it started. So he was going around the country performing when he just turned twelve.

How did you both decide to name the band Red Light Challenge?
Kyle: The story behind that is actually… We were getting ready for our 2013 summer tour and for that, we had this really “boyband-y” name that we rather not say unless you really wanna hear. [Sage: Yes!] You do wanna hear? Okay. Well it was “Just Us Two,” that was our band name. So around the time that we were getting ready for the tour, we started watching the show called Cash Cab. This was like eight months before the summer, so there was a bonus section in Cash Cab when driving around and screaming “Red Light Challenge!” and we heard it so many times and we’re like, going back and forth thinking about a band name. We heard it and after hearing it like a billion times, we were like, that sounds good, I like that. So we just kinda picked it up from there.

Who is your inspiration for creating the band? Either musical or non-musical.
Sean: Kyle, when he was, like one year old, had a babysitter. There were other people there too, but people loved the Backstreet Boys, so he liked the Backstreet Boys because of that. That’s way in the past though. But we loved the Beatles and Foo Fighters. We love like lots of different things. I think we like a lot of different genres and growing up a lot of people would say like, “Oh, I like everything,” and I was always like, “You don’t like everything.” But as we’ve been doing more and more, we tried to listen for the good things from all the different genres. So we really expanded what we listen to.

Where have you performed and how was the experience?
Kyle: So we’ve actually from around 2010, we went on a summer tour around the country doing different Six Flags all over and that was a lot of fun. In 2013, we did sixteen different states and it was 42 shows. We were in a suburban trailer.

RLC (5 of 5)

As you guys made an EP together, how did you meet Warren Huart? Was it nerve-wracking?
Sean: It’s actually kind of a good story how we met him. So we were in Los Angeles for the LA Music Awards last year in June and while we were there in the area we were like, maybe we could try to meet some producers or something to try and work our music with. So we happened to come across this person’s name [Warren Huart], who’s worked on Aerosmith and The Fray and a few other things. So we happened to see them. So we tried to do whatever we could to get in touch with them and we found out just from doing some research that they worked at a certain studio. So we just went to the studio to see if we would get lucky or whatever, so we get there and it’s a gate and a building, like a castle. Like it was all forked and barricaded, like there was no way in getting in. So I’m like, “Aw man, I guess it’s not gonna work out.” So just for the heck of it we drive around the block. So we get back and the gate is opening and a vehicle is trying to get in as quickly as possible right as we get back. So me and him sprint out of the car and run toward the gate, “Wait, wait, wait! We want to try to meet Warren Huart!” So there was this nice lady there and she said, “Oh yeah, Warren works here all the time. He’s not here right now, but I can give him your information.” So we gave her a card and within an hour or two she emailed to us and to him saying, “Oh they’re interested in meeting with you.” So later that night we get a email from him [Huart] saying, “Oh yeah, I’d be interested in meeting with you.” So that’s how it was and we went to go meet him, I think the next day and we talked. And we talked again in November when we were back in California then we recorded in the spring. So it was complete luck driving around the block. So if you ever go somewhere and it’s locked, drive around the block. Just in case.

Out of all the songs you have written so far, which one is your most favorite and why?
Sean: I would probably say that my… I don’t know if it’s necessarily the most, the song that sounds the most like us necessarily, but it’s a little bit different than our usual songs. But a song called “Running Wild” on the EP that just came out. That was like, that one and “Out Tonight” on the CD, they were kind of, we weren’t sure what we would do for the other two songs. We almost didn’t even do “Running Wild.” So we were really happy that we ended up doing it because it turned out to something that we think that was really cool. So we’re really happy with that.

Kyle: Not to sound weird or anything, but I kind of don’t really have a favorite because we wanna keep on moving forward and so like we delve on the past so that we can keep moving forward to the future.

Sean: As soon as we were done recording it, we kinda knew how it sounded when we were up there. As soon as we were done, we were already like, literally the night after we finished all the recordings we started new songs. We wrote a new song that we’re working on right now and it’s almost done. So the biggest thing that we did, ever since we’ve formed a band, is everything we do that’s next has to be better than whatever we just did. So however we can make whatever we’re doing now sound better than anything else that anybody has heard, that’s what we’re trying to do. So we hope that, y’know the next batch of songs are a favorite and the next keeps on going like that.

What is the most successful thing your band has accomplished so far?
Kyle: Probably something recently that we’ve done. It’s not necessarily for the music, technically for our band, but we did something actually really cool that really touched us. When we worked with the National Kidney Foundation and we actually co-wrote their theme song and it was really cool and they aired it live two weeks ago on a documentary that had been made. It was cool, we pretty much wrote the song. We got to go to an elementary school that we’ve been to for our program Red Light Challenge: Green Light Go many times. And we went there when the Kidney Foundation was there. They were like spreading a message and we also performed a song and we were talking to the kids too. And we actually did something for kids with chronic diseases and we were there as kind of like a music portion of the day and it was really cool being able to, like of course it took some time to get them to warm up to us and it was kind of the first hour or so was like getting the relationships, but kind of after the main portion of it, we were talking and doing music and fun stuff like that. We came back afterwards because they asked us to, and we were doing like a campfire and s’mores and things like that. And it was really cool, there was like a connection there that was just heartwarming that I wasn’t even expecting. It was honestly the most amazing thing. We almost walked away with our breaths being taken away, so it was just like it was worth it all. Plus, we made banana s’mores!

What was the hardest obstacle your band had to go through so far?
Kyle: Totally the hardest thing and we’re currently still experiencing it right now, is the fact that it’s just the two of us. We always kind of looked at it like it’s good, you don’t have to worry about anyone else getting in the way or anything like that. But we’ve definitely come to a point recently where we know that we have to expand in order to grow to make our sound bigger and better. And so, definitely the first few years from 2010 to 2012, it was a challenge because what we would have to do is record all the instruments, all the background tracks, all the guitars and bass, percussion, piano, all that stuff. We’d have to record it and play live drums and guitar and play with those tracks behind us. So we still do that, but we’ve gotten, because of having to do it so much and for so long that it’s actually, we’re used to it. So it’s actually like there those people there. Just the visual appeal of seeing multiple bodies moving on stage, it’s just that natural energy. Because we pride ourselves in trying to have energy in just the two of us and we were told many different things, which is actually really cool. But we definitely know that there’s gonna be a time soon that we need to expand.

Sean: Well recording is a little bit different, because I think even when we’re having other people play live with us, we’ll still be the primary people for the recording because we’re making the songs pretty much. But definitely we love collaborating with people, we love being with people because it’s always fun doing that, like being with other people such as yourselves [smiles]. It makes the experience more interesting.

Besides playing in a band, what other activities do you both take part in?
Sean: We listen to a ton of music. Our lives is pretty much music, music, music. We like watching movies. We don’t really like binge-watch things. We don’t have Netflix, believe it or not. We like movies, like we’ll sit down on a weekend, kind of as a family, just to get our minds off of all the work. But as you can probably tell for the most part, we’re really, really white because we’re always inside of the garage just working on stuff.

What will be your next step or goal for the band?
Sean: Thinking about the next songs that we’re gonna do. That’s already on our minds, like we wanna, even though this just came out last week [“Lookout Mount” EP], we want the next thing to be great. So we’re gonna be working on new music, and also trying to expand with other musicians and just kind of just doing different things. So we’re gonna both be going to Boise State University. We’re leaving in the beginning of August, so we’re both gonna be going to college together. He’s [Kyle] just starting undergrad and I’m going to be doing Masters. So we’re gonna be there together so it’s going to be like a whole new market that we have to work on, like we did here in Hawaii. So it’s like we’re going to be starting over again, but because of all the great experiences that we’ve had interacting with musicians here and stuff, we’re looking forward to being able to go to a new place and try it out. And we’ll be close to Seattle, Portland, and even San Francisco. Everything is just a drive away.

Sean: I would probably say that my… I don’t know if it’s necessarily the most, the song that sounds the most like us necessarily, but it’s a little bit different than our usual songs. But a song called “Running Wild” on the EP that just came out. That was like, that one and “Out Tonight” on the CD, they were kind of, we weren’t sure what we would do for the other two songs. We almost didn’t even do “Running Wild.” So we were really happy that we ended up doing it because it turned out to something that we think that was really cool. So we’re really happy with that.

Kyle: Not to sound weird or anything, but I kind of don’t really have a favorite because we wanna keep on moving forward and so like we delve on the past so that we can keep moving forward to the future.

Sean: As soon as we were done recording it, we kinda knew how it sounded when we were up there. As soon as we were done, we were already like, literally the night after we finished all the recordings we started new songs. We wrote a new song that we’re working on right now and it’s almost done. So the biggest thing that we did, ever since we’ve formed a band, is everything we do that’s next has to be better than whatever we just did. So however we can make whatever we’re doing now sound better than anything else that anybody has heard, that’s what we’re trying to do. So we hope that, y’know the next batch of songs are a favorite and the next keeps on going like that.

What is the most successful thing your band has accomplished so far?
Kyle: Probably something recently that we’ve done. It’s not necessarily for the music, technically for our band, but we did something actually really cool that really touched us. When we worked with the National Kidney Foundation and we actually co-wrote their theme song and it was really cool and they aired it live two weeks ago on a documentary that had been made. It was cool, we pretty much wrote the song. We got to go to an elementary school that we’ve been to for our program Red Light Challenge: Green Light Go many times. And we went there when the Kidney Foundation was there. They were like spreading a message and we also performed a song and we were talking to the kids too. And we actually did something for kids with chronic diseases and we were there as kind of like a music portion of the day and it was really cool being able to, like of course it took some time to get them to warm up to us and it was kind of the first hour or so was like getting the relationships, but kind of after the main portion of it, we were talking and doing music and fun stuff like that. We came back afterwards because they asked us to, and we were doing like a campfire and s’mores and things like that. And it was really cool, there was like a connection there that was just heartwarming that I wasn’t even expecting. It was honestly the most amazing thing. We almost walked away with our breaths being taken away, so it was just like it was worth it all. Plus, we made banana s’mores!

What was the hardest obstacle your band had to go through so far?
Kyle: Totally the hardest thing – and we’re currently still experiencing it right now – is the fact that it’s just the two of us. We always kind of looked at it like it’s good, you don’t have to worry about anyone else getting in the way or anything like that. But we’ve definitely come to a point recently where we know that we have to expand in order to grow to make our sound bigger and better. And so, definitely the first few years from 2010 to 2012, it was a challenge because what we would have to do is record all the instruments, all the background tracks, all the guitars and bass, percussion, piano, all that stuff. We’d have to record it and play live drums and guitar and play with those tracks behind us. So we still do that, but we’ve gotten, because of having to do it so much and for so long that it’s actually, we’re used to it. So it’s actually like there those people there. Just the visual appeal of seeing multiple bodies moving on stage, it’s just that natural energy. Because we pride ourselves in trying to have energy in just the two of us and we were told many different things, which is actually really cool. But we definitely know that there’s gonna be a time soon that we need to expand.

Sean: Well recording is a little bit different, because I think even when we’re having other people play live with us, we’ll still be the primary people for the recording because we’re making the songs pretty much. But definitely we love collaborating with people, we love being with people because it’s always fun doing that, like being with other people such as yourselves [smiles]. It makes the experience more interesting.

Besides playing in a band, what other activities do you both take part in?
Sean: We listen to a ton of music. Our lives is pretty much music, music, music. We like watching movies. We don’t really like binge-watch things. We don’t have Netflix believe it or not. We like movies, like we’ll sit down on a weekend, kind of as family, just to get our minds off of all the work. But pretty much like, as you can probably tell for the most part, we’re really, really white because we’re always inside of the garage just working on stuff.

What will be your next step or goal for the band?
Sean: I think, like what we said before, thinking about the next songs that we’re gonna do. That’s already on our minds, like we wanna, even though this just came out last week [“Lookout Mountain” EP], we want the next thing to be great. So we’re gonna be working on new music. Also trying to expand with other musicians like Kyle said and just kind of just doing different things. So we’re gonna both be going to Boise State University. We’re leaving in the beginning of August, so we’re both gonna be going to college together. He’s [Kyle] just starting undergrad and I’m going to be doing Masters. So we’re gonna be there together so it’s going to be like a whole new market that we have to work on, like we did here in Hawaii. So it’s like we’re going to be starting over again, but because of all the great experiences that we’ve had interacting with musicians here and stuff, we’re looking forward to being able to go to a new place and try it out. And we’ll be close to Seattle, Portland, and even like San Francisco and stuff. Everything is just a drive away.

RLC (1 of 5)

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