Blacklite District is one of today’s rising star rock bands. Hailing from South Dakota, and now based in Orlando, Florida, they are hitting the road, hard and furious. Their new album, Worldwide Controversy was produced by Brett Hestla (vocalist of Dark New Day). Hot off their Top 40 chart placement at #36 with their single “With Me Now“, I recently caught up with Oniel “Kane” Laffitte (bass) and Chris Mandrini (drums).
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Today I have Oniel and Chris from Blacklite District. First things first, can you tell me what brought you together as a band?
Oniel: Even before me and Chris joined the band, Kyle (Pfeiffer, guitar/vocals) and Roman (James, vocals) had been together for ten years. They basically grew up together, playing music. They did demos, went to LA, and the whole thing. Until Jeff Hanson, our manager now, gave them a call from Orlando, Florida, and told them that if they make a record, they’d sign us. They had to go to Orlando instead of staying in LA. That happened, and then when it was time to go on tour, they needed a drummer and bass player, and that’s where me and Chris basically came in. As for this lineup? It’s been for about a year, a year and a half or so. Ten years, before that, as far as the band.
Since you’ve been brought into the fold, how has the lineup solidified? Are you within the writing process of the band?
Oniel: Since we came in after the album was done, we walked into finished material. When it comes to the next album cycle, it will basically be all of us in a room, either jamming or getting together with a producer or something like that.
Chris: The funny thing is that we had a mutual producer, Brett Hestla. Great guy, and well recognized in the music industry. He mentioned it before, they already had finished material and we came in after because we knew Brett. Since me and him (Oniel) played in a band before, that’s where the whole puzzle came together, and we were able to have the lineup we have. It’s been great, man. We’ve been touring nonstop since the moment we joined the band. We’ve been out with Saving Abel, Royal Bliss, and shared the stage with Wayland and many, many other bands that I cannot recall or remember. It’s definitely been a great run. We get to experience and listen to different styles of music on the road with people trying to make it outside of their current city or state. Things are going very good for us, I can definitely say that.
With Brett Hestla as a mutual producer, how is it working with him? Did you enjoy it?
Oniel: Yes. As Chris mentioned, the previous band we were in together had done two tracks with him. One word: fun! You could be there endless hours and you would never even notice, just because of the kind of environment he brings to the table. Creative, but at the same time, it’s very laid back. You’re able to have fun, be creative, and still joke around. He would turn around from his chair, and it would be 30 minutes on with him just telling jokes, and we wouldn’t be working. It’s not like a stiff kind of job environment. It’s more like “Oh, we’re hanging out”, and just putting great music down. He’s like a mastermind of being creative with melodies, beats, and a good guy to work with. He’s hilarious, a joker.
Is that how you are as a band, together?
Oniel: For the most part, yeah. We joke around. Every band has their issues, and argues. it’s natural with every band. We’re not like a motley crew where we’re fighting each other.
Chris: Separate buses.
Oniel: Yeah, haha. We’re all stuck in one van, or RV together, or you have to get along. Otherwise, it wouldn’t last very long.
Chris: Yeah, we all have our differences, but at the end of the day, we know the reason why we’re here. Basically, we joined forces, and that’s what we create with Blacklite District. We just forget about all our differences, the negative vibes or whatever. It’s rock and roll. You’re always going to have moments of greatness, happiness and unforgettable stuff, and you’re also going to have moments of disagreements and miscommunication issues. That’s how it is. It’s all rock and roll.
Oniel: Let’s put it this way: I can’t remember who said it once, but you go on 16 hours a day doing nothing. You could be pissed off all day and not talking to anybody, but that 45 minutes to an hour you have on stage clears that up.
Chris: It’s a stress relief.
Oniel: I guess it’s one of those “music brings us together” kind of deals, but it is true. Once we start playing, everything goes away. Everybody is on stage messing around, smiling, which is good. I love that. Of course, everything gets talked about. Music is kind of what breaks everything. It’s a good ice breaker. It’s a little hard to argue after something like that. It’s good.
Chris: This is actually one of the things that’s crazy. We could be on stage, having a really messed up day. Something that has nothing to do with us as a band, like something that just didn’t go right. Life happens. We just play, and we just forget about everything. We look at each other on stage, whether there’s ten people, or five hundred, or three thousand people at the show, we still have a great time, and just focus on our instruments and make it happen. That’s the reason why we are here at the end of the day.
Speaking of playing live, what qualities do you bring to the table for the live shows?
Oniel: Myself? It’s just pure energy. There are people who come up to me after shows. I’m the bass player, so the bass player already has the bad rap of being the boring ones, the quiet ones. I break that down. I make it fun, I look at people. I go around and jump around, if I’m feeling the music. I’m the low end, I bring that there, but I’m the energy. I have to make it a fun show for people to watch. I can’t be just standing there playing three notes. If I was in the crowd, it would be boring for me to watch. I like the music, but if you have a band that’s not moving or feeling it, it’s a boring experience, aside from the music being good. So, I try to make both the music good, and the show. That’s my take on that.
Chris: Back in the days, I used to, and still do watch live shows and concerts from different bands. I always admire a different perspective or aspect of live shows and I’ll be like “Whoah!” That’s actually great how they are interacting with the crowd. Then I see the bands that are not even moving. I’m falling asleep here. So, on my end, I’m the drummer, and I am half of the beat of the band. I have a great energy playing, and I enjoy it. I love what I do, and I connect with the crowd behind the drums. I can definitely say we all do have a very good connection or vibe with the crowd. We try to make it the best time possible. That’s about it. It’s very important. I can say that this band loves interacting, and we have a great energy. We all do put on a great show, and do our best.
Oniel: It’s a 45 minute commercial for our music. You’ve go to make it a good one, you know?
You get more than most infomercials do!
Oniel: Exactly. You can imagine you’re watching a 3 minute infomercial and you’re going nuts. Imagine 45 minutes, so it can either go really good, energetic and everyone is into it. Or, it could be bad and people would just be bored. We would to have them leave and say “Man, that was a show, you’ve got to go see these guys!” Music and the shows, it’s the selling point.
Chris: We try to accomplish both parts; sounding great as a band live, and have that great energy. Just so people say “Wow, this is a great band!” They know what they’re playing, they know their instruments, but at the same time, they take a little bit of their time to interact with the crowd. Just a great show, and smile and rock, give a signal here and there. That’s how it is.
I’m going to dig a little more personal here.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to be that bad. Haha. What albums have influenced your musical style, playing style, and your life?
Oniel: I used to be a guitar player turned bass player, but I think I’ll go for both instruments. If we want to talk about bands, the whole reason I play an instrument is because of Metallica. Very cliche, and a lot of people say that, but it’s very true. I saw one of their live videos and I thought “I want to do that. I want to be on stage and do my thing.” So, Metallica, and then the bass player aspect as far as technique, you have Justin Chandler of TOOL. I’m a huge TOOL fan. Then we jump to Sevendust, for the live show. I try to take a lot from other bands that I like and enjoy about them and incorporate that in my own. Whether it be the playing aspect, or just be the stage persona, if you will. Those three are the ones that stick out for me. Metallica, huge, TOOL, the bass is undeniable, and then bands like Sevendust whose live show is just incredible. They’re just a great couple of guys, too. Not just big rockstars you can’t talk to. I try to take all that in and do my own thing with it, if you will.
Chris: My influences… As a drummer, I have a variety of influences. I don’t listen to just rock. I listen to rock most of the the time, but there are some days that I just feel like listening to reggae. I admire good albums. I appreciate music a lot. If it’s a great album, great production, and great musicians, I will definitely take a listen to it. But, I can say all the way from Dream Theater, one of my main influences, Guns N Roses. Early Korn, Sepultura. That’s just a few that I can mention from the back of my head right now. As far as album influences that I appreciate as a whole, is definitely Dream Theater. Metallica, of course, like every good drummer. The list keeps going. That’s one of my main influences is Dream Theater, and anything that is related to good musicianship.
Oniel: If it sounds good, we’ll listen to it. Unless it’s country, then I kind of draw a line there.
What, you don’t like that southern drawl?
You know, it’s the lyric content. I do like the twangy music, it’s very cool.
We usually finish with a random question. What is your guilty pleasure band, or musician?
Oniel: Guilty pleasure band or musician… Oh, that’s an easy one, actually.
I’m going to guess Gotye.
No, no, no! I listen to him because he reminds me of The Police and Peter Gabriel. I’m a bit of an 80s artist fan, too. It’s like, wow, I can relate to him, the lyrical content. I listen to that and I’m like, “Wow!” this guy is pouring his heart out, and it’s good. But, if you’re going to say a band, Ace of Base. Before I ever even opened up a Metallica album, I was into them, religiously! I never really say that to people, but there you go.
That’s really crazy. I used to be into them as well. You can laugh about this one: Roxette.
Roxette?! “The Look”!
Chris: Melody wise, the lyrics, everything about Ace of Base and Roxette. I think one of the main things besides Guns ’N Roses that got me into the rock scene, I would definitely call “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors. That’s one of the first songs when I was a kid I was like “Oh, wow!”
Oniel: Ace of Base, man. if you pop any of their songs on right now, I would probably sing it all. It’s that bad for me! We never get asked that question!
Once again guys, thanks for speaking with me. That was Oniel “Kane” Laffitte and Chris Mardini of Blacklite District. What a great group of guys.
Blacklite District -With Me Now (EP) On iTunes:
Blacklite District – With Me Now (Lyric Video):