Exclusive: Indie Rock Quartet Meridian Lights Share Hopeful New Single “Rashida”
By Nathan Leigh
October 13, 2022
Already a legend for his work with Game Rebellion, the latest project from Brooklyn’s Yohimbe Sampson has been making waves with his new band. The multi-faceted project born out of the chemistry between Yohimbe and vocalist Bradley Valentin has been winning audiences over with their raw emotional sound. We recently got to check in with the band ahead of the release of their new single, “Rashida” which Bradley tells us is a celebration of the “hope, strength, resilience and power” of Black women.
How did Meridian Lights come about?
ML started when Yohimbe and Brad were at a training retreat for educators.There was a guitar there and Yohimbe started playing and Brad started singing. We had met a few times prior and actually lived a few blocks from each other in Brooklyn. After the jam, someone in attendance said “y’all should start a band.” We kept jamming and found that when Brad sang and Yohimbe played the guitar the songs would just flow. Brad had been working on a song and Yohimbe who also produces music put together a track and that song became “Star” from their first album.
Eventually a bass player and drummer were added to the mix and the full band was born. The song “Rashida” has Brian Mason on Drums and Jonathan Blake on Bass.
You guys exist in multiple configurations, as a full band, acoustic duo, and R&B production team. How do those different modes of Meridian Lights relate to each other?
The goal of Meridian Lights has always been to explore life’s moments and the experiences that we have had that have shaped our understanding of the World and People. Billy Woods has a song called “No Hard Feelings” where he says “You can’t smoke that here Mister, No hard feelings” I have never in my life heard somebody articulate the experience of having to almost understand and respect someone’s addiction while still letting them know they have to do that somewhere else and I can fully relate. In pursuit of our goal of ARTiculation we have to utilize all our interests and skills. In some ways as Black people we exist at the crossroads or intersection of all genres and each genre reveals or allows us to explore another part of ourselves, history and freedom. The three ways that we exist allows us to be able to look at topics from different angles and sentiments. The acoustic version of the group allows us to strip a lot of pretentiousness and ego that maybe a distorted guitar inspires in us (me lol). The full rock band allows us to express the way life makes us feel and the way we want to conquer the environment around us to carve the World we want. The electronic and digital production version of Meridian Lights is about the blending of realities, the wash of dreams, colors and hope.
How do you decide which version of the band to set a song in?
The full band is where a lot of the reacting to life happens and in a lot of ways is ML in its most explosive and innate form. Bradley, Brian, Jonathan and Yohimbe just going for it. Pushing each other and the sound. 4 Brothers whose journey to the rehearsal space, gig or studio has somehow similarly inspired self-reflection, optimism, rage and randyness. As for now combing the genres rarely happens because when we are together as a band there is only one way to do it and that’s to jump all in, all gas no breaks. Someday it would be kool to have some tracks playing or something yet as for now a computer on stage would get stepped on- someday though when we get over the way the drums makes us stomp.
You’ve said that the name means different things. What does “Rashida” mean to each of you?
Jonathan Blake: “Rashida” reminds me of Black Nurturing and independence.
Yohimbe: “Rashida” represents strength, culture and discipline. The name makes me think of the little sister that although is the youngest they are the one that’s trusted to hold the door key and is in charge of everybody.
Bradley: “Rashida” represents the Black Women that have extended this traditionally religious name (meaning righteous one) into a representation of hope, strength, resilience and power.
Were any of the 38 Rashidas on the cover The Rashida?
Bradley: LOL…I love this question. To somebody, each Rashida on the cover was The Rashida.
How did you connect with them?
We reached out to our communities on social media and also searched for Rashida’s and sent out invites to participate.
How does your community work relate to your art?
Yohimbe: Our community work inspires and informs our art. Our experiences working to find solutions with groups that are marginalized inspires a sense of resiliency and self belief that comes out in our music.
Jonathan: I get to work with adults on the spectrum and provide music therapy. This allows me to focus on music as a means of communication and empowerment.
Follow Meridian Lights for more on socials @meridianlights.
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