Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Stop Light Observations makes music with meaning


Upstairs in a 200-year-old plantation home outside Charleston, South Carolina, Will Blackburn recorded vocals for his band’s newest album. In a Victorian-style bathroom complete with a little couch and claw foot tub, Blackburn sang lyrics as crickets chirped their own song and rain pattered outside.

The band is Stop Light Observations, a South Carolina favorite who recorded its August-released album “Toogoodoo” among the rustic surroundings of the Toogoodoo plantation home outside Charleston, and will be taking Tuscaloosa’s Green Bar stage this Friday night. If recording an album in an old plantation home sounds like a different producing tactic than that of most musicians, that’s because it is.

“It’s hard to find inspiration in studios because they’re meant to be free of distraction,” Blackburn said. “[At Toogoodoo] we always had a way to get away for a moment. It’s very old and everything is very fragile. It has an eerie eerie energy behind it.”

Band members Blackburn, John Keith “Cubby” Culbreth, Louis Duffie and Luke Withers, some of whom have been playing together since adolescence, escaped this stale studio environment when they decided to build their own studio at Toogoodoo. The album was recorded live in its entirety, and you can even hear the sounds of crickets chirping in the background of songs like “Dinosaur Bones.”

“From a musician’s perspective, that’s my proudest moment as a singer to have done a live album,” Blackburn said.

However, a live album isn’t the only thing the band has to be proud of. While Blackburn said the first album was more experimental, they wrote the new album with less songs and more storytelling, appealing to their accumulated fan base. “Toogoodoo” spans a broad range of feelings and sounds.

“We realized we were kind of telling the story of the millennial blues,” Blackburn said. “You go from feelings of loneliness to feelings of angst to pure sadness. It’s this crescendo.”

The band has continued to create meaningful lyrics and storytelling through their albums, and “Toogoodoo” is no different. “Security” is a ballad for the millennial soul, posing the question, “Shit, why don’t we feel happy?”

“As we get older and we start to live longer and we take our time through things, especially this generation, we graduate college and spend a couple years flopping around,” Blackburn said. “That’s just what’s going on. If anything, when you listen to this song, I hope people understand they’re not alone and everyone feels this way.”

Another message the band sends out is one of unification. Their ideology is that despite differences, music brings people together. And the role of the messenger is one Blackburn takes seriously.

“The message I want to share is to accept each other’s differences,” Blackburn said. “With music and with film too you have the ability to bring people together that have otherwise never been in the room together. If we can do anything as a band I would like to bring people together so people can learn to respect and love one another regardless of their beliefs or what they hold steadfast in their lives.”

Even more meaning can be derived from the name of the band itself. Inspired by a stop light in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and the old man who sells newspapers alongside the intersection traffic, the band started thinking about the universal meaning of a stop light. Everyone has to obey stop lights, so they pose the question, why not stop and look around?

“No matter who you are, you have to stop at a stop light,” Blackburn said. “I think if you do stop at a busy intersection you’ll see a lot of eclectic things. It can also mean stop making light observations. Take a second to stop and look around and find some beauty in every single thing you do.”

Stop Light Observations has a unique connection to The University of Alabama. The music video for their song “Security” is a hodge-podge of video clips, specifically highlighting the Alabama chapter of Alpha Phi’s infamous recruitment video from last year. Blackburn found the video when scrolling through his timeline and decided to play their song to the video to see if it lined up. The band watched it and decision was unanimous – Alpha Phi’s video would be the backdrop to their music video.

“We were not trying to to send a message or tell the sorority they’ve made a mistake,” Blackburn said. “It was just too good to be true that I opened up my phone and there it was. I’m really glad I did and it made a good video. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.”

With their unique storytelling abilities, an expanding fan base in the South and a bright touring schedule ahead of them, it seems like things aren’t “stopping” anytime soon for this group. Tickets for their show tonight at Green Bar are $6 and can be purchased at the door. 

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