Metal trio Spotlights moved to Pittsburgh and shined brighter | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Metal trio Spotlights moved to Pittsburgh and shined brighter

click to enlarge Metal trio Spotlights moved to Pittsburgh and shined brighter
Photo: John Pope
From left, Mario Quintero, Sarah Quintero, and Chris Enriquez

It was shortly after a long day of rehearsals that Spotlights vocalist, guitarist, and programmer Mario Quintero sat down to speak with me. He sounded worn down a bit, but after all, he’s spent the past few months finalizing his band’s fourth album, Alchemy For The Dead — one that he recorded and mixed himself in his Munhall home. He also just wrapped up booking an extensive two-month tour across the contiguous United States that he coordinated all on his own. However, he and his bandmates — bassist and vocalist Sarah Quintero (his wife) and drummer Chris Enriquez — are not about to take a break. They’re only getting started on what will likely be a whirlwind of a year.

Formed in New York in the early 2010s, the trio made an immediate splash upon releasing their debut, Tidals, in 2016, which took them on the road supporting post-metal heavyweights Deftones. Shortly afterward, the band signed with the iconic Ipecac Recordings and have not stopped since. They’ve toured with acts including The Melvins, Glassjaw and Korn, and will be joining avant-garde legends Mr. Bungle for a string of dates on the West Coast next month.

For Quintero, Alchemy For The Dead also marks the first album the band has recorded since they officially relocated to Munhall from Brooklyn at the tail end of 2018 (Enriquez continues to reside in New York). Recording was made easier from his Munhall home now that Quintero has the space to build his own studio, which was not possible from a fourth-floor apartment in Brooklyn.

So why leave New York for Pittsburgh? “We really didn’t have a reason other than we just liked it,” Quintero tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “Every time we played here on tour we really liked the look of the city and the vibe of how everything was.” He notes that, in his view, the city’s hard rock and metal scene is just as tight-knit as others he has seen in the various cities he’s lived in (which includes Miami, Boston and San Diego). And, as he boasts, Pittsburgh’s scene is in a great state as bands are focused on working hard and pushing each other to be better.

What has garnered them this wide-ranging appeal is their sound; theirs is one that shifts gears seamlessly between shoe gaze-influenced ambience, catchy electronic driven choruses, and melancholy hooks that are tightly grasping onto heavy metal handrails.
click to enlarge Metal trio Spotlights moved to Pittsburgh and shined brighter
Photo: John Pope
From left, Chris Enriquez, Sarah Quintero, and Mario Quintero
Fans are quick to draw comparisons to space rock cadets Failure, or Hum, while also painting Spotlights into the same work as the Deftones. Yet somehow, in 2023, Spotlights has managed to sound unlike anyone else. Their music does not adhere to a formula. Nothing they record seems to be locked into a pattern of songs maintaining a similar running length with a paint-by-numbers structure that has shaped pop and rock music for decades.

If 2019s Love & Decay is a space-launched alt-rock tour-de-force that soars to the deepest reaches of melody and atmospheric hooks, Alchemy For The Dead — debuting April 28 — extends even deeper, reaching to more unexplored territory for the band, as this album pushes their sound into darker, yet familiar corners.
Songs manifest themselves through various emotions. Whether it is the transfixing groove of “Sunset Burial,” the head-banging stomp of “Algorithmic” or the hook-infested synth-driven rocker “Crawling Toward The Light,” it is hard to find a metallic rock album that shifts between soundscapes and evocations like Alchemy For The Dead.

“Our initial approach for this record was to really just change it up and try and not make the same record again,” Quintero tells City Paper. “This record is personal and real. If we hear something that’s being a little too much of what we would do, try and change it, and try and push ourselves another way,” he adds.

Lyrically, the album hones in on human mortality. Though Quintero details that this is not a concept album, but one with a concept, songs cover a range of dialogues around how humans view death. “Some people are kind of scared to death of it … and some people kind of look forward to it. Some people have no thoughts on it. Religion uses death to basically control people,” he laughs.

And while, thematically, Alchemy For The Dead appears to be a darker album, Quintero is hopeful that Spotlights’ music can foster a sense of optimism among their listeners: “We all need to care for one another and all living beings on this planet, while we can.”

As recent transplants, Spotlights has managed to fit into Pittsburgh quite well. And the band loves it here. Quintero pointed to the increasing attention his band has garnered locally, which was not always there — even playing for a couple of people the first time they toured through here.

With all of the work Spotlights has put in recently since they have settled into the Steel City, local fans have started taking note, and turning out in larger numbers to their local shows, including this week’s near sell-out Club Cafe show to debut their new material.

Quintero and company are enjoying the feeling. “It’s nice that people are embracing us as one of their own.”

Living Dead Weekend at the Monroeville Mall
18 images