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Meet the Musicians Behind the Pretty Lights Live Band

Editors Note: This piece dates back to New Year’s 2016, when Derek blessed New Orleans, La with a two night run featuring his newly assembled live band. We think this piece deserves to see the light of day again. So sit back and Meet the musicians behind the Pretty Lights live band!

It is hard to believe the accomplishments that Colorado-native musician/producer Pretty Lights, aka Derek Vincent Smith, has completed since his project became a reality in 2006.

This New Years Smith brings his Live Band to New Orleans, Louisiana, on the nights of the 30th and 31st. Alongside Derek will be some of the best musicians around, as well as a variety of handpicked opening talent, including: Manic Focus, Curren$y, Maddy O’Neal, and more. As outstanding as the support may be, the live band remains the main attraction. Derek’s shows are already mesmerizing, and the added raw talent from each member of the band takes the performance to an otherworldly level. Meet the musicians behind the live band below.

Derek Smith: the man, the myth, the legend. Derek is the mastermind behind Pretty Lights and has taken years to curate his sound. His versatility has shown in all of his works, and you can feel the love and passion he puts into each track. Every song that he creates tells a story. His songs vary from down-tempo to upbeat, all of them layered with different instruments and vocals. DVS’s debut album was released in 2006, Taking Up Your Precious Time, and since then, he has released a handful of albums along with performing at major festivals and even having his own tour each year.

Brandon Butler, cousin to drummer Alvin Ford Jr., kills the keys alongside Borahm Lee for the band. Butler became the official keyboardist this summer during the “Pretty Lights Episodic Festival” Tour, replacing Brian Coogan. After the displacement, Butler stepped up to the place during Episodic Show #4, and now is the full-time keyboardist for the live band.

Break Science member Borahm Lee and Pretty Lights keyboardist lays down the funky hip hop beats that he is known for in BS, complimenting the Pretty Lights vibes. He first made his way into the music game at the ripe age of 19 doing “local jazz gigs” and since then, he has performed with The Fugees and Wyclef Jean.

Since the creation of Break Science he has admittedly narrowed his focus and cut back on other collaborations; however, performing with DVS is a special spectacle. As a keyboardist with the live band, his unique sound meshes well with what DVS creates. There is no doubting the chemistry on stage with Borahm and the other members of the band.

Killing it always on the drums is New Orleans homegrown legend Alvin Ford, Jr. Not only has Ford stepped in as drummer for New Orleans funk band Dumpstaphunk, he is also in a band called Tysson… on top of playing with the live band.

Ford credits some of his success to the wealth of guidance he has in the city, such as Terrence Higgins and Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander from Jon Cleary’s Absolute Monster Gentlemen. His passion for music shows in all of his respective works with the various projects he is involved in.

Turntabalist Chris Karns is another major key to the live band, and is the cherry on top of this unique troupe. Karns scratches over songs and is a master mixer, having performed in and won multiple DJ competitions. His most recent challenge was the VH1 Master of the Mix, which he was a finalist for. Karns has been given the opportunity to tour with multiple artists, including Yelawolf; however, his gig with Pretty Lights has been the longest lasting.

Pretty Lights isn’t Pretty Lights without the Pretty Lights

Light artist Greg Ellis is the mastermind behind the visual show that people from all over crave to admire. Ellis’ lighting talent, nicknamed Lazershark (for good reason), combined with Smith’s music talent equals an experience unlike any other.

In a recent interview, Ellis admits that he had no real training to do what he does now, just learned as he went along. He credits Phish’s light designer, Chris Kuroda, as his primary influence in how he goes about creating and designing. Today, shows and electronic shows more specifically, focus heavily on pretty lights and video displays. When comparing a Pretty Lights DJ set to a Pretty Lights Live Band set, Ellis explained that he has to make sure “they’re [the members of the band] lit well, or to make sure they look cool.” With the addition of a few more people on stage, it can definitely be a challenge to make sure all is in order; but somehow, Ellis manages to pull it off.

It’s hard to picture everything and everyone all put together; but when it is, the Pretty Lights Live Band is a beautiful thing. The excitement to witness this breathtaking show is high, and we cannot wait to see what each musician brings to the table.
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