It took Lighthouse Family 18 years to release another record.
The English duo, comprised of Tunde Baiyewu and Paul Tucker, dropped their newest album ‘Blue Sky in Your Head’ earlier this year after nearly two decades apart. According to Baiyewu, the split was spurred on by grief.
“Working with Paul as a duo, as a partnership, it’s got its advantages. But it’s like sibling rivalry. I watch my daughters sometimes, as much as they love each other, they’re also always fighting — especially the younger one, she’s always picking on and pestering the older one. In a way, it’s like that,” Baiyewu tells Gulf News tabloid! over the phone, ahead of the duo’s gig in Dubai on November 1 as part of the Party in the Park festival.
“I’m more of the passive aggressive type — quiet, laid back, but you would know if I don’t want to do something. Paul is more of an extrovert, who’s overtly like, ‘This is what we’re doing. This is what we’re not doing,’” he says, laughing.
This can make for a great creative spark, adds Baiyewu, but the pair couldn’t avoid the consequences.
“It’s a bit like taking two extremes and colliding them together — the farther apart they are, the bigger the spark it creates. But nonetheless, when they bang together, you do get that clash.”
Some clashes are too big to survive. And when Baiyewu suffered a large loss in his family, it put everything else into perspective.
“You’ve been in each other’s pocket for 10 years or more working together, and then it just gets to the point where you think, ‘Ah! I’ve had enough of this,’” he recalls.
“My mother passed away and it was such a big shock that it just made me reassess everything else — my whole life’s work. I remember thinking, you know what? I don’t want to do this anymore.
“Any differences that we had in the band, which could lead to good creativity, all those little differences were magnified. I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, even though we were probably going to get married. I didn’t know why I was doing it. I think it’s probably a common thing, when people go through such a radical experience.”
BIRTH AND REBIRTH
Lighthouse Family’s first record deal came in 1993. It was thanks to a demo of ‘Ocean Drive’, which would later become a Top 20 single.
The UK was coming out of a recession at the time, and record labels were overly conscious about return on investment. But by 1997, Lighthouse Family had several major hits — most notably ‘Ocean Drive’, ‘Lifted’ and ‘High’.
“When we first started, I was [thinking], ‘Are we doing the right thing, getting involved in music and trying to have a musical career?’” reveals Baiyewu.
“We both went to university up in Newcastle and I studied to be an accountant. I don’t know why. After graduating, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but I knew accountancy wasn’t it. When the music thing came along, it was something that kept me busy — something that I really enjoyed for the first time,” he adds.
The duo released three albums — ‘Ocean Drive’ (1995), ‘Postcards from Heaven’ (1997) and ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Day’ (2001).
But what’s the catalyst that brings them back together now, in 2019?
“I had this very vivid dream — I went into an accountant’s office and everything in the room was white. The floor was white. The sofas were white. The ceiling was white,” recounts Baiyewu.
“When I turned around to walk back out, I saw our original Lighthouse Family manager, Keith, and I asked him what he was doing there. I remember waking up and thinking, God, that was really unusual — I hadn’t seen or spoken to Keith for maybe 10, 15 years.”
A few months later, Baiyewu was in San Diego when he got a missed call notification on his phone. It was Keith.
“When I saw his name, I knew what it was going to be about,” says Baiyewu.
And he was right. Keith had been in touch with the record label, who were eager for another Lighthouse Family record, if the duo was up for it.
The pair went into the studio together for the first time in nearly 20 years and released a 23-track record, filled with oldies revisited and 13 new tracks.
“When we first started, we thought, well, we want to make another Lighthouse Family record,” says Baiyewu. “But we had to really clarify in our minds, what is a Lighthouse Family record? What is a Lighthouse Family song? What does that entail? At the same time, trying not to repeat yourself, and not just doing exactly what you did 15, 18 years ago … And I think that’s what we did.”
Fatboy Slim, Richard Ashcroft of The Verve and Lighthouse Family perform at Party in the Park in Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on November 1. Tickets start from Dh250 and are available online.