It’s mid-October. The night air is beginning to cool as people gather in front of the Hunter Welcome Center. The music starts, and the crowd spreading from University Park Apartments to the southern end of Faubus Fountain Lake is all ears. Suddenly, a parade of light begins as fireworks erupt in the night sky and illuminated sound marches off the stage.
The Light Parade’s Alex Howard and Kara DuBose are as welcoming as their music and name suggest. They greet friends and strangers alike with warm cheer, big smiles and large laughs. Their similar personalities have served them well in the beginning stages of their music career together.
Howard, who graduated from ACU last spring, and DuBose, senior Ad/PR major from Dallas, began working together in the fall of 2009. Although the two band members met each other during their freshman year, they remained acquaintances until Howard asked DuBose if she would sing with his band, Thus Far, at last year’s JamFest performance. The two realized then that they had something special.
“Our voices were meant to sing together,” DuBose said.
Self-described as an acoustic indie folk band, one of The Light Parade’s strengths lies in the clarity of the vocals and lyrics. The blend of their voices creates haunting melodies with a unique harmony.
Evan Umberger, senior organizational management major from Garland, has played percussion with the band several times in the past year. Umberger credits much of The Light Parade’s success to its simultaneous consistency and variety.
“They’re both playing in the same key, but they’re playing in different rhythms and with different voicings,” Umberger said.
But the duo did not always see themselves pursuing musical careers. Both Howard and DuBose began playing and writing music during their time at ACU. DuBose, who grew up loving to sing but describes herself as a shy performer, was encouraged by friends at ACU to try out her music in front of a crowd.
“The people and the family atmosphere here just encourage you and make it a safe place to try,” said DuBose.
Eventually, the encouragement directed DuBose to teach herself the guitar and play around Abilene as much as possible. Her decision to join Howard in the professional music industry was not immediate, but now DuBose says it feels right.
“At this point it’s the only thing I can see myself doing and absolutely loving,” DuBose said. “I know it will always be a part of what I do, hopefully all that I do.”
Howard, a music lover since the age of 13, learned guitar in high school to play songs he enjoyed. Songwriting came his freshman year at ACU as an outlet of expression. When Howard eventually performed his work, he quickly learned that both he and the audience were enjoying themselves.
“I realized that performing and playing my songs for people is the coolest feeling ever,” Howard said. “People actually enjoyed it. Playing in front of people is as happy as I can get.”
Last Christmas break, the pair officially decided to pursue music under Howard’s original band name, Thus Far, and this past summer they lived and performed in Austin. This gave the band its first experience in front of complete strangers and provided both encouragement and affirmation for their music, DuBose said.
Their biggest break so far came this summer from the recognition of Academy-Award winning songwriter and Irish musician, Glen Hansard. The band caught Hansard’s attention with their cover of his song, “Star, Star,” so much so that the musician tweeted the video and directed his followers to Thus Far’s website. Hansard’s tweet coincidentally fell on the same day that the band uploaded its free seven-song EP to its website.
“We ended up getting people from all over the world to download our soundtrack,” DuBose said. “Everything’s that happened to this point is because he took a few seconds out of his day.”
London-based music manager Paul Bell was one of those included in the heavy traffic from Hansard’s tweet. After visiting the website, the manager contacted Howard and DuBose, and The Light Parade signed a three-year contract with Paul Bell Management in September. Bell has worked with the band on its name change and believes its style fits Ireland and the United Kingdom well, said DuBose.
“For us, getting to know Paul was really big,” Howard said. “His advice and guidance has been really important for us.”
DuBose’s graduation this December will open up travel and other professional opportunities for The Light Parade. The band will be recording a new EP this January, and following Bell’s counsel, The Light Parade will leave for Ireland at the end of February and remain there until the beginning of May. While the band hopes to get as much exposure as possible during its time overseas, Howard and DuBose are both thrilled to travel and play their music.
“For me to go to Ireland, it’s visiting this culture and this musical scene I’ve totally fallen in love with,” said Howard.
According to Umberger, continued success for The Light Parade will come from utilizing Bell’s connections and further editing the quality of their music.
“They both have really phenomenal voice ranges,” Umberger said. “They need more crafting to enrich the raw material that they already have.”
The band’s name change signifies these new developments and reinforces the original purpose in both Howard and DuBose’s musical careers. As they continue to write and record, the band hopes to diverge from its acoustic beginnings and develop into a fuller sound. Howard said both Thus Far and The Light Parade are names describing life’s incomplete journey. However, The Light Parade expresses an open welcome for anyone to join the journey, DuBose said.
“Me and Kara, and the people that are going to become our fans are collectively the light parade,” Howard said. “We are living in a way that illuminates the world around us.”
To listen to The Light Parade’s music and learn more about the band, visit its website, http://thelightparade.com.
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