It’s been a bit of a climb for Blacklite District, the Black Hills-based modern metal band that’s currently racing up the charts with their single “With Me Now.” Vocalist Roman James, guitarist/singer Kyle Pfeiffer, drummer Christian Mardini and bass man Oneil “Kane” Laffitte formed the band a decade ago but it’s only been over the past couple of years that things have really started popping. The band was taken on by powerhouse producer Stephen Short, he of Queen and Paul McCartney fame, as well as noted manager Jeff Hanson who helped develop Creed, Paramore and Sevendust. While all that was going on, Blacklite District soared to the #1 spot on SiriusXM-radio’s Octane channel. Now, the guys have just broken into the Top 40 at terrestrial radio, holding down the #36 spot (and rising) on the FMQB chart with "With Me Now," recorded for the BLD Music/Silent Majority Group. The band got the good news while in the middle of a tour with Saving Abel and Pfeiffer called in before the band’s gig in the Cincinnati area to give us the scoop on Blacklite District’s rise to fame.
Examiner: Tell me a bit about the band’s beginnings in Spearfish, South Dakota. That’s not exactly a hot bed of rock’n’roll.
Kyle Pfeiffer: I started the band with Roman, he’s the singer. We started off by playing local coffee shops and writing music. We were trying to write our own songs but we were basically copying Black Sabbath and stuff, like anyone would. We started building a fan base throughout the years and five or six years later we started getting pretty hot and drawing an audience.
E: Did all this all start after high school?
KP: We’re only 22 and 23-years-old now so we were only 10-years-old, 11-years-old when we were playing open mic nights. Then we started playing local clubs when we were about 17-years-old and we were playing out every two weeks. And from there the next step was going to L.A.
E: That was when you connected with producer Stephen Short, right? How did that come about?
KP: I had sent him some stuff and he expressed an interest in working with us. So we went to L.A. and discussed what we wanted to do and he brought us into the studio two months after that, at Sonic Ranch in Texas, and we cut our first E.P. Then we went back to L.A. and started playing wherever we could; we played the Whiskey and the Rainbow and we went to Vegas to play a couple times. But L.A. is definitely not the place to go to try and break.
E: Were you ever hesitant about going in the first place?
KP: Not really; we kinda wanted to go. We grew up loving bands like Motley Crue and Guns N’Roses and we’d always hear stories about the Sunset Strip, so it was cool for us at the time. It was a fun time. We knew we had to go somewhere else because it just wasn’t going to happen in the Black Hills. But once you’ve been out there for a while you realize it’s not the place to be, at least for this style of music.
E: Then manager Jeff Hanson came on board.
KP: I had sent him stuff too, long before I sent anything to Stephen Short. I was very persistent; I sent him e-mails, video links, etc. and one day he just happened to call. He invited us to Orlando to cut a record; this was two weeks after we left L.A. so it was kinda cool.
E: And those sessions yielded your current hit, “With Me Now.” Who wrote the song?
KP: Roman and I and our producer co-wrote it. We didn’t bring a lot of ideas to the studio. We wrote on the spot and all we really knew was that we wanted to go with a lot of electronic stuff.
E: Could you feel it at the time that it was going to be a hit?
KP: Absolutely. That was my favorite track from the get-go. We had a track called “Take Me to the Grave” that Sirius Octane started spinning and that went to #1 as kind of an advance single. But “With Me Now” is the first official single release and it’s getting a great reaction and we’re very happy with it.
E: Do you plan to make a video for “With Me Now” beyond the lyric video that's out now?
KP: We’re working on that right now. We’re going over some details and we should be shooting within the next month.
E: You’re about a third of the way through your tour with Saving Abel. I bet you’ve had some crazy fun.
KP: This is our second tour with them. On our first tour I had my birthday when we played Joliet, Illinois. It was weird because all day no one was saying “happy birthday” or even mentioning it. So we go on stage and during the middle of our set Saving Abel’s singer comes on stage and hands me a beer and said he wanted to wish me a happy birthday and starting singing “Happy Birthday” to me. Then, and I didn’t see this coming, the rest of Saving Abel ran on stage and hit me with plates of whipped cream! They got it all over my guitar. It was sticky for two days because we were in a van and didn’t have a hotel room at the time. It was a cool moment for me.
E: Before this tour wraps you’ll be playing a homecoming show in Spearfish. Is there anything about the band now that might surprise your longtime fans?
KP: They might be surprised at how polished our live sound is now, how tight we are. We’re just going to be really excited, especially since we’re bringing Saving Abel with us. You never know what might happen!
Find tour dates and more at the official Blacklite District website