By Brooklyn Reader

February 25, 2015, 2:30 pm

 

Meridian Lights, rock band, singing group, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bradley Valentin, Yohimbe Sampson, indie alternative, folk, conscious alternative

(l to r) Bradley Valentin and Yohimbe Sampson are Meridian Lights
Photo: The Brooklyn Reader

“A lot of what we do is about improvisation. When we improvise and jam on stage, it’s not like, Yo, we want to express ourselves. It’s kinda like, we want to test ourselves. We want to see how close our mind is to how we’re feeling at that moment,” said Yohimbe Sampson, a musician, guitarist and one-half of the group Meridian Lights.

The other half is vocalist Bradley Valentin. The Bed-Stuy-based duo has been gigging together for about three years now. Their loyal audiences love them because they make magic on stage. And since part of the mystique of magic is not knowing what will happen next—the anticipation of wondering what new miracle will be created from empty space—Meridian’s magic is about the spontaneity of creating in the moment and using music to speak truth.

Music is their medium. But don’t get caught up in the ethereal rhetoric, believing, perhaps, these two are out there floating amongst the sun, moon and stars. Sampson and Valentin are actually quite grounded.

By day, Sampson works as service director for Section 8 housing communities in East New York. “So my job is to create education, arts, social, quality-of-life, health and fitness programs for youth, adults and senior citizens,” he says.

And Valentin is an arts educator for Urban Arts Partnership and a part-time realtor.

Meridian Lights, rock band, singing group, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bradley Valentin, Yohimbe Sampson, indie alternative, folk, conscious alternative

Photo: The Brooklyn Reader

Four years ago, they can say they knew each other only in passing. But neither had formally met in person. But their mutual love of working with arts, children and in the community coalesced until one summer, their paths finally crossed. Both of them ended up working for the same organization that took a team of teaching artists and educators upstate on a retreat.

“One night everybody was just hanging out and kicking back,” said Sampson. “There was a guitar there, and so I started playing. But no one was singing.

“And then Bradley started singing. And then we just started improvising, jamming, until somebody walked by and was like, ‘Hey, you guys should do that. Get together and work on some music.’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, we should.’”

But once camp ended, both guys went back to their respective jobs and lives– until one day when Valentin called Sampson with a song he was working on, one that he felt instinctively only Sampson and his guitar could support.

Eventually, they decided to begin recording. And that’s how their first song “Star” was born.

The two began gigging around town. And in no time, developed a loyal fan base and recorded an album.

Meridian Lights, rock band, singing group, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bradley Valentin, Yohimbe Sampson, indie alternative, folk, conscious alternative

Photo: The Brooklyn Reader

“How would we describe our music?” said Valentin. “That question is hard to answer. I consider it indie alternative, indie music and anything that falls under that umbrella which is soul, acoustic, rock and roll. A lot of people have other ideas. It’s whatever your life experience brings; your view of this music.”

“We definitely bring the life and the place that we live into our music and the things going on around us, as far as politics, government, race relations,” said Sampson. “I think when people come to our shows, even if we’re not saying, ‘Yo, save the whales,’ we’re still saying be present, be part of the world around you. And I think that’s the duty of all of us. Wanting more for yourself and wanting to be true to yourself.”

When it comes to Meridian’s music, the way they perform and relate to sound and their audience, one part cannot be separated from the other, because their music is an organic byproduct of their experiences.

Most recently, Meridian Lights dropped their second self-titled album, “Meridian Lights,” along with a video of a song from that album, called “Forever.”

“Not only are we proud right now, we’re humble, because we’re allowing ourselves to manifest in all of these spiritual, mental, physical things that we want to do as human beings,” said Sampson. “So when we come to these shows, let’s talk about the issues, whether we stop and just talk about it or just sing about. It’s an amazing thing. I’m just humbled by it, because it’s touching lives. And it’s touching us.”

For more information on this Meridian Lights, visit their website, or contact them at [email protected].


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