Naming your band is hardly ever an easy task, but taking the easy option can prove a folly if there are one or more artists named anything similar. That simply ain’t going to happen to Levi Sesega and his eclectically-instrumented cohorts in Levi Lights On Project – of that we’re certain. As that vaguely confusing name possibly suggests it’s hard to neatly categorise their music, elegant indie pop is a guide only, but if that comes close to turning your lights on then we strongly recommend you delve right into their latest offering, Live To Be. NZ On Air chose to include it in their NewTracks compilation this August, and with very good reason as you’ll discover.
My full name is Michael Levin Sesega. I was born in Samoa but have lived in Auckland for the past 11 years. I play guitar and percussion.
When I first arrived in Auckland I studied songwriting and contemporary music at MAINZ. This was vitally important as it enabled me to meet other musicians and opened the door to the Auckland music scene.
I’ve been involved with several bands over the years, but the main one prior to the Lights On Project was the rock band Tribal State. We released a self-titled album in 2018 which you may have heard.
In late 2017 I decided I wanted to try a new formula and work with some new people. I already knew Jason Slade (guitar/bass) and Igor Shnayderman (percussion) and asked if they were interested in joining me in a new project. My manager, Jeanette Bramley, already knew Andrew Miller (saxophone), and she also managed to find Tim Shacklock (cello), to complete the 5-piece line up. I rehearsed with each of the guys individually, but up until a week before our first gig the five of us hadn’t been in the same room together at all!
I feel that my songwriting has more understanding and conviction now compared to my early work. The life experiences I’ve had over the years have definitely shaped my music and songwriting. I have a rule that I don’t write about anything unless I’ve actually experienced it.
Although my name is Michael, everyone, including my family, calls me Levi and have done since I was a baby. At the beginning of the project, we set up a Messenger group chat for the band members and every week I would change the name of the group just for fun. Then one week I changed it to ‘Lights On’ and the name Levi Lights On Project was born…
In March 2020 we played at Kauaeranga Hall near Thames. It was the most beautiful gig for everyone involved. It’s difficult to explain but there was something very spiritual about both the audience and the location, and it was a real heart to heart experience for all of us.
Live To Be is our first single which features my sister, Mema Wilda, on backing vocals. This makes it really special for me.
Live To Be was written as a self-reminder to experience all that life has to offer, with full acceptance of both its good and bad. Realising that maybe we were never here to fix anyone or anything, but only to accept everyone and everything, for acceptance is the bridge to all of life’s divisions. Live to be and life shall become a humble and self-fulfilled experience of the understanding of truth.
The lyric, ‘We’re gonna live’. There’s just something about that one lyric which makes me very emotional, because it’s true.
The track was recorded and produced by Mitch French of Black Dog Recording Studios in Pukekohe. I actually wrote the track way back in 2007, but it wasn’t until very recently that I understood it so I started singing it again. I feel very strongly that songs write themselves and each one teaches me something.
Happiness and gratitude.
There’s no definitive thought process behind it. I just follow the signs.
Greg Haver produced the first single, Mirror Man, and the next three singles were produced by Mitch French of Black Dog Recording Studios. Jeanette Bramley has been my manager since the start of the Lights On Project.
We have two more singles partially recorded and I’m writing new material all the time.
Mema Wilda – Blue
Camm – Thinking ‘Bout You
Sam Bartells – Blessed and Broken
We’ve applied to New Tracks and to NZOA for funding several times and this is the first time we’ve been successful. My advice to others would be just to be persistent and not give up. Your time will come!
I mostly listen to Spotify and have music from all genres on my playlist.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make a video specifically for the single release but there’s a live version of the track recorded by SofarSounds here.
Love surrounds us.