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Funky Lamp: In Light of Changes

Funky Lamp is a beaming light you won’t want to turn off. Rising in the Pittsburgh area, it seems like the band is headlining every show; and for good reason.

Combining funk, alternative, indie, folk, Latin, soul, and jazz influences, Funky Lamp usually describes their genre as “it’s complicated.” The four-piece’s debut LP, “In Light of Changes,” articulates this unique sound in a short-and-sweet seven-song album–the writing of which spans two drummers, three bassists, and the bulk of Funky Lamp’s career. The music and lyrics reflect the dizzying unpredictability of early adulthood that gave birth to In Light of Changes, and the album’s cohesive, polished sound illustrates the light that Funky Lamp has found in its only constant: change.

Before being Oakland’s favorite funk band, Funky Lamp was an unreasonably priced thrift store lamp living in guitarist Ben Orr’s dorm room. Orr met singer Holly Miller through a mutual friend, and the duo began to navigate songwriting for the first time as they built the musical chemistry that defines Funky Lamp’s sound. Generously, the lamp decided to lend its name to the group, and Funky Lamp was born.

Two lineup changes later, Funky Lamp’s current roster also includes Oakland music veteran Frank Mileto, who joined Funky Lamp on bass at the start of their gigging career. In late 2023, the band also added bassist Will Berick, who joined after the departure of Funky Lamp’s original drummer and Mileto’s subsequent migration to drums.

Funky Lamp recently played a sold-out album release show at Post Genre, an organization run by members of the Oakland music scene trying to establish a permanent venue in the area. Vocalist Holly Miller and Guitarist Ben Orr wore beautiful custom-made crocheted outfits from Pittsburgh-based student designer Sarah-Quiana Joseph. At the end of the set, the band handed out lampshades to the crowd, which brought the cameras out and the head-banging to “On My Knees.”

We were able to talk to Orr and Miller about their new album and all things music! 

Where did the album name come from?

Holly and I were brainstorming one day, and she said “you know the saying ‘in light of’?” The album title is an adaption of that. Change has been a constant for Funky Lamp ever since we formed; we’re no stranger to lineup changes, musical experimentation, and starting and scrapping projects. Over the two years in which the album was written, we were navigating the beginning of adulthood and all the self-discovery that comes with it. Recently, Holly and I were looking through some pictures of us from our freshman year. The pictures were only two years old, but it’s crazy how much we’ve changed. We’re far from “grown up,” but we both know a great deal more about ourselves than we did back then. 

Meanwhile, this band has taken four different shapes since its inception. The album was around 60% recorded when our original drummer, Rocco, quit, and we decided to switch producers and redo the entire thing. Our members have changed, our friends have changed, our music has danced between funk, alternative, folk, metal, or whatever we feel like writing… maybe it’s just the ADHD, but we obviously have a hard time sitting still. 

Soon after Rocco left the band, a musician we really look up to told me that “in the moment, these changes suck. But from my experience, they always end up being for the best.” I think that advice might be our mantra, of sorts. It’s where the first part of the name comes from: after everything that’s happened, this album is the light we’ve found in those changes.

It seems like you guys are playing gigs left and right; how do you keep up with such a busy schedule? 

Holly: It’s hard to coordinate even just squeezing in 1 practice a week since all 4 of us have different school schedules but we’ve been able to make it work. sometimes you have to sacrifice time you don’t really want to (if I have a big project or test coming up or a busy works schedule) but it’s worth it for becoming better musicians and making memories. And even when I am stressed, I find that taking time out of my week for shows and practice is actually a stress reliever a lot of the time. 

B: We’re definitely one of the harder working bands in the scene when it comes to gigs. Balancing the availability of four people is tricky, but we’ve been lucky to be able to take a lot of the shows we’ve been offered. At the end of the day, playing live is always a special experience. and I don’t think any of us want to take those opportunities for granted. 

Favorite gig you played? 

B: We played a gig on the third floor of the stickiest, nastiest bar ever with good friends of ours. We sucked. The crowd was really just the other band and a slow trickle of random, underage bar-hoppers who kept asking us to cover “Royals” by Lorde. We didn’t. That was one of the most fun nights of my life.

H: I agree with Ben. There was no pressure and allowed us to let loose and experiment while performing - I kept looking at the guys and going, “let’s remix this song” and so we’d play a song like Fishtank or Garden of Eden we’ve played a million times and try it in a whole new way (a new beat, melody, outro section, etc). it just felt so free and fun (maybe that was after a couple tequila sodas but who’s counting?) 

What makes the Pittsburgh music scene so special?

H: Everyone is so talented???!! (Like it blows my mind) and the bands here cover so many genres- it’s just cool how there’s a show and a band for everyone’s interests. And each musician I’ve met is truly passionate about keeping music alive and thriving here. 

B: I think, in part, because we’re a college scene, there’s less of a drive to “break out of Pittsburgh” and so there’s less “competition” the way you might find it in cities like Nashville or Philly, where I’ve heard the bands are less friendly. Instead—and not to sound cliche, but—the scene here feels like one big family. So many other musicians in the scene feel like siblings, cousins, uncles, etc. and we’re all connected. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Is there a certain process you use to curate your lyrics? Does the music flow first or do the words?

H: our process alternates between music first and lyrics first when writing. It really depends on the day. When we are in person, we try to do a lot of improvised writing, which would be music first. Sometimes we start individually on our own and I write some lyrics or Ben makes a guitar part and then we exchange back and forth until we have a song. I would say we’ve had the most success with music first writing. 

In “On my Knees” you say “I’d do it all again for one last dance.” What song are you choosing for your one last dance? 

B: Blame it on the Water by Sir Woman

H: From Eden by Hozier 

Is there a reason the songs in the album are curated in that order?

B: Vibes.

Which color would the official funky lava lamp be?

B: I think it would be pretty on-brand for the Funky Lava Lamp to change colors.

You mentioned this album contains songs that were written years ago, how did you decide which songs would fit with this new vibe?

In Light of Changes has the bulk of the songs we’ve written in those two years, and certainly the bulk of what we’ve been performing. That’s not to say we don’t have other music, but the other songs we’ve written—a few heavy/punk songs and a small collection of folky, acoustic songs—clearly didn’t fit the vibe. We also decided to release our last single, On My Knees, separately, replacing it on the album with Gentleman which felt like a better fit. Maybe it’s just because we’ve been playing these songs for so long now, but the entire album, given its range, feels very cohesive. 

What is your favorite lyric/line in the album?

H: “don’t let your honeysuckle heart fade away” 

B: “She'd smell like cigarettes / or lemon tea / Not easy to forget but / always breaking free”

What is the story/inspiration behind the cover art?

B: In (what I consider) another creative life, I did a lot of freelance work as a 3D environment and prop artist. One of my favorite album covers (Ripe’s Joy in the Wild Unknown) was made in the same program I used, and in a style similar to my own. If you look it up, you’ll see the inspiration. I manually modeled the lamp, made textures for everything, and used 3D scans of foliage for the greenery. Then I used the depth data from the scene to add a haze and did some color correction in post. If you want to get all interpretive, you could say the lamp in the dark is a symbol for the band, and this music, being sources of light in my life. But really, I just thought it looked cool.

What’s next for Funky Lamp?

We’re going back into the studio later this spring to record a short punk release we’ve been putting together. That’ll be in production over the summer. We’re also hoping to record another EP with our acoustic/folk material, which would probably follow up the punk release. Or we could combine the two and make the weirdest album ever. After that, it’s back to funk. In the meantime, we’re just trying to write as much as we can.


As you can see, this crew is the beam of light that’s brightening the Pittsburgh music scene. If you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss out on a show. You can listen to the new LP from Funky Lamp down below! 

Written and Interviewed by Mark Bluemle

Photography by Colin Tierney

Production Assistance: Eli Alfieri

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