It only takes one play of Idiot Soul for Damien Verrett — the 24-year-old singer/songwriter behind SO MUCH LIGHT — to engulf and captivate the listener. With a soothing flood of inviting melodies over lush instrumental backdrops, Verrett’s soulful crooning instantly encapsulates the sultry allure of SO MUCH LIGHT. His carefully-calibrated production yields an expressive combination of character and charisma that embodies SO MUCH LIGHT’s aesthetic credo as a whole.
Yet despite the seemingly serious melodic intent of Idiot Soul (a DIY production recorded mostly in Verrett’s bedroom), the tracks are punctuated by a self-deprecating sarcasm, clever word play and sardonic observations, presented like an elbow to the rib of millennial shortcomings. The quintessential example appears in the track "Soap Box," when Verrett comments on American mass marketing culture by asking ‘why become a god when you could be a brand?’ “I try to be as honest as possible,” says Verrett of his writing process, “Good songwriting involves being comfortable with addressing one’s faults. I relate best to flawed artists and even more so to artists who are aware of those flaws.”
Beyond Verrett’s tongue-in-cheek self-awareness lies an imaginative and innovative artist. Resting on the shoulders of Verrett’s former math rock experience, the unconventional structure of “Let It Absorb You” adds endearing art-rock credibility to the playful pop-heavy vibe of the record. With lingering traces of M83 and Stars in the mix, SO MUCH LIGHT shows an ability to lend accessibility to any genre. “I grew up gigging in this world of technical musicianship that was very ‘chops’ heavy,” says Verrett, “I think that background has liberated my writing. Having access to different styles of playing gives you a deeper well to pull from when writer’s block hits.”
Verrett’s versatility bleeds through on Idiot Soul’s final track, “Connect.” The acoustic retelling of Drake’s emotive original shows the softer side of SO MUCH LIGHT, focusing on Verrett’s solemn voice and remarkable guitar skills. “I’m fascinated by the craft of songwriting,” says Verrett. “Covers allow me to get inside the heads of the artists I admire. The bass line in ‘Connect’ lent itself well to acoustic guitar and the somber tone of the lyrics and melody fit right in with the stripped down arrangement.”
Each song on Idiot Soul is crafted using manipulated acoustic instruments. Marimbas, vibraphones and pianos, as well as vocal samples, lift the production beyond the tired synth patches commonly used in electronic pop. A virtuoso in his craft, Verrett has managed to lace bits of science into the soundboard. He explains, "Like the human eye searches for faces, I suspect that our ears search for familiar sounds. I try to use the human voice as an instrument as much as possible. I image that even after it is mangled and tweaked significantly, our brain is still drawn to it."
SO MUCH LIGHT unites the electronic indie charms of Toro Y Moi and Flume with the courage and swagger of R&B stars like Neyo and The Weeknd. By seamlessly combining soul with exceedingly intelligent and thoughtfully-arranged production and textures, Verrett has expanded the boundaries of conventional genres. Part observational poet, emotive melodist, inventive sound designer and detail-oriented perfectionist, SO MUCH LIGHT is without a doubt the total package.