(L–R) Together, Isaiah Michael and Christian Riley craft Civil Lust’s dark-edged, opalescent sound. Photo: johnnybetts.com

Localized: Civil Lust


This month’s SLUG Localized brings you the glam-goth aesthetic and new wave sounds of Civil Lust; the futurist, minimum pop stylings of Primitive Programme; and an opening set by DJ Cesar Reyes. Prepare for waves of post-punk, new wave and electronic to hit the stage at Urban Lounge on June 29. Thank you to our sponsors at Uinta Brewing Co., High West Distillery, Spilt Ink SLC and KRCL 90.9FM. Localized is free and for folks 21 and older. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Despite living and practicing their music in the same apartment that Ted Bundy once did,  Civil Lust members Christian Riley and Isaiah Michael have a charismatic vibe to the feel of their home: Dried roses hang on the walls, and posters of classic goth bands are delicately placed and instruments have found their way into every corner of the room. Their grungy-yet-glam aesthetic had taken my heart before the interview even started. Inspired by bands such as The Cure and Morrissey, Civil Lust are part of the new rise of goth in Salt Lake City, and they’ve become quite a hit in the local scene.

Civil Lust are pros at combining glam aesthetic with moody, wave-y music. Photo: johnnybetts.com
Civil Lust are pros at combining glam aesthetic with moody, wave-y music. Photo: johnnybetts.com

Riley and Michael met through mutual friends and had discussed making music together a year and a half before the band truly started. “We both needed a place to live at the same time,” says Riley. “We ended up moving in together. We started jamming a little and a friend asked us to play a show. But really, the band existed before we actually started playing shows.” At first, making music together was an outlet, a way for fun expression. But after being invited to play show after show, Riley and Michael started taking their music more seriously. “The band is definitely becoming what we do,” says Riley. “We’ve evolved into actually caring about what we’re doing.” From their high level of local success to a recent West Coast tour and the release of their album Constitutions, Civil Lust are on the move and aiming for even bigger goals.

Although the two had played in previous bands, they hadn’t found what they were looking for until they became roommates and discovered their mutual love of new wave and goth music. “Civil Lust reflects the stuff that we like listening to,” says Michael. “We also wear makeup. There’s always fog machines at our shows. We’ve always liked that aesthetic.” And if you haven’t seen Civil Lust live or checked out their Instagram (@civillust), you should know one thing about these guys: They. Are. Fashion. “We have a lot of friends who are photographers and artists,” says Michael. “The pictures are high-end, fashion style. The music we write is very dark, depressing. But the aesthetic we put off is very glamorous.”

Civil Lust are pros at combining glam aesthetic with moody, wave-y music. The conception of Constitutions comes from a universal, human experience: the feeling of self-doubt, figuring out what is important to you and discovering your personal principles. “The name comes from that: building a constitution for yourself,” says Riley. “It was written at a time of deep questioning and reflecting.” As Riley was writing the songs, Michael noticed the similarities in the lyrics, which all coincided nicely together. “It’s pretty much my daily struggle,” says Michael. “All the anxiety, all the pressure from society, secret sets of rules—all of us deal with this shit, and we’re approaching it dead on. Accept that life is shitty and a lot of things about it are garbage, but rather than moping about it, we can look at the beauty in it.”

Even though Constitutions discusses heavy topics and has a darker mood to it, I found myself relaxed and feeling peaceful while listening to the album. The album, though goth, is also mixed nicely with new wave and electronic tones that balance the moody feel with relaxing intonations. “When we were done recording, we listened to the album,” says Michael. “Our first thought was, ‘This is fucking stoner music.’ It’s super chill and wavy.” Riley notes that although they’re not going for a particular message in the music, he hopes that everyone can take something from their music. “The main priority for me when writing is to convey a mood or tone and have everything else complement that,” he says. “As long as people feel something, that’s awesome. People can approach it from whatever angle they want.”

“We also wear makeup. There’s always fog machines at our shows. We’ve always liked that aesthetic," says Isaiah Michael of Civil Lust. Photo: johnnybetts.com
“We also wear makeup. There’s always fog machines at our shows. We’ve always liked that aesthetic,” says Isaiah Michael of Civil Lust. Photo: johnnybetts.com

Riley and Michael recently drove back to SLC from their West Coast tour, which encompassed major cities including Boise, Portland, Eugene, San Francisco and Oakland. “Going on tour, even a small one, helps you realize what you need to do and helps you see where you’re at as a band,” says Riley. On a similar note, Michael learned that a traveling group of two bandmates makes for laid-back tours. “It’s pretty easy to get out and do it,” he says. “You can take a weekend off and go play some awesome shows in cities you’ve never been in. It’s really positive in that aspect.” Both members are extremely grateful to the touring cities they’ve visited as well as our local Salt Lake scene. “Salt Lake is so supportive,” says Riley. “Our album release show was an amazing experience for us. It made us have an entirely new appreciation for our local music scene.”

Be on the lookout for Civil Lust’s future shows, tours and releases. You can check out their music at civillust.bandcamp.com. Don’t miss their headlining act at SLUG Localized on June 29 at Urban Lounge.