Quiet Light Celebrates Debut Album Fourth of July With a Heartfelt Homecoming Show

Independence Day arrives July 1 for folk-minded pop artist Riya Mahesh

Quiet Light (Photo by Emma Roche)

In October 2021, then-biology/math undergraduate Riya Mahesh debuted as Quiet Light on an unassuming Tuesday night at Hole in the Wall, booked by friends made at UT-Austin radio station KVRX.

This Saturday, the singer-songwriter returns to the West Campus venue after her first year of medical school in Massachusetts to launch the folk-minded pop project’s debut album, Fourth of July. Morphing the night into a family reunion, bandmate and close friend Nova opens with synth-led pop, and indie rockers A.L. West – who also played at Mahesh’s farewell show last June – follow with jangly riffage, while Anga’s Mill closes with a DJ set.

“It's nice when everyone that you love is there and you're good friends with the people that play before and after you,” says the 22-year-old. “It just feels like a family affair, and that's what I wanted to do for this show.”

“I was like, ‘Okay, let’s equate it – Fourth of July equals love.’ It’s sort of like naming the album Valentine’s Day for me.” – Riya Mahesh

Once a 4-year-old who hated the piano lessons her mother put her in, Mahesh now expresses gratitude not just for her musical upbringing, but also the community she found in the Austin music scene. After all, Fourth of July emerged from an 18-month collaboration with producers Anthony Laurence Bazzini (Font) and Will Clark, following six months writing alone. In particular, she attributes much of the brilliance of single “Superstar” – “I’m never gonna be able to make anything better than that,” she insists – to the duo’s producing chops.

“I distinctly remember sitting in Will Clark’s apartment, and they were playing me this song on Logic that sounded completely different from the song that I left,” says Mahesh. “It really taught me the power of bringing another person into your music. Sometimes all that matters for me is that I have good lyrics, but it’s nice to have people to push you to make something different.”

At its core, Quiet Light proves a therapeutic outlet for the multi-instrumentalist. Inspired by Matthew Berninger of the National for his honest, confessional songwriting, she branded her outlet after the Brooklyn-based band’s 2019 track, “Quiet Light.” Just as Berninger reflects on a past relationship with his warm baritone (“But I'm learning to lie here in the quiet light/ While I watch the sky go from black to grey”), Mahesh, too, finds herself writing music to examine her relationships – and in this case, locking herself in her room for four days to demo the entire album following a prolonged, messy parting.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” she says. “But I can’t move past anything that’s happened in my life until I make a song about it, whether it’s moving away from someplace, a breakup, or even a friendship breakup.

“Honestly, the music is very much for me.”

Recorded in a crafty home studio set up by Bazzini and Clark, Fourth of July retains the heart of Mahesh’s sixth-grade attempts to piece together iPhone voice memos on GarageBand. A certain do-it-yourself sincerity still rings through delicate guitar strums, subtle waves of white noise, and the occasional apologetic voice memo, all accented by punchy rhythms and vocal modulation. Breathy and tender, Mahesh’s vocals echo through seven heart-on-sleeve confessionals and swell in a layered refrain on centerpiece “Fourth of July”: “On your front porch, talking shit about our friends.

“It really encompasses the feeling of being young,” she says. “The real things you have to worry about are just so small, and it's freeing to reminisce on that and post-grad life.

“I think of the best days of my 20s, and I think of the Fourth of July. I was like, ‘Okay, let's equate it – Fourth of July equals love.’ It's sort of like naming the album Valentine's Day for me.”

Despite a recent rerelease of side project Blue Angel Sparkling Silver’s album I Love You Because You’re in Love With the World, Mahesh considers Fourth of July Quiet Light’s debut album. After making five albums under the former pseudonym in 2022, the singer-songwriter moved them from Spotify to Bandcamp when the project gained popularity following discovery by Black Country New Road drummer Charlie Wayne. With plans to rerelease select songs under Quiet Light, she also hopes to incorporate the “digital scrapbook” nature of Blue Angel Sparkling Silver into her main project.

“It’s this idea of time not being linear,” she adds about Fourth of July. “You fall in love with different people over the years, but at the end of the day, it ends up being the same story. You have the honeymoon phase, and you’re just coexisting for a while, and then eventually, it doesn’t work out. And you still get back up and do it again.”

With three additional July shows lined up in New York, Saturday marks Quiet Light’s only show in Austin this summer.

“I don't see myself ending Quiet Light anytime soon,” says Mahesh. “I think it's going to be a pretty big part of at least my 20s. So maintaining those connections within Austin, and coming to visit as much as I can, while also trying to play other venues and other states – that's the point that I'm at right now.”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Quiet Light, Riya Mahesh, Anthony Laurence Bazzini, Will Clark, Nova, A.L. West, Anga’s Mill

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