“We wanted to see if there was another way to live in this world,” says Jeff Gorman, one half of the breakout Virginia duo Illiterate Light. “We wanted to throw ourselves out into the wild and see if there was another way to tour and make music.” With their self-titled major label debut, Illiterate Light have done just that, stretching boundaries and upending expectations with a captivating blend of soaring indie rock, swirling psychedelia, and atmospheric folk that calls to mind everything from Neil Young and My Morning Jacket to Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses.
Recorded with producers Adrian Olsen (Foxygen, Natalie Prass) and Vance Powell (Jack White, Kings Of Leon, Chris Stapleton), the record is blissful and ecstatic, with a mix of raw electric guitars, propulsive drums, and shimmering harmonies that showcases the band’s remarkable live setup—Gorman plays guitar with his hands and synth bass with his feet, while his musical partner, Jake Cochran, plays a standup drum kit—and captures the scintillating energy that’s fueled their journey from a small-town organic farm to the star-studded roster of Atlantic Records.
Gorman and Cochran first met while attending college in Harrisonburg, VA, where they discovered a shared passion for sustainable living and community building. After graduation, they took over a local organic farm, spending their days tending crops and working farmer’s markets and their nights performing anywhere they could land (or make) a gig.
Dubbing themselves the Petrol Free Jubilee Carnival Tour, the pair would often tour the region on their bikes, sometimes joined by as many as two-dozen other cyclists and artists, performing at coffee houses, street corners, rock clubs, and off-the-grid communities. “The only way we were able to make it work was by virtue of the blissful, youthful energy that comes from feeling like you’re a part of something important,” Cochran says of balancing the pair’s dual devotions to art and agriculture. “We loved both sides of that life, but at a certain point, we had to admit that were much better musicians than farmers.” With that in mind, Cochran and Gorman left the farm to focus on music full-time in 2016, christening their duo Illiterate Light in a nod to Wilco’s “Theologians.”
Building off what they’d learned from their cycling days, the pair simplified their strategy, playing everything themselves and living out of a Subaru-turned-tour bus as they honed in on a distinctive sound and identity over three years of relentless touring. Press was quick to take notice, with NPR hailing the music as “a perfect addition to your summertime playlist,” and the band earned dates supporting the likes of Rainbow Kitten Surprise, The Head and The Heart, Shakey Graves, Rayland Baxter, and Mt. Joy. After signing with Atlantic in 2019, the duo landed high-profile festival slots at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Newport Folk Fest.