The 'Unique Blend' of Squeek Lights

by Bobby Boyer
in Designer Profile
Squeek Lights has been supplying (and designing lighting for) Silverstein and other bands. Photo by Sean Varga
Squeek Lights has been supplying (and designing lighting for) Silverstein and other bands. Photo by Sean Varga

Post hardcore bands Senses Fail and Silverstein shared a great deal in common, beyond their excellence in their musical genre, when they toured together in 2015. Both had achieved critical acclaim; both had loyal cult-like followings, and both maintained relentless touring schedules. Unfortunately, both also lacked the budget for the kind of lighting rig that could do visual justice to their hard driving music. It was then that Victor Zeiser stepped in.

The founder of New York-based Squeek Lights, Zeiser convinced the two groups to share the same rig and allow him to use it to create a unique lightshow for each band: heavier and moodier for Senses Fail, brighter and faster for Silverstein. Pooling their resources allowed the bands to have a rig that was beyond the reach of either’s budget. It also resulted in two killer lightshows.

From left, Ben Jarrett, Victor Zeiser and Steve Kosiba.

    An Unusual Path
Getting two bands to rent a rig together and share the same designer isn’t something that happens on every tour, but then Zeiser has clearly demonstrated a knack for defying convention already in his young career. This much is evidenced by the very history of Squeek Lights, which occupies the unusual position of being a rental house started and operated by an active lighting designer.
Why does a young LD not long out of college (Webster University) start a rental company? In Zeiser’s case, the answer was simple: to get his hands on newer and better fixtures for his designs. “While I was in school, I went to work for Logic Systems in St. Louis, and after graduation I eventually migrated to New York City, where I did a bunch of random gigs,” he recalls. “That was in 2012. A lot of my clients back then didn’t have amazing budgets — and I got frustrated with my only option being decade-old 250-watt arc fixtures. I saw that the LED technology was starting to creep into our budget range, thanks to companies like Chauvet Professional, and it seemed like a window of opportunity was opening for someone willing to take a chance.”
That opportunity came when one of the bands Zeiser worked for put together a busy year-long touring schedule. “I kind of looked at the situation and came to the conclusion that I could go out and buy a Chauvet rig that was way nicer than what I could rent from my usual vendor,” he says. “It was a way of dipping my toe in the water. If owning my own gear didn’t work out, I could sell it off at the end of the year and pretend it never happened. So, really, if you want to look at it one way, I started Squeek Lights as a sneaky means of getting a better show for myself.”
Initially, Zeiser was Squeek Lights’ best customer, renting gear to himself for tours by bands like They Might Be Giants, The Psychedelic Furs and The Wonder Years, in addition to Silverstein and Senses Fail. It wasn’t long, however, before other LDs and tour managers were turning to his Long Island City, NY-based company to rent gear for their tours and one offs. Still, lighting design remained close to Zeiser’s heart and business model.

    Focusing on Results
“My design work is the ‘Squeek’ in Squeek Lights,” he says. “Some of our clients are designers that rent packages, but bands make up the bulk of our business. Bands will come to us looking for full service, and that is really what we do best. Artists or their management will hear about what we’ve done from their friends — or sometimes see our work for themselves. They’ll come to us and say, ‘Give us a light show,’ and we just take it from there. How we utilize the lights we send out is so much more important than which lights happen to go out with a band. We are more about the results than the actual gear.”
Still, stocking value-driven fixtures is a key part of Zeiser’s growth strategy for Squeek Lights. “We aren’t interested in stocking the most expensive fixtures possible; we want the ones that deliver the best performance and value. This serves us and our clients better by making it easier to create big shows,” he explains. “We started with 10 R1 Spots and some COLORdash Bars from Chauvet. Then we’ve grown by adding 24 Rogue R2 Washes, Nexus Bars and other fixtures. We have over 50 moving fixtures in stock. Now we’re moving into the Chauvet Professional Maverick.”
To help him keep up with Squeek Lights’ expanding business, Zeiser took on two partners earlier this year, Ben Jarrett and Steve Kosiba, both of whom bring a wealth of experience to the company. Jarrett has toured with Minus the Bear, Bro Safari and Mad Decent Block Party. Kosiba has worked for five years with Starlite Productions.
“They have been invaluable in helping me keep things going and not losing my sanity,” Zeiser says of his partners. “One of the nice things we do is help keep each other in check. A challenge we always face is remembering to make purchase decisions with our small business owner brains and not our designer I-like-toys, look-at-that-blink! brains. It’s important to us to find the right balance between performance, novelty and value. We have a unique designer-rental house blend that works here.”
“A unique blend that works?” That’s a statement that the growing number of Squeek Lights clients would agree with whole

Note: This posting has been updated with a caption that IDs the three people pictured in the correct L-R order.