Sitting on the upper deck of the modern, high-polish coffee shop Form & Function on a smoky August morning, brothers Sean and Kyle Luster somehow managed to be counterpoints to both the gloom outside and the self-conscious hipness inside. All this despite the fact neither of them drinks coffee.
"Everyone we bump into, they ask, 'How much coffee did you have?' but we don't drink coffee. We have so much energy from performing and everything, and people are surprised by it. It's just the taste," said Sean, the oldest of the two.
"Our mom drinks coffee, and we grew up with that every morning. She's had me try it three times and each time I've almost thrown up," Kyle said.
Together, Sean and Kyle are the core members of Red Light Challenge, one of the hardest-working popular music groups in Boise. Like they said, they have a lot of energy. Since moving to Boise in 2015—they originally hail from Hawaii—they've performed more than 250 times. They'll play anywhere, from conventional venues like The Olympic to grocery stores, the Capital City Public Market and private events.
"We had to play loud, to be energetic, just to get attention," Sean said.
The Lusters could just as easily be the Gemini Twins, the Mario Brothers or adjacent puzzle pieces. Kyle and Sean live together and finish each other's sentences. At Form & Function, they were dressed as usual: Sean in a blue v-neck t-shirt and Kyle in a red v-neck t-shirt and red shoes. The brothers have become so associated with their color schemes that once, when Sean dared to wear red, it upset one of their mutual friends.
"We have a load of laundry between the two of us that's always red, that's always blue," Kyle said.
"I have two blue drawers besides the stuff that's already hung up. And also, besides that, it makes it so easy to pick what we're wearing," Sean added.
Their hard work has literally taken them places. When the brothers sat down with BW, they had just returned to Boise from a multi-city tour that took them to McCall, Moscow, Coeur d'Alene and Seattle. Before that, they'd played the Broadway Albertsons grand opening, Eagle Fun Days and in the Salt Lake City area. They even played at Boise Pride Fest and at Guru Donuts on National Donut Day. After the interview, they went back on tour, this time to southern California for gigs at Bell Cottage in Burbank, House of Blues in Anaheim and Canter's Deli & Bar in Los Angeles.
The set at House of Blues will have a special weight. In late August, Red Light Challenge played at the Next2Rock competition at The Buffalo Club in Boise, where it won the statewide competition that took them to the national finals at House of Blues. Whichever band goes home in glory after that competition will get a record deal from Big Machine Label Group. The winner will be announced in October.
Even in light of the chance to win a record deal, the Lusters aren't in a rush to record an album. Instead, they said they've established momentum cutting singles and making music videos, though that could change. In 2015, they released their only recorded material to date, the Lookout Mountain EP. Since then, they've released nine videos, all available on their website, and plenty of singles—they said they plan to drop another in the coming weeks. In addition, they've assembled a five-piece band for live shows and recordings that includes Justin Tam on guitar, Noah Rudin on keys and Joe Warnecke on bass.
"With regards to recording, we really just want to keep the momentum going of releasing a single, releasing a music video, releasing a single, releasing another music video," said Kyle. "That's the pace we want to create, especially while I'm still here at Boise State University."
Kyle was speaking just before the first day of his fourth year at Boise State, where Sean finished his MBA in 2017 after graduating with a bachelor's in business from Colorado State University. The brothers will continue to perform, record and film while Kyle finishes his degree, but the stress of being a student and a professional musician never wears him down.
"One of the phrases we live by is that everything gets done, so even with school and everything, if we're performing, if we're writing or whatever, schoolwork always gets done," Sean said.
"It always gets done, it always works out and it's never that bad," Kyle said.