Interview: The Bright Light Social Hour

Lyfstyl caught The Bright Light Social Hour before their show at Lucky Bar on Mar.13—the first visit to Victoria for the Austin, Texas band since they played two shows at Rifflandia in September. Jack O’Brien (vocals, bass), Curtis Roush (guitar, vocals), Joseph Mirasole (drums) and Edward B (keyboards) crammed themselves onto a couch backstage at Lucky against a backdrop of graffiti-ridden walls. TBLSH is back on the road with a new lineup, new music and plans to record a new album this April.


Lyfstyl: When we talked last in the fall, you were midway through the tour and you were planning on going back to Austin. How was the time you spent at home?

Jack: Really great. It was long overdue. We’d just been on the road for two years at that point, doing shows most days and needed to get some time in to just write, re-evaluate and obviously we had a line-up change then too. We just took a look at what was up and what we wanted to be doing, and geared things more towards the future rather than what we had been doing. It was a really great time.

Lyfstyl: We’ve heard a couple of new songs crop up online via Consequence of Sound over the last couple days and we noticed that [former keyboardist] AJ was playing keys on those songs. How much of the writing at home had AJ involved with the process and how much was it keeping in mind that he might be moving on in the near future?

Curtis: I think that was the core issue really. We had trouble writing together after touring for a while. I think we found it gradually easier to write with the three of us the longer we play together and the longer we played on the road, and we struggled to write with AJ and I think that just bloomed into the situation.

Lyfstyl: Were you able to do any recording at home while you were in Austin?

Jack: Just some demos on our own, but we plan to finish this tour, we’ll get home, hopefully finishing up the last few songs, getting the detail work done and hopefully we’ll get to the studio by April, sometime in April. So, soon. We haven’t started recording for the album anything yet, just the demos.

Lyfstyl: Let’s talk about the new stuff you’ve written. What’s it like and how is it different from your previous work?

Curtis: I’d say it’s a lot more psychedelic, a lot more about spaces and the place where the music is at instead of the music itself.

Jack: I think it’s a lot more us, a lot more genuine and natural and comes from a much deeper place in each of us individually. I think there’s a lot more of us as individuals in the new music. There was not a lot of reflection in that [first] album at all. I think there’s a lot more reflection and deeper honesty in the new music.

Curtis: What do we want to do and why.

Lyfstyl: Do you think that’s a result of your experience and then taking more time to write more stuff?

Curtis: I think it’s both.

Jack: Yeah, and having a lot of life experiences together, having lived two years on the road and doing everything as a group and with everybody. And for better and for worse I think it forced us to grow together and write from those experiences. And just the obsessions that we have, like about outer space and progress  and what can the future look like, the things that we find ourselves talking about all the time and that we found those things to be the most interesting things that we could write music about.

Curtis: Simultaneously being roommates and traveling together you develop a shared world view over time. We experience so much together and we talk about it every day, it becomes a thing aside from who we are individually.

Lyfstyl: Is that where you drew most of your influences from [on writing the new music], from your experiences and some of the deeper conversations you’ve had, or were there other things that came into play when you were writing?

Jack: I’d say so. When we have a new song there’s some little piece of music, whether it’s a drum beat, a guitar riff or something and we’re like, ‘something about that is cool,’ what does that say to us, we talk about how that makes us feel. Usually it doesn’t excite all of us unless it’s something that we all understand and feel as a group.

Lyfstyl: How does it change with Edward joining the band? You have said he was a touring keyboard player. What does the future hold with Edward with the band and how you guys are making music moving forward?

Curtis: Well that’s the state of the union. I mean it’s great, I feel warm and safe at night. He takes care of me, my soul feels good, happy and cozy.

Edward: It’s a month by month progress, man. The vibe right now is good, I think.

Jack: Yeah, it’s better than it’s ever been. Ed is just a guy who is very natural and slips in with us perfectly naturally. I think the main value-add that Ed brings is just a refreshed sense of being natural that before there was a lot of confusion and cloudiness that now we feel very clear minded about things and it’s very easy for everyone to be themselves and laid back. I think that’s the best thing you can do in music and in writing music, is to put yourself out there. Because that’s what everybody wants, is just someone just being themselves. Ed makes it easy for us to be ourselves. He just fucking slips right in, like ‘hey, wanna do some badass shit on the voyager?’ and he knows exactly what to do, no questions asked.

Edward: It’s a new relationship and with new relationships you don’t know where they’re going but they feel good and you take it by day-by-day, or month-by-month and we’re just doing that.

Lyfstyl: And where did they find you, [Edward]? I read that Jo came in via Craig’s List, was it something like that?

Jo: I was working in a music store and Edward had just moved from L.A. to Austin where he was going to school, and met him working at the music store. We hired him as a guitar teacher and I ended up kinda becoming best friends with him. We got into electronic music at the same time, learned how to DJ at the same time because we were really fucking bored at this music shop that no one would come in for the first couple hours of the day. So we learned how to DJ, learned how to do all that stuff and ended up DJing together and writing a bunch of electronic music on our own. We’d always joked about trying to pull Ed into the band and the opportunity came up, and we were discussing who we could pull in. We talked about Edward and we all kind of realized, ‘whoa, he’s everything we need and I love him.’ It seemed really easy.

Curtis: It was another suburban story of finding community in technological anonymity, find each other in a music store, find each other on craigslist, but somehow it becomes an indispensable part of our band.

Jo: Yeah, it’s like the least rock and roll type of way to meet each other. It’s basically

Lyfstyl: Ed, in addition to the Brian Eno video you posted, I found your musical background immediately interesting. How do you see yourself bringing your musical background into the band via the EDM music or other stuff you’ve been working on, or from DJing together?

Edward: Bright Light, in my opinion, has matured a lot in the past couple of years as people and as music. They seem to be straying more to the electronic side, incorporating new electronic elements.

Jo: I want to see what the south in the future sounds like. That’s what we find ourselves obsessed with a lot.

Edward: As far as what I’m bringing, is a whole different approach to music as far as my background goes with working with EDM artists like Andain and Francis Prève and Gabriel & Dresden it’s a different approach. Any time you have a different approach to music that is evolving, you hopefully come up with something new. So as far as what I’ve been bringing, it’s just a different idea that everyone can expand on and grow with.

Lyfstyl: With the EDM coming into the fold how does that play in to your live shows?

Jo: When we can afford it, I’d love to have festival style lighting and production. In the meantime, while we’re poor, we do what we can with our noisemaking instruments. But when we can do it I can’t wait to spend a retarded amount of money for people who are on drugs at our shows to make them happy.

Edward: The music is always first. If the music is there, people will enjoy it.

Jack: And tonight we’ll play a bunch new stuff that we’ve been working on. You’ve got the drums,  guitar and bass; it’s easy to make those things sound great and we have spent a lot of time making those things sound great, but I think where the real frontier, the real question mark is with the keyboards. And rather than taking the approach of vintage keys or more of a busy keyboard type of thing, we’re more about textures and really getting the mood right, and the design, the aesthetic of the music. That’s where you really fill in the question marks with that. So I think that what the new music takes from EDM is that it fills the empty spaces, rather than another voice talking at the same time as other voices.

Edward: The approach with keys has been less 60s/70s rock throwback, you know, like Hammond B3 sounds and more about the soundscapes and creating an ambiance that you wouldn’t necessarily hear with rock music. But I’m pretty happy with everything that’s come out so far. It’s hard to do, but from a modest point of view, the sound is going in a good direction. It’s something that people will appreciate because it’s different and it’s a positive vibe, and when you have a positive vibe in music you can’t go wrong.

Lyfstyl: We were wondering how you balancing the music with the entertainment aspect, but Edward I think you already answered that the music comes first.

Edward: Yeah, I mean if you have to have a crazy light show to keep people entertained, you’re doing it wrong. Anything you’re adding visually to the music should complement it, not be dominant.

Jo: I want to be able to play shows like techno DJs in Berlin, where there’s a single red light and nothing else. Just a dark basement and everyone is having the best time of their life, they don’t even know where they are, they don’t even care where they are because it’s just this two or four hour space of an experience that you can’t even explain beyond the feeling of being there. You don’t even know how to talk about what the music sounds like, it’s just that thing and it’s what keeps you coming back, it’s unknowable.

Edward: It’s the experience. And good experiences can’t be summed up in words at all.

Curtis: You can’t make it to explicit. You can’t just occupy all the light, it’s better just to cast it.

Edward: Again, in the end, the music should speak for itself.

Lyfstyl: Is that what you want fans taking away from certain shows, that tribal experience of being in the moment?

Jo: Tribal is a word that comes up more than less. That’s actually one of my favourite things about how techno speaks to people, particularly techno over house music. Techno speaks to this tribal, primal nature, but it’s this modernized version of it where we’re taking the rhythms of our deepest forefathers and moving into the future. And that’s the most romantic, beautiful thing I can possibly think of. Using the technology we have now to speak to our most primal instincts is probably one of the biggest reasons why I love techno, and drums, and rhythm, and anything that makes your body move. Because it escapes the realm of the intellectual — which is one I find myself focusing way too much on — and it bypasses it and moves through your body. I wish I could spend more time in that brainless, more primal state.

Curtis: It’s easier to commune quickly with the body than it is with the mind. There’s so much intermediation with the mind. We all have to come to the same vocabulary and the same concepts, and then finally we find each other, but with the body you can just cut all that out.

Jo: Exactly, try and fall in love with a person that you don’t share a language with using words. I prefer using charm to physical things, and it doesn’t work with me. You find yourself connecting much easier with someone you don’t share a language with on a deeper level without using language, and I think you would find the same with music. I’d much rather try and speak to someone with rhythm than with English because I think you can have a much more powerful impact in a shorter amount of time. You can have your life changed in three minutes of music a hell of a more often than in a three minute conversation.

Lyfstyl: So what is it like for you having tens or hundreds or thousands of people vibe to that same experience?

Jo: It’s literally the only thing that keeps me alive, I’m pretty sure.

Lyfstyl: Is it easy to keep the fuel going if you’re on such a long tour, or does it get hard to keep focused for consecutive shows?

Jack: We certainly have bum nights some of the times. Every city is very different. Some nights it’s a packed club and everyone’s going crazy taking their shirts off, but some nights we’re playing for a 700-capacity room for 12 people. It’s a very different vibe, we just forget it, get into it, and put ourselves out there and hope that somebody will connect, and when they do, you know it and its very fruitful.

Edward: It may be cliché to say this, but if you’re playing from the heart and you’re really doing what you love, people will see that, people respond to it.

If you would like to read LYFSTYL’s review of The Bright Light Social Hour’s concert: CLICK HERE

Interview conducted by: Kevin Vanstone & Vanessa Hawk

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