Future Southern: An Interview with The Bright Light Social Hour

Future Southern: An Interview with The Bright Light Social Hour
Courtesy Photo The Bright Light Social Hour are known for their incendiary live shows that merge their influences of multiple iterations of psychedelic and southern rock. The band consists of Curtis Roush (left, guitar/vocals), Jack O’Brien (center, bass/vocals), and Joseph Mirasole (drums). They tour with Edward “Shreddward” Braillif (synths/guitar).

Courtesy Photo
The Bright Light Social Hour are known for their incendiary live shows that merge their influences of multiple iterations of psychedelic and southern rock. The band consists of Curtis Roush (left, guitar/vocals), Jack O’Brien (center, bass/vocals), and Joseph Mirasole (right, drums). They tour with Edward “Shreddward” Braillif (synths/guitar).

There’s a lot to be said about the southern psychedelic rock band The Bright Light Social Hour.

Essentially, the band started about 10 years ago with Jack O’Brien (bass, vocals) and Curtis Roush (guitar, vocals) while the two were in grad school in Austin, Texas. After adding Joseph Mirasole (drums) and A. J. Vincent (keyboard, vocals) to the line up, they started playing shows as a band and quickly caught on to the bustling music scene with their high-energy rock performances.

They released their first self-titled LP in 2010 to critical acclaim and went on to do several national tours. They’ve played Wakarusa twice before, and they were awarded Band of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Showcase in 2011.

On Monday, Nov. 3, at George’s Majestic Lounge, they’ll be tearing it up in passionate psychedelic-rock style with Austin friends Walker Lukens and the Side Arms.

The Free Weekly was able to get a phone interview with Jack O’Brien on tour while they were traveling the Georgia wilderness.

Here’s our Q&A:

TFW: I know you guys have played Fayetteville before. A lot of times the city gets compared to a smaller version of Austin. Being an Austinian, do you get that vibe when you come here?

O’Brien: Yeah, I get that vibe. The people are definitely super open-minded and sweet. They’re very into individuality, which is really cool. Very expressive. I dunno, it definitely had a very funky feel — not what I was expecting from a smaller city in Arkansas — which was really cool.

TFW: Okay, let’s talk about your second album you guys are going to be coming out with soon. Where are you in the process with it? Does it have a name yet?

O’Brien: It’s done. It’s recorded and all there. We’re finalizing the business side of it, and getting a team together. We just hired on a new manager, we’re currently getting a new booking agent and hiring a new publicist. We’re also in the final stages of signing with an indie record label out of New York. Looks like we’ll be releasing it in the first part of 2015. It will be called “Space is Still the Place.”

TFW: How did you all decide to name your album that?

O’Brien: A lot of the music sort of has a theme of a juxtaposition between this gritty, vintage feel and a very psychedelic, dreamy, future feel. I think that’s in the lyrics, that fits that vibe. It’s about dealing with a lot of the gritty, ugly realities that face us individually in the society that we are working with, and escaping into ourselves. We call it “going to space,” basically retreating into our own minds and dreams as an escape, and as a way to see the light and look positively upon difficult circumstances. We’ve always had a huge obsession with space and we want the music to take a look at the world around, but also go to space at the same time.

TFW: That all sounds awesome. You guys are playing a lot of the new songs live. So now that you’re making these set lists with both your old and your new songs, how does it feel to play the two different types of albums together?

O’Brien: They’re really different. The first album we wrote, Curtis and I were both in grad school and life was very stressful and serious sometimes. That first album was sort of our escape from that and we wanted to write a very fun sort of party-rock thing. We weren’t touring yet so every show we did was a big party, a celebration, an escape. That reflected in the music. When we started going on tour, you can’t have that every single night. It felt a little hard to feel those night after night. Some songs more than others. Now we’ve worked out a set and retooled some of those songs so they’re inline with some of our new stuff and they’re a little more psychedelic. It’s kind of the vibe of what we’re doing. Unfortunately we don’t play “Bare Hands Bare Feet” anymore, but some of the other ones we’ve reworked. They invite every person to have their own experience in addition to a community experience.

TFW: So how has the rock n’ roll climb been? Where you’re coming from Austin to the point now where you can say there’s a lot of important announcements coming up?

O’Brien: It’s been good. It’s been steady. The band technically started with Curtis and I in college. It started as a hardcore band with all screaming vocals and odd time signatures, very different from what we’re doing now. It started being an outlet for our weirdness, and over the years we’ve taken it from a hobby to a passion and a focus. Austin is a really hard music town because there’s just so many bands and 200 live music venues. You’re competing with so much. At first it felt like a tough place, but once we kept trucking through it we got a lot of support and love and met a lot of great artists who helped us get to touring around the South.

Eventually we signed a Canadian booking agent who got us a lot of shows and festivals up there, which led to an American booking agent and helped us tour as much as we can. We built a studio at the place where the drummer and I live outside Austin and we recorded this album ourselves and got Chris Cody to mix it, who’s an amazing mixing engineer out of New York. He produced Beach House’s last record, and worked with TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He took it over the finish line for us. We’re really excited to bring it out and share it. I’d say it’s been only 10 years of hard, back-breaking work.

TFW: So on your Facebook page you have “future” listed as a genre. At least with what you’re doing on “Space is Still the Place,” I’m curious to know how you think Southern music is going to evolve in the South or otherwise.

O’Brien: Yeah, that’s actually what we’re very obsessed with. I think the Southern part of the country still has a very strong identity. That comes out in music, literature, art of all types. That will be an interesting question, how will it evolve into the future and will it continue to have as much of an identity. I think there are a lot of artists like The Flaming Lips, they’re a great example of somebody who’s breaking boundaries and visions. I think that’s something that — in general in the South — we have a more harder time with, not doing the same thing over and over again.

I think we’ll start seeing a lot of Southern artists and Southern musicians start embracing things like technology, synthesizers, drum machines, music software, ways of collaborating with computers and the internet in order to find new ways of representing the Southern experience and acknowledging the past. A lot of that is a dark history that we have, but acknowledging it and embracing new ways forward and making something that is really unique out of that. That would be something very difficult for someone outside of the South to make something like that. I think that’s why that music is important to what it means to be from the South as we move into the future. Our record is like our little stab at doing that, and I think there’s a million other great artists who are doing that.

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