First Look: Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour is yet another testament to the ridiculously talented musicians Austin effortlessly cranks out.

The quartet that make up Bright Light Social Hour, Curtis Roush, guitar/vox; Jack O'Brien, bass/vox; A.J. Vincent,(and two-time winner of Austin's Best Keyboard Player award), keyboards, vox, and Joseph Mirasole, drums, duct-tape, have brought an infusion of sound that is hard to resist. With a little bit of Southern rock, tinged with shake-your-booty dance, and touched off with a dash of soul, a peppering of funk, and a smattering of disco flavor, The Bright Light Social Hour is never predictable. Their innovative, energetic, and awe-inspiring rhythms (like those found on "Shanty," "Bare Hands Bare Feet," land my personal favorite, the epic "Mannish Boy," from their New Year's Live EP, lend themselves to becoming major indie hits. Oh wait, they got that covered.

The Bright Light Social Hour swept the 2011 SXSW awards, snagging an unprecedented six awards including Band of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year, for their self-titled debut album. A rigorous touring schedule ensued after the awards, where the band played over 200 shows in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. That's a lot of tacos.

They returned to their hometown to play for thousands of fans at their sophomore SXSW appearance, after which they promptly hit the road in preparation for their Canadian Music Week schedule. They're closing out the remainder of 2012 with tour dates and festival plays including Wakarusa, Bear Creek Music Festival, and Ottawa Bluesfest. With a tight schedule and tons of traveling in-between, it's amazing we had a moment with the band at all.

But we did. antiMusic caught up with the indie darlings for a fireside, (email), chat.

Jack O'Brien, bassist/vocals/mustache. (oh yes, I listed mustache. Check out their web page for why.)

antiMusic: Can you give us the back history of your band? How did you guys meet? Is this the first or tenth lineup? What works? Who handles the songwriting?Who handles the melodies, lyrics, choruses, music end?

Jack O'Brien: Curt and I met in college, played with an evolving cast and sound til we finished school and found Jo and A.J. We work together on the songwriting. Everyone brings in different parts and we all work to evolve them into songs.

antiMusic: Your self-titled debut had you recording at five different studios. What's the story behind studio hopping?

Jack O'Brien: We recorded some of the material to tape at Cacophony Recorders, did the rest at Good Danny's - the producer, Danny Reisch's home studio- and then traveled to other studios for particular needs like grand piano and B3 organ.

antiMusic: What do you find to be the most challenging part of songwriting?

Jack O'Brien: Getting started

antiMusic: Is this arrangement more of a totalitarian rule, or a democracy?

Jack O'Brien: Definitely very democratic

antiMusic: You play a blues-funk-disco fusion. Can you talk about your sound, how it evolved, and where it is headed?

Jack O'Brien: We all listen to a lot of music and don't close ourselves to drawing from anywhere. We started out playing very intense, avant-garde stuff but we grew out of it over time and started to favor a more musical sound. Im curious to see where it takes us.

antiMusic: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

Jack O'Brien: I was brought up listening to a lot of blues and classic rock, John Lee Hooker, The Doors, Pink Floyd. As I grew up I absorbed as much from as many different genres as I could.

antiMusic: What was the music scene like growing up in Austin?

Jack O'Brien: It was great. My dad would take me to see blues acts all the time as a kid at Antone's. I started gigging around downtown in high school, which was not bad at all, with so many different venues you could always get a show somewhere.

antiMusic: What current musicians do you respect and why? Who do you admire overall? Who was the first musician you looked up to?

Jack O'Brien: Radiohead, Yeasayer, Cut Copy, they keep growing, putting on good shows and putting out good records. Michael Jackson.

antiMusic: If you had a chance to choose your opener in an arena, who would it be? Why?

Jack O'Brien: If it were in an arena, definitely the Harlem Globetrotters.

antiMusic: What themes do you find yourselves drawn to?

Jack O'Brien: love, life, being gypsies.

antiMusic: Do you think coming from a music Mecca such as Austin helps or hinders your creativity? Do you ever feel like you have to get out of Austin to create something new?

Jack O'Brien: Coming from Austin, there was a lot of competition which encouraged us to hone in our live show and sound, and the scene has always been very supportive. Having new experiences on the road has certainly influenced us a ton, but we create new things in Austin all the time.

antiMusic: You went back to SXSW this year. In 2011 you swept with six wins, including band, album, and song of the year. How was this year different from your past experience?

Jack O'Brien: We were a bit more busy this year but it was the same old good time it always is.

antiMusic: Did you feel more in control? What stood out most to you about this trip?

Jack O'Brien: Being from Austin, it's just a nice time to get out and see the whole music world right in our backyard. The amount of people is what stood out most, it grows so much every year.

antiMusic: You seem to have A LOT of Canadian dates line up on your roster. Is there something about Canada that gets you excited? What's the deal?

Jack O'Brien: We just really, really love poutine.

antiMusic: Talk about the difference between your debut album, and the New Year's Live EP.

Jack O'Brien: The debut album was recorded in a studio and New Year's Live is a live recording done in Austin (at the Parish) with a few album tracks and a couple of covers including "Young Man Blues" and "Mannish Boy."

antiMusic: What songs are your favorite to play live right now? Do they change?

Jack O'Brien: We've been trying variations on a few new ones we've been working on, so those are probably the most exciting to play live since they're always evolving.

antiMusic: What song do you want to bury and why? Does it ever get old? With so many tour dates, how do you keep it fresh for your audiences?

Jack O'Brien: I guess "Detroit", but it always feels great to play live. It's easy to put everything into performing it. I think that helps keep it feeling fresh.

antiMusic: Talk to us about the Daytrotter session? What is it?

Jack O'Brien: Daytrotter.com is a great site that does live analog recording sessions with all sorts of bands and posts them for download. They're super-talented engineers and writers, and there's tons of amazing stuff on there.

antiMusic: Given an unending budget, what producer would you like to work with and why?

Jack O'Brien: If we had an endless budget we'd produce ourselves- we could afford the studio time to make a lot of mistakes.

antiMusic: What's next?

Jack O'Brien: Endless touring, songwriting when we get a chance, then sometime next year we'd like to get back into the studio to record our next album.

First Look: Bright Light Social Hour

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