5 (or more) questions with The Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Psychedelic rock outfit The Bright Light Social Hour formed in Austin, Texas more than a decade ago. The musicians (Curtis Roush on guitar, vocals and synths; Jack O’Brien on bass, vocals and synths; and Joseph Mirasole on drums and synths) claim Miles Davis as their sole interest on Facebook but, as O’Rien explains below, they actually take inspiration from film, visual art and even the growth formation of trees.

The band is currently touring in support of Space Is Still the Place, and will perform at The Mothlight Sunday, Oct. 25, at 9:30 p.m. Firekid opens. $18 advance/$12 day of show. In advance of the show, O’Brien talks about making videos, communication skills and the band’s “Humans of New York”-like blog project, “Future South.”

Xpress: Where are you at with the “Future South” blog right now – will there be more posts? And do you think any of the stories you collected for the blog will make their way into songs?

Jack O’Brien: It’s on pause right now while we’re off from tour, but will definitely be picking it back up this fall. If you’re reading this and have an interesting story of struggle, come tell us about it at the show! Stories like these inspired a lot of the last record, it’s certainly possible that some these influence us and make their way into future songs.

In an interview with In the Crowd, Curtis mentioned how after touring the first album for a couple of years, you realized you weren’t those people any more. Space Is Still the Place has only been out for seven months, but it’s been a lot longer since you wrote and recorded it. Does it still feel like a good fit? Has your relationship to the songs changed since you’ve been touring it?

We were fortunate in that we had a long period before finishing recording and releasing the record where we could step away from it and come back with a fresh perspective. I’m still feeling very connected to the music and am very proud of the social awareness and positive, progressive messages tucked in there. We’re always finding ways to evolve the songs to fit our growing tastes and interests or whatever wondrous mood we might be in during a show.

I love the video for “Infinite Cities.” How do you go about creating a visual representation for a piece of music?

I like to put a song on repeat in headphones and fall asleep, Dalí-style, in a chair, with a spoon in my hand. I get a lot of ideas in those first few seconds of dreaming before waking back up. We also talk a lot early on in the writing process about what kind of scenes the budding songs make us imagine. Those discussions definitely influence the accompanying video/artwork.

In what ways do you think being from Austin effects your sound – are there ways the city or location actually impacts or informs your songs?

Of course. It’s a city that’s progressive and weird as f**k but with a lot of tradition, and I think that comes through in the sound.

In an interview with Artist Direct, Joe talked about how you and he have very different personalities and approach music differently. How did the four of you figure out how to work together and communicate your ideas in a cohesive way – did it happen organically?

It’s always a bit of a struggle. It’s like a marriage. It requires a lot of open communication and a lot of compassion. We talk about our feelings a lot. It’s amazing how really making an effort to understand the view points of those around helps you find a way to get on the same page.

The new album is so visual – can you name some non-musical influences (artists, authors, films, filmmakers, blogs, etc.) that inspired that group of songs or new songs that you’re working on?

Yeah, we take influence from a ton of not-music things. Alejandro Jodorowsky (especially Jodorowsky’s Dune and The Holy Mountain), CANADA (a group of video directors from Spain), Deleuze, Gandhi, aspen trees — did you know they grow as clonal colonies, meaning that though you can see individual trees above ground they’re all connected underground, meaning whole forests can be a single organism, some up to 80,000 years old? That’s tight. We also listen to a lot of “WTF with Marc Maron” on the road. It’s cool to know that everyone struggles, and in such unique ways. It makes life so colorful.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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