If you’re a rock-music fan in Austin, Texas, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of a band called the Bright Light Social Hour. A year after releasing its self-titled 2010 debut, the quartet made the 29th annual Austin Music Awards its bitch, taking an unprecedented six categories, including band of the year, album of the year, and song of the year (for the retro soul-funk number “Detroit”).
The band isn’t nearly as well-known around Metro Vancouver, but that might all change in a few days when it plays the Uptown Live! festival this Sunday (August 10) on a bill that boasts Five Alarm Funk, the Matinée, Rich Hope and the Blue Rich Rangers, and 10 other choice acts.
The music that won the Bright Light Social Hour all those accolades at home is a potent blend of neopsychedelic blues, soul, and funk—with a strong undercurrent of southern rock flowing through there, as well.
“When we were putting together the first record we were all kinda rediscovering our classic-rock roots,” explains guitarist Curtis Roush, on the line from Austin. “We all had, like, classic-rock dads who exposed us to that music early on, so that was really a big common ground for us. It still informs our music in some ways now, but with our new music, that kind of sound is not centre-stage anymore.”
That new music will be featured on the BLSH’s second full-length album, which the band recently finished recording and which Roush—the old man of the group, at 30—expects to be out by early next year.
“Our influences are drifting more toward psychedelic music and a lot of electronic dance music,” he says, “and we were seeking to make a record that was a bit more surreal and introspective and a bit more complex in terms of emotion and theme and sound than our first album.
“That first record was reflective of where we were at at the time,” Roush adds, “when we were really excited about getting things goin’ as a band, so it has all this wild kinda partylike optimism. And the record that we just completed is probably indicative of spending more time thinking about what we really want to try and say with our music.”
One thing that likely won’t change much on the new disc is Roush’s exhilarating approach to playing guitar. These days, he’s bringing the blues-drenched damage on a vintage-Tele-style Nash that doesn’t have to compete with Fenders and Gibsons for attention.
“It’s actually my only electric guitar right now,” he says, “which is probably unwise for a touring musician. But they’re so reliable that I’ve never really needed anything else. You know, it’s like the one guitar I can take on a flight and not really even need to retune when I get to a gig. It’s that solid.”
Whoa. I think I smell an endorsement deal in the air.