The Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour played to a packed Shed Stage at Sloss Fest this past July. Loud, high-energy, space-rock anthems were peppered with reminders to love each other, leaving an impact only certain kinds of rock shows can offer. Read our interview below to get a feel for the dudes that made it all happen.

Words by Lindsay McDuffie
Photos by Darrell Nance

Hey guys! We seem to share an enthusiasm for space, so let me ask you, what’s your name, astrological sign, and how do you contribute to the band?

[from left to right]

I’m Curtis, I’m a Scorpio, and I play guitar and sing.

Jack, I’m a Cancer, I play bass and sing.

I’m Edward, I’m a Cancer, and I make coffee. Sometimes play keyboards.

I’m Joe. I’m a non-practicing Capricorn, and I play drums and do a lot of studio stuff.

Well, welcome to Birmingham! Being the home of Sun Ra, we also think “Space is Still the Place,”—which is the name of y’alls new, really freakin’ cool album. It gets better and better every time I listen to it.

[Jack] Thank you.

I wanted to start by asking about the second line on that album: “The weight of weightless faces faces straight.” That’s a great line. Who writes the lyrics?

[Curtis] That was Jack’s line, but we all write the lyrics. He wrote that.

[Jack] Really? You like it? I remember being like, I have this thing I’ve been singing and it doesn’t really make sense….

[Curtis] No, I liked it. It stuck.

[Jack] …And you were like, ”Oh, that’s cool!” Ok, cool. I’m glad it means something to you.

Did I read that you studied linguistics in Spain?

[Jack] Yeah, uh-huh.

Do you have a favorite word?

[Jack] Favorite word. Uhhh…I think I just really love the word Mazcal.

[Everyone laughs] 

[Edward] Ba-donka-donk.

[Jack] Ba-donka-donk is pretty good, too.

How is y’alls recording studio treating you? Have you had much time to play in it since releasing the last record?

[Curtis] Definitely. We’re there most of the time when we’re not touring. We’ve been trying to bring in other local bands into the space and record them. We’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording on our own. We all have projects of our own that we all record there. So, it’s lively.

What’s the vibe like in there?

[Joe] It’s actually my mom’s guest house that we built it out of. My stepdad bought the place in the Seventies and it still feels like that. It feels like this funky old Seventies place on the lake.

[Curtis] It’s like a funky old bungalow, from the Twenties or Thirties. Just a bunch of Texas cedar, limestone. It’s a clubhouse vibe.

[Joe] Yeah, very clubhouse.

[Curtis] On its nicer days.


Joe TBLSH

Joe Mirasole: drummer, studio engineer, non-practicing Capricorn, really nice guy


Another part of that song I quoted earlier, “Sweet Madelene,” makes a point about Southern progress, something that Austin—where y’all are from—has done a good job with, especially for music. Birmingham is starting to climb that ladder.

[Jack] Definitely, yeah.

What advice would you give to a city like ours who is following in the wake of a city like Austin?

[Edward] Don’t vote for Trump.

[Everyone laughs]

Well, clearly. But besides that.

[Curtis] A side question—in the state of Alabama, is Birmingham a blue city, or is it a conservative city, in terms of local government?

It depends on where you are. It’s tricky. The city of Birmingham, as citizens, leans more to the left. But our representation in the state is all red.

[Curtis] It seems with its background, its post-industrial background, you probably have all of these vestiges of worker politics. It’s obviously a very multiracial city, with an interesting past with the Civil Rights movement. It seems like there would be a more progressive culture here than maybe some parts of the south.

We’re trying, yeah. But it’s all about who votes.

[Curtis] Everyone should. It’s kind of annoying. I feel like it’s irresponsible not to. It’s treated as a choice, but I feel like we should culturally shame people who don’t vote, at least a little bit. Just rip em, ya know.

[Jack] Or just make it easier. Make it a tweet. You just send a tweet out—who you want to vote for, and it’s done. But as far as Birmingham and it’s growth–Austin’s rough because it’s been this amazing place with a lot of young, creative people who have moved there, and also a lot of entrepreneurs, with the tech industry there. We all grew up in the area, so we’ve seen it change crazily. There’s a lot of businesses, big hotels—it starts to look like Dallas or something. I don’t know that there’s much you can do about that.

[Curtis] Zoning laws. That’s the one thing. That’s the one thing that everyone ignores in major cities. But it makes the difference. New York and San Francisco are different because of zoning laws.

[Jack] That’s true. And yeah, areas. Areas for the arts, areas for–it’s hard, because you’ve got big condos and big hotels going up in Austin, where ten years ago it was the shitty part of town.

[Curtis] And everyone’s trying to preserve their neighborhood. Like, Oh, don’t build any extra housing or crazy shit in my neighborhood. So then it becomes an issue of short supply. Only the rich people can buy houses when they’re in short supply.

That’s absolutely happening here.

[Jack] Yeah, and you’re probably seeing rent prices climb.

[Curtis] We’re so precious about our neighborhoods and stuff that we won’t build housing, to house all these people that want to come to our city. Which, we should welcome them.

[Jack] You have to understand, if the city’s going to grow, and become something cool, you’ll get a lot of things that come with it that are not as cool. That’s just part of it. People shouldn’t get angry about that. Just embrace it. We’re gonna have big business, we’re gonna have a lot of tourists and stuff. And that’s good, ultimately for everyone.

[Curtis] Locals kind of have it all wrong. They think, “Aw, outsiders are ruining my city. Let’s keep outsiders from coming in,” instead of finding places and infrastructure to put outsiders to make your city more diverse and fun.


Curtis interview

Curtis Roush: Locals have it all wrong. They think, “Aw, outsiders are ruining my city. Let’s keep outsiders from coming in,” instead of finding places and infrastructure to put outsiders to make your city more diverse and fun.


Amen. I couldn’t agree more. So, you said you’re in the studio…working on a new album?

[Joe] Yes. There’s a lot of the music we’re writing and continuing to write. We just finished wrapping up…can we talk about it?

[Curtis] We’ve never been told not to talk about.

[Jack] We’re our own bosses! Talk about it!

[Joe] Oh yeah! Cool. We just finished wrapping up a three-song EP that we wrote with another artist from Austin called Israel Nash. It’s about to get mastered this week, actually. We’re gonna put it out in a few months.

[Edward] Joe did all the mixing.

[Joe] We recorded it at our studio, and Israel Nash has a studio out in the Hill Country, that they built out of this crazy…

[Jack] Quonset hut.

[Joe] What is it?

[Jack] Quon-set hut.

[Joe] Yeah, quonset hut. It’s like a really big halfpipe of metal, and then you build a building around it. It looks like a military hanger. It’s a really cool spot they have. It’s 40 minutes from our place, so we did half of it at ours, half at theirs, and we mixed it at our studio. If you’ve never heard of Israel Nash, check him out. He’s like Neil Young, but if Neil Young was way bigger and more of a teddy bear of a man.

[Jack] And did a lot more acid.


jack TBLSH

Jack O’Brien: “We’re our own bosses!”


I can’t wait to hear it! Thanks for your time today. Who was winning at ping pong back there [in the artist lounge]?

[Joe] Curt’s kind of dominating, but we’re gonna try and actually play a game now. Curt’s apparently a Forest Gump-style ping pong champ.

Alabama’s the right place for that. Are y’all gonna be hanging out the rest of the day?

[Joe] Yeah, we’ll be here today and tomorrow. And Spaceface is playing tonight at the…Syndicate Lounge? Is that it? Yeah. Syndicate Lounge.

[Jack] Yeah, the afterparty. Those guys are our super-homies, so we will be hanging with them.

Well then, I’ll see y’all later tonight!

——

And what a glorious Spaceface show it was. Thanks again to The Bright Light Social Hour for being so easy to talk to. Oh, and Israel Nash: bring it.