AMBY: You recently released your sophomore record Space Is Still the Place. Tell us and our readers at home a bit about the album.
The Bright Light Social Hour: It’s kind of a departure in sound for us since it’s our first studio album in four years. We spent the last two and a half years putting a studio together in our home and gradually put the record together on our own time. It was rewarding to have set up our own studio space, so we could really stretch out and experiment with sounds and sound design. We got really into synthesizers and effects, and a number of different elements to add texture to it. It used to be just a straight-forward southern rock sound for us and ultimately the record had a dramatic development. We kept heading back to the space and it became our motif for the album. Kind of thinking about ways in which southern music or southern culture or southern politics could be rethought of to be more future looking. We just find our politics and culture to be looking in the past, a bit of a heritage culture, and that doesn’t need to be the case. So this record is kind of our shot at making a play at a forward looking southern sound.
AMBY: You mentioned this new sound you took on and for me when I was listening to the whole record, there was a much more psychedelic and space-like vibe. Why did you decide to go with the album title Space Is Still the Place? What’s the significance of that to you?
TBLSH: There’s a lot of significance there. We’re huge fans of Sun Ra, a southern jazz musician from the 60s and 70s, and he had and album in the 70s called Space Is the Place and it’s kind of a seminal free jazz recording. He was in the midst of an artistic movement called Afrofuturism, which kind of deposited that oppressed people may find a kind of liberation in space, kind of shedding their past roots and histories and starting fresh and new in a new place. We saw that to just be a really irresistible idea that tied in with our conception of the future south. We also just love space. With all of the intellectual difference aside, space is awesome.
AMBY: I read that the album was written, performed, produced, and engineered by the band at your home studio that you mentioned earlier. What was that experience like of having full control over almost every aspect of your album?
TBLSH: It was really awesome! We loved it! We’re really passionate about recording and we all have different strengths and weaknesses, so we worked as a team. Our drummer Joe is really good at a lot of technical stuff; he built a lot of equipment for us. He built microphone preamps and kept some things maintained. It was good to basically have an engineer to help create a lot of the premixes for songs before we took them to Chris Cody, who eventually mixed the record in New York. I tend to do a lot more work on the tracking front, like setting up microphones and getting sounds on the outset. But the most important about having our studio to us is all the time it affords us. A lot of studios, specially good ones with good gear, have really expensive day rates, so it’s good to have our own time to experiment and try our open things and being just a bit more mindful of trying to make our own sound. We felt like we really couldn’t have done it with the clock ticking at a professional studio.
AMBY: When it came to living together while recording, what was that like? Did you ever get sick of each other or annoyed by other members’ living habits?
TBLSH: I think anytime people live in close quarters there’s tiny quirks and stuff but we make an effort to take care of each other and we’re just as much family as we are to each of our biological families. We spend most of our days together for most of the year and we have done a lot of touring together before the recording of the studio album so we’re already very comfortable with seeing each other every day. We’ve lived in a van the year before, so living in a studio is actually a bit more comfortable than that. It was fine.
AMBY: You’re currently on your Space Is Still the Place Tour. How’s this whole experience treating all of you?
TBLSH: The tour has been awesome so far! We’ve performed in the south and worked our way up to the east coast. It’s been our first spin in Canada for the new album so everything is going really well. Our audience has been really receptive to the new music and we’re having a lot of fun taking new songs that we’ve worked so long and hard on and playing them out on the road. It’s kind of like throwing a baby shower every night but for our little kid. [laughs]
AMBY: [laughs] Awesome, glad to hear it! While on this tour you wrote how you’re “getting your Montreal smoked meat on”. What’s been the best meal you’ve had on this tour so far?
TBLSH: That’s funny since we were talking about this earlier today and we all had some different answers but Schwartz’s is definitely up there in Montreal. Another one that was really good for us was Fat Matt’s in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s just a rib and chicken shack and it had some of the best pork ribs we’ve had anywhere. They were really fantastic!
AMBY: As we know, the band hails from Austin, Texas. What do you enjoy most about your hometown?
TBLSH: It’s hard to begin with Austin. It’s a really special place. It’s really vibrant, and growing fast and there’s a huge creative community. It’s one of the biggest universities in the state, so having that student culture there is really great. It’s also been home to a really vibrant music scene and artistic scene for 30 or 40 years, so that combined with the new tech culture is just a place towards young people doing exciting creative things. There are people just moving there from all over the country all the time, so there are a lot of people who are just excited to be there. It’s also physically beautiful as a place, there’s a lot of rolling hills and natural bodies of water. There’s a way back lifestyle, amazing food, and I could go on and on about Austin. We really love our home.
AMBY: When it comes to that vibrant music scene and that culture there, which other bands would you recommend our readers give a listen to?
TBLSH: Austin had such a great heritage of music. So as kind of a psychedelic band ourselves, there’s been a really great strain of psychedelia which started in Austin in the 60s with the 13th Floor Elevators and it’s been maintained recently with bands like The Black Angels. There are a lot of really great rock bands from Austin and there are a lot of local bands coming up doing exciting things. We’ve started this recording a few local bands in our studio the past few months and we’re having a really good time with that. There’s a band Migrant Kids who are starting to write more songs and play a lot more. We actually took them on the first fun of the tour, for the first week in the south, and we had a really fun time with them.
AMBY: Awesome! Outside of music, what’s something that the Bright Light Social Hour all bond over?
TBLSH: Our easiest thing is food! We all love every kind of food, every ingredient; none of us have dietary restrictions or anything. So anytime we are at a new place we all get really excited about trying whatever stuff is special there. We pretty frequently eat our way across the country when we’re on tour.
AMBY: That’s great. To wrap things up, what’s the best part about being in The Bright Light Social Hour?
TBLSH: We’ve all been playing together for years now. Jack and I started the band ten years ago; Joe came on seven years ago. So we really are best friends and family, so to be able to make art together and travel across the continent and share this experience together is really the dream!
AMBY: I just wanted to say congrats on the new record. We really wish you all of the best of what’s to come and thanks so much for your time!
TBLSH: Of course! Thank you.
Thank you The Bright Light Social Hour, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout