The Bright Light Social Hour
About The Bright Light Social Hour
Conjuring a bold new version of psychedelia informed by hard rock, R&B, electronica, and pop, Texas combo the Bright Light Social Hour, emerged in the late 2000s, taking the rich tradition of Lone Star trippiness and both preserving it and updating it for a new time and place. Following a series of indie releases, their eponymous 2010 debut full-length helped make them the toast of Austin and subsequent touring put them on the national map. Their acclaimed 2015 follow-up, Space Is Still the Place, found an even wider audience through key placements in major television shows, setting the stage for 2018's Jim Eno-produced Missing Something EP.
The Bright Light Social Hour first came together in 2004 when founding members Jack O’Brien (keyboards and vocals) and Curtis Roush (guitar) were students at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, less than an hour's drive from Austin, the state's busiest city for music. Initially part of a college art-rock cooperative, O'Brien and Roush teamed up with drummer Thomas Choate and bassist Ryan O’Donoghue and began playing shows with local punk and alternative bands. By 2006, Choate's studies took him away from Texas, and Joseph Mirasole, who had learned his percussion skills playing with a drum corps, joined the group. In 2007, the Bright Light Social Hour recorded their first EP, Touches, and following the departure of Ryan O’Donoghue, O'Brien moved from keys to bass. The band recruited a new keyboard player, A.J. Vincent, and issued a second EP, Love Like Montopolis, in 2008. As the Bright Light Social Hour's sound became more eclectic and ambitious, they began blocking out plans to cut an album, and their self-titled full-length debut, issued by Maple Music Recordings in 2010, became a sensation in their new hometown of Austin, where it earned them six trophies at the 2011 SXSW Austin Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year (for "Detroit"), and Band of the Year. Having made a big splash at home, the group sought out new worlds to conquer by hitting the road, playing hundreds of shows over the next several years, including appearances at Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. In 2013, they dropped a single, "Wendy Davis," to honor the Texas senator whose pro-choice filibuster became national news in June of that year; Mirasole, O'Brien, and Roush were in attendance for Davis' protest, and used footage they'd shot on their smart phones to create an accompanying video for the tune. "Wendy Davis" was also the recording debut for new keyboard man Edward Braillif, who had taken the place of A.J. Vincent a few months earlier.
In March 2015, the Bright Light Social Hour released their much-anticipated second album, Space Is Still the Place, via Frenchkiss Records; the band said the new songs were inspired by their vision of a "Future South" after spending many hours pondering America's economic downturn while on the road. Songs from the album received more widespread exposure thanks to placements in television shows like Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, HBO's Vice Principals, and the Terrence Malick film Song to Song. In November of 2015, after hearing about the terrorist attacks in Paris, France, the Bright Light Social Hour recorded their set at Chicago's Lincoln Hall and issued it as a live album with all proceeds benefitting the French Red Cross. Working with fellow Texan Israel Nash, they issued the collaborative Neighbors EP in late 2016. A few months later, in January 2017, they wrote the theme song "Harder Out There" for the Amazon Video original series Sneaky Pete. Returning in 2018, they worked with Spoon producer/drummer Jim Eno on the five-song EP Missing Something via the Modern Outsider label. ~ Mark Deming