Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.
Bright Light Bright Light is the nom de pop of Welshmen Rod Thomas. The former folkie troubadour gave into his disco impulses and recorded what sounds like a major label debut, Make Me Believe In Hope, but is actually on London indie label Aztec. As is the often the case with DIY artists, Rod has been prepping the record for the last few years, steadily releasing singles, mixes and videos while DJing club nights and doing proper solo gigs. The result is a cult following in his current hometown, London, and one of the strongest debuts of 2012.
FULL NAME: Rod Thomas
HOMETOWN: Currently living in London; born in Wales.
WHY THE DOUBLE BRIGHT LIGHT? “It’s a quote from the film Gremlins. Gizmo says ‘bright light, bright light’ when the Mom shines a torch in his eye, as Mogwai are allergic to bright light. I chose it as it suggests something shiny and pop, and I liked the repetition.”
BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT SOUNDS LIKE: “It sounds like me indulging in my love of pop music. There are echoes of my favorite period — late ’80s/early ’90s — but I didn’t want to make just a ‘pop’ or just a ‘dance’ record, so each track has something organic in it, be it a piano, a guitar or a string section. I wanted it to have a heart.”
Bright Light Bright Light — ”Disco Moment”
MUSIC ICONS: “My influences are people who have carved out careers with strong identities, like Björk, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Grace Jones, where you know instantly that the music has come from that artist, even though their guise may change between records. I guess you can hear the influence of people like Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke, or some of the early ’90s producers to a point, but I didn’t want to emulate, more give a respectful nod to them.”
ON THE C&C MUSIC FACTORY-ESQUE TRACK “FEEL IT”: ”[Co-producer] Jon Shave and I wanted to do something with more club euphoria, so we made ‘Feel It’. I’d heard Mykal Kilgore, the [wailing diva] voice on it, singing on a track [Scissor Sisters member] Del Marquis had played me, so I wrote some diva vocal lines and Mykal stepped in and added 3000% of fierce to the mix. The production has a little more tongue in cheek — like the opening piano riff nodding directly to early ’90s production — before it goes a bit darker and more clublike. So C+C, Technotronic, the darker sides of Behaviour by Pet Shop Boys and Funky Green Dogs‘ ‘Fired Up’ were the kind of energies we wanted to channel with the track.”
HOW YOU CRAFT A BIG RECORD ON A SMALL BUDGET: “I make it work. Part of the reason the album has taken a little while to come out is because I’ve had to finance it — not in a ‘get your tiny violin’ way, but I had to budget and fundraise and plan. Although to me it just seemed natural to do that, as it’s my creative project. I don’t believe in doing anything by half. What’s the point? Especially for something pop.”
Bright Light Bright Light — “A New Word To Say”
WHAT TO DO IN BRIGHT LIGHT’S LONDON: “Visit Berwick Street for the independent record shops, go to Rough Trade East and have a coffee while you eye up all the vinyl they have, and definitely stick East London for a night out as there are some great club nights. “
LONDON CLUBS 101: “People in London work hard and play hard… you can go clubbing on a Tuesday night to a full room that just wants to dance, have a great night, then everyone gets up the next day and carries on. It’s brilliant. There are bars like Dalston Superstore that straddle being a bar and a club, and there are more underground places like Vogue Fabrics that are solely a club. There is definitely a community around club nights. I run a ’90s night, Another Night with my friend, and am just starting Comfortable Shoes, a gay indie disco, with my friend Jen Long from BBC Radio 1.”
THE NEW SINGLE AND VIDEO, “WAITING FOR THE FEELING”: “I love the colors [in the video]. There are little nods to Beetlejuice, one of my favorite films. The video’s playing around with the idea of waiting, being on hold, and what type of connections you can have, physical or emotional. I really like how the force of catching or throwing a ball is like being hit with or releasing emotion.”
Bright Light Bright Light — ”Waiting For The Feeling”
ON GIVING AWAY BONUS CASSETTES FOR THE ALBUM RELEASE: “I don’t have a cassette walkman, but I do have four cassette decks in my home. There’s actually a big demand for the cassettes so I’m guessing some people have been holding on to those walkmen for years and years, which fills me with a lot of joy!”
You can read more from this interview at The Middle Eight. Rod has remixed everyone from Gotye to Darren Hayes. Most of his mixes are available here. Bright Light Bright Light‘s debut album, Make Me Believe In Hope, is out on June 4 in the UK and June 25 in the US.