Bright Light Bright Light

Bright Light Bright Light

Fri · June 23, 2017

9:00 pm

$15.00 - $18.00

This event is all ages

Bright Light Bright Light
Bright Light Bright Light
“I had a bit of a cry after I heard the mastered album,” says Rod
Thomas, Bright Light Bright Light, of his third long-player
Choreography. Rod is not usually the sentimental sort. But he is a man
born of the Welsh Valleys. It comes out. Why so emotional this time,
Rod? “Because I can’t believe I managed to do something I feel so
proud of.” In the course of its production, Choreography answered a
personal and artistic conundrum for Rod. “I’ve been in a weird
position of being too indie to be pop and too pop to be indie. This
time I wanted to make a bold, colourful record that celebrates its pop
self.” This time, he did it.

Rod Thomas is possibly the most independent pop star in the world. He
is his own label boss, A&R, manager, tour manager and one time booking
agent. He publishes himself and organises all his own artwork. The
occasional club he runs, Romy and Michelle’s Saturday Afternoon Tea
Dance, at the brilliantly named C’mon Everybody bar in Brooklyn, is
his concept, execution, playlist and NYC pals. His musical
collaborators – Elton John, each individual Scissor Sister, Alan
Cumming – are drawn from his own rolodex, free from label interference
of what might make bank, invited along to suit his specific tastes.
However indebted to classic pop methodology and dotted with
indisputably ace pop people they become, his records are every note
and beat his own.

After moving from London to New York three years since,
multi-instrumentalist, singer and for one night only – ta-dah! –
dancer Rod Thomas has gone and done it his way. “This one is so close
to what it was supposed to be,” he says of the record, still looking a
little startled at what pop fairydust he managed to sprinkle over the
project. “It’s a really special thing. The whole thing was about
making a record that I give a fuck about with people that give a fuck.
That is a joy.”

Work began in earnest on Choreography in January 2015. The story of
its’ unfolding reads like the script for an unmade Richard Curtis
film. At the close of his massive world tour supporting his great
friend, mentor and chief Choreography collaborator, Elton John, the
maestro took Rod aside invited him to open for him on New Year’s Eve
at The Barclay Centre, a stone’s throw from Rod’s new home in Crown
Heights. “The whole room went crazy. Just down the road from my flat.
It was, no word of a lie, the happiest night of my life.”

It was snowing in Brooklyn last January, a neat analogy for the
blizzard of emotions the genial popsessive was filled with after
completing his live duties. Housebound, satiated and raring to write
again, he settled down with his favourite films and vowed to write a
song a day for his forthcoming third album. “I knew I wanted to call
it Choreography and thought about what it was that interested me about
it; the unison, how dance makes you feel.” He watched Flashdance,
Footloose, easy starting points. “I thought about dancing being banned
in New York and about how good it makes you feel. I thought about
choreographing my life in London and New York. I DJ a lot, my job is
to make people dance and I love watching people dance. That was
important for me for the record.”

He engulfed himself in visual imagery. “I watched Big Trouble in
Little China, Romy and Michele, obviously, Amelie, A Bout de Soufflé.
Loads of films from French New Wave to 80s cheese, independent shorts
to blockbusters and picked out moments that made me happy and made me
think.”

The unusual starting point for all this inspiration was Kim Cattrall’s
dance sequence in Mannequin, the jump-off point for album highpoint,
Symmetry Two Hearts. “I wanted to feel as cool as her.” This is game
talk from a proper 21st century pop idol. His Jake Shears duet, the
scorchingly sensual Kiss For Kiss was inspired by another unlikely
filmic reference. “You know the bit in Alien: Resurrection where
Sigourney Weaver is writhing in that pit of aliens? That’s what I
wanted it to feel like.” It’s an unsurprisingly physical song. If you
are spotting an ongoing thread to the references here, you might like
to bracket them under the umbrella ‘intelligent camp.’ Rod wouldn’t
argue with you. “There’s much more humour and honesty and my own
personal energy to this record. There are camp touches to backing
vocals, references to Little Shop of Horrors.”

There is a serious point beneath all this showmanship and Hollywood
glitz. Rod Thomas opened his pop hand almost a decade ago, when as a
London subway busker he was signed temporarily to Elton’s management
company. At the time, due mostly to circumstance (“I couldn’t afford
to buy the equipment I needed to make electronic music”) and something
voguish in the air, he fell uncomfortably into the lineage of the new
folk denizens, the Lauras, Noahs and even the nascent (gulp) Mumfords.
“I even recorded a song on a Ukelele,” he notes. This was
categorically not a place Rod wanted to be. “It was very of a time. I
do remember feeling that I didn’t want to be vocal about being gay in
that world, partly because it didn’t really seem to be present, at
all, in it. There’s a gorgeous freedom to pop music. I wanted to feel
that.”

Rod underwent a seismic career change, lifting his new name Bright
Light Bright Light from another childhood film reference, Gremlins. “I
got really fucking bored of being this sad guy who plays a guitar
singing about broken hearts. I’m not that person. I can be ridiculous.
I do want to make pop music. I couldn't work out how to translate the
absurd side of my personality in folk.” On Choreography, he makes
peace with his great personal and musical shift. The opening single is
All In The Name, his most balls-out 3.30minute pop moment yet. The
lyric centres around the constant need for approval on social media,
something the feels familiar to Rod having tried to fit in musically.
“It’s a take on how people go absolutely out of their way to be
absolutely adored by everyone,” he says, “The lyrics are piqued,
delivered from somebody who is desperate to do that.” The one strike
stick of the chorus is emboldened by all the album’s collaborators
joining in for the ride. He may be a singular man, but Rod is fond of
a bit of group therapy. This kaleidoscopic DIY approach feels fresh
and unforced, a proper free-for-all under his unique and pleasing
orchestration.

Which brings us circuitously to the final cog in Choreography’s wheel.
The actual choreographer. Rod was on a visit back to Britain when he
spotted his old touring buddy John Grant sitting in the corner of the
East London restaurant, Hoi Polloi, sitting with a friend. “This guy
said ‘are you Bright Light Bright Light?’” he recalls. With a
serendipity you couldn’t invent, the fan in question was multi TONY,
Laurence Olivier and Drama Desk award-winner Steven Hoggett, possibly
the most in-demand theatrical choreographer and movement expert
working on stage today. Steven was happy to take a tiny break from his
schedule working on the forthcoming Harry Potter play to take up the
role of the Bob Fosse to Rod’s Liza Minelli, to turn Choreography into
a full dance escapade.

“He’s a smart guy, with killer tunes,” says Steven of Rod. “He
mentioned he wanted to call the album Choreography and to have a video
concept across all the single releases. We met in New York a couple of
times and decided to go guerrilla and shoot three videos in four days.
He had a tonne of ideas and had a great time referencing a load of
shapes from 80s and 90s videos. There are a lot to spot if you're into
that kind of thing.” Rod finally got to unleash his inner Janet
Jackson. “He inspired me no end. I love the guy and he worked his ass
off in an environment he had no previous in. I could bang on about him
forever.”

This was about more than just creating arresting imagery and a dynamic
backdrop to Bright Light Bright Light’s best record yet. It was about
Rod Thomas allowing himself to be just that, in all his glorious
extremes. It was about fulfilling his proper potential, entirely on
his own terms. “Carrying on with how amazing this whole process has
been of making the record,” he says, “Steven was the icing on the
cake. I was kind of terrified that I’d be really shit at dancing. I
had to up my game and use my brain in a very different way. This is
exactly what the whole album has been about. Each new album should be
a new challenge. With this one, for the first time I got to make the
album exactly as I wanted to, shoot the videos exactly as I wanted
them, with exactly the people I wanted to work with. How brilliant is
that?”
Venue Information:
Aisle 5
1123 Euclid Ave NE
Atlanta, GA, 30307
http://www.aisle5atl.com/