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Published: 2012/11/16
by Alex Baker

The Bright Lights Social Hour: Suds, Sly and Saskatoon

After an intense summer of touring across Canada and the northern US – and an even more intense fall schedule that saw the guys return to the great white north – I sat down with the Austin, Texas-based Bright Light Social Hour for drinks and a wide-ranging conversation. We touched on everything from the difference between Canadian and American crowds, to the naming of their van, losing their equipment on tour and Canada’s national (not really) dish, poutine.

In typically Canadian fashion, my chat with AJ Vincent, Curtis Roush, Jack O’Brien and Jo Mirasole began with beer. Mostly.

Sitting in a pub next to the small venue they were about to play, a classic Ottawa concert spot called Zaphod’s, we ordered a nice cross-section of Canadian brews: bassist Jack and keyboardist AJ drinking the Canadian bar staple, Halifax-brewed Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale; a St. Ambroise red from Quebec for guitarist Curtis; a Toronto-born Steam Whistle pilsner for yours truly; and a Jager-bomb for Jo, the drummer. “You can tell a lot about us from our drinks,” Jo smirked when the waitress dropped them off.

While the suds were sipped, I thought back to when I saw the guys perform for the first time at Ottawa Bluesfest in July. There, BLSH played two sets, including opening for Iron Maiden the first night, and I have since become infatuated with their hard-driving, intense-rockin, disco-funk fusions. So, of course, the thing I always want to know (and the question lots of artists HATE to be asked) is, who do you like to listen to? Who has influenced your sound, and where does it come from?

“Pink Floyd,” said AJ without skipping a beat. Curtis cited blues and funk influences, from James Brown to Sly and the Family Stone. “We like to bring dance music and house to southern rock,” he said.

“How long do you have?” asked Jack, compiling the list in his mind, while Jo – well, Jo likes techno. Before his mini-mixing board got stolen earlier this summer, “I’d do these epic DJ sets for the guys in the van while we’re travelling,” he said.

Which was the mixed blessing of the summer – not Jo’s DJ jams, those are enjoyable. It was that all their equipment and luggage, no less, was stolen in broad daylight out of their locked van in a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan shopping-mall parking lot. (Yes, that is an actual place in Canada. The Rolling Stones once played there.) Curtis and Jack’s custom-designed, VERY worn and “familiar” Fender axes, AJ’s Prophet synthesizer, and Jo’s DJ equipment were all lost to the seedy underbelly of Canada’s middle prairie province.

“After something like that, the world can seem like a pretty dark place,” lamented AJ. “But the response we got just completely cancelled out that feeling.” After posting the situation on their website, the band asked for fans to chip in with donations to help them recoup the cost of their gear – and received nearly 10 grand in just four-and-a-half days.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” said Jo. “It showed us that stuff doesn’t matter, that we could get beyond material possessions.”

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