Going musically beyond Pollyanna

The+Bright+Light+Social+Hour+poses+at+Mercury+Lounge+in+New+York+City+on+March+5th%2C+2015.

Nicole Fara Silver

The Bright Light Social Hour poses at Mercury Lounge in New York City on March 5th, 2015.

Isaac Hamlet, [email protected]

Remaining stagnant is easy, wrapping oneself in the safety of a comfort zone. Yet to break the mold of routine allows progress.
That holds true in music.

At 8 p.m. Nov. 15, at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., three bands will take turns on stage. Headlining the event is the Bright Light Social Hour, from Austin, Texas.

“[Our first album] was a very Pollyanna, carefree approach to dealing with social issues, with a lot more of a classic rock and roll sound,” said Jack O’Brien, the group’s bassist. “With the new one, we really wanted to explore new ground, be truer to our deeper feelings and more exploratory in the use of sounds and feels.”

Bright Light, in its fifth year, released a second album, Space is Still the Place, in March.

“After touring a bunch on our first record, we became a lot more aware of these issues, getting to know all kinds of people was just natural to work it into the music,” O’Brien said. “A lot of ‘political’ music can be really garish and preachy. We wanted the music to come first with a message that is a little more seductive and rewarding on closer listens.”

The band uses its music as a way of commenting on social and political issues while inhabiting musical space in the realm of rock and folk-blues.

The new album features more elaborate effects than its predecessor

“Well, the music is a mix of established Southern sounds with a lot of more exploratory to help pull it into new ground,” O’Brien said. “In the South, there’s so much power given to tradition, but we need to let go of some of that to embrace the future and stop dragging at the back end of American social progress.”

The electric-jazz band Jack Lion will also release a second album. The three members previously worked together with a fourth band mate who left, and then the three formed Jack Lion. This album is the first they tailored for their own sound.

“It’s not stuff we’ve carried over from previous experiences,” said drummer Justin LeDuc. “We’ve been riding a wave of music we’ve had in our pockets for two years, getting up and playing new stuff is far more engaging for me as a performer.”

The group’s upcoming album will contain 10 new pieces. The members listened to sound samples created by trumpet and keyboard player Brian Smith and agreed to take the music in a more aggressive direction.

“This is our first live performance of new music in years and our first show in Iowa City since May,” LeDuc said. “We’ll be playing three to four new songs that are part of the next album. They’re texturally different but groove-wise, it’s the same of the stuff we’ve done previously.”

The third group is SWIMM, a “soft-core psychedelic pop with a satirically introspective backbone,” said band member Chris Hess.

Hess and Adam Winn make up the band. For the two and a half years they’ve been playing, they haven’t had a set roster. Hess said this helps contribute to “the evolving vibe of the band.”

“When we moved to LA, we spent so much time just being there and sponging all of the experiences of living in a big city for the first time,” Hess said. “We have more than an album’s worth of material already ready; we just want to make sure we put it together the right way.”

SWIMM will appear in Iowa City shortly after finishing a stint of shows in Canada.

While there, Hess had an encounter with a stocky man in a button-up shirt who “looked more like he would be going to a UFC fight than an indie show.”

Rather than becoming aggressive, as Hess feared he might, he ended up complimenting him and wrapping him in a bear hug.

“It was kind of a beautiful moment in a transcending sort of way,” Hess said. “[Because of the band] you can have a wonderful moment with someone that you think you normally would never have due to social parameters.”

MUSIC
What: Bright Lights Social Hour
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 15
Where: Mill, 120 E. Burlington

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