Chicago band Brighton MA have been creating a buzz in the indie scene ever since they released their EP “Billboard Sun” last year. After rocking the SXSW stage last weekend and with a new album on the way, the band is ready to return to their home stage for a show this weekend. In this interview, Brighton MA's Jim Tuerk talks about playing SXSW, the new album, and how it feels to be back in Chicago.
A lot of your songs have been used in commercials and various TV shows. What was your reaction when you first heard your songs on TV?
It's a bit of a thrill to hear your songs on television. The feeling of having your work out in the open feels good. It's great hearing from all of our friends—new and old—when they notice that something they usually tune out to (commercials) has a tune they feel close to. It brings them even closer to us.
How did you guys come to that decision to let these shows use your music? Do you think it's helped with exposure of the band?
The decision was not a difficult one. It always feels pretty good when someone likes your music and wants to license it or have you come perform. We don't really look down on any gigs or any opportunities. These licensing opportunities have allowed us to continue making records and tour as well as giving us exposure to a whole new audience.
Is this your first time at SXSW? What about the gig makes you most excited to perform there?
We've been at SXSW a few times. The most exciting thing is being exposed to the best bands from around the country and just be a part of it. It's a great equalizer in a way; seeing some bigger bands we've been following since we were teenagers have to shlep their gear on stage without a soundcheck like everyone else.
After SXSW you'll be coming home to Chicago. Are the home shows different from the other shows you do when you're on tour? Is there more energy or do you feel more love from the Chicago shows?
All our shows are different. But we've been hitting this new music from “Oh Lost” pretty hard lately. Chicago shows are usually the ones where we pull out some super-old tunes for posterity. Also, we like making hometown shows special, so we sometimes bring out a horn section. It's kind of like a birthday party getting everyone in the same room.
“Oh Lost” is your second album. Was there any pressure recording this album? Some bands often feel stressed when recording their second album because they're worried about living up to the first release. Did any of you guys feel that stress?
No pressure at all. We've always been confident in what we do, and always work hard to get the tunes where we like them without thinking how people will react.
Is there any special meaning behind the album title?
The album title is taken from a line in one of our songs called “World's on Fire”. We also like it as sort of a throw back to old poetry like Whitman or something. Oh Lost! Pick up the CD and read the liners to get a full explanation of the ideas behind “Oh Lost.”
Do you have a favorite song from the new album or one that you're really excited about performing live? If so, which and why?
I feel really great about performing almost all of these songs. The single “Touch” in particular. Perhaps because it's one of the first we came up with for the new album but whatever it is it's just really fun to sing.
There's a line from one of your songs that's featured a lot on your Facebook page and on your site: "Kids like us try to live off the touch." Can you explain the meaning of this line? What exactly is the touch?
I think of it as trying to live by primarily going with your gut and instinct for what you feel you're meant to do with your life.
How does the songwriting process go with you guys? Is there one person who does all the writing or is it more of a group effort?
We're a pretty collaborative band, but the center of it all is (singer/songwriter) Matt's songs. He and (guitarist) Jim generally work out the template, then bring it to the other dudes to mess with.
When you're writing a song, where do you get inspiration from?
Anywhere. The people, situations, and things that went on around here during these times. That's all you need. That's all there is.
Do you think there's a message you're trying to get across with your music? If so, what would it be?
We joke around about Matt's songs, saying to him sometimes: "You live, we learn." I guess the message mostly comes from looking back at formative experiences, how they made your future what it is, and how both are beautiful.
Brighton MA's next album “Oh Lost” will be released April 2nd. You can visit their official website to pre-order the album and to learn more about the band. If you missed them at SXSW or just want to see them again, make sure to head to Schubas this Saturday March 23. If you can't make that one, try to make it to their April 11 show in Ann Arbor, MI at The Arc. Make sure to follow Brighton MA on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates on the band.