Track by Track 4/10: That's Enough

In an attempt to shine a light on each individual song on Starlight, we’re doing a blog series entitled “Track by Track.” Each week a different member of TRN will write about the 10 songs that make up our new album.

THAT'S ENOUGH
BY GREG NERGAARD

This is Greg, bassist for The Right Now. I'm really happy to talk about "That's Enough" because it speaks to some of the non-musician parts of my life. I've been working professionally for organizations that address food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty for more than a decade. Falling under the general umbrella social justice, this is my other passion besides music. Currently I work at Lakeview Pantry supervising emergency food programs.

"That's Enough" continues a thread of two major themes that I see all over Starlight: compassion and dystopia. Along with other songs from Starlight like "If It Was You" and "Everything Is Broken," "That's Enough" addresses social issues. Unemployment, food stamps, and desperation surface in the lyrics sung from the point of view of a partner or a caretaker (perhaps a spouse). "That's Enough" is also a hopeful song illuminating need in our community and asking for social change.

The picture this song paints reminds me of the Rust Belt which is never too far away if you live in the Midwest states. Closed factories, broken dreams, industries that just won't come back...beginning as long ago as the late 1970s or early 1980s this is a situation that was all too familiar to me growing up. Some parts of the Rust Belt are just starting to find stability now after three decades of decline. I think about places in Northwest Indiana that are a part of the Greater Chicagoland Area where TRN hail from. And let's not forget about layoffs at the Chicago Assembly Ford plant in the 2000s or the US Steel South Works which closed in 1992--both located right here in my home town. 

Getting back to the music for a moment: because of the "lost industrial rust belt" theme I heard in the lyrics for "That's Enough" and other songs I tried to make the bass line in the verses here sound a little bit Motown. Detroit is the biggest example of lost industry I can think of (or was-I know Detroit is mounting a comeback) so it was an easy connection for me to make. It's a small thing in the context of all that is going on in this song but it keeps me connected to an idea when I'm performing.

This is the only song on Starlight that wasn't engineered by Vijay Tellis-Nayak, although he did mix it along with all of the other tracks he recorded with us at Transient Studios. We asked Vijay if he wanted to start over and record "That's Enough" again so that all of the tracks on Starlight would have a similar sound to them. I remember Vijay saying something like "I don't want to re-record this one because it has an energy and a vibe to it that is really special." I agree. There's an powerful sound in the rhythm section on this one that hits hard. This is also a testament to the talents of Neil Strauch, the original engineer. Most of what we recorded with Neil wasn't used for Starlight because at that time TRN was searching for a new sound, trying new things and even songs that didn't really work out. However, Neil really captured "That's Enough" for us and helped us relax in order to get great performances and some emotional content in the track.

One other thing I remember is me and Chris Corsale both using a vintage Big Muff distortion pedal that was sitting around Shirk Studios. It made everything sound SO GOOD: guitar, bass, etc. We both wanted to track with that pedal and we were trying to convince each other to let the other use it. I'm pretty sure that sound is a part of what we're hearing and why this song made it onto Starlight.

Track by Track 3/10: Too Late

In an attempt to shine a light on each individual song on Starlight, we’re doing a blog series entitled “Track by Track.” Each week a different member of TRN will write about the 10 songs that make up our new album.

TOO LATE
BY STEFANIE BERECZ

Living comfortably and confidently as track six on Starlight is one of my favorite songs on the new record.  "Too Late" is a strong tune that Brendan initially wrote with a male R&B/Soul singer in mind.  After sending the song my way to give a listen, I was quick to let Brendan know that I wanted a crack at it first.  "Too Late" was brought to the group at a time when the TRN catalog was growing and our lineup was shifting a bit with the plan of a third album in our future.  And when we finally spent time making the song “ours,” I can remember feeling even more convinced that what we had going was something really special.

"Too Late" evokes such strength and drive in the opening seconds. From the moment Lucas leads the band in, you are served up an attention-grabbing intro that is sure to make you hang around for what’s next. Before I go any further, can we just take a second and give all the praise and hi-fives to the horns on this tune?  MY WORD. I think I did a mental backflip (I can’t do a real one) after hearing the horn arrangement for the first time in rehearsal. Jimmy wrote such stand out parts that elevate sections of this tune to new heights. Don’t get me started on how my body and soul reacts from 1:16 – 1:24.  Check it!

This was one of the first songs I recorded for Starlight and I knew I wanted the vocals strong, yet vulnerable. I think we accomplished that.  The song speaks to a tug-of-war with love and what it might feel like when you are on the verge of giving up for good.  The verses are my opportunity to tell the story on the edge of being a pissed off ex-lover, adding a tasteful amount of grit to each phrase.  Delivering the hook’s repeated and simple melodic message needed to happen with ease and certainty. I can remember singing the line “But now it’s too late…too late” with a nasty smirk on my face to get there.   The call-and-response bridge that includes the amazing Devin Thompson and Sarah Marie Young layering such rich warm vocals is a great send off to the final chorus.  They both knocked it out of the park for me on this one.

"Too Late," for me, is a complete package and I can only hope that you all are vibin’ off it as much as I am.  SPOILER ALERT: we are making a MF music video for this one in a week.  Stay tuned…

 

Track by Track 2/10: If It Was You

In an attempt to shine a light on each individual song on Starlight, we’re doing a blog series entitled “Track by Track.” Each week a different member of TRN will write about the 10 songs that make up our new album.

"IF IT WAS YOU"
Write-up by Chris Corsale



The fifth song on Starlight bears an important message mixed into one of the groovier arrangements on the album. There's a slow burn to the verses that gives way to a more openly passionate chorus, and it all bears the weight of some fundamental questions about race relations in America. It's a song I'm really proud to be a part of; Brendan's lyrics and the band arrangement along with Vijay's mix and production ideas really worked well together. 

As the murders of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin and an alarming number of others gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, there was the some-would-say-inevitable countermovement, and it left a lot of us baffled. How did "Black Lives Matter" become an arguable debate? We in the band understood that the countermovement was a call for peaceful protest, but could not imagine prioritizing a busted window over a state-sanctioned murder. So Brendan started asking white America a hard question: If it was you, wouldn't you want to burn it to the ground?  It's a fair question, and points out problems that don't affect you personally are still your responsibility as an American. (I hope it's clear that the song doesn't advocate violence, - "want to" is repeated, because we're talking about feelings more than actions here.)

Musically, I think we got something cohesive here. The string intro was composed by Vijay Tellis Nayak, our producer, but only after I insisted the song needed one. The result is pure purgatory - well done, Vijay! - and there's something groovy and spooky about the whole song; I think it fits the message very well. And I get to rip some solo guitar at the end...hey now! On the vinyl edition of Starlight, "If It Was You" is a nice side-B opener.

We hope you like it. We hope it starts conversations - and that those are constructive conversations! 

 

Track by Track 1/10: Hooked

In an attempt to shine a light on each individual song on Starlight, we’re doing a blog series entitled “Track by Track.” Each week a different member of TRN will write about the 10 songs that make up our new album.

"HOOKED"
By Brendan O'Connell

So many R&B artists have found chart-topping and artistic success with songs that are essentially instrumental loops of 2 or 4 bars with infectiously catchy vocal riffs. Beyonce's "Put A Ring" on it especially comes to mind. The idea is pretty ingenious and originates with the incorporation of samples in pop music (taking the best part of a drum break or instrumental groove and layering new vocal melodies/lyrics on top of it). I wanted to try my hand at writing something of that nature. That's the benefit of working with a singer like Stef. Her voice is made for singing big, catchy parts. 

Seems simple enough, right? Get a rocking drum groove, killer bass line, write catchy parts for Stef, and call it a day. For whatever reason "Hooked" had such a concise and clear genesis but an incredibly muddled path. It's a thing that can happen with a group of seven people. One idea ("hey what if we change this?") leads to another ("oh we should switch the groove here!") and another ("well then we'll change the chords there!") and, pretty soon, the simple tune becomes something else completely.

I want to stress that this process is just the natural outcome of having seven passionate musicians who give a damn. I write a tune. Everyone puts in their two cents. We try a bunch of stuff and maybe workshop the song live a few times. We edit some more. It's painstaking but hey, that's the way it goes when you want make a good record.

So how did we get all the way back from Convoluted Town to something simple? Enter our producer, Vijay Tellis-Nayak. He started asking questions about the different sections and multiple dynamic shifts. He also leveled a devastating critique: "It sounds kind of bar-bandy." As a band with higher aspirations this is territory that we avoid like the plague. Strip it back to its roots and keep it simple, VTN told us. So we did. 

I love where we ended up. A Vijay-crafted synth dive launches the tune before Lucas's drum groove gets things going. There are only three vocal sections (not really verses or choruses, per se) and Stef shines on all of them. Stef and I wrote these lyrics together years and years ago. We wanted to explore the idea of unbridled love as an addiction: powerful, satiating, yet potentially dangerous. It all culminates in a cacophony of horns, drums, and synths with Stef wailing on top. "Hooked" ends Starlight with a bang, for sure.

 

 

 

 

It Takes A Village...

...to raise a child, or, to make an album. Starlight was the result of a large cast of characters and we'd like to take a minute or two to single them all out. 

VIJAY TELLIS-NAYAK (producer)

What can we say about VTN? He worked countless hours on this album in every phase: pre-production, recording, performing, mixing, producing. He is the ninth member of TRN (read on for the eighth) and our not-so-secret weapon. I could write an entire blog post on this guy and his ridiculous talent as a musician, engineer, and producer. He is a musical brother-in-arms and his influence on this band is immeasurable.

SETH THOMPSON (photography)

Seth has been taking pictures of us since the very beginning (2009, very early morning, Hollywood beach, extremely hungover horn section). The shoot for the Starlight cover was late, cold, and ultimately perfect. He's a talented guy and we're honored to consider him a close friend and collaborator. 

RICH COLE (graphic design)

Another old friend of the band, RC came through in the clutch with a clean, sleek album design--plus a ton of random graphics for social media and the like. In his other life Rich is DJRC and we've played a ton of shows together.

CHRIS GELIN (engineer)

As you may have read, it took us 5 years to put out a new album (oy!). Part of that delay was from experimentation with different producers and recording ideas. Chris played a part in the evolution of "Hooked." Jim and Corsale spearheaded a bunch of recording sessions at Chris' Rogers Park home studio and some of those tracks found their way onto the final version of the song. 

HAYDEN ASHLEY (synths)

Jim introduced me to Hayden and basically said "Man, you should get together with him and you'll learn a lot." That was right on. Hayden laid down synth on a few different tracks and opened my eyes to a lot of great ideas for sounds on the record.

CHUCK BONTRAGER, LISA FAKO, & DOMINIC JOHNSON (strings)

We knew pretty early on that "Up All Night" wouldn't be as disco as we wanted if it didn't have a killer string arrangement. VTN and I got to work (with an assist from J. Kriv on suggestions for the best program for writing string parts). I knew Chuck from his work on Carry Me Home and he brought Lisa and Dominic along for the session. There's nothing quite like hearing your music augmented by strings!

DEVIN THOMPSON & SARAH MARIE YOUNG (background vocals)

One thing that I got really into while writing songs for this album was composing background parts. It's like something finally clicked and all those parts based on 3rds and 5ths just made sense for the first time. I relished the chance for some real, legit SINGERS to jump all over my parts and make them shine. Vijay immediately suggested Sarah (a singer I'd long admired for her work as a solo artist and with Hood Smoke). Devin, a veteran singer on the Chicago scene and a recent signee to Severn Records, was down as well and it was on. I looked forward to the vocal session like a goddam 10-year-old anticipates Christmas morning. Devin and Sarah just killed it, laying down complex parts on 8 tunes in a single day. They are an absolutely essential part of this album. 

BOB GARRETT (percussion)

Ah, Bobby G. I love this guy. Calming influence, superb chef, yoga master, and super percussionist. We go back a long way and Bob was all about jumping on the album with tambourine and congas--the groove on "That's Enough" is especially deep with his contribution. 

DEE ADAMS (background vocals)

There's a theme here--we've drawn heavily on the connections and friends that we've made over the past 8 or 9 years in making this record. Dee Adams fits nicely into that narrative. He's basically the most ridiculously talented singer we know and a close friend of ours. Dee contributed background vocals on the choruses of "Starlight" and makes that hook even sweeter.

GREG PERKINS / RAM! Project (t-shirt design)

Greg is the guy responsible for much of our visual art over the years -- all our T-shirt designs, posters, and our first two album covers were his work. This time around, we wanted to try out new eyes and minds for our artwork, but couldn't stay away from Greg's talent when it came time for the T-shirts. Always a home-run, RAM Project!

THE TRN PROMO TEAM:

DAVE SANFORD (radio)
SHAWN HALLMAN, RYAN ROMANO & PRESS JUNKIE PR (publicity)
BRANDON SHOTWELL (booking)
- KRISTINA BENSON (licensing) 

These folks work diligently behind the scenes getting us shows (Brandon), on the radio (Dave), in magazines, blogs, newspapers, TV, and everywhere (Shawn & Ryan), and on TV, ads, and movies (Kristina). If you are a new fan chances are that our stellar team had something to do with it!

NEIL STRAUCH (producer/engineer) & STEVE SHIRK (producer/engineer)

Back to the long ass story about how long this record took...Neil and Steve were there and played an important part. We experimented in Steve's studio with Neil at the helm on a few tunes that didn't make the cut. Neil's recording of "That's Enough" did make it on to the record, though, as did the piano he recorded in "Postcard." Neil caught some vibes so we stuck with them. Steve manned the board for several of Stef's vocal sessions.

DB

And last but not least, the man who carries this band on his back (or in his van at least), and who makes every single show no matter where no matter when, the myth, the legend: DB, Dave Berecz. He's our unofficial eighth band member, official tour manager,  and absolute family to us in every sense. Squeeby Deeby!

There it is: a partial list of folks that played a large part in the birth of our 3rd album, Starlight. There are plenty others (sub players like Chris DeRosa, Dan Kristan, Bryant Millet, and others; Beth at United Record Pressing; Spyder at URP Music Distributors; our families) that deserve at tip of the hat as well. It's pretty amazing to sit back and think about everyone outside of the seven musicians that help make this band run. So, thank you!

- Brendan (with help from Chris)

STARLIGHT is here!

We're very proud of this, the new-as-of-this-moment album from The Right Now. Enjoy it - ten tracks that are five years in the making. This is Starlight.

Our thanks go to Vijay Tellis-Nayak for producing a hell of an album, and all the talented musicians who helped us make it. 

Listen below, or stream it at Spotify and iTunes - or get your blue vinyl or CD copy at our store!

Relix Magazine debuts TRN's "Everything Is Broken"

New song! "Everything Is Broken," a heavy tale of greed and corruption and heartache, is the third song from Starlight to see the light of day (no pun intended). Relix Magazine debuted the song on Feb 20. 

As TRN's Brendan O'Connell described in Relix's write-up, "I wanted to write a song that related a story of riches, disillusionment, and possible redemption. Even though we are years past the financial crisis, I think the message still applies today. Many of us strive and strive to succeed and make money without really thinking about if it will make us happy (or how our actions could indirectly hurt others)."

Fuzzed-out guitar opens the track, and the band takes us through a head-nodding groove over which Stefanie lays out the story of a lobbyist who comes to a little soul-searching later in life. Heavy stuff for heavy times.

Thanks, Relix, for getting this tune out there, and thanks Vijay for producing a great track! 

Postcard Streaming Now!

Oh man, are we excited for this one. Here's our new single "Postcard" 

We're grateful to Substream Magazine for debuting this track yesterday. The full writeup is here. I love their description of the tune: 

"Postcard” is a soul-bearing, slowjam-influenced pop anthem that builds and builds throughout its five-minute runtime, eventually erupting in a massive instrumental foundation fronted by Stef Berecz’s powerful vocal prowess. It’s the kind of track that brings the best of ’90s R&B to mind while also feeling fresh within the current pop landscape—one that’s ever crowded with indecipherable similarities."

Thanks Substream!

We've been working on this tune for years and it's so gratifying to finally share it with the world. It's definitely a departure from our retro-soul leanings in the past, but I think it displays the dynamics and beauty of Stef's voice like nothing else we've done. 

Enjoy it!

XO,

Brendan

TRN on TV

We've been lucky enough to do a few live television appearances over the years. It's always harrowing--a whole lot of early load-ins (here's to you WREG in Memphis), soundstage shenanigans, and a lot of "hurry up and wait" before you get 2-3 minutes to strut your stuff. Once the red lights flash on the cameras, however, adrenaline takes over and the performance always flies by. 

The kind folks at ABC in Chicago asked us to be on their midday program Windy City Live and we were happy to oblige. This was a stacked show: Peter Sagal of NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me and Charlie Day of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Horrible Bosses were guests...plus we ran into our first manager, Jill Katona.

Stef and Jilly Katona!

Stef and Jilly Katona!

It's always sunny between Stef and Charlie.

It's always sunny between Stef and Charlie.

It was a blast. We performed the first track from Starlight, "Love You Better." Click here to view the video! Thanks again to all the folks at WLS for having us on!

"Too Late" single debuts!

Amid the champagne and streamers at TRN headquarters, we're proud to announce the debut of our new single "Too Late"  -- our first new release since 2012! We're grateful to Live For Live Music's blog for debuting our song to the world. Listen here: 


The Starlight album, out February 24th, represents a big move forward for The Right Now in terms of concept and sound -- although "Too Late" may be the track most fitting of the band's past work. There's enough old-school soul to keep their fans happy, but hold on to your hat when the rest of the album kicks in later this month! For those interested, here are the lyrics to "Too Late."

We're very excited to share this music with you, and thanks LiveForLiveMusic.com for getting our music out there. Enjoy!

Pre-order Starlight!

We're proud to announce that our new album, Starlight, is available for pre-order on Cd and Vinyl. Click here to order your copy and make sure it's in your hands by the release date, February 24th.

The vinyl is going to be something special: 150g, translucent blue vinyl, and a special lyric insert. We had it mastered differently for vinyl by Grammy winning engineer Rich Breen (the physical particulars of the vinyl format mean that you can't just plop any old audio on an LP and expect it to sound good). The Starlight LP is an 8 song version of the album, but it comes with a digital download that gets you all 10 tunes. 

Anyhow, this is all very exciting. Here's a brief video we made with a sneak peek of one of the tunes!

 

 

HERE WE ARE

So this is the new site, born on Jan 1, 2017. Look around, enjoy, listen to some tunes, and say hi to us. This year is going to be a fun one for The Right Now - releasing and touring in support of Starlight is going to be a blast; we're really proud of the record. 

Check back here at the News page for tour announcements, giveaways, album-related news, and other fun stuff. Be good to each other this year, and we'll see you on the road!

LoveLoveLove,

The Right Now