Even if Wendy Davis loses her bid to be governor of Texas, she can be proud that her political career inspired a great song.
Just as the Beatles wrote "Come Together" in honor of Timothy Leary's campaign to be governor of California, the members of Bright Light Social Hour wrote a song in the name of the Democrat state senator from the Lone Star State.
Last summer, singer/bassist Jack O'Brien, singer/guitarist Curtis Roush, and drummer Jo Mirasole were out together at a potluck dinner when they heard about Davis's 11-hour filibuster at the Austin state capital to stop a bill that would close down 90 percent of Texas' abortion clinics.
"Everyone in the crowd was chanting her name in a rhythm," says O'Brien, recalling that June night when the three members of the Austin band went to witness democracy in action. "I looked over at Curtis and Jo, and we jumped into the car at 12:30 a.m. to our recording studio, and by 7 a.m., we finished recording the song."
O'Brien and crew's tribute is a Dick-Dale-meets-Butthole-Surfers instrumental, save for a sample of a cell-phone recording of the crowd's excited cheers: "Wen-dy! Wen-dy! Wen-dy!" It is smartly being used by the Davis gubernatorial campaign. And if that song can't fire up her base, she's might be in big trouble.
But politics isn't the only inspiration for the neo-psychedelic Southern rock trio's songwriting. Much of the lyrics for Bright Light Social Hour's 2010 self-titled debut were based on O'Brien's year abroad in Madrid as a college student. "We had all these assignments where you had to pick someone else in the room and write about their body parts. I very quickly translated them into English and the words came out very strange. A lot of our early song's lyrics came from that process." Other songs on that album stayed in their Spanish form.
O'Brien's bilingualism also earned him a job as a translator for the Spanish singer Veronica Romeo on her album Serotonina, which he describes as "Avril Lavigne pop-punk rock." But the singer was more conservative than O'Brien about how she wanted her songs translated: "She wanted to maintain the integrity of her original lyrics, but I fought to make the translations more open." And he was proud enough of the finished work to encourage listeners to check out her English translations on iTunes.
So with his affinity for Spanish, Miami would seem to be a dream place for O'Brien and his buddies to perform as they will on March 1 at Tobacco Road as the headliners for Swamp Stomp 2014.
"I have trouble with the Cuban Spanish, but Miami was our first place to play outside of Texas. It's kind of been our home away from home. We made sure to schedule a day off on our tour there to have time to go to the Russian Turkish baths."
The need for relaxation makes sense with O'Brien and crew's intense road commitments, which saw them play over three hundred shows to support their last release. The first single, "Infinite Cities," off the next album has been mixed with the help of engineer Chris Coady who's worked with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio.
"It's very different from our other stuff," O'Brien says. "It's a driving rhythm, with very dreamy, introspective vocals. It's the feeling from being on tour of moving around so much that you are floating and the world is just around you."
The remainder of Bright Light Social Hour's sophomore LP has also been recorded, but the band is looking to raise the funds to be able to mix it. Perhaps if Davis wins her election, she can work completion of the album into the state budget.
Swamp Stomp 2014. Friday, February 28, and Saturday, March 1. Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 7 p.m. both nights. Presale tickets cost $10 plus fees via brownpapertickets.com. Admission costs $15 at the door. Visit swampstompmusicfestival.com.
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