In 2006 Rod Thomas stepped into the spotlight with the song “Good Coat.” Recently he has reinvented himself and unleashed a new electro-pop sound under the name Bright Light Bright Light. With only a handful of songs from his upcoming album circulating the Internet, he may be a glimpse at pop music in the post-closet world.
Out caught up with Thomas to discuss his stage name, songwriting an just why he can’t meet a nice guy.
You grew up in Wales, what was the child version of Rod Thomas like?
Oh, God, probably quite weird. I grew up a bizarre child because I grew up really rurally. I was helping out with my grandad’s farm as well. I spent a lot of time outdoors very different from spending all this time in a studio. I’d say I was very musical but very outdoors as well.
In 2006 you started Self Raising Records, what incited this divergence from the mainstream music industry?
I used to work for a music distributor, so when I was working there I learned quite a lot about independent stores and how artist’s records were sold in the shops. To save all the time taking a record around I just used the knowledge that I’d learned from working in that part of the industry to make my own record and put it out.
Is it related to also not wanting certain influences over your work?
To a point it’s about not having outside influence. But, I think then it was just a case of I was very new, it’s very hard to get into labels interested when you’re super new.
You recently transitioned from recording under your own name to recording under the name Bright Light Bright Light, what instigated the change?
I spent a long time working on my production skills and really seeded my personality in the music. I wanted to have some kind of name to call it to tie in the remixing I’m doing which stems from my production, the DJing, which stems from my influences and the music I’m making myself. I feel that I’ve titled myself as well. It’s quite freeing actually, because if you’ve got a first name-surname moniker then people expect you to be someone. There’s an easy assumption that you’re acoustic, that you’re gentle, maybe slightly melancholy. I wanted to remove myself from that.
You play a lot of instruments, you write your music and lyrics, and produce the songs… what can’t you do?
I can’t draw. I really, really wish I was one of those people that’s good at art. I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head but I’m no good at putting them down on paper. I can’t play sport and I can’t poach an egg.
You’ve been compared to a one-man Pet Shop Boys or a male Robyn, how do you process high praise like that?
It’s amazing and it’s really odd. When you come from somewhere like really rural Wales it’s really rare to think from anywhere other than your immediate circle you’d get that sort of accolade. It kind of overwhelms you.
Have you felt pressure to suppress your sexuality in your lyrics?
No, I don’t want to politicize my sexuality. My aim is not to be perceived as someone who is pioneering gay rights it’s just I’m a guy who likes guys and I make music. I don’t think it’s important who you’re talking about as long as it’s clear what you’re trying to say. It was actually a bit harder to write male-to-male lyrics under my own name because that felt a bit too personal. I think having the world of Bright Light Bright Light around me has helped me to have a bit more confidence and just say “fuck it.”
At a recent live performance you exclaimed that you’re “still” single, what’s wrong with you?
Any number of things really. Maybe I drop my phone too much so no one can get in touch with me. I don’t know, I mean, it’s kinda funny when you’re doing something like music. It’s a mixture of not meeting anyone that you connect with and when you do your lives just don’t really fit together.
If you ran into the child version of yourself, what would you tell him?
Not to worry as much. I used to worry a lot. Not about anything in particular but I was always really concerned with doing the right thing. Life’s really about just working out what you want to do and just doing that well rather than doing everything well. So yeah, I’d tell him just to relax a bit.