“Our goal was to fine-tune the songs and production to make every note count, every chorus big and memorable, and craft something really special,” says keyboardist/guitarist/bandleader Brendan O’Connell. The Right Now is fronted by dynamic lead vocalist Stefanie Berecz, and includes O’Connell, Chris Corsale (guitar), Greg Nergaard (bass), Lucas Gillan (drums), Caleb Mitchell (trumpet) and Jim Schram (tenor sax/horn arrangements). O’Connell continues, “While I love what we achieved on the last album, I felt it was important to try to transcend the ‘retro soul’ genre and concentrate on writing the best songs I could for Stef’s voice.”
Like most people living in the U.S. right now, O’Connell was deeply affected by the climate of the country, which is reflected in much of his songwriting. While the last album was more about heartbreak and love, the songs on Starlight are of a wider scope—politics and social issues, addiction and recovery. As for the name of the album, The Right Now knew what felt right instantly. “The night sky is something that connects and unifies everyone on this planet, regardless of all the perceived differences that we may have. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the country as musicians and have found that people share more common values than one might think. Starlight is also useful to think of in terms of an ancient system of navigation or a guide.” People can still find their way with the night sky. Guidance, unity, harmony and leadership surface frequently on Starlight.
The Right Now recorded the album three different times: once with Neil Strauch (Iron & Wine, Andrew Bird), once on their own, and finally with Vijay Tellis-Nayak. Although there were numerous stops and starts, each new ‘take’ gave them a roadmap to where they really wanted to go. The final recording (with Tellis-Nayak who produced their first album Carry Me Home, and mastered by Grammy winner Rich Breen) took place at Transient Sound in Chicago from September 2015 to September 2016. The band and producer spent long hours in the studio, pouring over details and utilizing a wide variety of instruments: strings, flute, keyboards (Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes), analog synths (Moog Mini Voyager, Teenage Engineering’s OP-1), Hammond Organ, acoustic piano, bass, drums, electric guitar, and horns.
A different process and a different mindset unsurprisingly led to different results. To begin with, this is The Right Now’s first pop record, and it’s been a change the band was excited about. Says O’Connell, “Starlight is the album where we embraced being a pop band more than a soul band—a welcome and liberating shift in approach that wasn’t really discussed or ordained but just manifested itself naturally.” While many bands aim to please genre-purists, The Right Now is opening up their sonic soundscape for mass consumption.
What is revealed on Starlight are 10 toe-tapping tracks buoyed by incredible musicianship and majestic vocals from Berecz. A sampling: lead track “Love You Better,” about an unrequited love, kick starts the album so strongly that you’ll find it orbiting around in your head for days. “Up All Night” has a 70s disco feel a la Donna Summer, and interestingly, O’Connell originally wrote the song for another band. When it came back to The Right Now, they took it to the rehearsal room and made it their own by incorporating a soaring horn line, evoking flashes of Earth, Wind & Fire. The track “If It Was You” was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, utilizing a bit of funk to get the difficult point across: “If it was you wouldn’t you want to/Burn it down to the ground?/Tell me the truth wouldn’t you want to/Tear it down to the ground?” Going deeper, title track “Starlight” is a tribute to O’Connell’s brother who had struggled with addiction and finally found his peace in recovery. “Everything Is Broken” is a sexy, hypnotic yarn based on a New Yorker article about a successful lobbyist from a small town who finds he can’t go home again. The last song on Starlight, “Hooked,” is a frenetic musical journey about being hooked on something—Love? Substances? A dangerous choice? The emotion all comes together at the end with a chaotic horn driven groove.
Fans and critics awaiting the new release won’t be disappointed — The Right Now’s growth and forward movement are on full display in every track. Starlight burns deeper than ever before by tackling today’s tough issues and spreading uplifting sounds and messages.