Currently comprised of Brendan O’Connell (keyboard, guitar, primary songwriter and bandleader), Stefanie Berecz (vocals), Chris Corsale (guitar), Greg Nergaard (bass), Lucas Gillan (drums), Caleb Mitchell (trumpet), and Jim Schram (saxophone, horn arrangements), the Chicago, IL-based soul and pop septet The Right Now received attention nationally with the release of their 2012 sophomore Gets Over You. And although it’s been a while since I’ve written about them, the members of the band went through a series of personal and personnel changes that influenced a changing songwriting approach and sound; in fact, the band’s third full-length effort Starlight, slated for a February 24, 2017 finds the band branching out from the soul-revivalist sound that first captured national attention with material that still draws from soul and R&B, as well as disco and pop.
With numerous personal and personnel changes, the members of the band found that getting the material’s sound right was much more important than rushing music out that didn’t feel right or properly express what they wanted to express. As bandleader and primary songwriter Brendan O’Connell explains in press notes “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. While I love what we achieved on our last album, I felt it was important to transcend the ‘retro-soul’ genre and concentrate on writing the best songs I could for Stef’s [Stefanie Berecz] voice.”
Whereas Gets Over You‘s material was primarily about love and heartbreak, and finding a way to move forward with one’s life, the material on Starlight was deeply influenced by the sociopolitical climate of the US over the past 12-18 months or so, and while drawing on the classic soul and pop tropes of heartbreak, the material lyrically and thematically also draws from the social and political issues of our tense, fraught time, as well as on addiction and recovery. As for the album’s title, when the band came up with it, it felt instantly right. “The night sky is something that connects and unifies everyone on this planet, regardless of all the perceived differences that we may have,” the band explains in press notes. “We’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the country as musicians and have found that people share more in common values than one might think. Starlight is also useful to think of in terms of an ancient system of navigation — or a guide.”
Interestingly, the album was recorded three different times — once with Iron and Wine’s and Andrew Bird’s Neil Strauch, the second time the band self-produced it, and the third and final time was with Vijay Tellis-Nayak. And although there were numerous stops and starts, each new take on the material served as a roadmap to what they wanted to achieve. Now, as I mentioned earlier the band went through a different songwriting and recording process with their soon-to-be released third album being their first proper pop album — and the members of the band have excitedly embraced the change. 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.”
“Too Late” the album’s first single is a swaggering, soul-pop number with an infectiously anthemic yet heartbreaking hook bolstered by a sinuous horn line. And while being a bit of a tell-off to a deceitful, ungrateful lover, who the song’s narrator is glad to be rid of, the song also manages to possess the bitter and lingering resentments of promises said and unfilled, of time passing and being lost, of things that should have been said but for a variety of reasons hadn’t been said. But even with all of that being, the song’s narrator is a modern woman after all, and as a result, the song reveals a fully-fleshed out woman, who recognizes her own strength, resolve and power — and in many ways, the song will remind you of women you know and admire.