Gearing up for their Gets Over You record release show at Lincoln Hall this weekend, Brendan O’Connell and Stefanie Berecz of Chicago soul group, The Right Now, were kind enough to talk with me about vinyl records, Chicago music, and what it takes to make an album.
The 18+ record release show on Saturday, 5/12, kicks off at 9:00 PM, and you can grab tickets for just $10 online, or $12 at the door. On top of the newly released sophomore effort Gets Over You, The Right Now had a Record Store Exclusive 7″, that you may have seen as you shopped around on 4/21.
With both of your full length records and a handful of 7″ releases on vinyl, can you tell us a little bit about why vinyl is an important part of your music and why you have decided to consistently release on it?
Brendan: I think that it was probably our Bari sax player, Jonathan; we call him Jonny Hats. He was the first person that got the buzz going in all of us to really start appreciating vinyl. Obviously, it’s such a great way to consume music. I think that we all grew up listening, but Jonny Hats was really the first one to start digging in at record stores and finding rare 45s and pushing the idea that we should release a 7”.
Eventually we decided on a whim, on an off day, in Memphis to record a single – a new song we were working on called “7 to 10”. We went into the studio and laid it down and everything about the studio and the way the song turned out really lent itself to a 45. When we finally finished the record and were getting it mastered, we got to sit it on that process which was done at Ardent Studios, where Larry Nix did a lot of the Stax mastering in the ‘70s. Seeing that, and then going to the record pressing plant in Nashville, and getting a tour of that, we all just fell in love with the entire process. It’s such a simple, intuitive process the way that the records are manufactured. There’s just some really tangible magic.
From there it sort of just launched. We released our first record and then we waited probably six months before putting it out on LP just because we didn’t have the budget to do it. That really sealed the deal, I think, once we had the big LP artwork, and it was imperative every record we put out is going to be on both CD and LP.
I think the cost of vinyl is the big drawback. It ends up being more of a labor of love for bands. We would continue to do it anyway because it’s very fulfilling to get your record pressed on vinyl, but for the past couple records we’ve been able to get a distribution company to get behind us. It’s called URP Music Distributors, and they are the distribution wing for United Record Pressing in Nashville. Those guys have just been incredible for us in getting the record out to stores all over the world. Without having records on vinyl, that relationship wouldn’t exist, and all these fans wouldn’t be our fans without vinyl.
The vinyl record has historically been such an important part of the genre of music you’re creating, can you cite any particular records that influenced either you personally, or the sound of the group?
Stefanie: We all kind of grew up enjoying different styles of music. Personally, my parents were vinyl enthusiasts and they were listening to a bunch of Stevie Wonder when I was younger. Also Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald – those are all sounds that I personally grew up with hearing a lot in the house.
Brendan: I think specifically with records, I still remember the day like in fifth grade, my dad, after dinner, sat me down at the turntable and threw on Led Zeppelin I. “Son, this is music.” Growing up, there were those very specific connections, for me at least, with the experience of listening to music and taking out a record, listening to a side and pouring over liner notes and holding a big piece of artwork in your hands. I think Stef is really right, we all grew up listening to all the Stax and Motown that most kids check out. It wasn’t really until our 20s that most of us got into the lesser known stuff. Again, I think Jonny Hats brought Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul Revue and all that stuff to our attention when it was happening a couple of years ago.
Do you think that the history of the Chicago/Midwest music scene has shaped your sound at all?
Brendan: Yeah, particularly Chess Records. I moved back to Chicago after college and traveling to get into the blues scene, which didn’t last a long time. I think that I sort of grew away from that kind of music. The cool thing about the blues scene in Chicago is that these guys will play your standard Muddy Waters 12-bar blues tunes but then they’ll launch into The Gap Band or Earth, Wind & Fire, or Bill Withers. It was through going to all of those shows that I started to get more into ‘70s R&B. Also, the gospel scene in Chicago is really incredible, and we’ve gotten way more into that over the years and have drawn a lot from the improvisation of gospel music.
Can you explain your creative process a bit – just how an idea makes its way into a full-fledged song?
Stefanie: Usually, it all starts with Brendan. He has always been the number one song-writer in the group. Him and I usually try to write as much as we can at his house, usually on my lunch breaks. After that we bring it to everybody in our rehearsal space, and that’s when everyone gets to chime in and really help out with the formation of the whole entire song. Everybody needs a Brendan to get things rolling.
Brendan: It’s tough because we all have jobs and families, some of us have kids. If you’re not making an effort to write regularly, or to bring new material, then things get pretty stale pretty quickly. I think that it’s been a good motivator to keep everyone interested, to continually write stuff. It’s cool, because a lot of stuff will get rejected or ideas will go to the wayside.
Making this record was really a cathartic experience for the band. We started demoing songs in January of last year and then spent a good eight months just pretty regularly locking ourselves in the studio for a weekend and re-recording demos, trying out new ideas, and making the record several times ourselves. When we flew out to LA and recorded with Sergio (Rios) from Orgone, we could actually pull off, “Let’s just play this song live and that’s going to be the record.” It wasn’t something that was cranked out in a week – there was a lot of planning behind it – but luckily the actual recording process only took that long.
Wondering what’s next for The Right Now? Within the next week, they will be debuting a music video for their Record Store Day 7″ A-side, “He Used to Be”. On top of that, several remixes of the Gets Over You disco track, “Call Girl” will be released digitally in May with a 12” vinyl due out in the fall.
Pick up a copy of Gets of You on vinyl, and make sure to catch The Right Now on tour all across the country this summer.