Talk Thursday to Me – Jeremy Brightbill

Today we talk to Jeremy Brightbill about his long running musical project Panic Strikes a Chord and their new album, Accidents in a Very Busy Place.

Postcard Editor: Ok – so let’s get people new to Panic Strikes A Chord up to speed. You started it as a recording project while still living in West Virginia right?

Jeremy Brightbill: Yeah, around 1996, I think. I just changed the name of my home recording project and kept making noise.

PE: So what was the original name of that home recording project?

JB: I had dozens! I made tapes and tapes of songs, usually about 90minutes of music a month. I’m trying to remember some of the names… Um, Pilgrim Wade, Band of Snow, Lucky Bastard, the Notorious Pop Factory, plus many collaborative projects.

PE: Ah cool, so was it a definite plan to start going in a specific direction when you changed the name to PSAC, or were you just unifying all those different experiments under one name?

JB: More unifying. I mean, I had the sort of life crisis a 21-year old will have, and needed a new name and all that. But there was never really a specific sound associated with Panic.

PE: So recently you’ve had a solid band line-up for PSAC, and we’ll get into that and the new album that came from that in a second, but for those first few albums you did just about everything on the records correct?

JB: Up until the third release, yes. And then for the fourth as well. I had people come in to do little bits, but mostly it was me solo, and the listener can really tell sometimes!

PE: You mean they can hear your unfiltered genius? Unobstructed by the clumsy hands of mortals?

JB: Exactly. And they can hear my drumming prowess. I’m like a programmed drum machine, one that has been hacked to change bpm every other measure.

PE: So next level. Eat it Daft Punk.

JB: And eat it, consistency!

PE: Ok, so with the times that you’ve had more of a full band set up, like on the “for the beauty of night” album and the new one (with entirely different bands on each one) – do you allow the players you’ve assembled to help craft the direction of the album – or is it something that you’re directing in advance. For example, “ of night” has more of slow, expansive sound that hints at GY!BE, while the new one is much more of a rock record.

JB: I have ideas, man! I bring a song, finished or not, and then everyone puts their own magical spin on it. “Beauty” was great, because it was the first full-band version of Panic in Bloomington, and each player’s specific style defined our sound. And yes, I was obsessed with slo-core at the time, and it shows. But I feel the new record is the culmination of a lifetime of listening to music, and all my favorite things crammed into one set of songs. And the band… I can’t really say enough how exciting it is to play with people who get it right away, and trust my and their instincts… it’s all about making the best song, no ego, no bullshit. I am stupid fortunate to have these guys playing with me.

PE: Oh come on, I’m sure there’s some bullshit. Who is your least favorite band member?

JB: That Jeremy guy who keeps writing songs and thinking people want to hear his take on mid-nineties indie rock. He sucks.

PE: Agreed!

JB: Thinks he’s so smart.

PE: Ok, because I have my take on it, but I’m curious as to how you would describe the new album? As you alluded to, there’s a lot of influences on there, but it definitely has a cohesive feel too. How do you describe it?

JB: I’m not quite sure. I’m still stunned that this came out of me, out of us . I mean, I hear all of the notes, all of the bands that informed those notes, in every song, but all together, it does feel like its own thing. I have to agree with you there.To me, it just sounds like 1995 recorded 15 years later. Does that make sense?

PE: Yeah definitely. There are shades of Built to Spill, Superchunk, Pavement – it’s like you guys have somehow summarized guitar driven mid-90’s indie rock into one package. I was just secretly hoping you had come up with some snappy genre for it like “golden era CMJ rock”

JB: HA! I like that. I also hear Low, Fanclub, Lync/Love as Laughter, the New Year… I could go on and on. Maybe it should be called “nu-post-indie amalgamation rock.”

PE: 90’s Spamrock

JB: “Wave” should be in there too.

PE: Definitely on Fanclub. Ok, so on the new album, you rerecorded the seldom heard but fanbase favorite “Pony Up” – what made you revisit that track for this new collection of songs?

JB: It fit. That song was written in 2001, and it hasn’t fit any of the albums till now. We learned 2 songs and then I realized how much I missed playing catchy, fast-ish songs, so I mined the ol’ archives and picked my favorites, basically. I had a title and artwork and an album theme and tried to stick to it, from then on. Of course, all of that was changed.

PE: So did the album have a lyrical theme? Or do you mean just more of the sound in mind?

JB: Both, really. But, yeah… totally changed.

PE: So what was the original plan for this album – both lyrically and musically?

JB: Most of the songs I wanted to use were kept, so the sound is still there. Lyrically, I just kept the ones that worked. If they didn’t, I rewrote them. I was still changing single words in “A Simple Thing” while we were in the studio! The theme was going to be “Please, I’m trying to lose my mind,” but I guess “Accidents in a very busy place” isn’t too far off, really. So I guess, thematically, I just let each individual song be as good as it could be. Thus, I had to let go the idea of a total, all-encompassing theme. That was a rabbit-trailed ramble of an explanation, huh?

PE: Not really – it explains it nicely. Ok, so album in the can, release this month – what’s next? Are you and the boys going to do some touring to support it?

JB: If we can. Four full-time workers have a tough time getting schedules to line up, plus I work every weekend. But I do plan on at least doing weekend tours to get out there, sure. We’re already 3 songs deep into the next album, so Hopefully in the fall we can record again.

PE: Very cool. Ok – so the local release will be at the Bishop on……

JB: May 25 with Throwing Stars. Possibly just the two of us, we’ll see. And digital release May 31. We have copies here in Bloomington as we speak. Actually, i have to go assemble more of them when we’re through here. We’re so DIY, it hurts.

PE: So we’ll wrap this as we usually do – name three things that are currently rocking your world. Could be anything at all.

JB: RAD. The newest Low album is brilliant. Jean Grae’s verses on both the new Talib Kweli and the new Pharoahe Monch. And the movies. Oh, the movies. Right now I’m going through all the Coen Brothers films for like the 8th time. I’m loving life right now.

PE: Good enough! Thanks dude.

JB: Cool. Thanks a ton, this was really fun.

Jeremy Brightbill is the guitarist/singer/main dude for Panic Strikes a Chord, whose newest album “Accidents in a Very Busy Place” drops May 31st on Higher Step Records.  You can pre-order your copy here.  The album release show will be:

May 25th @ The Bishop
123 S. Walnut St.
Bloomington, IN
9:00 pm – 18+ – $3

also appearing: Throwing Stars and Hard Candy Hearts

If you feel the need for more JB and PSAC, you can check out our entire archive of stories about both here.

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