A Chat with Brendan O'Connell of The Right Now

This post originally appeared on IndianapolisMonthly.com
Photo by Seth Thompson/Epiglotic Photographic

Photo by Seth Thompson/Epiglotic Photographic

Inspired by the sounds of Chess Records and Quincy Jones, Chicago-based band The Right Now has been touring the country since 2009, opening for acts such as George Clinton and Fitz & The Tantrums. The pop-meets-soul group recently released a new album, Starlight, which sees the seven-piece outfit defy genre with a blend of myriad influences and rhythms. Social and political commentary also set Starlight apart from its previous albums.

On a 10-show tour across the Midwest, songwriter and guitarist Brendan O’Connell checked in with Indianapolis Monthly before a March 31 stop at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis.

How did the seven of you get together to form The Right Now?

Stef [vocalist Stefanie Berecz] and I were the first to meet. I met her when I was playing in a trio about ten years ago, and she was friends with the owners of the restaurant I was playing in. They were friends of mine and told me, “You have to have a singer up there with you, and she’s great.” It’s something that she normally didn’t do. She’d grown up in girl bands and doing the pop music thing, but she hadn’t sung much with a band. She got up and we did a couple Aretha Franklin tunes, and from the moment she started singing, I knew it was special, and I knew I needed to start working with her. So, that’s how we met, and one by one, I roped in the other members of the band. There’s a great music community here and some great music colleges. All of the members who aren’t from Chicago originally migrated here to go to music school.

Has the group played in Indy before?

We’ve been coming to Indianapolis since 2009. It’s been a few years. A really good friend of ours, Kyle Hodges, who lives in Chicago now—he was a DJ and promoter in Indianapolis, and he was the first to bring us there. We did a session for My Old Kentucky Blog way back in 2010. Indianapolis was great for us. It was one of the first places where someone believed in the band and wanted to bring us down and showcase us. We love coming to town.

How does the Chicago scene influence your sound?

It’s impossible to divorce ourselves from Chicago and the music scene there. From a historical perspective, with Chess Records and Curtis Mayfield and Chaka Khan being from here, there are so many great artists from Chicago. That’s just a part of growing up here, and what you hear on the radio, and the culture. All of this creates a stew of soul and R&B and roots music. If you’re listening to music or a musician growing up here, you can’t avoid that being a big part of you.

During times of unrest, politically charged music tends to be pessimistic. Do you feel obligated as an artist to offer audiences a more optimistic view of what’s happening?

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