You may not know about Rod Thomas, yet come June 26 when the debut of his Bright Light Bright Light dance-pop outfit releases its debut, Make Me Believe In Hope, chances are you’ll commit his name to memory. Thomas, a former folk troubadour from the U.K., had an electro-pop epiphany a while back and has set his sights on injecting dance music with much human heart and heat. In song after glorious song, he captures the rush, the heartbreak and—at times—the humor of falling in and out of love. (Thomas is gay, but the songs have the universal reach of the best pop.) Let’s welcome him back to our shores (he recorded parts of Make Me Believe In Hope in L.A.) and hope he gets his cute, dancing ass on tour in the U.S. soon.
Can you describe the journey leading up to Make Me Believe In Hope?
Rod Thomas: It's been a long journey—two years or so—but a really fun one. As there was no big label pushing for immediate release, I was able to grow organic relationships that led to the collaborations that have shaped the record. So Andy (Chatterly) and Jon (Shave), the two main co-producers, started out when we met up, tested some ideas while chatting about music, and because we got on so well, we worked together more extensively. It was a real "there's a great chemistry, let's do some work" rather than "let's write a hit," which was so nice.
Your songs work individually, yet the lyrical details and easy flow of the music’s nearly conceptual. The CD is like an electro-pop version of Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Were you working through the detritus of one particular relationship or drawing on a series of experiences?
The album’s based on a concept—or maybe not a concept, but a fascination of mine. I'm intrigued by people and places, and how your connection with this person/place teases out different sides of your personality, how the connection makes you feel less or more optimistic. So the songs are looking at these connections, and what they do to you. Not many of the songs are autobiographical. “Grace” and “Moves” are about things that my friends went through last year, for example. The Blue comparison is amazingly flattering, thank you! I wanted to make a record that had a thread. Whether that's immediately apparent or not isn't too important to me, but they all link together as a sort of cycle—events that bring out the fire in you, passing through to songs that put out these fires, then you try to get perspective, and the process happens all over again.
How easy is it to access the difficult emotions of a song like “Grace,” which brilliantly juxtaposes the break-up song from the POV of the leaving party?
“Grace” is about something that happened to a friend of mine. I thought that since not much airtime is given to the dumper in the world of music, it would be a challenge to write a song about it. Truth is: love is hard, and breaking up with someone you care about is horrific. [Falling] out of love doesn't always mean you don't "love" or care for someone anymore, so adopting the villain role is tough. Being matter of fact, and emotional, is hard. But I loved the challenge! I think it's easy to forget that everything has its perspective, so it was quite refreshing to write without being the hard-done-by point of view.
Are you worried about your sexual orientation becoming the primary talking point as you launch your career?
Not particularly. I don't think I make too much of a point about being gay. My songs are about people and places, and what happens when the two meet. I'm not the most macho of artists, but I don't think it's too exclusively homosexual, the music I make. I'm not going to pretend I'm not gay for fear of being snubbed by sections of the press, but in my experience, most journalists, labels or other musicians I have met have never, ever aired the slightest resistance to my being gay.
Are there plans to tour the States? And when are you returning to L.A.?
Well, anyone who's spoken to me about my time in America will know how much I love being there. I would kill to do a full U.S. tour, so we’re just waiting to see how the response to the record pans out stateside before plans are firmed. But from my point of view, that's the ideal. I adore New York, and I had a blast in L.A., so I can't wait to get back!!