Bright Brown is sonic cinema. Bittersweet layers and textures abound, and beautifully crafted songs exist at the core. Alex Nahas’ songwriting boldly chooses to sit “between the meager and the mundane” elevating the everyday.
Since the immediate chemistry or their chance meeting on the New York City Subway a few years ago, Alex Nahas and Nick Smeraski have released two critically acclaimed records, the intimate and moody “No Matter How Faint There’s Light In Everything” and the more epic and celebratory "Oceans", while wowing audiences with explosive duo performances. Alex accompanies his darkly optimistic vocals on The Chapman Stick, a seldom seen ten-stringed electric instrument covering a sonic range from deep, earthy bass to shimmering highs, while Nick Smeraski drums viscerally textural pulses that choose moments to lash out in restrained violence.
Alex Nahas is best known for founding the critically acclaimed post rock band, Laughingstock. http://www.laughingstocksf.com Other achievements include touring and recording with John Vanderslice, and producing / engineering the first Mates of State EP.
Bright Brown's music follows the trail blazed by such innovative artists as Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, Daniel Lanois, Animal Collective, Sigur Ross, Mark Hollis, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Buckley and Radiohead.
Alex Nahas - Vocals, Chapman Stick
Nick Smeraski - Drums, Backing Vocals
"No Matter How Faint There's Light In Everything" LP Out Now.
"Oceans" Vinyl or Download http://brightbrown.bandcamp.com
Bright Brown Stretch the Musical Soundscape
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If you listen closely to the poppy, ethereal sounds emanating from the Bright Brown 2011 record “Oce...If you listen closely to the poppy, ethereal sounds emanating from the Bright Brown 2011 record “Oceans,” you’ll hear a sound you’re not immediately familiar with. Vastly opening up and stretching the broad soundscape is one instrument that registers like a relative of the guitar, but no, that’s not quite what it is.
What emanates through the almost cinematic indie rock of Bright Brown is an instrument called the Chapman Stick, and it has become a mainstay for songwriting band member Alex Nahas, who started out as a bass player for a variety of bands but was always seeking out ways to get more unusual sounds out of his instruments. Then Nahas delved into the music of legendary bassist Tony Levin, who has collaborated with everyone from Peter Gabriel and King Crimson to Pink Floyd and John Lennon.
“He always had such interesting tone and style to his playing,” Nahas says of Levin. “I later found out that much of that he accomplished on the Chapman Stick.” Nahas soon learned that the instrument’s founder, Emmett Chapman, lived not too far from him, so he went to see him perform live.
“When I saw him play solo arrangements of songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ I realized that The Stick was so much more than a bass instrument. It had this whole melodic, chordal side to it as well. I spoke to Emmett for a while after his performance, and he hooked me up with a guy who was selling a used one.”
It was then Nahas says the learning curve hit. The instrument, a two-handed fretboard, is played by tapping the string at the desired fret with one hand and using the other hand to tap out the accompanying part. Comprised of five bass and five melody strings, the instrument feeds separate pickups and outputs, allowing the bass part to go to a bass amp and the melody part to go to a guitar amp.
While Nahas remembers developing a love/hate relationship with the instrument, he eventually gave it up and went back to writing on the guitar – that is, until everything changed. One morning Nahas struck up a conversation with drummer Nick Smeraski on the subway, and the two became fast musical friends.
“We played together for the first time within two weeks after talking on the train,” Nahas remembers. “It clicked so quickly and organically to the point where I could just play a loose structure of a song idea and say hardly a word about direction, and Nick would rise to the occasion well beyond my expectation. Very shortly thereafter we made plans to play out and record our first record, ‘No Matter How Faint There’s Light In Everything.’”
With the sonic inspiration from his new band, Nahas went back to the Chapman Stick, approaching it first as a songwriting tool. But then it clicked, and he hasn’t put it down since.
After releasing their first album in 2009, the band added keyboardist David Blatty to the recording mix and tracked their sophomore release Oceans in 2011 in a basement studio in Brooklyn. The title of the project became even timelier as the band experienced multiple floods during that time. And while that’s a fitting title for the record made under such watery circumstances, Nahas says the real meaning of the title delves deeper than the surface.
“’Oceans,’ for me, turned out to be an embrace of life’s unsolved mysteries,” he shares. “The ocean is a place loaded with mystery. We’ll never figure it out completely, and yet we draw solace, excitement and inspiration from it. At some point, you realize that it’s OK to not figure everything out. It takes the pressure off.” Releasing the record digitally at first, the group launched a PledgeMusic campaign in August to re-release the project on 12” vinyl.
“Anytime someone makes the commitment of putting a record on a turntable, they’re committing to more patient listening,” Nahas explains. “The warmth that people experience with vinyl isn’t because the sound quality is better. In fact, on paper, digital recordings are cleaner and more broadband. That warmth you experience comes from the intimacy of sitting down, listening to and interacting with music the way one would curl up with a good book. I swear that when I hold a 12-by-12 album cover in my hand, I get more inside the music.”
Bright Brown’s fans obviously agreed, seeing the band through to a December 2011 release of “Oceans” on vinyl. Now, sitting on the other side of a successful campaign, Nahas says the band that gleans inspiration from “patient, ambient styles of music, film and literature” like Brian Eno, Debussy, Satie and Miles Davis, are still riding the high of learning that their fans are so deeply moved by the music.
“This,” Nahas concludes, “is what keeps me going.”
-Brittany Cooper, Pledgemusic
Music For Crisp Autumn NYC Air
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Alex Nahas and Nick Smeraski of Bright Brown bring an ideal soundtrack to the crisp, autumn air. The...Alex Nahas and Nick Smeraski of Bright Brown bring an ideal soundtrack to the crisp, autumn air. The brooding Brooklyn duo layers humming vocals, a Chapman Stick, keyboards, soft percussion, and a little acoustic guitar. Sounds range from sparse and repetitive like a piece for avant-garde dance to expansive and melodic like the theme from a western where everyone dies in the same pool of blood. Nahas cut his teeth as a founder of the post-rock band Laughingstock. Fans of Brian Eno, Nick Drake, and John Cale should check these guys out. - WSP, The Deli
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"For those of you who may have been wondering what Alex Nahas (Laughing Stock) has been doing for th..."For those of you who may have been wondering what Alex Nahas (Laughing Stock) has been doing for the last 10 years, this is it — writing, singing and recording some brilliant songs, full of pathos and alienation, but sweetened with strong doses of optimism. Together with fellow multi-instrumentalist Nick Smeraski (drums, percussion, keyboards), the now Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter looks to the American West for sonic and thematic influences on this new collection of cinematic originals.
Alex is a singer for our time. As we ponder our post-millenial and post-9/11 zeitgeist, feeling like aliens in our own society, we live out our lives waiting for something big to happen ("gray sky, make up your mind..."). Alex invites us to be more in the present, but there's a catch. He willingly pulls our cultural reference points out from under us ("There never was the 1950s...no such thing as the American Dream"), but he's kind enough not to leave us sprawled out on the floor; there is something more.
From the dessicate "Like Texas" to the plaintive and even more partched "King of Thirst", this music often broods along with us, but Bright Brown never fails to counter our collective agita with healthy doses of climactic major chords and high-arcing vocal choruses. Here are echoes of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, but with much more urgency ("I come to you seeking relief. Are you listening? Do you hear my plea?"). Alex's voice is immediate, dry and full of emotion, perfectly suited to these self-described "melodramatic pop songs." These songs are about relationships between individual and society, ("am I moving or just another roadside attraction?"), dreams and reality.
The musical relationship between Alex and Nick comes through loud and clear, and soft and sure. Smeraski knows how to hold back, and then rain down drums upon us at just the right moment. There's an unmistakable "band" tightness between the two. Together they know how to weave a quiet tale, but they also know how to "rock out." The "bass" and "guitar" are Alex's ironwood 10-string Stick, run through old tube amps, and sounding all burbly and warm, with chunky, overdriven leads, and a twangy tremolo that spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone would be proud of.
Sometimes painfully spare, and sometimes lush and clamorous, these are masterfully produced tracks - dynamic, engaging and full of heart."
Turntable and Blue Light
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Their new CD, No Matter How Faint There's Light In Everything comes at you with dark heart and plea....Their new CD, No Matter How Faint There's Light In Everything comes at you with dark heart and plea. From the first yearning, "Are You Listening" to the last song, "King of Thirst," Nahas' voice is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time, the music layering over and under like sweet and sorrow. The lyrics are poetic and thoughtful and arrangements carefully wrought so that the sadness is placed in glimmers of light, melodies in a comforting bed of sound. Just close your eyes and listen to this one, preferably on headphones, so you can lose yourself in the world of the songs and learn something about where inner and outer landscapes meet.
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"With Alex Nahas conjuring an electric chamber orchestra on the Chapman stick ... amorphous, atmosph..."With Alex Nahas conjuring an electric chamber orchestra on the Chapman stick ... amorphous, atmospheric, wavering between exhaustion and exultation."
- Joe Brown, Sunday Datebook Editor
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"Alex Nahas is the creative mainspring ... sound is reminiscent of the evocative wide-screen arrange..."Alex Nahas is the creative mainspring ... sound is reminiscent of the evocative wide-screen arrangements of groups such as Tindersticks or Talk-Talk."
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"... seduce[s] you into a bright, pulsing mirage ... could give Radiohead a run for its quid." -Car..."... seduce[s] you into a bright, pulsing mirage ... could give Radiohead a run for its quid."
"There is a comfort listening to this music when its dark outside and quiet inside."
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"Alex Nahas' Chapman Stick spreads across the surface of the songs like an oil slick and renders eve..."Alex Nahas' Chapman Stick spreads across the surface of the songs like an oil slick and renders everything slower, darker, and stickier. The melodies stick too..."
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"... crafts a subtle, ethereal sort of rock that combines textured, hypnotic drumming with the broad..."... crafts a subtle, ethereal sort of rock that combines textured, hypnotic drumming with the broad range of the Chapman Stick. Their sound has clear ties to adventurous classics by Talk Talk and Tindersticks, but the songs are focused enough to find appeal amongst fans of Coldplay, Radiohead, or Jeff Buckley."
Perfomances have been solo, duo, or trio depending on venue. Set list is comprised of originals and sometimes a cover.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.