BRIGHT MOMENTS, the intricate Afrobeat-pop project of multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt, will be performing at Heirloom in Danbury, Connecticut on Friday, June 15. Pratt is well-known for his extensive brass and vocal work with Beirut, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem, and though listeners may recognize elements of these projects in Bright Moments’ songs, Pratt says he’s aiming to infuse “good music in general” into his band.
In the following interview, Pratt dishes on Natives, Bright Moments’ debut album, sampling bathtub splashes, and how he fell in love with Afrobeat.
Also on the bill at Heirloom are Jukebox the Ghost, whose new release, Safe Travels, is in the top ten on the iTunes alternative charts, and Savoir Adore. The show is all ages. Tickets are $15, available at the door and at manicproductions.org. Heirloom is located at 155 Main Street in Danbury.
Listen to Bright Moments’ “Travelers” here, and stream all of Natives on the band’s website.
The Mercurial: How old are you, and where are you living and working nowadays?
Kelly Pratt: You’re never supposed to ask a gentleman his age, but since I’m not a gentleman it’s ok. I’m 34, working from New York primarily.
TM: You play lots of different instruments. Would you say you have a main instrument, a go-to, reliable one you feel most comfortable playing? If so, what do you love about it
KP: My primary instrument is trumpet, though I feel pretty comfortable on all the brass. The trumpet is a beast of an instrument though and I’ve struggled with the difficulty of it a lot in the past. But it’s also a beautiful instrument with a lot of possibilities. I’ve also played a lot of keyboards over the last few years and have been working on my woodwinds as well.
TM: Tell me about your relationship with music over the years. Where and when did you first start playing?
KP: I started on piano at 5, but didn’t really start playing music until 5th grade when I took up trumpet in band. I wanted to play the trombone, but they said I was too short. If my arms had been a little longer, who knows where I would be right now!
TM: Team B, your precursor project to Bright Moments, was recorded on a MacBook with its standard, in-computer mic during snatched moments while on tour with LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire in 2008. With Natives, Bright Moments’ first album, you took great cares in the studio. Can you tell me about these different recording experiences, the challenges, rewards, benefits and drawbacks to each approach?
KP: Well a lot of the Team B stuff was written very quickly on purpose. I had a ton of ideas and just wanted to get them out. The lo-fi nature of it was part of what made it interesting to me. This album was much more methodical, with a lot more attention to detail. I really focused on trying to find the right sounds for everything. There are benefits to both of course. It’s really fun and gratifying to write a song in 10 minutes sometimes. But I prefer spending a lot of time on songs. It’s way harder, but ultimately more rewarding.
TM: Natives is a lushly arranged album. What is your set up for live performances?
KP: We are performing as a 5 piece most of the time, 6 sometimes in New York. I sing, play trumpet, and keys. There is another keyboard player, guitarist, drummer, and a bass/horn player. And most of the other guys sing as well.
Most of the sounds like that I get in my studio, then cut them up, affect them, turn them into something different. So rather than thinking of them like samples I am thinking about them like instruments.
TM: A lot of attention is paid to your work with big-name indie bands like Beirut and Arcade Fire. How relevant is your work with these bands to Bright Moments? Do you yearn for fans to recognize a uniqueness or separation with Bright Moments?
KP: I certainly don’t want to try and sound like any of the bands I have worked with. But if someone hears a bit of a common thread from time to time I suppose that wouldn’t be crazy. I try to be more influenced by good music in general rather than by specific aspects of bands I like.
TM: You recorded Natives with the drummer of Akoya, your former Afrobeat band. What drew you to Afrobeat, and how does the style inform Bright Moments?
KP: I am crazy about afrobeat. We actually just played a show with Antibalas a few days ago, one of the best afrobeat bands around. I really love that the music takes its time. Songs can go on for 15, 20, even 30 minutes sometimes. So your relationship to a song will be incredibly different than it would be to a 3 minute pop tune. I feel like where you can hear the style the most in the album is probably in the drumming. The drummer in an afrobeat band has the best gig (if he is good).
TM: Tell me about Jukebox the Ghost and Savoir Adore, the bands you’re currently touring with.
KP: Well, it’s going to be an exciting tour! I have never seen either band live so I am looking forward to that. I have worked a little with one of the guys from Savoir before, so it will be nice to hang out with him…
TM: You’ve said that you had trouble with the lyrics for these songs, and that they came last in the process. Do you have any methods for writing outside of your own experiences?
KP: Well I wouldn’t say I had a lot of trouble. More that I really spent a lot of time on it. As far as writing about things outside my experience, I try to take inspiration from someone’s story, or even from a fictional story. And try to tell it in another way, but maybe without being too blatant about it.
I am crazy about afrobeat. I really love that the music takes its time. Songs can go on for 15, 20, even 30 minutes sometimes. So your relationship to a song will be incredibly different than it would be to a 3 minute pop tune.
TM: You incorporated lots of samples in Natives, including the sound of live bats and the emptying of a shaker. How do you capture these sounds? How many samples do you have?
KP: Most of the sounds like that I get in my studio, then cut them up, affect them, turn them into something different. So rather than thinking of them like samples I am thinking about them like instruments. Turning splashing water in a bathtub into a beat is an example from the album.
TM: Some people balk at the word “pop” nowadays. What’s your take on the genre and your place within it?
KP: I think pop is a great word. It can encompass so many styles. It certainly sounds better than “indie rock”! But like all labels it can be limiting. I feel like most artists and musicians probably don’t think about what genre there music will be, that’s for others to determine.
TM: What’s next for you and Bright Moments?
KP: Well we will be touring in June, then playing a few shows here and there until another tour comes along. We may be going to Europe a little later this year. I’m also writing a lot, thinking about the next album.