Brooklyn artist, Rush Midnight, took the stage on this cold and windy night where fans were in for a treat on South Street in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 2 at The Theater of Living Arts as openers for Canadian pop stars, Lights. Former talented Twin Shadow bass player, Russ Manning (a.k.a. Rush Midnight) brought a danceable ’80’s infused neo-funk or a slick “night” music (something reminiscent of late ’80’s and early ’90’s Bryan Ferry solo work) vibe back to the forefront of pop music. The debut LP was released on Last Gang Records in the Spring 2014, and it was just re-released on September 30th in a deluxe format adding several original and remixed songs. The song, “Fix Me Up” was featured as my Pick of the week in Phithy Mag’s Sound Off feature earlier this year as “one of the most exciting releases of the year”. They are touring in support of this self-titled Deluxe edition of the debut LP which is available on iTunes.
The line of fans outside moved inside quickly as the doors opened, wide-eyed fans hungry for live music staked their claim up at the front and it filled quickly. The atmosphere was enthusiastic and fun for what appeared to be a nearly sold out show, fans were ready for music with an explosive danceable pulse. This night, it was the perfect stage for Rush Midnight to introduce his music to new fans.
Rush Midnight took the stage, a trio, Russ Manning on bass and vocals, Will Fegan on drums and Ben Jamieson on electric guitar. With “loungey-like” lights (as Russ describes it) to illuminate the set, Rush Midnight played before an attentive and eager crowd, and they provided a lush funky electro-bass sound for them. The beat was danceable, the drumming was tight, and the guitar parts illuminated, a bit of a cross between U2’s The Edge and Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, bright chops and sparkling textures to the songs. Tunes from his album included: “Fix Me Up”, “Closer”, “In Your Room” and more, and at some point, Russ got the crowd going, raising their hands in the air clapping to the beat. Overall, the crowd was very appreciative of Rush Midnight and the set.
For more insight about Rush Midnight, I spoke briefly with Russ Manning about the album and touring:
Jon from Philthy: When was the last time you were in Philly?
Rush Midnight: We were there 3 or 4 months ago at Johnny Brenda’s. It was great….great little spot, they treat you right with a good little crowd.
Jon from Philthy: You just re-released your debut LP recently and you’ve added a couple of new tunes and added remixes, the album is definitely on my list of faves of the year. Can you describe a bit the making of this debut LP and what it was like for you?
It took a while, longer than I thought it would. There was no rush for the project…a year or so. It’s a lot of bedroom recordings. I was between New York and L.A. the entire time messing around with these grooves, pop songs, and I have a buddy out there- Rico Martinez who works in TV who helped me finish songs. So, I’ll do all of the instruments and lay down the vocals. He’ll be in New York and I’ll be in L.A., and we’ll sip on some beers and finish the process. I would say I’m going for an ’80’s funk element; bands like Change from Minneapolis and Prince. That was my biggest inspiration on this record.
Jon from Philthy: I just listened to your remix of Light’s “Portal” and really made some excellent enhancements to it. It’s the whole synth-pop thing, creating more to it. Can you describe what goes through your head when you listen to a song and do a remix?
Rush Midnight: That song was pretty easy to do a remix for because it’s a ballad. It was pretty sparse, and it leaves a lot of room for imagination. The first time I heard it, I heard a shuffle feel of it….make it more dancey (makes triplet sounds to describe). It really only took me a few hours. It just spilled out, and I was done….vocals, some synths, no real bass or guitar on there…just all synthesizers, like a DX7, and making sure the kick and the snare were sounding “phat” as that is the most important thing for a remix, I think.
Jon from Philthy: You are getting coverage by Stereogum which is great to have them touting your remixes and your album as well.
Rush Midnight: They are definitely showing us some love.
Jon from Philthy: Most of us are just now getting familiar with Rush Midnight. Could you just tell us how you got your start?
Rush Midnight: I started playing in this other band, Twin Shadow, playing bass…the live stuff. We went on tour, and the whole thing became a whirlwind tour for 2 or 3 years, and at some point, we had time off for George Lewis, Jr. (a.k.a. Twin Shadow) to write his next record, and at that time, I was writing a lot of demos while we were in the car. I started showing him the recordings, and he was really into it, and he offered to produce a couple of tracks, help finish and polish them. So, he did that for fun, and we had these 2 awesome tracks “Crush” and “Dreaming of an Island”, and we sat down with his manager and tried to devise a plan to put these out. He was about to start writing his second record; so, there was so time off right then. I wanted to get them out, my DJ friend started spinning it, and I started to get a lot of positive feedback. So, they said we’ll get behind it. Twin Shadow produced these tracks. There is a story there. Then, I found a small label and started touring occasionally. By the time, his record (Twin Shadow’s) was coming out, I was ready to devote my whole everything to it. We still hang out (with Twin Shadow) when crossing paths. I may actually work with him again (George Lewis, Jr.) at some point.
Jon from Philthy: What are some of your own musical influences and non-musical influences?
Rush Midnight: I studied film in college. I studied jazz at the conservatory. So, I have always been into movies, sci-fi movies…the visuals there. The neon lights inspired me like “Blade Runner”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Warriors”, all of those classic cult movies that look awesome. When I am writing music, I think of the visuals: How do I score this type of thing? Musically, I like disco. I’m growing away from it a bit, but I like pop songs that are synthetic that are creating a different world, a different sound scape than the standard, something you feel like you can walk through like ’80’s bands for the most part and late ’70’s punk…(mentions Change, The Police, The Clash)…right now Thin Lizzy is like my idol.
Jon from Philthy: You (with Lights) have been selling out venues. I noticed on your FB page / or Twitter page. That must be really cool. How has it been to be on tour this time around and how is it to tour with Lights?
Rush Midnight: This is not our not-normal pairing because she is mega-pop star, but it’s fun. They are super nice….Her crowd is so faithful. They are young and they show up 3 hours early, and there is always a line around the block. For most opening acts, maybe people wouldn’t be there yet or they trickle in, but for this one, the house is packed at “doors” so that is the coolest part.
Jon from Philthy: What kind of direction do you see yourself moving towards and what are the plans for Rush Midnight for 2015?
Rush Midnight: I have 2 more albums ready to go, but the challenge is organizing the songs. There is this surf stuff happening and future R&B thing and 80’s funk/ disco stuff. I think it’s going to be a big year, and we are going to try to release maybe 2 or 3 EPs that have their own sound pretty quickly….early November we will be chiseling them down and figuring out what songs on what, and then we’ll set up the spring tour. There will be more music videos.
Written by Jon Crary. Photos by Kadeem Jackson