Keeping with the sentiment of urgency found in their moniker, I recently chatted with Stefanie Berecz (vocals) and Brendan O’Connell (keys and guitar) of The Right Now as they were en route to their final rehearsal for their tour, which kicks off tonight in Pittsburgh. Although the two would have appeared to be on a bit of a whirlwind schedule (O’Connell was actually chatting to me from the back of a cab.), their social graces were as cool and collected as their music would lead you to believe they are. The Right Now are a seven-piece from Chicago, who embody the sounds of vintage, 1960s soul music. They’re quite retro, but you’d never know that by listening… You’d simply assume them to be the real thing. The Right Now released their sophomore LP, Gets Over You (Or The Right Now Gets Over You.), earlier this month and next week their tour will find itself stopping in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 24th, at World Café Live.
“I think 100%, the first record is the studio creation of a band who hadn’t played together much in a live setting,” O’Connell tells me, characterizing Gets Over You by saying “It’s a live band playing.” So what happened between 2010’s Carry Me Home and now? Well, they’ve played around 200 shows. “I think when we first started touring it was our way of getting to know each other,” Berecz tells me. In fact, she confesses about their earliest days on the road “I was pregnant at the time and none of the boys knew.”
As for the songs found on Gets Over You, O’Connell describes them as “Nasty, tragic love stories about cheating and old boyfriends,” which might have been partly inspired by O’Connell’s admiration for James Joyce (This came up during my standard, “Prominent non-musical influences” portion of the interview.): “I love James Joyce. I took a class, went to Ireland, and met this great guy and studied Joyce and some other Irish writers,” and seems to feel that the “Tragedy and Irish history” present in such work may have, inadvertently, contributed to a lot of his songwriting for The Right Now (For whom he does the brunt of the songwriting.)
Although in their time touring behind their first album they’ve played alongside (well, technically, before) a number of huge names; including Fitz & the Tantrums, Jamie Lidell, and even George Clinton; both O’Connell and Berecz seem to agree that the greatest experience was getting to share a stage with Otis Clay, a classic (although not nearly as popularly renowned as he ought to be) Chicago soul singer. “It was just like one of those going to school experiences and seeing how it’s done,” O’Connell reminisces. “He’s a great storyteller,” adds Berecz.
Although it’s not just their own, local soul sisters and soul brothers that The Right Now have love for. They also seem to have a great deal of respect for our own, local soul siblings. “I love Philly soul,” O’Connell tells me, explaining that he got his hands on a Gamble and Huff box set in college that played quite a large role in his ear for music. He even goes so far as to admit that “We all [band members] have a top five of cities we wouldn’t mind living in, and Philadelphia’s on pretty much all of our lists.”
Although I’m not the biggest fan of dinner theater venues (Despite being a regular at World Café Live… Thank you for not taking my comments too harshly.), The Right Now actually prefer them, in many cases: “For me, personally, I love festivals, I love dive bars, but the more personal, intimate settings are the most challenging,” says Berecz, who enjoys attempting to engage audiences in these stark, subtle rooms, where audiences have very few distractions from what is going on onstage. In attempting to characterize the band’s live show, she says “To me, it’s just always about how much fun we’re having. A lot of the new record opens the door for me to get a little spicier on tour.” O’Connell adds “It’s all about fun, dancing, the whole soul review thing, bringing world class production everywhere we go… We all wear suits and she wears a sparkly dress.”