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Bright Channel – Wants To Trip You Out (But Not In A Hippie Way)

Jeff Suthers—guitars, vocals
Shannon Stein — bass
Brian — drums

When you hear Denver band, Bright Channel, there is no mistaking it for anything else. It is a signature sound so unique as to be revelatory. Jeff Suthers’ guitar shimmers and reels over slow, sometimes lulling, sometimes murderous grooves, lashing out in waves of squalling feedback and echo. It doesn’t take long to realize that there is an overwhelming, unique aesthetic to this stuff.

The first time I saw them my band, Porcelain, was slated to open for them at the Climax Lounge in Denver. And like most revelations, it came as a surprise. It wasn’t immediate, but after two or three songs I found myself swaying with the crowd and going, “Damn…this is really GOOD. Scary good. Why don’t I know how to get sounds like that?” So I had another compelling reason—other than that they are my favorite Denver band—to interview their exceedingly nice and humble guitar player, Jeff Suthers. Quite simply, I wanted to pick his brain, and possibly get him to reveals some of his musical secrets.

We sat down in his room, listening New Zealand space rockers, Bailter Space. After a few beers and a bong hit, the conversation started rolling on the mystery of how psychedelia got railroaded into meaning only jam bands and folk.

Kaffeine Buzz: I don’t know where somebody got it in their heads that bands playing a bunch of notes is the most psychedelic. I mean that never seemed to make sense that somehow the Grateful Dead were the most psychedelic band out there. Listening to Hendrix, it seemed to me that ‘real’ psychedelia was pushing towards noise and space…

Jeff Suthers: Yeah, like folk singers with cool backdrops, that’s not psychedelic to me. (laughs) I mean I guess anything can be psychedelic…it makes me worried. I had a friend in from Texas, [who] told me there was a huge clan of hippies hanging out at the Sigur Ros show doing the full-on wavy dances and shit, and I know how psychedelic that kind of music is—just listen to Loveless [My Bloody Valentine]. But I don’t want them to know about it. I’m like, “Just keep listening to bluegrass. And just stay on that side, over there.” (laughter)

KB: I mean the most terrifying thing for you would be…you come out on stage and there are all these hippies come to see Bright Channel.

JS: It’s happened…they’ve done the dance and everything.

KB: Oh, I’m sure. But to me man, that’s good. It really is. You make great psychedelic music, in the truest sense.

JS: I was saying earlier about my “Embarrassing Stage?” I thought I was a hippie – I was wearing peace signs. I was wearing anarchy symbols—I thought I was a punk rocker. I thought I was metal—I had a mullet. I’ve been through all the shit dude…I like all sorts of things…the stuff by Nice Drake and Leonard Cohen.

KB: But you don’t want to be everybody. That’s why I feel that you guys, more than any band out there, have carved out a space, a really unique sound that still has a sameness to it—and sometimes that can be the kiss of death for a band. You know, they are boring from the first same sound to the last—but with you guys, from the first note you are interesting and continue to be to the end.

JS: I’ve come up with a sound I really like all the way through. You can still have that tone; you can still have that attitude, but switch it up. Record your song, play it backwards and learn it backwards.

KB: (laughing) But that would require learning. So…how does it work?

JS: There’s a few different ways we go about it. One way is that I write pretty much everything and record it.

KB: So you’re like, playing the bass, playing—

JS: The drum machine, on the computer. Yeah, that’s one way. Another way would be like, ‘lets try some new shit tonight and see what we can come up with,’ a lot of those become our more groove-oriented songs. Then I can start adding my lyrics, which are just great. (sarcasm) All three words that I have in my vocabulary (laughs)… I kind of wish we had more time to do experimentation. I’m in control of the whole thing but it’s not easy to sit down and write a song like that. It’s almost easier be at practice and go, “I’ve made a hook like this and I don’t know what kind of tempo it is,” and I turn around and rock my head and he (Brian, the drummer) understands. And then Shannon (Stein on bass) goes and puts her stamp on it.

KB: I mean, how fucking important is your rhythm section? Nobody could be listening to your guitar and catch an actual beat off it, right? They have to have some level of confidence not to be chasing your guitar off the rails into space.

JS: They’re very important. What I have to do is turn it down, turn off all my pedals. And then it takes me a minute to actually figure out where the ‘one’ is and then try to explain it to them. Especially working with Brian…a lot of times I just have an idea, and I have a kind of wacky way to communicate it to him: I’ll sway and be like, “here’s the kick and here’s the snare.”

KB: (laughing) You have to do a dance because the actual sound coming out of your amp is fairly obscure…(laughter)

JS: Yeah it’s funny because just recently some people said that they were picking up on some weird time signatures. I was like, “Really? I know 3/4 and 4/4 but-“

KB: (laughing) Beware those assholes…

JS: …then I mentioned it to Shannon and she said, “Yeah, remember that time I told you guys it would sound better with this extra count right here and you guys finally agreed.” And all along I had all been trying to take credit for it…it’s because I’m so swirled out on my guitar… (Laughing)

KB: OK, now we’re getting to why I’m really here— I need to know how you get that sound.

JS: Oh we’re getting into dangerous territory now.

KB: Now I’ve been playing with delay for years. I love delay, but I’ve run into problems with the beat backs. It can really confuse the rhythm, but with you, I can’t hear ANY beat back whatsoever. I can’t figure it out.

JS: (Slowly) Well reverb can take the edge off it…

KB: Is the reverb before or after the delay?

JS: What you’ve done is taken away the attack. You put the reverb before and (making a whooshing sound) and it hits the delay without a click. I’ve never told anyone that! Not all those kids that look at my floor pedals, no one! (Laughter) It’s not really my secret but that’s a good way to get that sound. Another thing you can do is to step up the bass.

KB: Okay, but I’ve got to dig more. How long are you delays and how strong is your delay level set for?

JS: It’s longer than, like, slap back. I would say that the level coming back at you is fifty-five percent. It doesn’t really bite like the initial attack, but it’s still pretty strong. If you don’t set it strong enough you hear the attack but even if it’s got a long tail on, it doesn’t have that strength coming back. It’s cool to set it strong. You get that instant response but it doesn’t trail on forever. Although my friend will say, ‘I can see you look down, a little pissed at your guitar, and then five seconds later I’ll hear the mistake.’ (laughter). The impressive thing about this band compared to the old band, Volplane, I had so much shit on stage…like 15 pedals, there was so much stuff going on. You could just sit your guitar on the stand and it’d play itself. Now, with four pedals it’s nice to feel you’re in control of it a little bit more.

KB: So I take it, with all the echo and reverb, you have more leeway to make some mistakes on your guitar.

JS: There are a lot of spots where I can, and that’s kind of the whole idea. If you have a good rhythm section that’s pretty much what everyone’s listening to…

KB: So there isn’t a lot of busyness in your music, not any noodling, or anything like that?

JS: Well, I used to be busier. Then I really started to listen to what I was doing. Like when you’re there, in the moment, feeling and playing things you always want to do more. And you want to feel like you’re really attacking it. But then you listen to the recording and it sounds busy and kind of like an icepick’s coming at you. Now, listen to My Bloody Valentine and it’s like this seamless, gorgeous swaying…

KB: Is My Bloody Valentine your touchstone?

JS: Yeah, that kind of sound… I got so influenced by that at the time that any kind of edgy guitar sounded like classic rock, and I had already done all that. There are a million people that want to sound like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan…(pause) Thurston Moore, too. It’s just another genre, but it’s just more to the sound I’m attracted to. Actually, the stuff we did in Volplane was actually even more blurred-out…Bright Channel’s stuff tends to be edgier.

These guys are doing something different, edgier. And even better, it’s different AND good. A distinction sometimes lost on the hipper-than-thou indie rock crowd who tend to enshrine the willfully obscure, even if they do just so happen to grate and suck.

Not so Bright Channel.

This band has carved out a unique musical space and there’s nothing else out there like them. Not even close. In the immortal words of Sid Vicious, go see Bright Channel and “do yourself a favor.” You’ll have your chance when they play the new Hi-Dive in Denver on December 12 with Voices Underwater and Curious Yellow.

Get more information on at band at


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