It’s shaping up to be a stellar year for Eastbourne singer-songwriter Brightr, aka Laurie Cottingham. With one top-notch EP under his belt, the UK’s answer to Into It. Over It and Owen is now lining up another batch of songs, this time as part of a split with Glasgow punks Veto. Throw in a non-stop touring ethic – you could’ve caught the troubadour opening for Prawn and Hindsights and he’s now out on the road again with his pals in Veto – and you can see why we love him here.
Ahead of the release of the split EP and tour with Veto we fired some questions through to the DIY machine to find out more about his songwriting, touring tips and just why he’s the emo Jack Dee…
AH: So what happened with Hold The Fight and how did Brightr come in to being?
Brightr: There’s no real story behind the end of HTF other than that me and the guys had started to move in separate ways. I was still very much immersed in music and wanting to tour, whereas the allure of ‘normal life’ had grabbed hold of them, in those dead of the night moments of thought between tours. We eventually reached a stalemate upon the completion of what was to be our next release, where I realised they didn’t have the desire to tour anymore, so we scrapped the release and played our last show. I admit I acted quickly, but it seemed like the best thing was to call time on a band that I had loved so much before it became a dead weight.
I guess it’s fair to say that Brightr was born out of the sadness and frustration I felt at having wasted a lot of time in HTF, coupled with the fresh excitement and scarily daunting fear of having a new born child in my life (my daughter was born in April 2014). I had a whole host of emotions pent up inside of my head and had just been holding it together for months. When I started writing the songs that would make up the first EP it felt like the most amazing catharsis. In all honesty I never intended to make Brightr a real working entity, it was always meant to just be something for me to enjoy, a personal escape from things, but then I decided to show my good friend Matt O’Grady, who was keen to record the songs and encouraged me to release them, so yeah, here I am, the Jack Dee of the ’emo’ scene.
AH: I understand you took some time off from writing songs – why did you stop and what got you back into doing it?
Brightr: HTF came to an abrupt end in late July last year, we didn’t play our last show until the September. Between that time I was in a weird ‘angry/sad’ limbo. I felt like I had no ability to write down my feelings because everything felt so intense and I kept second guessing everything I tried to write, killing ideas before they started. So between August and mid-September I wrote barely a word. When we played our final show I pretty much fell to bits, I felt lost, having spent so many years of my life being a part of something and devoting so much to it, to suddenly have it dragged away from me. It was in the week or so that followed the show that I finally hit the bottom of my pit. I picked up my guitar and wrote ‘We’, an angry, embittered song about how selfish it is sometimes to be a touring musician. How you put everything and everyone else second to your dreams and how when it’s all gone you realise how wrong you were and how lonely you now are. That writing process continued and I hope I never go ‘dry’ again, because it was honestly one of the most rubbish periods of my life to date.
AH: How did the split EP with Veto come about?
Brightr: I met Veto in December last year when I was out tour managing a well-known group of wolves and some American prawns. They supported on the Glasgow date and I was immediately blown away by the beauty in their melodies, coupled with a gritty time-withered rage, that despite their youth seemed mature and real, not juvenile and angsty like so many others. I became enamoured with them instantly and we forged a friendship. So when I began planning the second Brightr release I couldn’t think of anyone else that I would rather release a split with. I was honestly honoured and relieved they agreed to it.
AH: The EP is your second release this year – are you prolific, or are these songs ideas that you’ve had knocking around for a while?
Brightr: Since the beginning of Brightr I’ve written a lot of songs. It’s been an awesomely prolific time for me which is great because I hate having writers block, but that’s not to say I haven’t had patches where I’m not writing as much as other times. Song writing seems to come in fits and starts with me, I’ll have days when I obsess over one line and can’t progress, whereas other days I’ll have a flood of ideas and write numerous songs in seconds.
The only two songs in Brightr that existed in some level before it began are ‘Like Paper’ from my first EP (a song I began in the latter days of HTF, but that changed a lot) and a song called ‘Just so you know I lost my balance’, that features on my split. It is about a good friend of mine who died nearly 7 years ago tragically. I wrote that song a little while after his death about how I would never be able to speak to him again and tell him how much he meant to me. After being played in HTF it got taken out of the set, due to it being quite emotionally hard to perform and I didn’t play it again for years, until I was devising my set for the recent tour I did with Prawn and Hindsights. I decided to try it in an acoustic/brightr form and realised it had so much more energy. It quickly became a huge part of my set on that tour, so I decided to record it for the split.
So yeah, everything else is fresh and new, but those two had origins before.
AH: One of the things I like about the EP is that both you and Veto sound completely different – yet you seem to complement each other quite nicely – was that a consideration for you to put out a record that had that sort of dynamic?
Brightr: That was actually the plan all along. I love Veto and especially loved how different they are to me dynamically when planning this release. We have a lot of similarities in the way we write, very blunt, very honest and all about melodies as well as rage-filled gritty elements, but I guess I go a bit more pop than they do and they go a bit more gruff than me. Between the two of us I hope the listener gets all they want, because I’m honestly over the moon with this split.
AH: You’re heading out on tour – again – this week. At the moment you’re touring a lot, so what’s your tips for surviving life on the road?
Brightr: Make sure you pack enough underwear, and only use one set of clothes for ‘stage clothes’. I make that mistake too many times and end of with a bag full of sweat-smelling rank items of evil that no living human could call acceptable clothing.
Also, take vitamins every day and try to sleep as much as you can because tour life is exhausting. You don’t eat in any discernible pattern, you rarely sleep, you usually consume far too much (never enough) alcohol and you’ll have the best bloody time of your life if you let yourself enjoy every second (even the heinous long drives!).
AH: As an acoustic performer, do you ever encounter any particular challenges playing with louder, more traditional, punk bands – especially in terms of winning crowds over?
Brightr: I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, but more often than not when playing on ‘loud’ band bills (especially when sandwiched between bands) you will have a section of the crowd that insist on talking. Of course they think it’s fine to chat while a band is playing because they can’t be heard above the music, but as soon as I walk out, beardy and alone, with only my guitar for company, their combined squawking tones can be heard quite well, especially when I’m attempting to be heartfelt and subtle.
As I stated though, I’ve never found this to be a challenge, I play through it, or if I feel like it I turn ‘comedian’ and call people out on it, try to include them in the show, because maybe what they’re talking about is far more important than my music….maybe someone they know has got a really nice cake or something, who knows.
Basically I just try to have the best time on stage and connect with those who want to listen, because you can’t make people like you and they’re going to talk, unless you hit them enough with your performance to make them want to give you their time.
AH: As well as designing the poster artwork for the tour do you have any other hidden talents?
Brightr: Well, I’m really, really funny. It’s such a well-hidden talent that barely anyone, in fact no one, knows of its existence, but I am actually hilarious. Imagine the best comedian, trapped inside the body of the biggest grumpy pessimist, add some facial hair and some strange mannerisms. Basically, if you want to be amused or you’d like a poster designed, or a personal song about how great you are, I’m your man.
AH: So, what else can we expect for the rest of the year?
Brightr: I have this tour with Veto from the 30th July to the 7th August, coinciding with the release of our split on cassette and download. Then I’m going to finish off my album, with a view to releasing that before the year is out. I’m planning to play loads more shows so keep an eye out for tours as I never really stop these days.
Split EP’ by Brightr and Veto is released on August 7th.
July (with Veto)
30 The Flapper, Birmingham
31 The Stag and Hounds, Bristol
01 Underground, Plymouth
01 The Phoenix, High Wycombe
03 The Quadrant, Brighton
04 Cheese & Grain Bar, Frome
05 The Scene, Swansea
06 Santiagos, Leeds
07 Audio, Glasgow
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)