Flaunt Premiere | Brightness "Year of the Goat"
Film stills, screenshots, biblical triptychs, a photo of mum, and open roads void of people. Such are the various images that Alex Knight, who performs under the name Brightness, analyzes and studies for inspiration or just concentration when formulating lyrics. “I have images that I think are beautiful, whether or not they’re relative to parts of a song,” he shares, “they emanate an energy that keeps me on track.” Knight and I connect via phone; he’s in Australia—New South Wales to be exact—about three and a half hours from Sydney. “It’s really isolated and quiet. A five minute drive and it’s all cattle.”
While we’re here to talk tunes, like his single, “Year of the Goat,” which Flaunt is elated to premiere, we also end up talking shop about those quiet spaces. Those open expanses that cattle, tumbleweeds, and abandoned cars on the side of the road dominate; the hinterland. I immediately imagine virtually any scene from the 1994 cult-classic, Priscilla In the Desert, the burnt orange Outback sand below azure skies—that type of place. Joan Didion’s name comes up, so does the sheer profundity of West Texas geography.
“Year of the Goat” harkens to 2015 and the emotional turbulence resulting from a decision to move away from London, the city in which Knight spent six years, leaving behind comrades, a girlfriend, a band and a sense of groundedness. “There was this inevitability that I had to make this transition,” he recalls. “This sense of dread started to grow. Hope and dread. The feeling of a new beginning.” The song commences with a thick, brooding bassline, offset by lighter, atmospheric strokes of guitar. Knight’s voice exudes an angst which gets seamlessly integrated into the post-punk survey.
The song is one of a few easter eggs being released for an upcoming album in October. There’s an undeniable shift in timbre compared to Knight’s last full-release from 2017, Teething, which was labelled by critics as “lo-fi,” a label which Knight found surprising. “I thought it was funny because it wasn’t intended,” he confides with levity. Knight worked with producer Sam Griffin Owens in upstate New York to craft a newer, rounder sound. “Sonically the biggest difference is the frequencies are a lot broader; the picture is clearer.” The lush forestry and pastoral charm lent that sense of purpose and focus to get Knight to conjure up those pictorial moodboards and get the proverbial juices circulating. “I was really lucky to do it up there, that certainly was as ideal as I could’ve hoped for.”
Indeed, those spaces less traversed and less explored are vital for his creative output. Knight is attracted to the pathos of the open road and the uncertainties that it represents. “I recently got a bunch of books on the secret language of symbols,” he says. “For roughly the last five to six years, I’ve been drawn to the various languages that people use to describe their existence, where they came from, and where they’re going.” His bread and butter is window cleaning for half the week, and the rest is spent reading and writing. Inevitably, those existential feelings start oozing. “Year of the Goat” was heavily influenced by Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark. “There’s a moment when Anna, the protagonist, is overwhelmed emotionally. Her objectivity starts to falter and there’s heightened consternation, tumult,” he recalls.
For Knight, another transition is underway. Not only is his record slated to release in October, but he’s also planning on moving to Canada; let the bureaucratic maelstrom begin. “It’s intimidating,” Knight notes. Like the move from London, spurring the inspiration for “Year of the Goat,” there’s the “same tone of necessity to it, the same feeling of ‘I can’t not go.’ It’s gonna be really hard.” Naturally, it’ll be cold, too. Bon Voyage.