- Jeffrey Alan Bright
the singer and secret city
In the early 1990s, fortune smiled when I crossed paths with talented photographer Jason Langer...
The alt-rock project that was Myself a Living Torch had been shuttled to simmer on the back burner. Bandmates E-Bone Schulz, Chris Troy Green, Christopher Fisher and I, ever restless and suspicious of the music game, needing an aesthetic refresh, had drifted into a vintage-styled mode of mid-tempo western folk. Eschewing the larger stages and halls that would have constituted the next step in our rock journey, we returned to smaller clubs, specifically those with a measurable level of post-modern, retro reverence, irony intended or not. In San Francisco of the mid-1990s that meant venues such as Ace Cafe, Club Deluxe, Bruno's Cork Club, and Julie's Supper Club. At the latter three, we held down regular weekly gigs for monthly periods. At all, we made numerous appearances between 1994 and 1997. Our newly crafted sound was frequently described as "cocktail country," or in the words of SF Weekly music critic Kurt Wolf, "western noir." Our material had a melancholy, world weary, adult sophistication, couched in the conventions of early 1960's crossover country.
To a talented eye like Jason, the visually conscious, small-venue performances by Jeff Bright & the Sunshine Boys presented a prime opportunity to build on a developing vision. I like to believe there is a resonant sympathy between Jason's work and our musical output from that period — illustrated in an image from Jason's first monograph.
"The Singer" is included in Secret City, a collection of riveting, shadowy images captured by Jason between 1994 and 2002, chiefly in Paris and San Francisco, and published in 2006 by Nazraeli Press. Likely the image was captured at Julie's Supper Club on Folsom Street in San Francisco's SOMA district in 1995 or 1996. Appropriately, it has been included alongside liner notes accompanying our recent vinyl release of Kill off the Night.
In Secret City, renowned photographer and Jason's mentor, Michael Kenna says of Jason's work: "There is an unsettling sense inherent in many of Jason’s photographs and when asked about it he responded, “I feel haunted by impermanence and a search for meaning in this life. This is very real to me” ... His nocturnal images seem to bring us to the edge of danger, but he stays one step short and instead walks us down a lamp-lit street where we might witness a distinctive nighttime moment or rendezvous with a secret partner. Jason takes us on a journey, which could be frightening; alone, in the dark, but he has infused his work with poetic sensibility and intrigue."
We couldn't agree more.
Check out Jason Langer's exquisite images here: https://www.jasonlanger.com and listen to Kill off the Night on this site here. Better yet, find a copy of Secret City and compliment with a copy of Kill off the Night, digital or limited-edition vinyl, at https://jeffbrightthesunshineboys.bandcamp.com/album/kill-off-the-night