Bronze Radio Return Hooks With Every Song On New Album 'Light Me Up'

Hartford's Bronze Radio Return released "Light Me Up," a 10-song collection that doesn't release its grip.

Listeners have options. With a few thumb clicks, you can bounce from song to song, artist to artist, across any genre. How can a band get you to listen to 10 songs in a row?

One strategy is to make every song — and every section and subsection of every song — hooky, memorable and killer.

On Oct. 16, Hartford's Bronze Radio Return released "Light Me Up," a 10-song collection that doesn't release its grip.

This isn't an accident. The band, singer Chris Henderson says, tries to "create a body of work that touches on some different flavors, different moods, different textures. … The artistry is how to make 10 songs that sound different but also cohesive at the same time. It's a challenge."

Both "Light Me Up," the title track, and "Pocket Knife" are big songs, with hummable, pentatonic melodies, sung in octaves, designed for crowd shout-alongs in big rooms: "I don't really know you, but I hope we can relate," Henderson sings on "Light Me Up," before the chorus kicks into double-time: "If you're feeling good, that's all I need to know / Because you light me up, oh would you light me up, when you're good to go."

The rest of the album deals mostly with overcoming, building, persevering, weighing options, accomplishing tasks and gaining confidence. "Go on, throw stones at me to keep for souvenirs," Henderson sings on "Give Me All Your Doubt," "'cause I got no problem with problems of people doubting me." On "Only Temporary," he's the stable alternative to a lousy suitor: "He only calls ya when he needs ya / 'cause when he needs ya is only, only, only, only temporary."

These themes are linked to dynamic trajectories that mostly go up. "Nowhere To Be" begins with stringed instruments (sans drums) and grows into a full-throated expression of freedom: "There's a clock and I'm off it," Henderson sings, "and it feels so delightful to have nowhere to be / 'Cause I got a pocket, with a little cash / Car with a tank of gas and nowhere to be." Most tracks are anchored to a contemporary, dance-pop sound, but splashes of Americana surface in the acoustic textures of "Good Company."

And although other bands engage in macho posturing, or play a lot of attention-grabbing guitar solos, the six members of Bronze Radio Return — Henderson, guitarist Patrick Fetkowitz, drummer Rob Griffith, keyboard player Matt Warner, bassist Bob Tanen and multi-instrumentalist Craig Struble — tamp down their individual personalities in the studio.

"We're very much a band," Henderson says. "We're a team sport. We'll have moments where we'll jump around on stage. ... But it's about the songs. It's about conveying ideas. It's not about one person. It's about all six of us up there."

Cohesiveness can also be accomplished by working with the same producer: "Light Me Up" once again teams BRR with Oklahoma-based producer/engineer Chad Copelin, who has worked in recent years with 5 Seconds of Summer, Sufjan Stevens, Christina Perri and Third Eye Blind.

Before BRR started recording, Henderson wrote songs in Hartford, piecing together rough demos with melodies (but few words), skeletal drums parts and some keyboard overdubs, before heading to Maine (where he grew up) to work on lyrics. His goal was to hit the studio running.

"Some bands have the ability to just pop into the studio and let the magic flow," he says. "I feel like [this approach] bodes well for us. The direction can always change, but it's always nice to have a starting point."

Last fall, Copelin took the band to Sonic Ranch, an all-inclusive recording complex near El Paso, Texas, surrounded by pecan orchards. It was total immersion, similar to what they did for "Up, On & Over," the band's last album, and exactly what was needed. The band even built in a two-week break in the middle of the sessions.

"It's nice to step away from the music, to let it sit for a second and then come back to it with fresher ears than if we just plowed through it," Henderson says.

An unintended consequence of a full-band commitment to every song, every verse, chorus and bridge, is that the overall sound can come across like a patchwork of jingles, or micro-hooks, which could easily be extracted for use in, say, an automotive ad. (The band has had success with the placement and licensing of its songs.)

"It's the general nature of being upbeat," Henderson says. "I would consider us to be a pretty positive group of guys, and I'd say most of the music we make has an upbeat, positive nature to it. ... I've never sat down and written a song for this band and thought, 'Wow, this would be great for a Honda commercial.' That's never the inspiration behind any of it."

Bronze Radio Return's music appeals to corporate types, Henderson adds, "because we're often looking for some kind of connection point with people: How are people going to remember this song, with all the media, with all the flashing lights and sounds and new albums? How do you hook people so that they come back and listen again? We work on these hooks and we tend to come up with things that work well with advertising hooks. It's really not by design, but it seems to work that way in that world."

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