Bright Light Bright Light talks his vibrant new album, Enjoy Youth, making music to be uplifting and why he’ll always hark back to the ’80s.

You can picture an ’80s Soho nightclub blasting the tunes of Bright Light Bright Light into the early hours of the morning. Born and raised in Wales, Rod Thomas — the name behind Bright Light Bright Light — brings an undeniable euphoria to the table. Possessing an experimental attitude towards electronic music, he distances himself from the rigid sincerity that is all too familiar in contemporary pop.


Putting everything into the mix, he combines a Pet Shop Boys sensibility with a touch of George Michael’s smoothness and even a sprinkling of Björk-adjacent hysteria, there’s nothing half-baked about Bright Light Bright Light.


Making a fluorescent splash back onto the scene, his music is well and truly in the driving seat. His latest project, Enjoy Youth is an experimental adventure. The album features some blaring ’80s nostalgia, from dynamic synth ballads to electroclash-infused dance tracks, it’s a technicolour feast, defying the bounds of genre. The lead single and collaboration with Mykal Kilgore, ‘Heartslap’, is a throbbing nu-disco track that snowballs into a heady dance anthem. 


Across the album, there are features from fellow LGBTQ+ artists, championing his support for pioneering emerging queer creatives. Rod’s infatuation with music began in his youth in rural Wales, where the radio was his sanctuary and an obsession with Goldfrapp and Grace Jones fuelled a love of electro-pop and disco. Moving to New York allowed him to be part of a scene, which liberated and aligned with his own tastes.


We sit down with Bright Light Bright Light to talk everything from the careful curation of his album to the unexpected twists and turns of his career and upcoming performances. 

Congratulations on the release of your album! It’s such a vibrant journey through snappy, dynamic tracks. What was the motivation behind making such an upbeat album?

Honestly it was a reaction to not having a great few years post 2020. Everything felt so flat and I felt very uninspired, so I needed to do something to remind myself – and others – that you need to focus on moments of joy. I had a really great time working with everyone on this album, and the collaboration process picked me back up. I wanted it to feel fun, uplifting, and like a flourescent journey. I feel like I achieved that!

‘Enjoy Youth’ is bursting with layers of saturated instrumentation ebbing through squiggly synths and deep basslines; what was the production process like in creating the album, and what do you think it contributes to the essence of your album?

I worked with a few different people on the record, some producers I love. For example, Ian Masterson sent me the instrumentals for ‘You Want My …’ and ‘Snap!’ and I wrote the vocal parts over the music. For ‘Heartslap’, ‘Revived’, ‘Sweetest Waste’ and ‘Enjoy Youth’, Jon Shave sent me some sketches that I wrote vocal parts to, then we shaped them together. For ‘Sweetest Waste’ I was in the studio with Babydaddy, and for ‘Keep’ I was in the studio with Richard X. All the collaborations felt so fun as these amazing producers have such fantastic ideas and such exciting ways that they create sounds. The other songs I did at home to tie the collaborations together. I had a great time!

‘Heartslap’ is a seismic, bouncing track with a heavy nu-disco undertone. Tell us a bit about making this song?

So, Jon Shave initially sent this dark, clubby instrumental that I loved. I was on the Amtrak train from NYC to DC to play a show, and I played the one-minute piece on loop, working out the chorus then two rough verses, singing them into my iPhone. Then I was thinking, ‘I want it to be a joyous song’, so I found a few sonic references and Jon reshaped it into what it is now. I love it! Mykal came over to add his vocals and he decided it needed the rap, so we reworked some lyrics together and it felt super collaborative and really exciting.

You worked with Mykal Kilgore on this track, what drew you to working with him and how did this influence you?

I’ve worked with him for years! We were in a project led by Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters (Slow Knights) and I’d written some pieces for him to sing; I couldn’t believe his voice, so I asked him to sing on ‘Feel It’, then later on ‘All In The Name’ and ‘Won’t Do’. I knew I wanted us to do another proper queer joy duet, and when I heard Jon’s major key version, it just felt right! He can sing like nobody on earth.

Over the course of your career, you’ve experimented with a plethora of sounds, treading an unusual arc from folk to electropop. Do you think your sound is fluid? How would you describe your music?

I’d say that my sound is very much like my personality. I have many interests and they work themselves to the forefront at different times. I love old horror film scores, I love classical music, disco, ’90s dance music, and a good power ballad, so the different waves show up at different points in my mood board I guess! Essentially it’s dance/pop music, but with strong influences from pop culture, camp and cinema.

The album points at quite a few influences, with the first track, ‘You Want My,’ peppered with a touch of Pet Shop Boys style synth-pop and distinctively Goldfrapp adjacent production. Who were the key influences in defining the album?

For me, the main influences were people who are able to create distinct sonic worlds with their music. Goldfrapp is a big one. I actually did the Richard X track with him before he worked on Alison’s solo album but that was my favourite album last year. Other influences: Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, George Michael, Björk, Annie Lennox… there are so many.

The album has an undeniably ’80s edge. What draws you to the decade in your artistry? Are there any other pivotal ages in music you like to incorporate into your music?

As it’s called Enjoy Youth I wanted to pay a special homage to the ’80s and ’90s, when I was in my formative period learning about pop music. And that’s why I got Ultra Naté, Beth Hirsch and Richard X on the album, as their work soundtracked so much of my youth. I think the ’80s and ’90s were extremely random, experimental and sometimes tastelessly joyful decades for music. The sampling, vocal chopping, choreography, wild visuals, sexual ambiguity… I was young, so everything hit harder as it felt new and exciting.

You’ve shared the stage with Cher and Elton John, to name-drop a few music legends. If you could meet and collaborate with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?

I would love to work with Kate Bush, Björk and Kylie Minogue or to have worked with George Michael. It breaks my heart every day that he is no longer with us, I just can’t understand the magnitude of his talent.

New York undoubtedly brings many opportunities for experimentation and exploration in your sound, but taking it back to your roots, how did growing up in Wales influence your work?

It definitely made me want to seek out the energy and life of other places! You know, I was fortunate to grow up in a beautiful place, and experience nature. It was scary realising I was gay there, and realising I couldn’t stay. But it gave me a huge drive for life, and I guess an overachieving streak as I had to overperform to guarantee I could get out, in my mind. I’m very grateful to go back there these days, and I’m grateful to be from Wales, which is a beautiful country. But the radio and video store were my escape and a glimpse into lives that I wish I had.

You have a series of shows coming up in June, how are you feeling about playing the new album live to new audiences?

Oh my god, I can’t wait. When ‘Fun City’ came out in lockdown with no in-person shows it was crushing. It was the first time in my career that I had put out an album with no live connection, and it depressed me. I’m very grateful that this time it kicks off with in-store shows the day of release, and quickly moves into some shows and festivals. That feels really fabulous.

Aside from the release of the album, what else is coming up for Bright Light Bright Light for 2024?

I’m working on a few other projects behind the scenes, starting to write the next album, I’ll be DJing a lot and will also be spending as much time with my cat as possible between the shows.

Listen to Enjoy Youth now: