On The Sudden Support Slot That Got Brightness Off The Ground

28 June 2017 | 1:39 pm | Anthony Carew

"I remember being so nervous, drinking a lot of Canadian Club."

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"It's this whole other way of seeing the world, this other perspective on music," says Alex Knight. After a decade playing drums for others, Knight now performs as Brightness; "up the front on stage", the centre of his own project.

Knight grew up on the Morriset Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Macquarie. Inspired by a childhood viewing of his dad's VHS copy of Midnight Oil's 1985 live concert Oils On The Water, he picked up the drums at 10. His dad bought him a damaged four-track when he was 12, and by the time it was fixed, a year-and-a-half later, he'd picked up the guitar. "So, I could put songs together," Knight recounts. "That was so much fun: just this pure artistic freedom, the sense that you can do anything."

Over the years, he kept four-tracking, while playing drums in other outfits. "I always devoted myself to other bands, whose songs I think are better than mine," he says. "Or, I guess, I just didn't want to be the dude up the front. I always felt more comfortable back there, behind the drums."

Knight's most notable stint came in Kins, a Melbourne-born outfit who spent years based in the UK. "Kins taught me a lot of lessons. Just because 4AD turn up to your show doesn't mean they're definitely going to sign you," Knight offers. "We were the model of that kind of band that had lots of label interest, toured the States three times, had a record out, a couple EPs, but we still had to work 30 hours a week to pay rent. It felt like living two lives at once: wanting to make it as a band, so bad, but still having to clean windows four days a week... It made me question my credit as an adult, pursuing this young person's dream."

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After Kins' 2016 demise, Knight found himself back in Newcastle, working on home-recordings. He had "no conviction, whatsoever" to perform them, but when offered a support slot for Oh Pep in Sydney - "They obviously thought I was a band," he smiles, "but I wasn't a band, and I hadn't played any shows" - he debuted Brightness live. "I remember being so nervous, drinking a lot of Canadian Club. I was just sitting on my own in the backstage. It felt bizarre."

And yet, he was signed to I Oh You on the basis of that one show. His debut Brightness record, Teething, stitches songs together from his home-recording years; Oblivion a Dinosaur Jr influenced jammer written when he was 22, Waltz an Elliott Smith-ish ballad recorded live to a reel-to-reel tape machine. "I wanted to put together an album for a sense of completion. [Because] a lot of things in my life were incomplete," says Knight. "The songs are about being lost, but not in a bad way. Being drunk, being panicked, being in the early stages of love, with this thing exploding beneath you. There's a lot of uncertainty. But uncertainty can be exciting, and stimulating."