Recorded in the fall of 2009 and released the subsequent spring, Kurt Riley's debut album Brighthead was engineered by Beyoncé producer BOOTS and his father, Steve Cruz, at Cruzified Music in Coconut Creek, Florida. With drums provided by the talented Jeff Rose (of BOOTS' former group Stonefox/Blond Fuzz), Brighthead was recorded in true DIY style, with live tracks cut in the living room of Rose's Boca Raton home, and overdubs done in Cruzified Music's converted garage-cum-studio.
"Every morning, we'd gather in the Cruz's kitchen and drink black coffee as we roused ourselves into consciousness and got ready for a full day," Riley says. "Both of them were working on different projects and with different bands, so to give so much time to Brighthead meant a ton to me, and still does in retrospect." Riley and BOOTS shared their communal love of The Beatles and T.Rex while preparing for the album: "I brought a few records that I loved dearly, unashamedly saying make it sound like these. 'Friend or Foe' by Adam Ant...'Electric Warrior'...we made a beautiful emulation. I wanted it to capture the same ebullience, the same joyful defiance in the face of recession and negativity.
In the post-9/11 era, everyone's spirits were shattered...I wanted to do what I could to assuage fears and bring smiles back to faces. BOOTS and his father are brilliant producers, and they worked tirelessly on Brighthead. For that, I owe them eternally."
The songs on Brighthead have all of the trademarks that would come to be associated with Kurt Riley in their nascent iterations - huge glam riffs, lyrics about the future of humanity, and explorations of the true nature of love. "Every song on this record, I wrote on acoustic guitar, alone in my bedroom," he recalls. "The organic way. Just me and a Tascam Portastudio." If he had to choose a favorite, Riley would have to pick "Lifetime Savior." "On all levels, it works for me - as a statement of purpose, an anthemic opener, and as a reflection on what it is like to be a young man at the beginning of the 21st Century."
Subsequently, Kurt Riley began a brief concert tour of South Florida venues in the summer of 2010, including acclaimed performances at Lake Worth's Propaganda and the now-defunct White Room in Miami. Playing with the talented Brighthead Band, which included drummer Amir Sultan Roth, bassist Taylor Berryman, and guitarist/keyboardist Jason Dzamba, these glammed-up performances were unfortunately few in number.
Subsequently, Kurt Riley left Florida. Due to unforeseen personal circumstances, he would not release another album for six years.
"It's like my lost child," Riley says. "My baby that should have been, and never was."
Lead vocals: Kurt Riley
Rhythm and lead guitars (acoustic and electric): Kurt Riley & BOOTS
Slide guitar: Kurt Riley
Bass guitar: Steve Cruz & BOOTS
Drums: Jeff Rose
Piano: Kurt Riley
Synthesizer: Kurt Riley & BOOTS
Harmonica: Kurt Riley
Maracas, castanets, and tambourine: Kurt Riley
Backing vocals: BOOTS, The Cruz Family & Jeff Rose
All songs written, arranged and composed by Kurt Riley
Mixing: Steve Cruz & BOOTS
Mastering: Earl Bennett at Sanctuary Sound Studio
Logo, insignia and Brightsuit designs: Kurt Riley
Graphic design: Thomas Henry Mitchell
Brightsuit tailoring: Michaela Solorzano
Makeup: Kurt Riley
Videography: Alex Vanderkooy, Bill Jackson, & Billy Chadwick
Photography: Alex Vanderkooy