Interview: Glass America

Glass America began in 2008 with a vision of rejecting the formulaic structures and textures that typify much of Post-rock. Members John Mirisola, Micah Wilson, Michael Foye, Rafaell Rozendo and Jared Deame wanted to create an original sound that encapsulated the best of ambient, instrumental music without succumbing to its clichés or being limited by what has come to be expected. Hailing from Wenham, Massachusetts – a small seaside town just north of Boston – Glass America is a mostly instrumental band that relies heavily on the sonic demeanor of the music to push the motifs of their sound.

I had a quick chat with John ahead of the release of their new album Fathom, due to be released later this year.

Hello, who are you and what do you do?

Hey, I’m John. I play guitar and glockenspiel, and I also sing a little bit.

How long have you been making music for?

I personally have been making music in some capacity or another since I was in elementary school. I started playing music with two of the guys in this band, Micah (drums) and Jared (guitar, lead vocals), my freshman year of high school (2003). We’ve been playing with our other guitarist, Mike, as Glass America since 2008. And Rafaell, our bassist, joined the band in 2009.

How would you describe the bands sound?

We are mostly-instrumental rock, but vocals really shape our aesthetic in a lot of ways—we make music that aims to be kind of meditative, but not necessarily in a calm sense of that word… just that our songs, when they do have lyrics, tend to really be focused very pointedly around that lyrical theme. We try to make songs with a narrative, forward-moving feel. And I think we like playing both loud music and quiet music, so those each tend to make appearances on music we write.

What inspires you to make music and which bands influence you?

I think for us, a lot of the themes in the music are drawn straight from our lives. There’s a lot of conflict on this new record we’re going to release—lots of really abrupt shifts from hopeful to despairing and themes like that—and I think that just comes from how we’ve been experiencing the world in the last two years. Going in conjunction with that, I think that faith, as well as doubt, really inspire us to write the music we do. It’s never meant to be preachy, and we’re not ever trying to sell our listeners anything; it’s just what comes out of us when we sit down to write music, and we all prize honesty in art, so we go with it. Musically, I personally am inspired by interesting structure and composition, by really organic-feeling sounds, by simplicity and by atmosphere. And also by the cohesiveness of a given piece of music. I love writing albums, because you can bring such thematic depth to an hour of music; you can really try to create a unified, powerful experience for the listener.
As far as music that influences me, I think of bands like Caspian, Sigur Rós, The Appleseed Cast, but I also really like a lot of more indie/folky bands—Anathallo, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, mewithoutYou—and some newer classical composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. I’ll also listen to some metal, and some more poppy rock (I have a soft spot for The Format and fun.). Jared also likes some country music, and he and Micah are big into God is an Astronaut; Rafaell listens to some sweet jazz, and Mike really likes a lot of prog rock. I think the cool thing with the music we wind up writing is that you can hear everybody’s influences in the final product. We also play a lot of shows with a band called The Lonesome Atlantic. We’ve known them for years, and they’re great guys that play great music.

Is there a song that you wish you’d written?

‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ by The National. Or ‘Sycamore’ by Caspian.

Do you have any plans for the rest of 2011?

We’re going to release an album called Fathom sometime this fall, and we’ll see about getting a show or two together, but it will all depend on whether we can assemble the ranks; we’re a bit scattered around right now. Two of us are getting married, two of us are still in school, and one of us is up in Maine for the time being.

On what format will the album be released and where will it be available?

We’re going to release online to start, but we have plans for a physical release as well. It should be up on iTunes and Amazon, and Bandcamp and other sites.

Where do you record?

This most recent album was recorded mostly at our college’s audio studio. It’s a pretty minimal set-up, but it was free and it worked for us. We recorded the drums at Micah’s family’s church, and the acoustic parts in my apartment living room.

What are your feelings about the current state of the music industry?

I think that the very bottom line is that if we don’t rally around our community of musicians and artists and commit to supporting them, then some groups won’t have the resources to continue creating music. I’m not saying that things like free downloads or even piracy are always bad—we released our first album for free, and I think it’s gained us lots of good attention—I just mean that somehow we need to recognize that even in our heavily consumption-based culture, there needs to be some input on the part of the consumer. I don’t know that that will always look like spending 10 bucks on an album or buying a tee shirt or something; but there should probably be some action involved—tweets, going to a show, sharing a Spotify playlist…
And as far as popular music goes, I think there is a place for good music in the sphere of radio, and we’re seeing some musicians fill those needs. But by-and-large, a good deal of mainstream music feels vapid and meaningless; it tells people what they want to hear about themselves and about the world around them, and that seems more like ego-stroking than art.

Whats the best thing about being in a band/the worst?

Best thing: the community—within the band and in the live show. It’s the feeling of being a part of something that extends past your own body and mind. We wrote this album very collaboratively, and as a result, I think listening back on it gives me a really strong sense of the brotherhood we’ve formed through the process. And in the live show, the interaction with the audience—getting them to move with us, to be quiet with us, to sing with us, to feel like we’re all in the same place doing the same thing together. I can’t think of many things that feel better than that. Worst: Not having the resource to pursue the band as hard as we’d like. We love making music, but at the end of the day, we also love having food to eat, so sometimes (perhaps a lot of the time) work has to trump the band.

Any plans for a tour?

We wish. Hopefully sometime in the future, but it doesn’t look like it will happen this Fall.

Do you have any deep, dark secrets that you would like to tell the world?

Yes.

And last but not least, whats your favourite dinosaur and why?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a paleontologist, and my favorite dinosaur was the archeopteryx, because it was this feathered, half-bird-half-reptile thing; a mash-up, kind of like the platypus of its day. Anyway, I thought it was cool.

Cheers John

Glass America’s new taster EP Darkly is available for free via  Noise Trade. Click Here to download.

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