BEAT OF THE WEEK

Glass Bricks – BOTW 09

Glass Bricks – What State is This (Skysurfer) by Beatcast

The perfect summer-sounding band, Glass Bricks are about to self-release their debut mini-album Craquelure, while a Midwest/East Coast tour is also on the offing. Chance meetings, internet grooming and mid-state relocations have nurtured a band that produce some upbeat, saccharine-sweet music.

I was first switched on to them by the one and only recording, The Pier on their Myspace page. It was a little rough-and-ready, but their jingly jangly guitars instantly had me tapping my feet and bobbing my head from side to side. I wanted to find out more.

Glass Bricks

Made up of Kate Walsh, Abby Glogower, Al Schatz and John Shin, Glass Bricks formed in early 2009. The brainchild of Kate and Abby, the band started when the pair moved to Chicago from the East Coast. Inspired by their surroundings, they took their name from a rather benighted architectural feature, unique to Chicago.

Abby explains, “I know this kind of thing is usually the butt of jokes about this region, how everyone is a heavy drinker, lethargic, small-minded and prone to hibernation. But we actually welcomed these traits after living in places we found, ultimately, too airy and intellectually unsatisfying. So the name Glass Bricks spoke to me very much of our location and being the products of that location”. Chicago’s glass bricks are both decorative and functional, showering the inside of houses in light and offering a respite from the predictability of traditional, transparent windows.

Abby and Kate found each other through Friendster. Indirectly. Abby recalls the day, back in Brooklyn, when she and her friend found a flirtatious message in her inbox from a random guy. “Let’s check out his friends,” she suggested, and found a guy from Detroit named Karl who had similar musical tastes and cute pictures, rammed with instruments.

Abby, originally from Michigan, struck up an instant friendship with Karl that eventually segued from internet to “real” at a bizarre reunion show by the Fall in Detroit. As she was moving back to hometown, he headed out to New York and soon afterwards began writing to her about an amazing melodic Space Rock project he was working on called Speck Mountain.

Abby had her solo project Drop Earrings going on and Karl asked her to open for Speck Mountain on a small East Coast tour. This is where she met Kate, the only sane one on the whole tour, and they instantly bonded over The Replacements and not being able to afford to eat properly. Abby fondly recalls what drew her to Kate: a rare blend of incredible music training and encouraging support. Instantly, the two knew they could work together. Their first gig as a joint force was as Drop Earrings at Karl’s wedding.

All the members of the Glass Bricks are in other bands – Kate works for Girls Rock Camp – but they make it work. Sometimes it’s just Abby and Kate, but they don’t seem to mind. Fun is the operative word and it works, you can see it oozing from their music.

Love

With a whole range of influences ranging from 60’s girl bands, 70’s pop and 90’s west coast twee pop – a heavy influence from when the girls were growing up. Abby’s aim at the time was very much a deconstructed wall of sound both sonically and intellectually. Stripped of the rich production values, all she left intact were the aching lyrics and exquisite pop melodies.

“I’ve always loved that music and believe in its capacity to transmit genuine sentiment and with Glass Bricks I’ve been able to embrace my love of pop in more sincere, driving way,” Abby proclaims. And you can definitely see it in the music. While not exactly a lush wall of studio sound there are three other people in the mix giving the pop songs texture.

It’s a bit of a love in-between the girls. Kate is always quick to exhort Abby’s ability, explaining that, “she has such an amazing pop sensibility that is so classic and appealing, with melody, lyrics, etc., and it’s so fun to work with her on the pop vibes that we both love. It’s rare to find someone who aims to combine the same types of influences into 2 or 3 minute pop songs.”

“In High School I learnt how to play Jazz, but also listened to Punk Rock, Ska and Reggae, and all of those types of music still influence me, even though I’m more into the Pop-stuff now. Abby and I share a love of Big Star for sure, and I also am really into the Beach Boys, Phil Spector stuff, the Supremes, and the Staple Singers, then more 90s stuff like the Rondelles and the Rentals and Beat Happening. I think our goal is to write genuine, effecting, “timeless” pop songs that sound good played on an acoustic guitar or with a studio full of horn sections, delay racks and epic drum sets.”

There is an obvious correlation between the ideas and methods at play in their music. The songs are utterly simple, but also employ musical and lyrical clichés as a means to describe the angst of their mid-20s – a period that they’re only just exiting.

Their songs manage to be both true to self and self-aware enough to push the genre forward while preserving some vital, magical essence. Glass bricks themselves are these strong, solid building blocks, but they’re also made from glass, a fragile, easily-broken material. The music foregrounds this tension – between being a strong personality and person, and being easily hurt or bought down by the world.

It’s refreshing to see a band shun the East and West Coast music scenes, where everyone is in a band and hyped to be the next big thing, and just making pure honest simple pop songs. More importantly, they’re having fun and enjoying what they do.

Sacha Shaikh

Glass Bricks http://www.myspace.com/glassbricks

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