The instant a band signs with Hide & Seek Records you can be certain it’s time to pay attention. Glass Mountain are the latest band on their roster and the Wow & Flutter EP is their debut release on the label. The record sounds huge in scale but is balanced with an intimacy and vulnerability that is devastatingly effective. Harry and William from the band were kind enough to tolerate our questioning as we delve into each track in quite some depth.
Track 1 – Gin Flows Through My Veins
Overblown: This song carries a really heavy sense of loneliness and burden, the lyrics go part of the way to suggesting there’s a little hope for everyone but then state ‘we can all pretend we’re comfortable’. It sounds like as a band you’re very meticulous about the sound of the record reflecting the weighty themes involved, like you’d leave no stone unturned to capture the right mood. With this in mind you placed trust in video producers to put their stamp on the song without ANY involvement from yourselves. Am I right in saying that feels at odds with your approach to the music? It produced wonderful results, how did you feel when your first watched their vision of your song?
Harry: Lyrically, Gin Flows is about longing for a feeling of excitement that sadly never comes back. People become very settled with one another, sometimes to the point of feeling bored of each other. Things can be become stuck in one place. Maybe if someone annoys the other, it will spark a different mood between them and maybe that’s better than just being numb to each other. Once people are numb to each other, it’s hard to crawl back from it, so it’s easier to pretend to be comfortable. Lowering the mood of this interview in the first question, sorry!
I think this is one of the quickest songs I’ve written lyrics for. It’s a bit of a collage of old notes I had written down, combined with new lyrics. Musically it was an easy song to come up with melodies. It’s the stand out track of the EP for me.
William: We like to take our time with all aspects of what we do, from writing our parts to finding the sounds that create the right mood. Sometimes a song will sit there for months – ignored like an unloved toy until a flash of inspiration unlocks the puzzle. The attention to detail can be frustrating to all of us because we always know when something isn’t quite working but it’s not always easy to know why! And on top of that, the mixing process is torture! But we finished this EP back in September and I listened to it the other day when the vinyl delivery arrived from the pressing plant, and I was totally thrilled that there were no niggles at all, which is quite a rare thing!
We are very involved in all aspects of everything we put out, including photographs and videos so it was very strange when we went to Sodium Films and asked if they would make another video with us (they did the ‘Glacial’ and ‘Cowboy Song’ videos). So we sent them the mix of Gin Flows Through My Veins. And we heard nothing… weeks went by… and then out of the blue I got a call saying “we fucking love this – it’s been on repeat all week in the office – yes we’d love to make your video!” So I asked them where and when they wanted the band, expecting that even if we were not all appearing in this video, we’d have some involvement. But Sodium’s reply was “Well, that’s the thing… we don’t want you in it. In fact we don’t want to tell you anything about it. When do you need it by?”. I told them the date and they said “You’ll have your video at 5pm the evening before”. And that’s exactly what happened.
I went to their offices in Leeds and was led into a dark room with a humongous video screen. I was nervous, they were all nervous, and to make matters worse, the computer crashed as the video started! I had to watch the video twice to full appreciate the narrative, and also all the amazing detail in there, for instance on the bookshelf in the couple’s living room, there’s a book called “Coping With Post Natal Depression” which fits the story perfectly and yet us was pure coincidence that the book was already on set. It’s not a prop. The two actors are utterly brilliant in what is really more of a short film than a music video. It’s a shame that we were not all able to watch it together the first time. Real life commitments can sometimes make doing band stuff really frustratingly difficult.
Track 2 – Wait All Alone
O: In a similar vein to the first question this song also deals with being alone, perhaps of needing to know that there’s someone around to talk to, almost as if we need to justify that it’s ok to be alone. Do you find music that sounds like this and deals with these kind of themes to be cathartic?
Harry: As a whole, Wait All Alone carries a message of you’re never truly yourself until you’re alone. That’s when you can live in your own head and make un-influenced decisions and stop pretending you’re something you’re not. I like the idea of when you meet people for the first time, you can literally be anyone with any story! However if you and that person become closer, eventually your tall stories will catch up to you and things can get weird. It’s easy to exaggerate, just don’t go too far. Within the context of the song, it’s about being scared that someone has got attached to your made up self, rather than your true self. It’s the fear of that person seeing the real you and them not liking it.
William: Listening to melancholic music can be very comforting and we’ve spent many a late night listening to Daughter, Codeine, Keaton Henson and all kinds of dark and moody stuff. We connect with sorrowful music, or music that has a sense of yearning, and I think with Wait All Alone we captured a certain sense of sadness whilst keeping a feeling of hope… it still has a spring in its step. Sometimes our songs start out as little experiments and our influences can start to seep into the writing, though I have no idea how the song came to be in 7/4 time (maybe we’d been listening to Subtle, Zappa or Radiohead). It took some figuring out due to Jonathan’s gentle and yet intricate drum parts. Once we’d nailed that vibe, we realised that the song needed an outro and we found ourselves delving into darkly distorted hip hop beats and filthy old synths. Actually, Wait All Alone is two songs bolted together. Harry sings the first part and I sing the second, and like ‘Over Thinking’ from our Glacial EP, I expect it might baffle some listeners and become the firm favourite of others. We’ll soon see!
Track 3 – Ghosts
O: This is a great example of setting highly personal and introverted sounding lyrics, ones that you might expect to be whispered, against a grand, dramatic soundscape. Is this a contrast that you specifically aim for?
Harry: The Ghosts lyrics are probably the most visual and abstract out of our tracks. I can’t remember who I was listening to at the time of writing them, but who ever it was influenced the lyrics for sure. The song is about someone always on your case, nagging, questioning, dissing everything you do. All you want is a release, you want to just fall into a dream world of no responsibilities, no one having a go, just all the things you like. There probably is loads of nice drinks in this dream world, I won’t say the G word, but there is definitely a river of gin (shit I said it). Ghosts has been in our live set since our first gig, therefore the lyrics are really old, but still some of my proudest lyrics.
William: That song pretty much wrote itself one afternoon! Harry had the verse guitar riff and we finished the music and structure off together in 20 minutes. The working title was Smash Pumps. Then days later, Harry came back with these beautiful abstract and poetic lyrics. He’s always surprising me with his lyrics. It’s not a conscious thing where we try to juxtapose one lyrical approach with the music coming from a different angle. We’re more trusting of our instincts and just let the song guide us through the maze. Lewis transformed the song by playing Harry’s intro riff with a glass slide on his Fender Jaguar. It has a Flaming Lips (Clouds Taste Metallic era) feel which is right up our street. And the last thing we added was a distorted synth where the keyboard riff is played using only the pitch bend wheel on the keyboard. It sounds a bit like My Bloody Valentine, which makes Lewis very happy!
Track 4 – Have to Lie
O: This song strikes a chord with me, what I interpret from this is about always putting other peoples feelings and needs before your own but wishing quietly that you’d look after yourself a little more than you ever do. Am I miles wide of the mark here? It’s a more gentle approach compared to the rest of the EP, is there a distinct difference in how you approach a song like this compared to the other tracks?
Harry: No, you’ve pretty much got it spot on there. It’s easy to think that you can just push bad thoughts to the back of your head, bottle them up, I am really bad for it as are many other people. Inevitably the bad thoughts will all come back and hit like a wave. It’s better to just get the thoughts out, speak to friends, anyone that will listen. You’re not a burden to anyone if you want to tell them whats going on in your head. I’ve only recently learnt that.
I really love the track, it’s the most honest i’ve been lyrically and it’s the most honest musically with no vocal reverb, it’s a good closer to the EP.
It did make my mum cry though, bless her.
William: As soon as Harry played us this song in the studio, we knew it was the EP’s closing track. For a while it was going to be just a vocal, guitar, piano and bass. Very minimal and stripped back. But we have a love of playing around with big dynamics and orchestral swells. The beautiful thing about layering sounds is that you can really heighten the listener’s emotions. It’s a really exciting process for us in the studio. We got busy with the Mellotron samples and we found a Theramin which we added in the middle 8 which provides a Beach Boys meets Mercury Rev kinda thing. Then Jonny came over and added his drums last of all. It was the easiest track to record and mix and we all love how it turned out.
Glass Mountain’s Wow & Flutter EP is out now on Hide & Seek Records and is beautifully packaged with either translucent red or robot pink vinyl. Treat yourself here
Glass Mountain are touring throughout England in February. The same link above will tell you where and when.