Exclusive Pre-Show Interview:
Gliss is a post-grunge trio based out of Los Angeles, California featuring multi-instrumentalists Martin Klingman, Victoria Cecilia and David Reiss. During their live performances, the members swap their instruments around, creating dark, garage-rock reverberations that resemble the underground sound created by their L.A. predecessors. When Cecilia grabs the mic, she offers the same raspy harmony that placed another L.A. band, Hole, into the national spotlight. Complete with sharp, distorted guitar licks and simple drum beats, Gliss has recently released their second full-length album, Devotion Implosion.
I caught up with the relentlessly touring band prior to their first of what would turn out to be three New York area shows in an eight-day period. Sequestering them down in the bowels of the Mercury Lounge, the recorder went on as a barrage of questions were asked and answered.
DaveCromwell: I'd like to talk about your recently released album, Devotion Implosion. The opening track is fantastic. How did "Morning Light" come about and evolve?
Martin: It came together almost instantly. That was one of the songs written last.
David: Second to last. "Sleep" was the last one.
Martin: It was towards the tail end. We had already recorded half the record. We were probably just screwing around, like always.
Victoria : The song itself just sort of came together. We just started playing it and it was almost kind of like we knew it already.
So it just came out of a jam?
David: That's how most of our songs come about.
I was going to ask you about that. Does one person bring in a mostly completed song and then present it to the band for recording?
David: Rarely it happens like that. Usually when we try to force a song or an idea, or even a sound or structure, it hardly ever works out.
Martin: It sounds forced.
David: Pretty much 95% of the stuff we release just comes together as a jam, and it's got to come together almost effortlessly.
Getting back to "Morning Light" - the lyric, is it "when your high" or "in your heart" - or both?
At no time, do you say "when you're high?"
Martin: No drug reference.
Victoria : Not in that song!
David: We don't condone drug use of any sort (said in a stern authoritative voice).
I like songs that are open to interpretation, and don't necessarily say the same thing each time through.
Martin: It's very minimal lyrics. It's more about the mood. I feel like I could kinda sing anything over that song and it would work. It's very melodic and chordal and lush - setting a mood. The message is simple.
Alright, moving on - the song "29 Acts of Love" - what does that refer to? Are there, in fact, 29 specific acts of love?
Martin: There are, actually. I wrote each of the 29 acts of love. That was one thing that I did write and create. You live in a world where you need a little fiction sometimes. I'm actually not a big fiction person, per se.
So, you don't read much of it?
Martin: I read very little to begin with [chuckles from bandmates]. But when I do it's usually biographies. It's got to be something concrete. I have trouble grasping this made up stuff. Once in a while I'll create a little fiction, though.
The lyric is "look out world, here I am" or "here I come?"
It has a sonically abrasive element to it. Is that a keyboard synth making the pulsing, bassy sound?
Who played that?
Martin: Victoria , I think.
Victoria : What happens is, after we're done with our songs, we just kind of screw around with some keyboards, and see if adding something works. We put keyboards on every song, and then we delete most of it.
Martin: It's called going beyond. When you go beyond you sometimes realize it's taking something away. Then on certain songs it totally works, like on "Beauty". That came in later - it wasn't written in at first.
Victoria : We used to do it with acoustic guitar. Every time we recorded a song, this guy (points to David) was there.
David: She hates acoustic guitar, for the record.
Victoria : He'd be like 'let's throw an acoustic guitar on there,' and I'd be 'no, let's not do that!' And they'd be like, 'well, if it doesn't sound good, we won't use it.' But then when we'd be mixing, they'd say 'let's keep it in there.'
David: Because it sounds great!
I understand the whole concept that you can kill a song by adding too many things. In this current age of practically unlimited multiple tracks, the real challenge becomes knowing what to leave out. The fact that you self-produced this record must have presented those issues.
Martin: I felt like we kept it pretty minimal, actually. I mean, the record sounds bigger than it actually is.
It sounds massive.
Martin: There's really not a lot going on. There's a lot of space.
There's not a lot of instruments, but it just sounds so big.
David: We wanted to be able to recreate it live too. I hate to go see a band live who has this amazing record and then their live show doesn't even come close.
Your song "Sleep" is a dream-like, trippy groove. What was the initial inspiration behind that?
David: That riff. Just jamming on that riff.
Martin: That went on the record almost out of a jam. All I had was a vocal melody. I didn't have any lyrics - we only had some demos of us jamming. We knew it felt good, and we just recorded it without even knowing how long the verses or bridge were going to be.
Victoria : That was the best. While we were recording, we were just looking at each other, signaling.
Martin: So, once it was recorded, we then had to learn it. We kept arguing where it really started, and where the lyrics were.
David: That's why my guitar part follows you on the second verse and not on the first verse - because you go up before the guitar goes up.
In the quieter passages of the song, it reminded me of that Cure song "Snakepit." Do you know that one?
Martin: Off of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
Right. It's got that slithering kind of groove.
Martin: That record was a big influence for me on this record because I wanted to try and achieve that massiveness. I don't know how they did it, but it was in my head the whole time.
Victoria : Yeah, like that first song off that album - it goes for like 10 minutes before they start singing. I love that.
Yeah, I love any kind of unconventional music like that, too. Now, there is this one guitar chord in that song, right before the bridge - is it a minor chord?
David: It's a jazz chord.
I like it a lot. It works well there.
Martin: It hits your ear and brings you in.
I feel obligated, at the very least, to mention The Jesus & Mary Chain - only because I have been accused of doing so in every feature I do.
Martin: Of course we know about them, but they're just not a huge influence on any of us.
You referenced a mutual influence, that being The Velvet Underground.
Martin: And the 50's and 60's music - the Phil Spector stuff. That's what I was thinking in my head when we were doing "Morning Light".
The Raveonettes fall into that ballpark as well. In their case, they do an Everly Brothers meets MaryChain and Velvet Underground and their own thing.
Martin: They're all great bands. All those bands are awesome.
I know you are a big Lou Reed fan as well.
Martin: All his solo stuff is incredible. I'm getting into Sally Can't Dance (1974) at the moment.
Victoria : Martin got a tattoo in Portland.
Really? What is it of?
Martin: Lady Liberty.
David: It's like a 1940's sailor's tattoo. It's pretty cool.
Is it like a hot chick?
Martin: Yeah, she's pretty voluptuous. Her name is Libby.
This is the first time you are revealing this?
Martin: Yup. You're the first to hear about it.
I'm honored. OK, getting back to your music, the song "Beauty" was released in advance of the album. It has a very poetic chorus that goes "you gotta save my soul, it's just an empty hole, there's no where to go."
Martin: In the heavy world we live in, sometimes we feel like that.
Oftentimes we feel like that.
Martin: That song came together just like "Morning Light" and "Sleep" -- through jamming. Then we taped a demo of it. Then we came back four months after and recorded it.
There was a report in the press a while back, where you took off your clothes at a UK show. What was that all about?
Martin: We were just getting tired of everything being safe, boring and predictable. Go to a show - see a band - good night. We were like, let's just muck it up.
Victoria : Let's have fun. We didn't realize it at the time, but there was a bunch of kids in the audience.
Martin: It was an all ages show. [Laughter]
Victoria : There were a bunch of moms with their kids.
Martin: There were a couple of 12-year-olds out there, seeing a naked woman for the first time.
Victoria : Ha, ha. It's true - I was their first.
David: 3,000 camera phones started flashing up in the air.
Where exactly was this?
Martin: It was this huge show in Norwich, England .
Victoria : There were 3,000 people. It was awesome.
Martin: Then we tried to do it again in England at The Forum and they wouldn't let us go on.
David: Not until we guaranteed them that we wouldn't do it again.
Martin: They stalled and stalled - told us all these lies that there were power problems - it was ridiculous.
Victoria : For the rest of the tour, we would get people screaming at us "take off your trousers!'"
Martin: It was fun.
I like the way you keep your fans updated with quickie, from-the-road video clips on YouTube. Recently we saw some incidents involving bottles of pee.
Martin: Sometimes you gotta' go. In San Francisco, the biggest bridge in the United States takes you from Oakland into the city. Right before we were about to get on it, I was already about to explode.
David: We were stuck in traffic and held up at a toll booth.
Martin: You have to be very relaxed to urinate with a couple of people a foot away from you.
David: Filming you. [Laughter]
You also seem to have a lot of crazy fun in bathrooms.
Martin: That's where the most fun happens. Lovers in the bathroom.
Ha. Which is another great song of yours. I take it there was a party at one point and people were doing it in the bathroom?
Victoria : Pretty much.
David & Martin together: Who hasn't done that?
Victoria : We throw a lot of bathroom parties after our shows.
Can you explain how the title of the album Devotion Implosion came about?
Martin: I wanted to capture the mood of the album. It felt like where we were at, and where the music was at.
But, did you feel like something in your life was "imploding?" - rather than an outward explosion?
Martin: There were times while working on this record that we felt like we were losing it, almost. Because it meant so much to us, we stayed completely devoted to it. So, those two words just sort of fell together.
With show time approaching the band left the comfort of the exposed, pipe-laden, basement hideout of the Mercury Lounge for a room buzzing with anticipation.
Gliss Live at the Mercury Lounge 05.04.2009 NYC
Two nights later, Gliss brought their traveling road show over to the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the unique venue that is Union Hall.
Gliss Live at Union Hall 05.06.09 Brooklyn